January 2002 Issue #82
Religious Right Agenda in Congress
The education bill just signed by President Bush was a mixed bag for the religious right. It funds "hate crimes" prevention programs but not vouchers. It also requires the Department of Education to draft guidelines for prayer in public schools and allows the denial of funds to any school or school district that violates those guidelines or that denies the Boy Scouts of America equal access to school facilities.
President Bush Becomes
Religious Right’s De Facto Leader
Pat Robertson’s resignation from the Christian Coalition “confirmed the ascendance of a new leader of the religious right in America: George W. Bush, ” a Washington Post story posited. In the article, Gary Bauer, former head of the Family Research Council and presidential candidate, and former Christian Coalition leaders Ralph Reed and Marshall Wittman agreed that Bush is now the movement’s leader. Bush’s religious beliefs and his policies appeal to the religious right, who roundly praise him and speak of his leadership as part of a divine plan. His advisors acknowledged that he tried to appeal directly to religious right voters in 2000, circumventing their leaders. Last month, top Bush political advisor Karl Rove said the administration will do even more to reach out to such voters. The article noted that Bush’s rise has coincided with the retreat of leaders such as Robertson and Jerry Falwell, partly because they are no longer mobilized by opposition to a president.
Falwell sent a fund-raising letter trying to capitalize on Bush’s popularity, the New York Times reported. Calling Bush his longtime friend, Falwell wrote, “He's counting on me to mobilize my Christian supporters and build a groundswell of overwhelming pressure on `wobbly' members of Congress to pass his pro-family legislative agenda, confirm his all-important Supreme Court appointments and defeat the left's campaign to destroy him." “Now is the time,” Falwell wrote, “because public support for President Bush will never be stronger than it is now…. The Democrat and liberal media attacks will soon start taking their toll again." Falwell gushed that Bush was “very excited when I told him” about the campaign, yet a White House spokesperson asserted that he was unaware of any conversation between Falwell and Bush about it.
Texas Education Board Supports School Prayer
The State Board of Education unanimously adopted a nonbinding resolution “for school prayer, encouraging Texas school districts to preserve and protect the rights of students to exercise their constitutional right of voluntary, non-coercive prayer and their right to express their feelings of faith and patriotism.” The resolution was written by board member Richard Watson and cosponsored by David Bradley, a religious right member from Beaumont. The resolution states that it was prompted by the Sept. 11 attacks and the "national rekindling of expressions of faith and patriotism." It discusses the nation's "heritage of seeking God in time of trouble" and states that "many misguided individuals attempt to pressure schools into restricting religious expression which the Supreme Court has not prohibited."
Judge Erects Commandments Monument
in Alabama Courthouse
The Alabama judge who vowed to take with him to his state’s supreme court the Ten Commandments plaque that had hung in his courtroom has gone beyond that pledge. Last summer, Chief Justice Roy Moore had a granite display of the Commandments placed in the rotunda of the building that houses the Alabama Supreme Court and appeals courts. An open tablet bearing the Protestant version of the Decalogue tops the monument, which stands four feet high and weighs over 2½ tons. Moore said it will remind Alabama courts and citizens that "in order to establish justice we must invoke the favor and guidance of Almighty God."
Moore had the display installed one night after court employees had left the building. He had not conferred with other justices about it. His attorney said Moore acted under his authority as the building’s leaseholder and private donors had paid for it.
Two lawsuits seeking removal of the monument have been filed in federal court on behalf of attorneys who regularly have business in the building. The ACLU of Alabama and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed one suit; the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is based in Alabama, filed the other. The complaints allege that the display endorses the practice of religion in general and Judeo-Christianity in particular and sends a message of exclusion. Alabama’s attorney general appointed 3 private lawyers to provide Moore a “vigorous defense.” Moore is also being supported by religious right groups, particularly Coral Ridge Ministries, which launched a fundraising drive for his defense and has helped fund his defense since 1995. Moore was a featured speaker at the group’s Reclaiming America for Christ 2001 conference.
According to Americans United, Moore told a rally in December that there is no such thing as church-state separation in the Constitution and that government is not obligated to recognize documents of other faiths since “this is a Christian nation.”
Other Interesting Lawsuits
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling that a Louisiana law requiring local parishes and schools boards to allow verbal prayer in public schools is unconstitutional. Originally, the statute permitted authorities to allow students and teachers to observe a "brief time in silent meditation" at the beginning of each school day. In subsequent amendments, "brief time in silent prayer or meditation” was added and "silent" was later deleted. The current law, the court held, was enacted “to convey a message of state endorsement and promotion of prayer.”
The Christian Coalition has settled a discrimination lawsuit brought against it last year by ten African-American employees of its Washington, D.C. headquarters. The suit alleged that Roberta Combs, who was promoted from the group’s executive director to president last month, had ordered that black employees had to use the back door and eat in a segregated area, could not attend certain Coalition events, and were denied health insurance available to white employees. A former white employee also sued, saying he was fired after he refused to eavesdrop on the black employees. In July, the presiding judge had ruled that the employees would probably win their case on its merits and issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Coalition from retaliating against them. The terms of the settlement are confidential.
Home | Publications | About Us | Newsletters | Join Us | Links | Events | Officials | Get Involved | Updates
|Copyright © 2001 - 2003 Let Freedom Ring|