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New strategies, new groups.

We know a great deal more about the right-wing religious movement in 1997 than we did a year ago, in part because of the publication of three books. Easily the best is Fred Clarkson's Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, just released by Common Courage Press of Monroe, Maine. Another excellent book, Robert Boston's The Most Dangerous Man in America: Pat Robertson and the Rise of the Christian Coalition, is essential reading. And, finally, Ralph Reed's Active Faith details the goals and strategy of the Christian Coalition.

The strategy which Reed and Robertson have established is the "training {of} up to fifty thousand people a year through church based seminars by the year 2000." It also projects "a Christian Coalition chapter in each of America's three thousand counties and a neighbor hood coordinator in all of the nation's 175,000 precincts." These chapters and neighborhood coordinators are to be linked with a communication system that is already in place.

Reed described that system as follows:

Rather than walk precincts and

lick envelopes, they surf

cyberspace and dispatch e-mail

with the click of a mouse. The

entire . . . coalition is getting in

on the act: pro lifers, anti-tax

groups, conservative Christians,

home schoolers, small

businessmen, and gun

advocates.... From the Heritage

Foundation Town Hall site on

the Internet . . . to National

Empowerment Television's cable

and satellite populist TV

network, which now reaches 11

million households,

conservatives are promoting the

possibilities of cyberspace with

the fervor of a tent revivalist.

Reed also referred to Rush Limbaugh and Marlin Maddoux of the USA Radio Network and James Dobson of Focus on the Family, whose reach extends to "more than a thousand Christian radio stations {with} a combined weekly audience of five million listeners" It is this communication net work that Reed intends will cause millions of people to tell their congressional representatives to support or oppose legislation. In other words, superior organization and a disciplined right wing religious minority can determine the future of this country. It is small wonder that Reed gloats that "the days of the liberal media monopoly are drawing to a close."

A new right-wing group called the Campaign for Working Families was organized this past November by Gary Bauer, president of the Family Research Council, the political arm of James Dobson. Bauer said the new group is a political action committee formed to push such issues as abortion and pornography, which the political parties pushed aside during the last elections. He said that the Republican Party, instead of "being worried about our virtue deficit . . . seemed obsessed with our wallets."

During the 1996 elections, militia members were active in various states, running for congressional and other seats. In Missouri, for example, at least five militia members were primary candidates, including Joseph Keller, who ran against House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt. Moreover, the U.S. Taxpayers Party, headed by Howard Phillips, who founded the Conservative Caucus while working out of the office of Senator Jesse Helms, has openly promoted militias and flirted with the idea of supporting Pat Buchanan for U.S. president.

Another right-wing group, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, which hired former CIA agent Mark Tooley as its research associate, attacked the National Council of Churches for its fundraising and work to rebuild burned black churches. The IRD claimed the NCC perpetrated "the great church fire hoax" for its own financial gain to bolster its "leftist" agenda. The IRD was completely off base, since all money raised went to a National Rebuilding Task Force cochaired by the NCC, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Congress of Black Churches. The work was carried out by volunteers coordinated by Habitat for Humanity.

One major setback suffered by the religious right was reported this past December in the Los Angeles Times. After negotiating but not quite signing a contract to hold a major rally in 1997 at the Pasadena Rose Bowl, the national organization of Promise Keepers suddenly withdrew its request. The apparent reason was the decision by Pasadena Mayor William Parparian to show the city council a critical documentary about Promise Keepers, produced by Sterling Research Associates. Parparian had also invited Nancy Novosad, a feminist writer and researcher from Lake wood, Colorado, to speak to the city council. Author of an excellent article on James Dobson, "The Right's New Messiah" (the Progressive, December 1996), Novosad called Promise Keepers "a male supremacist conservative religious organization that strongly advocates gender bigotry"

At the time of the council meeting, Promise Keepers' regional official John Reekie said they had learned of the plans for the video showing and Novosad's presentation and wanted to avoid "an adversarial position" and going "to bat against a municipality." However, Steve Chavis, a national spokesperson for the organization, denied such reasoning and said the decision was made for "business and strategic" reasons.

Parparian said that, while he respected the Promise Keepers' desire to express their Christian faith, "My concern had to do with the extreme views and affiliations of the national leadership."

The Sterling Research Associates is working with the Nation Institute to direct its new Center for Democracy Studies. The center (whose executive director, Alfred Ross, and senior research associate, Lee Cokorinos, for merry did research for Planned Parenthood) has decided to launch a Promise Keepers Watch. Russ Bellant and Nancy Novosad have agreed to be consulting editors.

Colorado Governor Roy Romer, in discussing the right wing's funding of the Parental Rights Amendment to the state constitution, which was defeated in the 1996 elections, said:

This money comes from outside

Colorado. It's a bunch of carpet

bagging money coming into

Colorado. This money came

from Virginia Beach, Virginia.

We don't need to have Colorado

made an example of some

portion of the

radical right that wants to mislead

our state.

Finally, the far right's international mentor, Pope John Paul II, announced in 1996 that the Vatican would not continue its modest $2,000 annual donation to the United Nations Children's Fund because UNICEF participated in a U.N. interagency manual advocating birth control. More serious was the Vatican's request that "local pastors and church associated institutions" review their support of UNICEF, including the sale of UNICEF greeting cards.

In response, Frances Kissling, the ingenious president of Catholics for a Free Choice, announced that it was sending $2,000 to UNICEF as a symbolic gift to encourage Catholics and others to support the fund while expressing disapproval of the Vatican's action. Catholics for a Free Choice--which Kissling said "is becoming a big gnat on the skin of the elephant"--is by no means affluent and is appealing for donations to replace its gift. You can contact the group at 1436 U Street NW, Suite 301, Washington, DC 20009.

John M. Swomley is an emeritus professor of social ethics at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri. He is also president of Americans for Religious Liberty and serves on the national board of the American Civil Liberties Union.
COPYRIGHT 1997 American Humanist Association
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Watch on the Right; activities of right-wing organizations
Author:Swomley, John M.
Publication:The Humanist
Article Type:Column
Date:Mar 1, 1997
Words:1166
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