The Real Religious Right, pt. 1
by bluenc, Sat Feb 18, 2006 at 06:43:03 PM EST
While the Religious Right's influence may or may not be waning, it's clear that Christian conservatives have a disproportionate amount of influence within the Republican party. Republicans must seek the blessing of Religious Right high priests before they can climb the ranks of the party leadership, and GOP policy is often mandated directly by these folks. But who are they? What do they really believe? Who holds the power? I hope this will be a regular series describing the nefarious networks of power within the religious right and exposing the extremist views of its leaders.
We'll start with Dr. James Dobson. Most folks know about Dobson's chummy relationship with President Bush and the Republican leadership. In 2004, the Bush-Cheney website featured Dobson's endorsement on its main page. We're all probably familiar with some of Dobson's views on gay marriage, abortion rights, and separation of church and state. What we may not be familiar with are some of Dobson's connections with extremists and racists.
Dobson runs Focus on the Family, a Christian right-wing organization devoted to advocating for "family values." Their website (http://www.family.org/) is an interesting primer in Christian conservative philosophy. In the early and mid-90's, Dobson was not so friendly with the Republican party. He was deeply involved in the power struggle between old-school conservatives like Dole and Bush I and reactionaries like Buchanan, Gingrich, and Ralph Reed. Well, we all know who eventually won that battle, but in the 1990s, everything was still up for grabs. In 1996, the Republican party nominated Bob Dole, not the anointed favorite of the Christian right. Dole refused to stand by the line in the GOP platform that vowed to criminalize abortion. In a 1998 speech to the conservative Council on National Policy (we'll talk about them later down the road), Dobson explained his choice in 1996:
Republicans said, "Now they don't have any place to go. Where are they going to go?" Well, some of them did go. Some of them voted for Bill Clinton, and some of them stayed home, and some of them, like myself, voted for another candidate. I voted for Howard Phillips...I voted for him because he stands for the principles and the values that I believe in, and nobody else did. So that's where we stand. (applause)
Hmm...Howard Phillips, eh? Who is this guy Phillips?
Well, Phillips was one of the cofounders of Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority, which, it should be pointed out, is neither moral nor a majority. In 1975, Phillips helped found the Conservative Caucus, which vigorously supported the apartheid regime in South Africa. In 1976, Phillips, with some Religious Right friends we shall discuss later, tried to convince Ronald Reagan to run as a candidate for the American Independent Party, started by George Wallace. In 1990, Phillips founded the U.S. Taxpayers' Alliance, which grew into the U.S. Taxpayers' Party in 1992 (and later became the Constitution Party). The USTP membership list reads like a who's-who of right-wing extremists: Randall Terry of Operation Rescue, who has defended abortion-clinic bombings; Matthew Trewhella, who is under investigation by the FBI for threatening doctors and encouraging others to attack clinics; William K. Shearer, who has extensive connections with neo-Nazis and the KKK through the Populist Party; Curtis Caine, a Bircher who once called Dr. King a "fraud" and who praised apartheid. The list really does go on and on.
The USTA conference in 1990 hosted William S. Gill, who works with the Liberty Lobby (an anti-Semitic group monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center). The USTP's 1992 founding convention hosted R.J. Rushdoony, a hard-right philosopher and founder of Christian Reconstructionism. It's heavy stuff, but the philosophy boils down to this: Christians must take over the government, violently if necessary, and restore Biblical rule in order for Jesus to come back. I'll explore that theology later, as it is pervasive in the religious right, but needless to say it is overtly racist and repugnant to most Christians. In 1992 and 1996, Howard Phillips was the USTP's Presidential candidate. So, what exactly what "principles" do Dobson and Phillips share? A committment to racism? A hatred of homosexuals and women? A soft spot for abortion-clinic bombers? Maybe we can look into what Focus on the Family does.
One of the biggest resources FoF provides is distribution of books to churches, individuals, and families. Aside from the typical Christian-right propaganda, there are a few interesting works available. FoF sells some books by George Grant, as well as a taped radio interview. Grant was a guest speaker at a "history conference" in Idaho in 2004 sponsored by racist thinker Douglas Wilson. Another speaker at the conference was a co-founder of the League of the South, a neo-Confederate racist group, named Steve Wilkins. Wilkins has allegedly claimed that slavery was "perfectly legitimate." Grant has also advocated the death penalty for homosexuals. Another author on Dobson's little book club is David Barton. Barton specializes in talking about what he calls "America's Godly Heritage." Barton teaches that separation of church and state is a myth, and that America's founders were Christian fundamentalists. Barton's lies have been distributed and endorsed by Dobson, Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum. Most disturbingly, Barton spoke at a conference led by Pete Peters' Scriptures for America. Peters is a pastor who leads a virulently racist and very anti-Semitic Christian identity group. For those of you not familiar with the Christian Identity doctrine, here's a little run-through. Later that year, Barton spoke to another group associated with Peters. Then there's Gary DeMar, founder of American Vision. DeMar has advocated the death penalty for homosexuals, also. DeMar's books can be found on FoF's website. FoF turns to a fellow named David Noebel when it comes to what it calls "worldview" issues. Noebel founded Summit Ministries and previously worked with the Anti-Communist Christian Crusade. In the 1960s, he denounced the Beatles as "Marxist Minstrels". In fact, Noebel goes way back in the right-wing movement, starting as a bigwig in the John Birch Society, then moving on to writing projects. He wrote a book called "The Homosexual Revolution" and has peppered his speeches on homosexuality with words like "fairies" and "fruits". He co-wrote "Special Report: AIDS" with Paul Cameron of the Family Research Institute and Wayne Lutton (both of whom we will talk about later). The book advocated the idea of mandatory "exile" for all active homosexuals in the U.S. and even discussed the idea of camps for people with AIDS (I presume we're not talking about summer camp here). Noebel co-wrote a book about "worldview" called "Mind Siege" with author and Religious Right rock star Tim Lahaye.
Finally, we turn to the Family Research Council (FRC). The FRC was founded by Gary Bauer in the 1980s, and merged with FoF a few years later. In the early 1990s, the two groups officially separated due to tax concerns, but they're still essentially the same group. FRC acts as a kind of political arm for FoF. The President of the FRC, Tony Perkins, was picked and endorsed by Dobson. Perkins has something of a checkered past. A former State Rep. in Louisiana, Perkins later ran the campaign of a Republican Senate candidate in 1996. He paid David Duke (yes, that David Duke) $82,000 under the table for his mailing list. When the FEC found out about it, the campaign was fined $3,000. In 2001, Perkins addressed the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC). The CCCis the premier white supremacist organization in the U.S. It emerged from the ashes of the segregationist White Citizens' Council and named segregationist governor Lester Maddox the "Patriot of the Century".
The FRC has sold a book entitled "The Pink Swastika", which argues that the Holocaust was actually a homosexual conspiracy. The co-author of the book has stated that:
Homosexuals are the true inventors of Nazism and the guiding force behind many Nazi atrocities
So, know we can see the FRC's agenda: homophobia and outright racism.
So, what does James Dobson believe? By looking at the groups he associates with and the causes he promotes, we can make some general assumptions. Dobson believes:
- That Christians have a duty to take over the U.S. government by any means necessary.
- That, once in power, Christians should establish Biblical law that will include the death penalty for all sexual sin.
- That whites are genetically superior and that white Southern culture is to be revived and protected.
- That abortion clinic bombings are morally acceptable.
- That gay men were responsible for the Holocaust.
- That a secret conspiracy of Jews is seeking to take over the world through the United Nations and establish a worldwide, communist state.
This is the man many believe helps run the Republican Party. The man who has taken credit for helping re-elect George W. Bush. This is the man whose endorsement Bush proudly touted on his campaign website. As this series continues, we will investigate some of the other disgusting characters in the orbit of the Religious Right.