On June 9, 1994, the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, an organization created to fight defamation, released a report that alleges -- with shoddy research and threadbare scholarship -- that politically active people of faith pose a threat to the survival of American constitutional democracy. The ADL accuses numerous religious conservative organizations and leaders of anti-Semitism and bigotry. In so doing, the ADL itself has committed defamation. The ADL's new definition of "intolerance" apparently is disagreement with its liberal politics.
The ADL report is filled with fabrications, half-truths, innuendo and guilt by association that are reminiscent of the political style practiced by Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.
Persons of impeccable character and reputation are smeared for dubious reasons or for no reason at all. This style of politics is beneath the dignity of any organization that claims to be dedicated to fighting bigotry.
The response to the ADL report has been dismay from Jews and Christians alike. "Politically active Christians, the ADL concludes, are -- well, 'extremist,' 'bogus,' 'conspiratorial,' 'fevered,' 'phony,'...and yes, 'fervent.' Protestant evangelicals are simply de trop, an object of condescension and prejudice," observed William Kristol, former chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle. (3)
Columnist Don Feder of the Boston Herald calls the report "an attempted political assassination." Feder adds, "Instead of debating the issues like a gentleman, it stoops to implications of anti-Semitism to discredit a legitimate voice in the values debate." (4)
Beth Gilinsky of the Jewish Action Alliance calls the ADL report "a plainly partisan smear campaign against traditional Christians who energetically -- and quite legitimately -- advocate what they believe are important moral and social values." She concludes that although "Jewish-Christian friendship will survive the onslaught from the ADL, we are getting rather tired sweeping up after repeated ADL fiascos." (5)
This report specifically addresses those portions of the ADL document concerning the Christian Coalition. First, we will briefly examine the shoddy nature of the ADL's pseudo-research, and the report's heavy reliance on sources of questionable veracity. Second, we will discuss how the Christian Coalition really operates and discuss our true agenda of pluralistic democracy, nonpartisanship and inclusion. We also will discuss in detail the Coalition's nonpartisan voter guides and organizational structure and purposes.
The ADL's Pseudo-Research
THE ADL claims its report was the culmination of nine months of research, but it bears none of the signs of a serious research report. It is virtually devoid of specific references to resource materials. (6) The reader is left to simply take it on faith that the ADL's most damning charges are true, which they are not. In fact, much of the ADL's report is simply a retread of materials (some over a decade old) from groups like People for the American Way, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the Institute for First Amendment Studies and other groups that long have had political axes to grind against religious conservatives. (7) Most disturbing, the ADL never contacted the Christian Coalition to get its response to their unfounded charges, nor did the ADL try to ascertain the accuracy of many of the quotations used in their report. This is particularly disturbing considering the fact that many of the groups and persons attacked have been longstanding friends of the Jewish community, the State of Israel and the ADL.
In 1993, in seeking to settle charges that it had violated the privacy of certain individuals, the ADL sought to avoid legal liability by claiming that it enjoyed "journalistic status," making it "similar to any newspaper, magazine, or television station." (8) If so, then the ADL has violated even the most basic principles of ethical journalism.
Had the Christian Coalition or its leadership been contacted for clarification, many of the errors in the report would have been corrected. Instead, the report is filled with gross inaccuracies of fact. Quotations are listed without attribution, while others are listed (incredibly) as coming from the "library of People for the American Way." A quotation from Pat Robertson on church-state separation has no source listed at all. (9) Of 28 quotations attributed to Paul Weyrich, founder of the Washington-based Free Congress Foundation, 22 have no source for the quote. (10)
Numerous Factual Errors
BASIC BIOGRAPHICAL errors abound. For instance, the ADL report says that Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed, Jr. once worked as a "campaign staffer for Georgia Rep. Newt Gingrich, former Georgia State Sen. Mack Mattingly and Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina." (11) Reed never has been employed on the campaign staffs of any of these individuals. He never was employed by Rep. Newt Gingrich in any capacity. He worked for Students For America, an independent organization, during the 1984 Senate race in North Carolina. He has never been employed by Senator Jesse Helms. He served as an intern for Mack Mattingly in the U.S. Senate in the summer of 1981. Mattingly was a U.S. Senator, not a state Senator, from Georgia.
Reed never made the comment attributed to him by the ADL calling for "a country once again governed by Christians-'."(12) Indeed, when asked on the NBC Meet the Press program in 1992 whether he believed America was a "Christian nation," Reed disagreed.
"I think the only difference that I would have with it is -- and I should probably preface this by telling you that I began my political career as the executive director of the first Jewish national chairman of the College Republicans in the history of the Republican party -- I do think that you have to acknowledge the role that Jews have played and will continue to play, and I think there's a commonality among Jews and Christians on a lot of issues because again, ultimately it's a faith that I think has a lot of common values."(13)
It is not as though adequate documentation of Dr. Reed's views was unavailable to the ADL. As recently as February of this year, the New York Times news service carried an extensive profile that noted, "At the same time, the coalition is making overtures to minorities and Jewish leaders, hoping to bring some diversity to what has so far been a remarkably homogeneous movement." Arthur Kropp of People for the American Way added, "I disagree with [Reed] wholeheartedly, but I don't detect a mean spiritedness in him that you detect in other leaders. There's a political astuteness, perseverance, and intelligence."(14)
The ADL also misspells the name of the Coalition's Director of Legislative Affairs, Marshall Wittmann. This could not have been a typographical error, as Wittmann's name appears incorrectly spelled throughout the report. Cursory fact-checking should have caught this error. (15)
So poorly researched is the report that views attributed to columnist Robert Novak are based on a quotation so badly lifted out of context that its meaning is distorted. In arguing that a "grim" Paul Weyrich, a Washington pro-family strategist, is somehow tied to anti-Semitic individuals, the report quotes Novak as saying, "I am supposed to be the Prince of Darkness, but Paul's the only person who's so tough that he gets hate mail from Mother Theresa."(16) This statement was made by Mr. Novak at a roast in Weyrich's honor held in Washington, DC, on April 1, 1991. Clearly, the remark is offered in jest -- but it is lifted out of its proper context by the ADL to distort the true meaning.(17)
Reckless Charges of Anti-Semitism
THE ADL report repeatedly suggests that leaders and organizations in the pro-family movement are guilty of anti-Semitism.
Stung by criticism from within the Jewish community, the ADL is backpedaling, and now denies making the accusation. For example, in a response to an earlier Christian Coalition correction of its many factual errors, the ADL weakly claimed, "the ADL does not call the Christian Coalition or any other religious right organization anti-Semitic." (18)
Has the ADL not read its own report? It alleges that "movement leaders have demonstrated a disturbing insensitivity to Jews and Jewish concerns" (p. 2), that its agenda expresses "anti-Jewish and extremist sentiments" (p. 2), that its leaders make "public anti-Jewish pronouncements" (p. 21), that its rhetoric is "reminiscent of traditional anti-Semitic thinking" (p. 22), that its literature is peppered with "anti-Jewish nuggets" (p. 24), that its leaders have "issued a number of pronouncements antagonistic toward Jews" (p. 42), that the movement has been "tolerant of anti-Semitism" (p. 42), that its publications echo "evangelical anti-Judaism" (p. 43), and that its groups conspire with "the nation's leading anti-Semitic propaganda organization" (p. 97). (19)
Had the ADL simply contacted the Christian Coalition and other groups defamed by the report, extensive documentation could have been provided to demonstrate our wholehearted and steadfast opposition to anti-Semitism and bigotry.
In January 1994, Pat Robertson received the highest honor of the Christians' Israel Public Action Campaign at a Jewish-Christian solidarity rally in Washington, DC. At the awards ceremony, Robertson stated, "Those of us who are evangelicals say to those of you who are Jewish, we are your friends. We stand with you and however easy it is, or however difficult it is, you can count on us as your friends, your supporters and your compatriots in a struggle to bring forth the fulfillment of that prophecy, and to make this a better world for all of us to live in." (20)
Robertson also told the Los Angeles Times in 1993, "I am convinced on the political scene that the evangelical churches, the Catholic churches, the Orthodox Jewish people, all of us, will work together." Ralph Reed was quoted in the same story as saying, "We're working very closely with various conservative and orthodox rabbis to try to build a friendship and cooperation across theological lines on family and moral issues." (21)
Robertson has been a major contributor to the United Jewish Appeal, has donated large sums to Jewish charities in Jerusalem, and visited the ADL offices in 1985 to meet with its board of directors. At that meeting, Robertson held hands with then-executive director Nathan Perlmutter and the entire board of directors and the group prayed together for an end to anti-Semitism and intolerance in America. Those present at the meeting report that many were moved to tears.
In January 1994, Ralph Reed visited Israel on a tour sponsored by the Jerusalem Post. He met with former Prime Minister Yitzak Shamir, members of the Knesset, government officials, and the mayor of Jerusalem. Reed's trip was undertaken with the assistance of Jewish leaders in the United States to underscore the Christian Coalition's steadfast support for Israel and Jewish concerns. (22)
Twisting Words Out of Context
ONE OF THE most disturbing aspects of the ADL's report is its propensity to lift words out of context so as to distort their original meaning. It does so with reference to the irresponsible charge of anti-Semitism.
Citing an editorial in the Christian American newspaper, the ADL argues that the Christian Coalition believes that "Jews 'both killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men' (1 Thessalonians 2:15)." The ADL dismissively acknowledges that this quotation from the New Testament appeared in an editorial denouncing anti-Semitism, but refers to it as "typical of evangelical anti-Judaism." (23)
In fact, the editorial (titled "Anti-Semitism in the Church") cited the above-mentioned verse from the Bible as an example of Scripture twisted by anti-Semites in the past to justify their bigotry. The editorial went on to say that "the place of the Church is to restore, not to condemn." The column concludes, "Our editorial position has been and remains clear, consistent, and Biblical: we support the State of Israel and we oppose anti-Semitism." (24)
In the same issue of Christian American, another statement condemned bigotry against Jews. "Anti-Semitism is a serious and dangerous thing to take root and grow. Please do not give aid to this monster, and allow it to grow any further." (25)
Reaction from the Jewish Community
MANY IN THE Jewish community have reacted with disbelief to the ADL's assault on Christian leaders who have been among their best friends in the United States. Midge Decter and Elliot Abrams both have begun efforts to refute the biased report by the ADL through newspaper advertisements. Former U.S. Senator Rudy Boschwitz, an honorary vice-chairman of the ADL, has written a letter distancing himself from the report.
"In my 12 Senate years, I worked with many of the 'Religious Right.' They were very active in the cause of Soviet Jewry (many Pentecostals and other Christians couldn't leave the Soviet Union either). They were fervent supporters of the State of Israel, and we worked together often. Among the leadership of conservative Christians I never experienced even a hint of anti-Semitism. Indeed, it was quite the opposite-I am honorary vice-chairman of the ADL. I am proud of that-but in this instance I strongly disagree. From all my experience I know their report to be ill-founded. Regretably it will do more harm than good." (26)
Marshall Breger of the Heritage Foundation has noted that the report "inferred that the religious right is anti-Semitic, and I don't see how you can make that claim on the record." Marshall Wittmann, director of legislative affairs at the Christian Coalition, says, "This [report] was liberalism and not Judaism speaking." He adds, "It's quite ironic that the ADL, despite all the various anti-Semites out there, would go after people for their political views." (27) Wittmann, who has traveled extensively speaking to Christian Coalition seminars nationwide, recounts that he has "never encountered a whiff of anti-Semitism" among its members. (28)
"The greatest friends the State of Israel has in America are the Christian conservatives," said Herbert Zweibon, chairman of Americans for a Safe Israel. "And [the ADL] is telling this community to get lost?" Zweibon added that the ADL, founded in 1913 to combat anti-Semitism, had "gone off track" and "adopted a liberal political agenda that has nothing to do with its mission." The ADL, he concluded, "does not represent the views of most American Jews." (29)
Opposing David Duke
THE ADL frequently resorts to the very same kinds of guilt-by-association lines of argument patented by virulent anti-Semites. One of the most egregious examples occurs in its allegation that Pat Robertson and Christian Coalition board member Billy McCormack gave aid and support to former klansman and neo-Nazi David Duke's Louisiana senatorial bid in 1990 and his gubernatorial bid in 1991. The allegation is not true.
The report says McCormack helped to table a 1990 censure motion against Duke in the Louisiana Republican Central Committee, implying that McCormack supported Duke's racist views. (30) This is inaccurate.
Rhett Davis, who served as Congressman Clyde Holloway's campaign coordinator in the 1991 gubernatorial campaign, says the following about McCormack's role:
"Months before Congressman Holloway formally announced his candidacy (though David Duke had already announced), Mr. Billy McCormack of Shreveport contacted me on numerous occasions expressing his strong feeling that we needed to convince Congressman Holloway to run because no other candidate was acceptable.
Mr. McCormack and his friends statewide began a concentrated effort to help our campaign. Mr. McCormack was very effective, and ultimately provided the margin of victory for Holloway at the Republican State Convention." (31)
Davis also noted that McCormack brought Robertson to Louisiana to campaign against Duke in October 1991, and Robertson appeared in Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, and Shreveport at fundraisers for Holloway. (The trip was paid for by the Holloway for Governor campaign and Robertson appeared in his capacity as a private citizen.)
"Additionally," Davis continued, "please note that the effort to kill a move to censure Duke was actually led by the anti-Duke forces, fearing such a move would not hurt him, and might indeed backfire like other, similar moves." (32) Other press accounts have similarly noted that the resolution was tabled to "deprive Duke of additional publicity." (33)
In November 1991, after Clyde Holloway (the favored candidate of religious conservatives) failed to make the run-off election for Governor, pro-family activists faced a dilemma. Edwards was an advocate of legalized gambling, liberalized pornography laws, and abortion. Duke -- though conservative on these issues -- held anti-Semitic and racist views that are anathema to religious conservatives.
How did religious conservatives react to this dilemma? In the ADL's green-spectacled fantasy, "Robertson displayed indifference to Duke's racist record, despite the fact that the national Republican Party had repudiated and condemned the arch-bigot more than a year earlier." The ADL report gravely intones that Robertson "never denounced Duke during Duke's subsequent Louisiana gubernatorial bid." (34) That is an irresponsible statement for which the ADL should issue a retraction and an apology.
On November 13, 1991, Robertson denounced Duke on his 700 Club program before the run-off between Edwards and Duke. His words were unambiguous:
"You don't get converted one day and run for governor the next. And especially the fact that there was apparently a falsehood about his-service -- it does not exist, apparently. And furthermore, he claims to be a member of a church that doesn't exist as well. There are a few little inconsistencies. Plus there's some really bad stuff in his background. And it's very dangerous in America to foster hate, and racial hatred, hatred of Jews, bigotry -- that kind of thing. It is something we just don't need in this country." (35)
Duke lost a campaign which he had led in many polls just weeks prior to the election. Many observers noted that Robertson's statement -- strategically timed a few days before the run-off for maximum impact -- might have made the difference by depressing Duke's support among white evangelical voters. Many other organizations and leaders adopted a more low-profile tactic in opposing Duke. (36) But Robertson boldly and publicly spoke out. Instead of praising Robertson for being the most prominent evangelical Christian figure in America to denounce Duke and prevent his election, the ADL smeared him with a falsehood.
Conspiracy Theories of the Left
THE ADL is obsessed with the notion that Christian conservatives engage in so-called "stealth" activities that disguise their agenda. It relies heavily on bizarre theories like those propagated by People for the American Way and Skipp Porteous, a Massachusetts-based conspiracist-cum-propagandist who specializes in spreading falsehoods and innuendo about religious conservatives.
By combining forces with paranoid conspiracists on the left, the ADL suggests that the distribution of nonpartisan voter guides by Christian organizations amounts to a subversion of democracy. The report asserts that "the policy of Robertson's Christian Coalition has often been to hide its election activity." (37) It falsely claims that the Coalition "acknowledges having used [stealth tactics]." It compares volunteers in churches who educate voters with "Tammany's ward heelers and the old Democratic machine in Chicago." (38)
The ADL report asserts, "The Coalition participated in the ground-breaking November 1990 elections in San Diego County in which 60 of 88 candidates associated with religious right groups were elected to office -- an event that came to be known among the religious right and its critics as the 'San Diego model.' " (39)
This statement is false. The Christian Coalition played no part in the 1990 San Diego school board elections. At the time, the Coalition barely had been in existence a year. It had no state affiliate in California and no chapter in the San Diego area. The Coalition neither practices nor endorses the "stealth tactics" the ADL claims.
Contacted by the Los Angeles Times after the election, Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition made it clear that his organization had nothing to do with the campaign. He noted that while the tendency of candidates to campaign in churches might have been an effective strategy, it probably would backfire if the candidates had not gained broad support for their views in the electorate.
Reed made these remarks in his capacity as a political analyst. He did not condone, endorse, or participate in the strategy. The Times misquoted Dr. Reed, a fact that the ADL could have discovered with a more thorough search of newspaper accounts on the subject. (40)
If the 1990 San Diego School Board races are a "model," as the ADL alleges, what were they a model for? The fact is that this strategy failed in San Diego -- many of the candidates who used them were defeated in 1992 -- and it never has been replicated again.
The ADL report fails to mention a single other community in the nation where the strategy has been used. It alludes to an undocumented charge by Skipp Porteous that such a strategy was undertaken in Williamsville, New York, but provides no evidence and names not one candidate who employed them. (41) In fact, the incident in Williamsville never happened. Jeff Baran, executive director of the Christian Coalition in New York, made this clear. "I can assure you that, while I have had a few conversations with Porteous in the past, none have ever contained talk of running candidates of any kind, let alone 'stealth' candidates. As is our policy, we have not engaged in partisan politics in Williamsville or anywhere in New York."(42) Apparently San Diego was not a "model" at all, just a threadbare scare tactic whipped up by conspiracy theorists like Skipp Porteous and People for the American Way.
Guilty of Democracy
THE ADL seeks to tar the name of Christian Coalition by finding the organization guilty of commiting democracy. Through nonpartisan voter education efforts, Christian Coalition informs voters where candidates stand on a broad range of issues, and encourages voters to go to the polls and cast their ballots for the candidate of their choice.
Christian Coalition leaders have repeatedly disavowed so-called "stealth tactics." They always have been accessible to the press, open to the public, and have pursued a policy of honesty and rectitude in their voter education activities.
Ralph Reed told the Washington Times, "We don't encourage in any way people to run for office at any level and misrepresent their position on any issue. We believe pro-family candidates should run unapologetically on who they are and what they believe because the public shares their viewpoint." (43)
In an appearance on CNN's Crossfire, Reed specifically denounced the so-called stealth strategy:
Reed: We're working on behalf of choice in education.We're working to increase the standard deduction for children. We're working to decrease the tax burden on the American family. It's a mainstream agenda for a mainstream America. Eighty percent of the American people want prayer in school, 75 percent are opposed to abortion as a form of birth control, and two out of three want choice in education.
Coalition founder Pat Robertson has been equally clear: "People can say anything they want to, but it's not the policy of the Christian Coalition nationally to hide anything. We want to bring out the truth, not hide it. We want to know what people stand for." (45)
As Ralph Reed argues in his forthcoming book:
"WE DO not advocate electing officials by depressing voter turnout or taking advantage of historically low voter participation. Some have inaccurately charged that religious conservatives hide their religious affiliation, conducting "stealth" campaigns in which they eschew public forums and campaign exclusively in churches. The opposite is true. The Christian Coalition, for example, distributes millions of nonpartisan voter guides that inform voters on where all the candidates stand.We want a more open airing of who the candidates are and what they believe. Pro-family candidates win at the ballot box because of their views, not in spite of them. They are elected precisely because of who they are and what they believe." (46)
If the ADL was looking for the real model of Christian Coalition activity, it would turn to the place where ADL's headquarters is located: New York City. In 1993, Queens school board member Mary Cummins led a protest movement against then-New York City School Chancellor Joseph Fernandez' imposition of the "Rainbow Curriculum," a multi-cultural course that included instruction on the gay lifestyle to students as young as six years old.
A local Christian Coalition chapter was organized, coincidentally, about the same time Cummins raised her voice. The Coalition's New York City coordinator made contact with Cummins, and over the next two months the Coalition, in cooperation with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, The Congress Of Racial Equality (CORE), The National Committee For the Furtherance of Jewish Education, and the Family Defense Council, supported her reform efforts by distributing 550,000 nonpartisan voter guides in 1,300 churches and synagogues.
Catholics, Hispanics and Jews joined the Christian Coalition to distribute more than 500,000 nonpartisan voter guides prior to the New York City School Board races. In addition to church and synagogue distribution, Christian Coalition voter guides were passed out at union halls, polling places and family events. The guides informed voters where 540 school board candidates stood on a broad range of issues, including school choice, voluntary prayer, merit pay for teachers and parental rights. The guides endorsed no candidates and were used for voter education. In a far-reaching show of support, Cardinal John O'Connor allowed the distribution of voter guides in 300 Catholic churches, a move that opened the door to ongoing Catholic/evangelical cooperation.
As a result of Christian Coalition's voter education campaign, voter turnout reached the highest level in 20 years. Approximately 450,000 voters went to the polls, and 60 percent of 130 pro-family candidates won election. Ten city school boards had solid pro-family majorities. Among the new board members: Linda Garcia, a Hispanic mother who won election in Manhattan's Lower East Side. Cummins and her allies were re-elected in Brooklyn. Fernandez was removed from his post. (47)
The Coalition's efforts in New York were the subject of ongoing press coverage from the beginning, and virtually every significant development was reported in detail. The Coalition held numerous news conferences in New York during the campaign to announce its activities. Indeed, when the New York Times and the New York Post listed which candidates they preferred in the contests, they did so based on information derived from the Coalition's well-documented voter guide. (48) So much for "stealth."
Reed told the New York Times during the campaign: "We're simply encouraging people of faith, of all religious traditions, including people of the Jewish and Roman Catholic faiths, to be informed voters." (49)
Another Distortion: The Phantom Manual
SEEKING MORE fodder for its conspiracy grist mill, the ADL repeats the tired and false accusation that the "1992 Pennsylvania Christian Coalition's 'County Action Plan' directed" members to "never mention the name Christian Coalition in Republican circles." (50)
To state the obvious, Christian Coalition's activities within the GOP are a matter of public knowledge, especially given extensive news coverage of the last several years. With Democratic consultant Bob Beckel calling politically active evangelicals "Nazis," Mark Shields referring to them as the "American equivalent of Shiite Muslims," and Jocelyn Elders attacking them, it is difficult to see how the ADL can think that anyone is unaware of Christian involvement in the Republican party.
In fact, the manual the ADL cites does not exist. The "County Action Plan" was a draft prepared by a local volunteer. It was submitted to the national office and rejected as inconsistent with the Coalition's policy of openness and inclusion.
As Ralph Reed directed in a letter on October 7, 1992, to the executive director of the Pennsylvania chapter:
"There are several problems with the manual. It directs Christian Coalition members not to mention their affiliation with the Christian Coalition in party circles. That is not our policy.This manual, in its current form, does not have the authorization or imprimatur of the Christian Coalition. Please retrieve all copies." (51)
The ADL need only have contacted the Christian Coalition and its staff would have gladly provided a copy of the letter. As it is, the ADL has repeated a false allegation about a manual that does not exist. In fact, the ADL barely mentions the legitimate and extensive Christian Coalition training materials, such as its 256-page Leadership Manual, which states the official policy of the organization.
Indeed, the Leadership Manual clearly urges pro-family citizens to be open, honest and up front about their views and beliefs:
"First, do not limit your campaign to just churches and the Christian community. As a supporter of family values, your positions on issues affecting the family are the same as a majority of the voting public. Do not be shy in declaring that your stands on the issues are based on principle."
A Nonpartisan Coalition
CHRISTIAN COALITION'S get-out-the-vote efforts are nonpartisan, contrary to the ADL's assertions. The ADL repeats partisan claims by the Democratic National Committee, which recently has launched an orchestrated campaign of bigotry against people of faith in the political arena. It mentions specious complaints that the DNC has filed with Federal Election Commission. It fails to mention that both the FEC and the IRS have found the Christian Coalition's nonpartisan voter guides in full compliance with the law.
The ADL conveniently ignores the fact that every complaint filed by the Democratic Party against the Coalition has been resolved in favor of the Christian Coalition, most notably a 1990 complaint that advertisements opposing taxpayer-funding of pornography constituted "express advocacy" on behalf of specific candidates. The FEC found that the advertisements were entirely consistent with the Christian Coalition's status as a nonpartisan issues organization. (53)
The ADL also fails to mention the fact that the Coalition has engaged in voter education activities in a number of Democratic races. For example, in the spring of 1994 in Houston, Texas, the Coalition distributed voter guides in a campaign in which Beverly Clark, an African-American, pro-life Democrat, ran in a congressional primary. "The Christian Coalition distributed nonpartisan voter guides in over 100 black churches and made thousands of nonpartisan get-out-the-vote calls to African-American voters from grassroots phone banks." (54) Clark forced Ken Bentsen, nephew of the Treasury secretary and former Texas senator, into a run-off.
A voter guide distributed for the April 12 Democratic run-off listed Clark's and Bentsen's stands (labeled "supports" or "opposes") on ten public policy issues. The answers were provided to the Coalition in response to a candidate survey. Those issues were: "Increased income taxes; balanced budget amendment; abortion-on-demand; taxpayer funding of abortion; voluntary prayer in schools; mandatory sentences for violent crimes; homosexuals in the military; parental choice in education (vouchers); federal government control of health care; 'workfare' requiring able-bodied welfare recipients to work or get job training." (55) The Coalition distributed a similar voter guide in a Mississippi Democratic congressional primary in 1994.
In Cincinnati, Ohio in 1993, pro-family activists supported Charles Winburn, an African-American pastor of the Kingdome Church, in his run for the city council. Winburn, a registered Democrat, graduated from a Christian Coalition training school and campaigned for welfare reform and school choice. (56)
Reaching Out to Democrats
THE COALITION'S 1994 Congressional Scorecard, which lists Senators' and Representatives' votes on a wide range of issues affecting families, makes no distinctions based upon party affiliation. Representative Charles Stenholm, (D-TX) scored a 100-percent rating on the Christian Coalition Scorecard. Representative Pete Geren, (D-TX) scored a 93- percent rating, as did Representative Gene Taylor, (D-MS). Some of the Democrats who have spoken at Christian Coalition events in recent years include: state Representative Roger Byrd (D-GA), Duval County (FL) School Board member Stan Jordan, Beverly Clark, Charles Winburn, and State Representative Woody Jenkins (D-LA). (57)
A number of other Democrats received high ratings on the Congressional Scorecard. Sen. Richard Shelby (D-AL), for instance, agreed with Coalition positions on 71 percent of the surveyed votes. Representative Jimmy Hayes (D-LA) scored 86 percent. Representative Sonny Montgomery (D-MS) rated 71 percent, as did Representative William Lipinski (D-IL). Representative Matthew McHugh (D-NY) had a 93-percent rating.
The Christian Coalition Scorecard highlighted Senate votes on such issues as: tax incentives for families; balanced budget amendment; taxpayer-funded abortions; Joycelyn Elders' nomination for surgeon general; term limits for Congress; and condoms for school children without parental consent. House votes included: cutting government waste; parental notification for abortion; abstinence-based sex education; lifting the ban on fetal tissue research; criminalizing pro-life speech. Each vote is factually described. (58)
The 1994 Congressional Scorecard clearly states that the listing of these votes on issues affecting the family does not imply an endorsement for office or a commentary on the personal faith of the elected official. "This Scorecard is for informational purposes and is not intended to influence the outcome of any election," the Scorecard reads. "Christian Coalition does not advocate the election or defeat of any candidate, and does not endorse any political party. Scores in this Scorecard are not to be taken as a commentary on the personal faith of individual members of Congress. The information in this Scorecard is provided as a tool to help you more effectively lobby your Congressman and two Senators on issues before the 103rd Congress." (59)
The Coalition's Scorecard and voter guides are little different from the informational ratings issued by the AFL-CIO, Americans for Democratic Action, American Conservative Union and numerous other organizations. The Coalition simply provides to voters -- of all political persuasions -- what they richly deserve: reference tools that show how their elected representatives in government stand on issues of concern to families.
How the Christian Coalition Works
THE ADL complains that Coalition members play a major role in some state and local party organizations because they are the most energetic participants. What is wrong with citizens taking part in the political process? The ADL takes issue with religious conservatives who are simply exercising their rights of citizenship.
The Christian Coalition's Leadership Manual provides members with nuts-and-bolts information on the electoral process, from how to organize a local chapter and requirements for Christian Coalition affiliation to how to conduct a voter canvass.
The Coalition's purposes, as outlined in the manual, are as follows:
"Your job as a Christian Coalition leader is to identify the Christian vote and get it to the polls," the manual says. (61) In this sense, the Coalition's mission is no different from the League of Women Voters, the National Organization for Women, NARAL, the AFL-CIO, or Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition, which has registered hundreds of thousands of African-Americans to vote.
The Coalition's policy stances are rooted in faith -- as were America's founders, who spoke of the people of this nation as being endowed by their "Creator" with "certain inalienable rights." As Reed said on NBC's Meet the Press: "The apostle Paul told the early Christians to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to exercise their civic responsibility. And what we're saying is that in a democracy, when you render unto the government that which is due it, that means your vote, your informed participation and your involvement." (62)
Personalizing Public Policy Differences
The ADL apparently regards grassroots democracy as a threat to, in its words, "tolerance and pluralism." In fact, the Coalition and the ADL simply disagree on public policy issues. The Coalition does not support taxpayer-funded abortion as a form of birth control. Neither do 87 percent of the American people, according to a recent survey. But the ADL equates a pro-family,pro-life position with intolerance. Indeed, Abe Foxman, executive director of the ADL (left), even charges that supporting the sanctity of innocent human life creates "hostility" in which "tolerance and pluralism inevitably plummet." (63) To equate one's public policy views with "tolerance" and impugn one's political foes as opposed to "pluralism" is intellectually dishonest.
The Christian Coalition believes students should be allowed to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech, including speech of a religious content. The ADL says this somehow violates the separation of church and state. If so, it may have a dispute with President Clinton as well. In a town hall meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, in April 1994, Clinton stated his view that voluntary prayer does not violate the Constitution:
"Now, it's been carried to such an extent now where they say, some people have said you can't have a prayer at a graduation exercise. I personally didn't agree with that. Why? Because if you're praying at a graduation exercise or a sporting event, it's a big open air thing, and no one's being coerced."
Does the ADL believe that President Clinton is undermining pluralism by his opposition to the Lee v. Weisman decision of 1992 that bans high school graduation prayer? His position is identical to that of the Christian Coalition.
We may believe the ADL is wrong about some policy issues, but unlike the ADL we do not question their right to hold such views or their commitment to pluralism. And we stand arm-and-arm with the ADL in giving no quarter to anti-Semitism or bigotry of any kind.
UNFORTUNATELY, the ADL report has become part of a highly partisan campaign against religious folk launched by the national Democratic party. By lending its name to this campaign against people of faith, the ADL risks being viewed as an organization driven more by partisan politics than Jewish concerns.
In August 1993, the Washington-based National Jewish Democratic Council held a conference to organize a 40-group coalition to oppose Christian conservatives. Among the participants were Arthur Kropp, president of People for the American Way, and Clinton Cabinet members Federico Pena and Donna Shalala. (65)
Throughout 1993, Lieutenant Governor Don Beyer of Virginia ran a particularly vicious, bigoted campaign against Mike Farris, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor. Beyer used materials supplied by People for the American Way which accused Farris of seeking to ban books such as The Wizard of Oz. The Washington Post concluded that the charges were false. Michael Barone of U.S. News and World Report said that the allegation against Farris "unfairly distorts and ridicules" his views. (66)
In June of 1994, just days after the ADL released its report, Representative Vic Fazio (D-CA), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, launched a new attack on religious conservatives, calling them "fire-breathing fanatics." The Democratic National Committee even has set up a bulletin board on Compuserve called "Radical Right," which contains speeches and other party documents designed to assault Christians.
U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders gave a speech in New York City within weeks of the ADL report's release in which she referred to religious folk who are conservatives as "un-Christian." This was a clear assault on the deeply-held religious beliefs of millions of Americans. All 44 Republicans in the Senate condemned this act of arch-bigotry in a letter to President Bill Clinton, and 87 members of the House of Representatives called for Elders' resignation. (67) What was the ADL's reaction to this act of defamation? Thunderous silence.
The ADL, once a respected civil rights organization, has aided and abetted a campaign of intolerance against people of faith with whom they disagree politically. Instead of calling the Democrats to task for dividing Americans based on where they go to church or synagogue, the ADL has cast its own stones.
"It's an old thing in politics," said Representative Dick Armey of Texas, "Whenever you are trying to get people's attention, you create a monster out there. So, they are looking for a bogeymen, and they are hyping the story that the Republican Party is being taken over by a bunch of extremists." (68)
"We are in a race between civilization and catastrophe," former Education Secretary Bill Bennett said of the campaign against religious conservatives. "We have record murder and violent crime rates, huge increases in births to unwed mothers, educational decline, broken families, and a president who has established a record of broken promises. All of this, and we are told that the very religious are what we must fear. Religion is on the side of civilization; more people ought to begin to realize it." (69)
The Separation of Church and State
THE ADL report is full of accusations that the Christian Coalition does not support the separation of church and state. Its sources include undated flyers passed out at conferences and quotations lifted out of context -- as well as more unreliable pseudo-scholarship by Skipp Porteous. It also features attacks on David Barton, a Texas-based scholar who has argued that many of America's founders were sympathetic to Christian values. Most of Barton's work extensively documents writings of the nation's founders.
The truth is that there is a lively debate about the role of religion in public life and the meaning of the First Amendment. The Christian Coalition supports the Establishment clause prohibiting a state-sponsored church. It does not support attempts to use the establishment clause to stifle the free speech rights of Christians, Jews, Muslims, native Americans, or anyone else.
That is why the Christian Coalition supported the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which overturned the Supreme Court's 1990 decision in Employment Division v. Smith. In this decision the Court discarded the "compelling state interest standard" criteria for judging whether laws violated rights to free exercise of religion. The ADL strongly supported this legislation as well.
In the same spirit, the Christian Coalition supports free speech rights for children in public schools. While we oppose mandatory prayers composed by school officials, we believe voluntary, student-initiated prayer is consistent with First Amendment rights to free speech. While disagreements over First Amendment issues abound, it is disingenuous to suggest that those who would allow religious speech in public schools are ipso facto opposed to church-state separation. The ADL quotes Pat Robertson as arguing that the "separation of church and state" is a "Soviet concept." This quotation is lifted out of context. Robertson merely noted that the term "separation of church and state" does not appear in the U.S. Constitution, which is a statement of fact. The First Amendment specifically reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
Robertson is a strong supporter of the First Amendment. For example, during his 1988 presidential campaign, Robertson stated: "I believe absolutely in the separation of church and state." (70)
In 1991, he said on Larry King Live, "I think it [the separation of church and state] is far better. You look at Europe where they have established churches and they are really dying out. We have a much healthier church here in America, free from government money. But I don't think the Constitution requires government to be opposed to religious faith."(71)
Robertson's words echo those of William O. Douglas in Zorach v. Clauson (1952). "We are a religious people whose system of government presupposes a Supreme Being," argued Douglas. There was, he added, "no constitutional requirement which makes it necessary for government to be hostile to religion and to throw its weight against efforts to widen the effective scope of religious influence." (72)
For most of America's history, church pulpits flamed with sermons about social injustices ranging from slavery and racism to poverty and the liquor trade. No one suggested that these activities posed a threat to the separation of church and state. Americans always have resisted the notion of a national religion, but embraced faith-based political movements as an essential counterbalance to social injustice and government encroachments on liberty.
This is the view of the Christian Coalition. As Ralph Reed argues in his forthcoming book: "None of this adds up to the conclusion that America is a 'Christian nation' in the sense of a theocratic state or a unicultural society. That not only ignores the enormous contribution that Jews have made to America, but it is something of an anachronism. It makes just as much sense to say that Massachusetts is a Puritan colony or that Maryland is a Catholic state." (73)
Reed adds, "What religious conservatives want is to accommodate the historic role of faith in American civic life. In short, they seek to restore the time-honored tradition of civil religion -- not to establish Christianity by law or to create an official church." (74)
"Our agenda, ultimately, of the Christian Coalition, isn't about theology," Reed said on ABC Nightline recently. "It is about public policy. We are trying to get public policy that is more family-friendly. And we think lower taxes, smaller government, and government that lives within its means is more family friendly." (75)
THE SUPREME tragedy of the ADL report is there is a resurgent anti-Semitism across the land emanating from sources as wide-ranging as the Ku Klux Klan, former Farrakhan lieutenant Kahlid Abdul Muhammad (who called New York city "Jew York City"), David Duke, and some opponents of the Israeli lobby. But an inaccurate, biased, and politically motivated report like the recent ADL offering undermines efforts to combat anti-Semitism. By crying wolf, the ADL endangers its credibility at a time of rising bigotry and a period of extraordinary delicacy in the Middle East peace process.
In response to criticism of its report, the ADL has refused to back off, though it has engaged in some strategic public relations backpedaling. (76) For its part, the Christian Coalition will continue to combat anti-Semitism and religious bigotry in all its ugly forms. It is willing to seek common ground with Jewish organizations on issues of mutual concern. The Christian Coalition never will waver from its steadfast defense of the Jewish people and the nation of Israel, though it has been unfairly attacked by the ADL.
"The Jewish community should recognize the depth of religious faith among Christian evangelicals and treat the Religious Right with tolerance and respect," urges Marshall Breger of the Heritage Foundation. (77)
The ADL has displayed neither tolerance nor respect. Instead, it has engaged in a partisan campaign of innuendo, half-truths and outright falsehoods.
Sadly, the ultimate losers are not the ADL's constituency, but all of us, for we desperately need a legitimate watchdog to combat bigotry. The Anti-Defamation League has committed defamation, not only against religious conservatives, but against its own stated purpose.
We earnestly hope the ADL returns to its time-honored and vital role of ensuring that intolerance has no place in our civic discourse. For our part -- despite the unfair and shoddily researched attack by the ADL -- we will remain vigilant in seeing that anti-Semitism and bigotry does not rear its monstrous head in our society.
1. Mona Charen, "ADL Playing Upon Old Fears?" Washington Times, July 7, 1994, A17.
2. Boschwitz Op-Ed submitted to the New York Times July 25, 1994.
3. Sam Skolnik, "ADL Takes Heat for Criticizing Christian Right," Washington Jewish Week, June 30, 1994.
4. Don Feder, "ADL Attack Discredits Organization," Boston Herald, June 16, 1994.
5. Beth Gilinsky, letter to the editor, New York Post, July 13, 1994 (original in possession of author).
6. An "annotated" bibliography provides few specific references. For sources on the Christian Coalition, for example, the ADL provides vague clues such as this: "The Los Angeles Times provided a comprehensive account of San Diego by Barry Horstman (March 22, 1992), and generally offers reliable West Coast coverage; the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, The Freedom Writer, Group Research Report, People for the American Way's occasional reports and the group's monthly, Right-Wing Watch, were consulted frequently." Thus, the reader is supposed to take it on ADL' s word that its sources are reliable and that the quotations in the ADL report are accurate. Without specific listings of sources it is impossible to check many of its assertions.
7. Acknowledgments in the ADL report include, in addition to those already mentioned: Project Toscin, Coalition for Human Dignity, Group Research Report, Citizens Project, Mainstream Voters Project and Women' s Project. ADL, p. i.
8. Larry Kanter, "Gaining Journalistic Status Gives ADL a Legal Shot in the Arm," Northern California Jewish Bulletin, v. 142, No. 38, October 15, 1993, p. 3.
9. ADL, "Religious Right," p. 42.
10. Thomas L. Jipping, "The Anti-Defamation League's Campaign of Defamation," Free Congress Foundation, June 24, 1994, p. 13.
11. ADL, "The Religious Right," p. 27.
13. Transcript of NBC's Meet the Press, November 29, 1992, p. 4.
14. Sean Loughlin, "Christian Coalition's Soldier Marches On," Sarasota Herald-Tribune, February 22, 1994.
15. ADL, "Religious Right," p. 42. (The ADL consistently spells Wittmann' s name as "Wittman.")
16. ADL, "Religious Right," p. 91.
17. Thomas L. Jipping, "The Anti-Defamation League's Campaign of Defamation," June 24, 1994, Free Congress Foundation, p. 14.
18. David Cantor, "Anti-Defamation League Response to the Christian Coalition," July 13, 1994.
19. ADL, "Religious Right," pp. 2, 21, 22, 24, 42, 43, 97.
20. Transcript of speech for Christians' Israel Public Action Campaign, "Pat Robertson: Defender of Israel," January 30, 1994, p. 12.
21. Larry B. Stammer, "Religious Broadcasters Vow Fight On Doctrine Issue," Los Angeles Times, February 18, 1993.
22. John Wheeler, Jr., "Peace in the Holy Land," Christian American, February 1994, page 1, 4.
23. ADL, "Religious Right," p. 43.
24. John Wheeler, Jr., "Anti-Semitism in the Church," Christian American, July/August 1991, p. 12.
25. Ibid, p. 12.
26. Rudy Boschwitz Op-Ed submitted to the New York Times July 25, 1994.
27. Sam Skolnik, "ADL Takes Heat for Criticizing Christian Right," Washington Jewish Week, June 20, 1994.
28. Don Feder, "ADL Attack Discredits Organization," Boston Herald, June 16, 1994.
29. Rod Drehrer, "Pro-Israel Group Decried ADL Attack: Christian Conservatives Are Friends," Washington Times, June 28, 1994, A12.
30. ADL, "Religious Right," p. 45.
31. Memo to Christian Coalition from Rhett Davis, July 5, 1994.
33. Don Feder, "ADL Attack Discredits Organization," Boston Herald, June 16, 1994.
34. ADL, "Religious Right," p. 2.
35. Transcript of CBN' s 700 Club, November 13, 1991.
36. Dennis King and Chip Berlet, "ADL Gate," Tikkun, July/August 1993, p.36. The article describes how ADL leaders complained to the media about how they had been sidelined in their efforts to refute Duke's campaign because of their 501 (c) (3) status. Yet the ADL criticizes other organizations with the same tax status for not denouncing the Duke campaign.
37. ADL, "Religious Right," p. 20.
38. Ibid, p. 29.
39. Ibid, p. 28.
40. Thomas B. Edsall, "Christian Political Soldier Helps Revive Movement," Washington Post, September 10, 1993, A4.
41. ADL, "Religious Right," p. 20.
42. Jeff Baran, letter to Christian Coalition national office, July 25, 1994.
43. Carol Innerst, "Parents Labeled Religious Fanatics for Fighting Schools: Schools Learn Ways to Pin Labels on Parental Foes," Washington Times, April 13, 1994, A1.
44. Transcript of CNN' s Crossfire, December 18, 1992 [Transcript #727], p. 10.
45. KABC Radio, November 15, 1993.
46. Ralph E. Reed, working manuscript: The Dynamic Role of Religion in American Life (Dallas, TX: Word, Inc., 1994), p. 34.
47. Ralph E. Reed, "Casting a Wider Net," Policy Review, (Summer 1993), p. 31-33.
48. See, for example: "Christian Coalition NYC Voter Driver is Multi-Cultural Grassroots Effort," Christian Coalition press release, April 28, 1993. The New York Times carried in-depth stories about the Coalition's involvement in the May 4 elections on April 10, April 16 and April 17. Other New York media provided similarly detailed coverage.
49. Sam Dillon, "Spirited Race for Schools Accelerates," New York Times, April 28, 1993, B2.
50. ADL, "Religious Right," p. 32.
51. Letter from Ralph Reed to Rick Schenker, October 7, 1992.
52. Christian Coalition Leadership Manual (1994), p. 19.
53. ADL, "Religious Right," p. 36-37; 1990 FEC MURS 3167 and 3176, pp. 23, 24.
54. Reed, working manuscript, p. 223.
55. Christian Coalition Voter Guide, Texas Democratic Runoff Election, U.S. Congress, District 25.
56. Barbara Woerner, "African-American Christian Wins Office," Christian American (April 1994), p. 9.
57. Christian Coalition Congressional Scorecard, 1994 Edition.
60. Christian Coalition Leadership Manual, p. 1.3.
61. Ibid, p. 3.23.
62. Transcript of NBC's Meet the Press, November 29, 1992, p. 1.
63. ADL, "Religious Right," p. iii.
64. White House Press Office, "Remarks of President Clinton in 'Evening with the President' in Charlotte, North Carolina," April 28, 1994, U.S. Newswire.
65. Deborah Kalb, "Jewish Democrats Target Religious Right," Manhattan Jewish Sentinel, August 11-17, 1993, pp. 1, 11.
66. Michael Barone, "In Virginia, Distorted Debate," Washington Post, October 28, 1993, p. A23.
67. Larry Marasak, "Elders Resignation Urged," Houston Chronicle, June 25, 1994.
68. Transcript of ABC's Nightline, June 23, 1994.
69. Statement by William J. Bennett, Press Conference on Religious Bigotry in Virginia Politics, October 25, 1993.
70. John Margolis, "Robertson Candidacy on Line in South Carolina," Chicago Tribune, March 5, 1988.
71. Transcript of CNN's Larry King Live, April 10, 1991.
72. Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306 (1952).
73. Reed, working manuscript: p. 126.
75. Transcript of ABC's Nightline, June 23, 1994.
76. In a letter to the editor of the New York Post published on July 13, 1993, Foxman downplays the ADL report as mere "criticism" and says "a healthy democracy encourages and depends on the political involvement of conservative Christians."
77. Marshall Breger, "Jewish Community Should
Recognize Depth of Religious Faith," Moment, April
1994, p. 14.
© Focal Point 1998 write to David Irving