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* Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition and James Dobson's Focus on the Family suffered a major setback in the August 1998 Kansas state primary. A moderate pro-choice Republican governor, Bill Graves, defeated David Miller, who as leader of the radical religious right had served as the state chair of the Republican Party. Graves defeated Miller, head of the Kansas Christian Coalition and political director of Kansans for Life, by a convincing 73 percent to 27 percent margin. All indications are that moderates aligned with Graves will control the state Republican Party, whereas before the primary it was controlled by Miller and his followers.

Good news, however, is often mixed with bad news. Graves, thinking he was vulnerable before the election, signed instead of vetoed two anti-choice bills passed by the state legislature. One banned abortions at the Kansas University Medical Center; the other imposed new restrictions on late-term abortions.

Robertson and Dobson probably won't acknowledge this electoral defeat in Kansas; instead, they'll continue to push their agenda in Congress as if the Republican Party depends on their support. One item that the Dobson forces will push in Congress was announced in the June 1998 Focus on the Family Citizen by Gary Bauer. Bauer is Dobson's political agent and president of the Family Research Council. Bauer announced that "the Family Research Council has crafted a new piece of legislation called the `Federalism Shield' which is designed to protect the posting of the Ten Commandments and safeguard individual religious expression in the public arena." His rationale for this is to "counter a disturbing trend in America today. The forces of militant secularism have made a concerted effort to stamp out religion in the public square. One by one they have attacked small town courthouses, schools and city halls."

The attacks to which Bauer refers are suits by the American Civil Liberties Union and others to prevent official or government-sponsored displays of specifically biblical commands or Christmas nativity scenes. He obviously is not concerned about Islamic or Buddhist expressions but identifies religious items with Christian biblical faith. Bauer concludes his advocacy of the Federalism Shield by saying, "This legislation will allow cities, towns and states to acknowledge God without living in constant fear of lawsuits."

* House Speaker Newt Gingrich has been supporting Israel's right-wing Benjamin Netanyahu and his anti-Palestinian position. One reason may be an attempt to thwart President Clinton's effort to bring the Israelis and Palestinians together to resume peace negotiations. However, Gingrich's chief of staff, Arne Christenson, is a former legislative director of the American Israeli Political Action Committee, which disperses funds from Jewish groups to members of Congress and others who support the Israeli government.

* The Supreme Court and federal judges in general have increasingly rendered decisions that have been economically conservative. One reason is that many judges were appointed by Republican presidents--from Nixon through Bush. Another reason, according to the Washington Post, is that a number of far-right foundations--including the Carthage Foundation funded by Richard Mellon Scaife, the Koch family, and oil companies Amoco and Shell--have provided substantial funds to the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE). The Washington Monthly says FREE "sponsors seminars that have involved as many as a third of all federal judges. In 1996 alone 109 judges took part in FREE seminars." A FREE brochure indicates that the seminars explain the "importance of secure property rights and the market process in the efficient and sensitive use of natural resources."

* During the 1998 national conference of the American Humanist Association in San Diego last May, there was a discussion of the threat posed by the +secret negotiations with respect to the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (see the July/August 1998 Humanist). That threat was from an agreement being proposed by major nations for a global economy controlled by corporations.

The negotiations that took place in secret in Europe involved what are called "domestic constituencies," such as business and corporate interests. The reason an agreement was not reached by the April 27 signing deadline was that there was a popular revolt. The Toronto Globe and Mail says the governments in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which sponsored the negotiations, "were no match ... for a global band of grassroots organizations which, with little more than computers and access to the Internet, helped derail a deal." The London Financial Times says the secret efforts by the "governments of industrialized countries ... have been ambushed by a horde of vigilantes whose motives and methods are only dimly understood in most national capitals."

Although the religious far-right organizations were not involved, the right-wing corporate interests that control many governments, the so-called and misleading centrist Clinton administration, and major U.S. newspapers were involved in the secrecy that kept important information from the American people. The danger now is that the corporate interests which pushed the MAI in secret will seek to implement it through some existing organization, such as the OECD or the International Monetary Fund.

John M. Swomley is professor emeritus of social ethics at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri.
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Title Annotation:religious right
Author:Swomley, John M.
Publication:The Humanist
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U4KS
Date:Nov 1, 1998
Previous Article:Commitment to Overriding Values.
Next Article:Teaching About Religion.

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