Dobson Says He'll Bolt
From Republican Party
by Conrad Goeringer
from AANEWS by American Atheists
February 13, 1998
James Dobson, head of the Focus on the Family group, has warned that he will abandon the Republican party if the GOP does not do more to conform with the social agenda of religious right groups. He made the statement at a meeting last week of the semi-secret Council for National Policy, described by the New York Times as "a group of conservative, political and religious leaders that does not open its meetings to the news media." The Council has become a nexus since its founding in 1981 for dozens of groups such as Dobson's and the Christian Coalition, although individual members are not always in agreement.
A report of the meeting was developed by a journalist for the Freedom Writer, a publication identified with the Institute for First Amendment Studies. On Thursday, word of the CNP meeting was revealed in the New York Times.
Dobson reported spoke to about 300 members of the group which embraces a mix of political conservatives and religious right activists. The latter category includes House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese, V.P. Dan Quayle and Iran-Contragate figure Oliver North, and "big money" interests such as Richard DeVos of the Amway Corporation, direct mail wizard Richard Viguerie, and members of the Coors family.
While most of this group focuses on economic issues close to the Republican agenda, another segment of CNP covers religious right interests. Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, current Christian Coalition President Don Hodel and former GOP operative Howard Phillips are all linked to the Council. Membership, which has grown to about 500, is by invitation only.
While Christian Coalition is generally identified as the key player in religious right politics, Dobson's enormous Focus on the Family is much larger, and may have even greater grass roots strength and impact than Robertson's organization. Focus boasts nearly 2 million members, and a mailing list which includes five million names of persons who have contributed to Dobson's group or purchased products. It is also estimated that 5 million people are regular listeners to Dobson's daily, half-hour radio show now carried on over 1,500 radio nations throughout the nation.
From an enormous headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Focus on the Family grinds out a steady stream of books, magazines and letters to supporters all dealing with "family values" issues -- gay rights, abortion, prayer in schools, pre-marital sex, and especially the need for parents to raise children in a strict religious household. In August, 1995, Dobson used his considerable resources to protest the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China, calling it "the most radical, atheistic and anti-family crusade in the history of the world" and "Satan's trump card."
Receiving Dobson's approval is considered de rigeur for many religious right politicians such as pat Buchanan, Phil Gramm, Lamar Alexander and Alan Keyes, all of whom have made the pilgrimage to the Focus on Family offices. But since 1995, Dobson has been increasingly disenchanted with the direction of the Republican party, and the strategy of the Christian Coalition which has emerged as a key player in GOP politics. Dobson's address last week to the Council on National Policy underscores that, and the possible disenchantment of other religious conservatives as well who are no longer willing to "stay the course" set by more pragmatic activists such as former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed.
In a July, 1995 release, Associated Press religion writer David Briggs observed that Dobson had contacted his members and more than 100,000 pastors warning that "Republicans are taking a walk on moral issues such as abortions and gays in the military. If they continue to pursue a 'big-tent' strategy that avoids taking a stand on moral issues in the interest of party unity, Dobson says, it will be conservative Christians who walk out in large enough numbers to insure a Democratic victory."
Dobson has continued to express his all-or-none position, while Republican leadership has failed to deliver on key religious right legislative demands -- a ban on abortion, passage of the Religious Freedom Amendment, tougher laws against obscenity and other related issues. At the Phoenix CNP gathering, he reemphasized that theme and reportedly received a two-minute standing ovation from about two-thirds of the crowd, while the others "sat silently without applauding," notes the IFAS report.
Dobson cited a "betrayal" which began with the presidential campaign of U.S. Senator Phil Gramm (R - Tx.) in 1994, where Dobson and other religious leaders huddled with the candidate. Gramm reportedly told Dobson, "I'm not a preacher," and "dismissed" the group. Another incident cited by Dobson was when Sen. Bob Dole, the successful GOP nominee, said that he would not accept a litmus test on abortion or support legislation banning the procedure. He excoriated other Republicans as well who, "when they moved into power, moved to immediately insult" the Christian groups which had contributed so much to the GOP victory. "His list included House Speaker Newt Gingrich, for inviting [New Jersey Governor Christine] Whitman to give the Republican response to the State of the Union address, and even conservative stalwarts like Republican Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri, and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania who Dobson said had failed to speak out against homosexuality and financing of sex education in schools," noted the New York Times.
More Evidence: A Split In Religious Right Ranks
The CNP confrontation between Dobson -- evidently the favorite of the Phoenix gathering -- and "mainstream" Council members closely tied to the leadership of the Republican Party threatens to jeopardize the carefully-built alliance which has existed between religious right groups and the GOP for over a decade. A walk-out by Dobson could seriously undermine the role of Christian Coalition, which controlled over 1,000 delegates at the 1996 National Republican Convention in San Diego and set-up a sophisticated $750,000 "war room" for making sure that the CC agenda was adopted. The biggest floor fight of the convention, though, was over abortion; and Coalition Director Ralph Reed "made the call" to keep the group's delegates on the convention floor despite Dole's ambivalence over the issue.
But many Christian activists are disenchanted by the GOP "establishment" which, they say, has betrayed a religious and social agenda in favor of tax cuts and economic deals with the Clinton White House. Gary Bauer is a former official of Focus on the Family, and now heads the Washington, D.C. based Family Research Council; like Dobson, he is leery of the "big-tent" strategy of the Christian Coalition. He told the New York Times that Republican officials "are constantly reading polls saying the party has to be tolerant, it shouldn't look judgmental. But a great party ought to stop looking at polls and find its voice for the people that have given it the power it has got."
A Dobson walk-out could energize the call for a third-party effort that is now rumbling through religious and political right circles across the country. Some have expressed support for Pat Buchanan, although thus far the feisty conservative columnist has limited his political ambitions to the Republican primaries.
A More Extreme Agenda? Christian Reconstructionism?
In his talk to the Council for National Policy, Dobson revealed that in 1996 he voted as a "protest" for Howard Phillips, a former GOP operative who now heads the U.S. Taxpayers Party. The USTP platform, though, has less to do with tax cuts and instead represents an extreme religious agenda closely identified with a movement known as Christian Reconstructionism. A small but active and influential movement within religion right ranks, Reconstructionists believe that all civil society must be "reconstructed" along Old Testament lines, and that "Bible law" should be instituted throughout the land in preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Reconstructionists such as Gary North and movement patriarch R.S. Rushdoony are included in the Council for National Policy ranks, although their extreme stance on some issues may actually offend other CNP members.
Reconstructionist doctrine holds to a position loosely known as "dominion theology" or Dominionism, that Christians are mandated to "occupy" all institutions of society and achieve with Rushdoony terms the "reconquest of all things." Taking a lead from the Old Testament, Reconstructionism mandates the death penalty -- by stoning, according to one movement activist -- for over a dozen transgressions such as homosexuality, adultery, "witchcraft," abortion, murder , blasphemy and even disrespect to one's parents. Such talks often stuns even Christian Coalition leaders who find such a hard-edge to be politically dangerous and even doctrinally suspect; that doesn't stop the USTP and Phillips, though, from taking a hard line against feminism, state-church separation, abortion, or rights for gays.
James Dobson is not yet a Christian Reconstructionist, although there has been a disturbing trend for disenchanted "big-tent" religious conservatives to embrace more extreme and sectarian agendas. This pits these groups and activists against the Christian Coalition, which has tied its fate to remaining within the Republican Party. Dobson told the CNP conference, though, that the percentage of conservative Christians supporting the GOP has dropped by nearly one-third since 1994. The Coalition has been desperately claiming that its precinct-level army of volunteers is essential if Republicans are to avoid a "melt down" and loose control of one or both sides of Capitol Hill. In seeking ideological and political purity, though, James Dobson may contribute to a tactical split within the religious right.
Robertson Denies Mixing
Profit With Non-Profit
by Cliff Walker
Norfolk, Virginia -- "The Virginian-Pilot" quoted two pilots as saying that medical relief planes owned by Pat Robertson's tax-exempt organization Operation Blessing regularly carry workers and equipment for Robertson's diamond mining business.
Robertson at first denied the allegations, but then said that the African Development Co. had reimbursed Operation Blessing for the flights.
Robertson is the president and sole shareholder of the mining business, and says he wants to make a profit in Africa only so he can help its suffering people.
by Chuck Shepherd
Alarmed employees of the Women's Community Health Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, called for emergency police coverage after a car carrying three nuns pulled into its parking lot.
The Center feared the nuns were the first stage of a large protest against the abortions performed there, but after several squad cars converged on them, the nuns disclosed that they were part of a cloistered order on the way to a doctor's appointment when their car developed alternator trouble.
Dolphin Karaoke Scene
by Cliff Walker
Dr. Hector Corona reports that dolphins sing along to the radio.
By slowing down recordings of dolphins vocalizations to one-quarter speed, he discovered that their sounds are similar to popular hits from the likes of Mariah Carey and Bryan Adams. Corona says the dolphins hear the songs by picking up sound waves from radios on boats and beaches.
Corona ofered no explanation as to why or how the dolphins speed up the songs to four times what they hear.
New York City Outdoes
Groundhog Day Myth
by Cliff Walker
February 2, 1998
In an attempt to come up with a bigger and better myth, New York City Hall brought in a big Asian elephant on Groundhog Day to forecast whether winter would last longer.
Circus handlers brought in "The Mighty King Tusk," describing him as the "largest land mammal on earth." The Asian elephant weighs seven tons and has tusks seven feet long.
"The elephant has seen his shadow, we'll have six more weeks of winter," declared Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, as the animal stood calmly in the sunshine. "Since this is the Capital of the World, we simply don't use a groundhog to determine how much longer winter will last, we call upon the world's largest elephant," said Giuliani.
In Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the groundhog Phil also saw his shadow, indicating to the superstitious that there will be six more weeks of winter there. When the 15-pound rodent does not see his shadow, the forecast changes to an early spring.
Although the science of meteorology uses an entirely different method to predict the weather, Groundhog Day has been an annual event for 112 years in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, a small town 97 miles north of Pittsburgh.
by Cliff Walker
A preacher at the Independent Baptist Church in Hillsboro, Illinois, gave a bizarre demonstration of how God will pitch the Devil into Hell on Judgment Day.
Rev. Anthony Dearinger grabbed a nearby 12-year-old boy and hurled him about six feet. The child was sitting in the pew with his parents.
Dearinger was convicted of child endangerment.
Frank Zappa Erected
by Cliff Walker
Officials in Vilnius, Lithuania, erected a monument to composer and rock musician Frank Zappa. Explaining that even though the two had no connection, Lithuanians speculate that he would have visited Vilnius had he not died two years earlier.
Zappa was an outspoken atheist who was interested in trade with Soviet sattelites and so-called Iron Cirtain countries. Some think he would have run for U.S. President if he had not died of prostate cancer.
You're Sure Quiet Today!
Caretaker Cashed Checks
While Boss Lay Rotting
by Cliff Walker
The caretaker of a Southside, Florida, woman took thousands of dollars from her bank account and cashed forged Social Security checks while the woman's body lay rotting for two years.
Thelma Mahler, 58, was found guilty of 45 counts of fraud and forgery, the Times-Union newspaper reported. Mahler's employer, Louise Brinson, 73, had been dead for more than two years when her stepdaughter found her remains lying on a quilt. Mahler had written checks totaling $270,000 from Brinson's bank account, forged and cashed her Social Security checks, and ordered mail-order items in her name. Mahler faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and up to $40 million in fines and restitution.
Mahler's lawyer complained that the jury had been influenced by the many grisly photographs of Brinson's skeleton: "I think she got convicted by a lot of photographs that had nothing to do with the case," he said.
Tennessee Urges Posting
of Ten Commandments
by Cliff Walker
Tennessee state senators this session passed a measure urging homes, businesses and schools in the state to post the Ten Commandments. "I think it's time to get back to the basics of morality in this country, which has traditionally been based in Judeo-Christian beliefs," said Ben Atchlet, R-Knoxville, sponsor of the bill, which passed, 27-1.
Some of the lawmakers who voted for the bill said they couldn't afford to vote no. "I don't have time to explain to my 150,000 constituents about how this is America and this was about choice," declared Memphis Democrat Roscoe Dixon. "All they'll see is whether I voted for it or against it."