by Maureen Farrell
"The religious right is winning. They've won." -- Howard Stern
In Dec. 2002, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman reported that
House Majority Leader Tom Delay had openly admitted he was "on a
mission from God to promote a 'biblical worldview' in American
politics." On Monday, the Washington Times revealed that DeLay "is
about to announce his own legislative agenda."
"One goal, [Delay] said, will be to re-establish what he sees as
the rightful role of religion in public places. . ." [Washington
In other words, look out.
The warning signs have been in place for quite some time, but went
largely unnoticed until the walls started closing in on shock jock
When Project Censored listed "FCC Moves to Privatize Airwaves" as
its top censored news story for 2001-2002 and shed its suspicious
spotlight on FCC chairman Michael Powell, for example, few noticed.
"[T]he mainstream press has raised few warnings about the FCC's
squashing of the public interest,"
Project Censored's Brendan Koerner wrote, while co-author Dorothy
Kidd explained that "things have just gotten worse for the US public
with regards to media democracy. Mergers are up and the number of
dominant players controlling media production and distribution has
shrunk to a handful."
[ProjectCensored.org] Or, as Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) put it,
"The bottom line is that fewer and fewer huge conglomerates are
controlling virtually everything that the ordinary American sees,
hears and reads."
Fast forward to 2004 and Howard Stern's woes. "What this company
[Clear Channel] is doing is buying up every radio station, then
they sign someone like me for five years at a time and renew my
contracts and then wake up one day and have a whole new attitude,"
Stern said. "Now why do they have a new attitude with me, but not
with that guy [Michael] Savage who sits there and talks about
infesting people with AIDS and all that stuff? He's just as
controversial, but he backs Bush. They're being intellectually
Welcome to our brave new world.
In case you missed this unfortunate paradigm shift, this hypothetical
scenario might help: Imagine, for a moment, that Sept. 11 occurred
on Clinton's watch. Now, can you imagine anyone being "Dixie Chicked"
for criticizing Bill Clinton?
"My days here are numbered because I dared to speak out against the
Bush administration and say that the religious agenda of George W.
Bush concerning stem cell research and gay marriage is wrong," Stern
said. "And that what he is doing with the FCC is pushing this
For those who've been supplementing daily requirements of U.S. news
with reports from the foreign press, the ramifications of Stern's
honesty are understood. Though it's likely to cost him dearly, he's
become the unlikely champion for those who know that the underlying
themes are not, as most pundits would have us believe, a matter of
liberals vs. conservatives, Republicans vs. Democrats or blue states
vs. red, but threats to America itself.
Yet, considering the steady diet of nonsense we're fed by a bevy
of clueless pundits, busy citizens are understandably confused --
which is why it is absolutely stunning that Stern sees past the
smoke and mirrors and is sounding off. "Does anyone have a problem
with a United States senator being funded by a religious organization?"
Stern asked, regarding Kansas Senator Sam Brownback's faith-based
living arrangement, which is subsidized by the secretive religious
organization, The Fellowship. [Charleston Post and Courier] "Now
when someone gives you low cost housing - a gift - do you think you
have to answer to them?"
As Rev. Barry Lynn, head of Americans United for the Separation of
Church and State put it, "What concerns people is when you mix
religion, political power and secrecy," which coincidentally (and
sadly) pretty much sums up the
State of the Union today.
So how embedded is the religious right in our political institutions?
In his aptly titled Jan. 28, 2004 Rolling Stone cover story, "Reverend
Robert Dreyfuss explains: "It might seem unlikely that the commander
in chief would take his marching orders directly from on high --
unless you understand the views of the Rev. Timothy LaHaye, one of
the most influential leaders of the Christian right, and a man who
played a quiet but pivotal role in putting George W. Bush in the
LaHaye, you may recall, is co-author of the various Left Behind
series, which, to date, has sold a reported whopping 60 million
copies. A "strict biblical reconstructionist" who takes the Bible
as "God's literal truth,"
LaHaye believes that Armageddon will be unleashed from "the
Antichrist's headquarters in Babylon" (i.e. Iraq).
"Of course, there have always been preachers on the margins of the
religious right thundering on about the end of the world," Dreyfuss
writes. "But it's doubtful that such a fanatic believer has ever
had such a direct pipeline to the White House. Five years ago, as
Bush was gearing up his presidential campaign, he made a little-noticed
pilgrimage to a gathering of right-wing Christian activists, under
the auspices of a group called the Committee to Restore American
Values. The committee, which assembled about two dozen of the
nation's leading fundamentalist firebrands, was chaired by LaHaye."
In other words, Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore, and the religious
right wants to be the great and powerful Oz. For your consideration,
here are some of the means by which they're succeeding:
1) The Council for National Policy
Deemed by ABC News as "the most powerful conservative group you've
never heard of," the Council for National Policy, which was co-founded
by former Moral Majority head LaHaye, has included John Ashcroft,
Ed Meese, Ralph Reed, the editor of The National Review, Pat
Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Grover Norquist and Oliver North among
As ABC put it, "the council has deservedly attained the reputation
for conceiving and promoting the ideas of many who in fact do want
to control everything in the world. . . The CNP helped Christian
conservatives take control of the Republican state party apparati
in Southern and Midwestern states. It helped to spread word about
the infamous 'Clinton Chronicles' videotapes that linked the president
to a host of crimes in Arkansas."
(According to Rolling Stone, "The impeachment effort was reportedly
conceived at a June 1997 meeting of the CNP in Montreal.")
Secular-minded folks are likely to be most intrigued by the fact
that President Bush made his rumored "king-making" speech before
CNP in 1999, fueling speculation that the council was responsible
for his presidential nomination. And though the Democratic National
Committee and others urged Bush's presidential campaign to release
the tape of his CNP speech, the Bush camp refused.
What was on that tape? Depending on who you believe, "Bush promised
to appoint only anti-abortion-rights judges to the Supreme Court,
or he stuck to his campaign 'strict constructionist' phrase. Or he
took a tough stance against gays and lesbians, or maybe he didn't."
As we now know, Bush is endorsing a Constitutional amendment which
could change the country forever. As one Republican lawyer told
Andrew Sullivan, "[With] one amendment the religious right could
wipe out access to birth control, abortion, and even non-procreative
sex (as Senator Santorum so eagerly wants to do). This debate isn't
only about federalism, it's about the reversal of two hundred years
of liberal democracy that respects individuals." Or, as Sullivan
put it, "Memo to straights: you're next."
2) The Christian Coalition
On Dec. 24, 2001, the Washington Post featured an article entitled
"Religious Right Finds Its Center in Oval Office: Bush Emerges as
Movement's Leader After Robertson Leaves Christian Coalition " in
which reporter Dana Milbank explained exactly how significant the
Supreme Court's selection of George W. Bush was. "For the first
time since religious conservatives became a modern political movement,
the president of the United States has become the movement's de
facto leader," Milbank wrote. [Washington Post]
Meanwhile, former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed explained
Bush's rise to the White House in revolutionary terms. "You're no
longer throwing rocks at the building; you're in the building," he
said, adding that God "knew George Bush had the ability to lead in
this compelling way."
Bush reportedly made similar statements. According to Newsweek, "As
he prepared to run, in 1999, Bush assembled leading pastors at the
governor's mansion for a "laying-on of hands," and told them he'd
been "called" to seek higher office." And as Bob Woodward wrote in
Bush at War: "The President was casting his mission and that of the
country in the grand vision of God's Master Plan," wherein Bush
promised, in the President's own words, "to export death and violence
to the four corners of the earth in defense of this great country
and rid the world of evil."
"Bush's flirtation with End Times rhetoric makes some suspect that
he actually perceives himself as God's instrument," Gene Lyons
noted, and his sentiment was echoed in former Nixon aide Charles
Colson's observation that, "Some wonder if the president might be
influenced by evangelical teachings that envision an end-of-the-world
battle between Israel and its enemies. It would be dangerous for a
president to take a particular theology like that and apply it to
3) Christian Zionists
Various mainstream sources, from the BBC to the Christian Science
Monitor, have long been reporting on ways Biblical prophecy is
influencing political reality - and the Christian Zionists' campaign
to oust the Palestinians in order to make way for the Second Coming
of Christ is one of the most bizarre. In Oct. 2002, The Guardian's
Matthew Engel spelled it out:
"What has really changed is the emergence of the doctrine known as
"dispensationalism", popularized in the novels of the Rev. Tim
LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. . .
Central to the theory . . . is the Rapture, the second coming of
Christ, which will presage the end of the world. A happy ending
depends on the conversion of the Jews. And that, to cut a long story
very short, can only happen if the Jews are in possession of all
the lands given to them by God.
In other words, these Christians are supporting the Jews in order
to abolish them." [The Guardian]
"American politico-religious wackiness" aside, the conference Engel
describes begins "with a videotaped benediction straight from the
Oval office," and involves Tom Delay, "the most powerful man on
addressing the gathering "not once, but twice."
4) Opus Dei
While FBI agent Robert Hanssen brought the Catholic organization
Opus Dei to the prominence when he was caught spying for Russia,
it is once again in the spotlight thanks to the best-selling book
The Da Vinci Code. And while the group's secrecy appeals to some
("I think they really fly under everybody's radar screen and that
they're a lot more powerful than a lot of people think," Rev. James
Martin, associate editor of America magazine explained.
[ABC News]) and its attitude towards pain and suffering appeals to
others ("After I joined, they gave me a barbed-wire chain to wear
on my leg for two hours a day and a whip to hit my buttocks with,"
former Opus Dei member Sharon Clasen said. [Chicago Tribune]) in
April, 2001, The American Catholic co-editor Catharine A. Henningsen
revealed why this highly secretive group might be of concern to
"Immediately following that revelation [that Hanssen was a member
of Opus Dei] stories began to surface in the press claiming that
FBI Director, Louis Freeh and Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia
and Clarence Thomas are also Opus Dei members. Opus Dei denies that
Freeh, Scalia and Thomas are members, though Freeh sends his son
to the Opus Dei School, The Heights, and Scalia's wife is reported
to regularly attend Opus Dei functions. Robert Hanssen, Justice
Scalia and Louis Freeh also all worship at St. Catherine of Siena
parish in Great Falls, Virginia, where the Tridentine Latin Mass
is offered, rather than the new order of the Mass declared by Paul
VI." [The American Catholic]
"Whether or not an alleged member of Opus Dei, like Justice Antonin
Scalia, enjoys a touch of the lash on his prodigious derriere from
time to time, is certainly no business of ours," Mike Whitney wrote.
"However, the affiliation of a Justice on the highest court in the
land to an organization that, for all appearances, is nothing more
than a right-wing cult should arouse not only suspicion, but an
Scalia's alleged membership notwithstanding, the fact that a mere
three weeks after the Supreme Court agreed to take up the vice
president's appeal in lawsuits concerning the administration's
energy task force, Scalia traveled with Dick Cheney on Air Force
Two to hunt on a private hunting reserve owned by an oil industry
executive is unsettling. And Scalia's keynote speech before a
Philadelphia-based advocacy group which actively opposes gay rights
(during a time when the Supreme Court was weighing a landmark gay
rights case) has also raised eyebrows. [LA Times]
5) Christian Reconstructionists
Ever hear of Rousas J. Rushdoony? Didn't think so. Before he died
in 2001, he was the leader of the Reconstructionist movement, which,
in a nutshell, seeks to toss out the U.S. Constitution and turn the
United States of America into a theocracy.
Active in the GOP for quite some time, the movement's greatest
influence has been, according to a 1998 article in Reason, "in
helping change the terms of discourse on the traditionalist right."
Journalist Walter Olson put it this way: "One of their effects has
been to allow everyone else to feel moderate.
To wit: Almost any anti-abortion stance seems nuanced when compared
with Gary North's advocacy of public execution not just for women
who undergo abortions but for those who advised them to do so. And
with the Rushdoony faction proposing the actual judicial murder of
gays, fewer blink at the position of a Gary Bauer or a Janet Folger,
who support laws exposing them to mere imprisonment." [Reason]
Though Reconstructionists are deemed "scary," even by Jerry Falwell's
followers, considering that Rushdoony, like Attorney General John
Ashcroft, was a member of the Council for National Policy (see #1)
and Rushdoony's son-in-law Gary North is a current member, it may
not be wise to dismiss them out of hand.
In February, when Ashcroft subpoenaed hospitals for the records of
patients who had had late term abortions (a move which Philadelphia's
Hahnemann's University court filing deemed "vindictive and
mean-spirited") red flags sprung up. "No valid justification exists
to allow such a blatant invasion of privacy into the reproductive
rights of the women whose medical records would be disclosed," the
"People's medical records should not be the tools of political
Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D., N.Y.) added. "All Americans should have
the right to visit their doctor and receive sound medical attention
without the fear of Big Brother looking into those records."
6) The Moonies
In January 1986, Mother Jones featured an article entitled "Unholy
by Carolyn Weaver which detailed a letter written by Tim LaHaye to
Colonel Bo Hi Pak of the Washington Times, (which is owned and
operated by the Moonies) thanking him for his contribution to
LaHaye's organization, American Coalition for Traditional Values.
(Also mentioned was "Concerned Women for America," which is run by
LaHaye's wife, Beverly).
In 2001, the St. Petersburg Times opined, "We believe Mr. Bush and
his supporters deserve to have their philosophy placed fairly before
the public, without the distorting lens of liberal media bias.
Therefore, without further ado, we give you the verbatim comments
of the President's good friend and spiritual comrade: the Reverend
Sun Myung Moon.
"You must realize that America has become the kingdom of Satan.
Americans who continue to maintain their privacy and extreme
individualism are foolish people. The world will reject Americans
who continue to be so foolish.. . ."
"We must have an autocratic theocracy to rule the world. So we
cannot separate the political field from the religious. My dream
is to organize a Christian political party including the Protestant
denominations, Catholic and all religious sects. We can embrace the
religious world in one arm and the political world in the other."
Coda: "I want to salute Reverend Moon. He's the man with the vision."
- former President George H.W. Bush. [St. Petersburg Times]
And, as As journalist Robert Parry wrote in July, 1997, "Despite
his virulent anti-Americanism, Rev. Sun Myung Moon still relies on
friends in Washington to help him expand his political-and-media
power base. Moon's latest reach into South America had the helping
hand of former U.S.
President George Bush. But the Moon-Bush alliance dates back years
and could reach into the future, as Bush lines up conservative
backing for the expected White House bid of his eldest son."
Of course the list of religious right organizations goes on and on,
but this should be more than enough to present the bigger picture.
In other words, yes, Virginia, the religious right is winning, even
though most folks believe that life in America proceeds as usual.
And while you may not be able to hear Howard Stern on the radio in
the not-so-distant future, you can always tune into cable "news
shows," where, chances are, you can catch Washington Times editor
Tony Blankley or Concerned Women for America President Sandy Rios.
"I really believe I'm hearing from the Lord it's going to be like
a blowout election in 2004. It's shaping up that way," Pat Robertson
said on his nationally televised 700 Club. "The Lord has just blessed
[George W. Bush].
I mean, he could make terrible mistakes and comes out of it. It
doesn't make any difference what he does, good or bad, God picks
him up because he's a man of prayer and God's blessing him."
All of this sounds nuts, of course, because, quite frankly, it is.
But considering that when John Ashcroft became attorney general,
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas reportedly anointed him with
cooking oil (in the manner of King David), [The Guardian] these are
How bad will things get? Stay tuned. But be forewarned. As the
Washington Times recently reported, Rep. Mike Pence, (R-IN) said
that Mr. DeLay's decision to set his own legislative agenda "signals
the dynamics of the president's second term, hopefully very different."
From the tone, it sounds as if an American theocracy may some day
be a reality. In the meantime, however, Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive
director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State
made a prediction we can be sure of. "Pat Robertson in 2004 will
continue to use his multimillion broadcasting empire to promote
George Bush and other Republican candidates,"
he said. [USA Today]
Amen and pass the remote.
Maureen Farrell is a writer and media consultant who specializes
in helping other writers get television and radio exposure.
Copyright 2004, Maureen Farrell
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