THEISTWATCH FOR JULY 13, 1995 Contents: United States - FYI; A POCKET GUIDE TO THE RELIGIO
THEISTWATCH FOR JULY 13, 1995
United States--FYI; A POCKET GUIDE TO THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT
Bosnia--ETHNIC CLEANSING AND "MUSLIM" RENEWAL
World--"INFIDEL" WRITERS RECOGNIZED BY LITERARY PEERS
World--THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
FYI; A POCKET GUIDE TO THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT
by Conrad Goeringer
Just who is behind the drive to institute "Bible-based"
law-and-order in the United States? While people focus on
cultural pit bulls like Sen. Bob Dole or former Secretary of
Education William Bennett, they are merely the celebrities of
a much wider religious conservative movement that is just
starting to flex its political muscle. And while many
Americans have heard of groups like the Christian Coalition,
there are other organizations in the religious right pantheon
which enjoy considerable influence in Washington, D.C., and
throughout the country. Here's a brief rundown on some of the
major players who are willing to go overtime in their efforts
to abolish the wall of separation between government and the
CHRISTIAN COALITION -- Founded by television evangelist Pat
Robertson, the coalition boasts somewhere between 600,000 and
one million members, an annual budget of about $25 million,
and the "participation" of some 40,000 churches and
congregations throughout the country. Each week, a televised
political strategy session featuring the group's director,
Ralph Reed, is transmitted by satellite to over 1,000
"downlink" churches and halls throughout the nation. Reed is
trying to boost that figure to 2,000 and bring in another
20,000 more churches while increasing the budget to $100
million per year. The Christian Coalition also is working
to have a field staff of 25 workers in each congressional
district throughout the country.
Best known for its church-distributed "voter guides,"
the Christian Coalition has released its "Contract With the
American Family," outlining its religious-social agenda for
the nation. The group is considered a key player in the
November 1995 elections, which returned control of the U.S.
Senate and House to the Republican Party. And from Internet
web pages to fax machines and well-orchestrated press
conferences, the Christian Coalition is a major force in
Another Robertson operation is the AMERICAN CENTER FOR
LAW AND JUSTICE (ACLJ) headquartered in Virginia Beach, Va.
The group is headed by Jay Sekulow. It's $10 million annual
budget supports offices in Atlanta, Phoenix, Mobile, and New
Hope, Kentucky. Some 2,000 lawyers act as "cooperating
attorneys," mimicking the structure of the liberal American
Civil Liberties Union. In addition, the ACLJ can dispatch
"swat teams" anywhere in the country, teams of lawyers who
argue on behalf of the "religious rights" of Christians.
The organization has represented key figures in the
anti-abortion movement, including Operation Rescue's Randall
Terry. ACLJ echoes the standard Robertson-line on issues
such as state/church separation (claiming that the
Establishment Clause is really a "wall of hostility and
bigotry" against religionists), and promoting the unfounded
claim that the "religious rights" of "people of faith" are
under government attack. American Center for Law and Justice
has also been active in the movement to legitimize "student
initiated" school prayer during official events such as
graduation and sport matches. Representatives of ACLJ are
also in on the effort to draft a "Religious Equality
Another litigation-oriented group is t(e RUTHERFORD
INSTITUTE of Charlottesville, Virginia. Like ACLJ, the
Institute busies itself with issues of "religious freedom"
through its network of 500 volunteers. In addition to
offices in Sacramento, Atlanta, Honolulu, Grand Rapids,
Nashville, and Dallas, Rutherford Institute has set up shop
in Bolivia, Hungary and England. It represents anti-abortion
activists and has been involved in the case of a teacher who
attempted to teach "creationism" in a school classroom.
Two other groups are the AMERICAN SPIRITUAL LIBERTIES
UNION of Redondo Beach, California, and the NATIONAL LEGAL
FOUNDATION of Virginia Beach. NLF seems to concentrate
mostly on overturning state and local legislation protecting
the rights of gay men and women. In fact, it was behind
Colorado's notorious proposition which abolished gay rights
protections. Foundation wording of such propositions often
appears in similar legislative proposals throughout the
country. ASLU has won several battles concerning the
erection of religious displays in municipal parks. Its
official motto says that the Union is dedicated to "putting
God in public places."
The AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATION LAW CENTER is, of course
tied to the Tupelo, Mississippi-based AMERICAN FAMILY
ASSOCIATION. The center concentrates its efforts hunting for
"spiritually incorrect" textbooks and library offerings. AFA
monitors mass media for smut and profanity content and
publishes a "dirty dozen" list of corporate advertisers who
underwrite filthy television shows. The group is also
considering a boycott of AT&T and accuses the
telecommunications giant of promoting a "homosexual
lifestyle" because of workplace programs aimed at eliminating
homophobia and bigotry.
While many religious-right moments are constipated over
the issue of school prayer, groups such as the
California-based INSTITUTE FOR CREATION RESEARCH and the
WESTERN CENTER FOR LAW AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM in Fair Oaks,
California defend the interests of teachers and others trying
to oppose evolution in schools. When Christian
fundamentalists captured the school board in Vista,
California, the Center was St. Johnny-on-the-spot with an
official statement of policy. Incidentally, the new school
board was zeroing in on sex education instruction as well,
before getting the boot in a recall election.
The Institute tries to wrap fundamentalist crank dogma
over the evolution issue with a scientific veneer.
Suggesting that evolution "may not be the only explanation"
for fossil and geological records, ICR attempts to
demonstrate that the "young earth" hypothesis can indeed
explain everything from the Grand Canyon to dinosaur remains,
all within the framework of a literal interpretation of
Genesis. ICR was started in 1973, with ties to the Christian
Heritage College. In 1980, ICR's "Research division" began
calling itself the "graduate school," and separated from
Christian Heritage in order to protect that school's
accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and
Colleges, a recognized accreditation body. Among the people
associated with ICR is one of the co-founders, Tim LaHaye
(with ties to the Concerned Women of America and the old
Jerry Fallwell-Moral Majority crowd), and Australian
evangelist Ken Ham. Ham's style has alienated some within
ICR, since he is a rabid evangelist; he heads his own group
known as "Answers in Genesis!" and publishes a newsletter
which, according to the National Center for Science
Education, is largely filled with ads for ICR books.
While some fundamentalist right groups do not emphasize
creationist pseudo-science, they see the fight against
evolution as an important element in "putting god back into
schools" or "teaching religion." You won't find mention of
creationism in the Christian Coalition's Contract, but you
will see Pat Robertson criticizing evolution in his usual
slippery style on the "700 Club" program.
Groups such as FOCUS ON THE FAMILY and CONCERNED WOMEN
FOR AMERICA beat the drums over the "family values" issues,
particularly as the conservative religious agenda relates to
gays. Focus is based in Colorado Springs, and has some
400,000 supporters. The group is headed by Dr. James Dobson,
whose books on parenting are popular in religious bookstores.
Dobson is somewhat of a "bible disciplinarian," one of the
"don't spare the rod" enthusiasts who suggest plenty of
religious instruction to sooth the angst of worried, aging
yuppies who happen to have rebellious kids. The organization
just wrapped up another Conference on the Family, a
fundamentalist shindig complete with speakers like William
Bennet and a shopping bazaar of fundy books, tapes, bumper
stickers and other religious kitsch.
The Concerned Women was started by Beverly and Tim
LaHaye. Tim was also instrumental in founding the Institute
for Creation Research. CWA concentrates on "family values"
issues while fighting pornography, monitoring textbooks, and
opposing abortion rights.
This nationwide nexus of religious right groups is
echoed in states, cities and local precincts by hundreds of
"parents" or "neighborhood" movements clamoring over issues
such as sex education in schools, classroom prayer, diversity
and tolerance teaching, "pornography," "religious liberty,"
and even more bizarre concerns such as witchcraft and satanic
cults. These local organizations often are founded by
individuals who are members of national groups, and their
"line" often reflects the position of Christian Coalition,
CWA, and others. Many are members of local evangelical or
fundamentalist churches. While the bulk appear to be
Protestant, Roman Catholics are active in religious-right
causes, especially due to the abortion and gay rights issues.
And Christian Coalition honcho Ralph Reed is reportedly
toying with the idea of forming a "Jewish version" of the
Coalition, no doubt one which would stress the "religious
liberty" and "traditional values" themes.
Numbers are hard to come by in estimating the total
strength of these organizations, especially since a person
may be in several different groups. A majority of surveyed
Republicans have identified themselves as "evangelical
Christians," but not all participate in or agree totally with
the Christian Coalition and its allied groups. The success
secret of the religious right apparently rests in its
well-funded organization, from its presence in Washington,
D.C., down through individual precincts and caucuses. Its
influence is far greater than its membership strength would
It is also riding a political wave. At the unveiling of
the "Contract With the American Family," Christian Coalition
Director Reed announced that "We have arrived," and that the
Contract "was just the beginning.'' Civil libertarians and
others are asking when and where it will end.
ETHNIC CLEANSING AND "MUSLIM" RENEWAL
by Conrad Goeringer
THEISTWATCH has been telling subscribers that the
current situation in Bosnia threatens to push that region's
"Muslim" population into the hands of fundamentalism, and
religionize the entire culture in the process. Despite the
label, many individuals in the former Yugoslavia were first
and foremost secularists. Since the breakup of that nation,
however, and the rise of nationalist-fascist and orthodox
movements, the people in this once-progressive society are
now being pushed into different "sides." Most lethal is the
Bosnian Serb government, headed by "Mr. Ethnic Cleansing"
himself, Radovan Karadzic, and helped along with military
thugs such as General Ratko Mladic.
The Serbs have now taken the "enclave" (a nice way of
describing former towns, cities and communities) of
Srebrenica, driving out 30,000 "Muslim" civilians and
bringing one step closer the goal of "Greater Serbia." As
predicted, reaction has come hard and fast from Muslim
fundamentalists in Iran, who no doubt will seize upon this
latest development as a sounding board for their religious
zealotry. Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that this
latest development was proof of "the falsehood of claims by
the United States and some other countries about supporting
human rights." Iran is already a major supplier of arms to
the Bosnian "Muslims" -- and with the weaponry come
contingents of Islamic "advisers" who do all they can to
indoctrinate their Bosnian comrades in the "need" for
A total Serb victory will not only establish an
authoritarian-Orthodox State along ethnic lines, but will
drive non-Serbs into their own nationalistic -- and religious
-- bunkers. With Srebrenica taken, other enclaves such as
Zepa and Gorazde are threatened. The U.N. presence there
seems to do little in deterring the Serb military.
The religious factors underpinning the war in Bosnia
receive little or no attention from mass media in the West.
Yet the geopolitical consequences of a Serb victory are
manifold. For people in a once-secular society known as
Yugoslavia, being caught between competing political and
religious orthodoxies may prove to be one of the great
outrages and tragedies of the twentieth century.
"INFIDEL" WRITERS RECOGNIZED BY PEERS
Each year the Human Rights Watch announces the list of
recipients for its famous Lillian Hellman/Dashiell Hammett
Grants. These grants go to "writers all around the world who
are in financial need because of political persecution." In
the first five years, the grants went to more than 160
writers. This year, 48 writers from 23 countries are
receiving some $175,000 to support them in their struggle
against intolerance and authoritarianism.
All deserve our support as civil libertarians and
advocates of freedom of conscience; governments throughout
the world often have the habit of ignoring and suppressing
the voices of dissent and reason. Here is a partial list of
grant recipients who may be of interest to THEISTWATCH
Lindsey Collen (Mauritius), novelist whose book "The
Rape of Sita" was banned and attacked as "an outrage to
public and religious morality." She received anonymous rape
and death threats.
b Hadi Khorsandi (Iran). This poet-jounralist is under a
death sentence from Islamic fundamentalists for writing
"satirical articles critical of the revolution."
Morteza Miraftabi (Iran), a poet and essayist who was
imprisoned under the despotic shah and later forced into
exile for writing "an article criticizing the Islamic
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
by Conrad F. Goeringer
Trouble again in Israel, as Tel Aviv tries to arrive at
a workable settlement concerning the fate of the West Bank.
A group of rabbis has now issued a religious ruling demanding
that Israeli troops refuse any orders to withdraw from their
positions on the West Bank. According to the vice chairman
of the Rabbinical Association, army camps are to be
considered the equivalent of Jewish settlements, and that
withdrawal would violate the Torah, specifically passages
which command "populate the land of Israel."
The Rabbinical Association, with a membership of 1,500,
has close ties with the National Religious Party and some
elements of the Orthodox Jewish community.
The ruling drew immediate reaction from secular Israelis
who accused the rabbinical group of what Associated Press
(July 13) termed "injecting an explosive religious element
into the divisive political debate over the West Bank."
Observers note that the Rabbinical Association order
capitalizes on other religious fears -- namely the
possibility that Islamic fundamentalists will launch military
attacks against Jewish settlements in the region. Attacks
which have killed hundreds of people on both sides are an
attempt by Moslem militants like the Hamas movement to
scuttle the ongoing peace dialogue between the Palestinian
Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Israeli government.
The religious right in America is stirring up more
controversy of its own, this time reacting to yesterday's
speech by President Clinton (July 12) outlining his
administration's position on prayer and religion. Clinton,
while acknowledging what he termed the religious tradition
and values of American society, fell short of endorsing
government-mandated prayer. His talk was seen as an attempt
by the president to "straddle the fence" on certain First
Amendment issues, as typified by his remarks that public
schools "were not religion-free zones."
Groups supporting a "Religious Equality Amendment"
reacted sharply. Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition
issued a press release saying "The President has now agreed
with our longstanding position that public schools should not
be religion-free zones. This eloquent rhetoric must now be
backed by reality." Andrea Sheldon, a spokeswoman for the
Traditional Values Coalition was less generous. "He's an
eloquent speaker," she said in reference to Clinton, but
added that "The President doesn't understand the issues."
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