April 2002 People & Events

Bush Calls For Passage Of New 'Faith-Based' Compromise Plan

A dramatically watered-down version of President George W. Bush's "faith-based" initiative is picking up steam in the Senate and may pass this spring.

Discussing welfare reform at St. Luke's Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., Feb. 26, Bush endorsed the Charity, Aid, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Act of 2002, sending a strong signal that he believes this Senate legislation is more likely to make it into law instead of the "faith-based" bill passed by the House last year.

The House bill, H.R. 7, never picked up traction in the Senate because it has controversial provisions giving direct subsidies to religious groups and allowing participating organizations to engage in various forms of hiring discrimination while receiving taxpayer aid.

At the St. Luke's event, Bush cited U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), cosponsor of the CARE act with Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.).

Bush remarked, "It is time for the Senate to pass the faith-based initiative. Its sponsor, Rick Santorum, is here. I appreciate you, Mr. Senator, working hard. Get it through the Senate, and get it on my desk for the good of the American people."

A few weeks later, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) announced his support for the CARE Act. Daschle met with Jim Towey, director of the White House's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and issued a statement saying he believes Congress will pass "a viable consensus package."

Said Daschle, "The federal government should look for new ways to harness the energy of men and women of faith and expand the vital role religious organizations play in combating poverty and providing valuable services. I commend President Bush, Joe [sic] Towey and Sen. Joseph Lieberman for their leadership on this issue. This proposal will strengthen the partnership between charities and government as we work to meet some of our nation's greatest unmet needs."

Daschle's support was seen as crucial. As Senate majority leader, he has the power to block votes on measures the Democrats do not support.

The CARE Act focuses primarily on tax incentives for charitable giving and technical assistance that streamlines the process for creating non-profit organizations. Americans United, which has spearheaded opposition to the president's faith-based initiative, said some of the changes are steps in the right direction but added that problems remain that need to be addressed.

"While the new proposal wisely avoids many of the divisive legal problems of the president's original plan, it still contains several problematic provisions," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "The White House claims this plan will offer equal treatment for all groups, but it actually gives special treatment to religious groups."

Lynn pointed to the so-called "Equal Treatment" section of the legislation, which unfairly shows bias toward religious social service providers. He noted, for example, that religious groups would be able to receive public funds while displaying unlimited amounts of religious "art, icons, scripture or other symbols." Such displays will make many religious minorities feel like second-class citizens at institutions providing social services with tax dollars.

"It is simply wrong for a publicly funded job training facility to post a banner that reads, 'Only Jesus Saves,'" Lynn said. "If a religious group is providing a publicly funded service, they should display an American flag, not a crucifix."

Lynn also said that government contractors in many communities are currently required to have governing boards that reflect the diversity of the community. The CARE Act exempts religious groups from these equal opportunity laws, while not affording the same exemption to secular service providers.

"The president's claim about wanting a 'level playing field' rings hollow in light of the details of this proposal," Lynn said.

It remains to be seen what type of reception the bill will receive in the House. Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), a booster of the House version of the faith-based initiative, has already announced opposition to the Senate language. Watts says that under the Senate version, explicitly evangelical groups that proselytize in their programs would not eligible for aid.

However, the new legislation's prospects for passage received a boost with endorsements from two large religious groups. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Council of Churches have both endorsed the bill. Catholic Charities has also called for passage of the CARE Act.

Graham Warned Nixon About 'Jewish Control' Of Media, Tape Reveals

Popular Christian evangelist Billy Graham told President Richard M. Nixon in 1972 that Jews have a "stranglehold" on the U.S. media and urged him to put a stop to it if he were reelected later that year.

The conversation, taped without Graham's knowledge, was made public Feb. 28 by the National Archives. The exchange between Graham and Nixon took place in February of 1972 after a prayer breakfast presided over by Graham. On the tape, Nixon is heard praising Graham for his remarks during the event.

"There were a lot of people in tears when you finished this morning, and it's very moving," observed the president. "That's the best I've heard you at one of those prayer breakfast things."

Graham and Nixon then talked about the president's reelection effort. When Graham mentioned he had a meeting coming up with the editors of Time, Nixon aide H.R. Haldeman, who was also in the room, interjected, "You meet with all their editors, you better take your Jewish beanie."

Graham, laughing, asked, "Is that right? I don't know any of them now."

Nixon then launched into an anti-Semitic tirade, saying, "Newsweek is totally it's all run by Jews and dominated by them in their editorial pages. The New York Times, The Washington Post, totally Jewish, too."

Graham replied, "The stranglehold has got to broken, or the country's going to go down the drain."

Nixon is heard asking, "You believe that?"

"Yes, sir," Graham said, to which Nixon replied, "Oh boy, so do I. I can't ever say that, but I believe it."

Responded Graham, "No, but if you get elected a second time, then we might be able to do something."

Later in the conversation, Graham spoke of knowing Jews working in the media and said they "swarm around me and are friendly to me," but added, "They don't know how I really feel about what they're doing to this country, and I have no power and no way to handle them."

At one point, Graham, concurring with Nixon's assertion that a "powerful bloc" of Jews runs the media, added, "That's right and they're the ones putting out the pornographic stuff."

After Graham left, Nixon told Haldeman, "You know, it was good we got this point about the Jews across." After Haldeman concurred, Nixon added, "Well, it's also, the Jews are irreligious, atheistic, immoral bunch of bastards."

Although he was 53 at the time the conversation took place, Graham today says he does not recall the meeting. On March 1, he issued a written apology, saying, "Although I have no memory of the occasion, I deeply regret comments I apparently made in an Oval Office meeting conversation with President Nixon and Mr. Haldeman some 30 years ago. They do not reflect my views, and I sincerely apologize for any offense caused by the remarks."

Graham, who has been friendly with several presidents over his long career, has always claimed to be non-partisan in his approach. His relationship with Nixon, however, was so close that he apparently lapsed into providing political advice on a few occasions. Graham biographer William Martin reported, for example, that in May of 1973 Graham called a top Nixon aide and suggested that the president find some way to divert the country's attention away from Watergate.

Graham's unwillingness to challenge Nixon's anti-Semitism should be a lesson to religious leaders, conservative columnist Cal Thomas wrote in February.

"Had Mr. Graham spoken 'truth to power' and said of Mr. Nixon's derogatory remarks about Jews, 'Mr. President, those were wicked and sinful things to say about Jewish people,' chances are excellent that Mr. Nixon would never again have granted the evangelist access," wrote Thomas. "That's the way the game is played between politicians and clergy. And the clergy always lose in the end because it is their principles that must be sacrificed if their proximity to supposed power is to continue and their illusion of influence to be maintained."

In other news about religion and politics:

A national Muslim organization hopes to register 100,000 new Muslim voters in time for the November elections. The Council on American-Islamic Relations began distributing registration forms and voter guides nationwide to Muslims gathered for festivals to mark the Islamic holiday Id al-Adha in February.

Notes the voter guide, "Muslims in America share a set of common values and interests that they should support and make known to others. By backing candidates that share our interests and concerns, you can help improve the moral, social and economic environment of this great land."

A judge in Texas who hopes to win a seat on the state Supreme Court is wooing the Religious Right. District Judge Elizabeth Ray recently wrote an article titled "The Role of a Christian Judge" in a right-wing newsletter called Link Letter.

"In a secular court system, the Christian judge views her work as a ministry," wrote Ray. "In my work, I have the support of the Holy Spirit, the guidance of scripture, and the encouragement of prayer but I am instructed that I must never 'neglect justice and the love of God' (Luke 11:42) and always remember the 'weightier matters of the law: Justice and mercy and faith' (Matt. 28:23)."

'600 Pound Gorillas' Prevail In NRB Dispute, Critics Apologize

The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is continuing to deal with fallout over a controversy about the proper role politics should play in the organization.

The dispute began in January when Wayne Pederson, the recently appointed president of the NRB, gave an interview to the Minneapolis Star Tribune during which he expressed regret over the organization's image of close ties to conservative politics. Pederson said the group's primary focus should be spreading the gospel, not politics.

Pederson immediately came under fire, with several Religious Right leaders demanding his resignation. Among them were Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association and James Dobson of Focus on the Family (FOF).

Pederson resigned, but some NRB members were apparently not happy with the way he was treated. On Feb. 21, Robert Neff, vice president of Moody Broadcasting Network, wrote to the NRB's executive committee protesting its decision to dismiss Pederson.

The letter criticized certain "power boys" and "600-pound gorillas" in the NRB who had engineered Pederson's downfall. While it did not name names, the references were widely believed to mean Dobson and the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

An angry Dobson wrote a reply to the NRB committee March 1, calling Neff's charges "vicious and entirely uncalled for."

Neff quickly backed down. In another letter to the NRB executive committee, he apologized for the previous missive.

Neff later told WorldNetDaily, a conservative news service, that he had talked to Dobson and the two patched things up. Paul Hetrick, a top FOF staffer, confirmed the account, telling WorldNet, "Dr. Dobson accepted the apology and wants to put the whole matter behind them."

In other news about the Religious Right:

TV preacher D. James Kennedy has cancelled this year's "Reclaiming America for Christ" Conference. The annual event in Fort Lauderdale, sponsored by Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries, has drawn thousands of attendees. This year, advance registration was off sharply. A notice in Kennedy's newsletter stated that the conference, which had been scheduled for March 22-24, was being cancelled due to "light registration combined with a severe budget shortfall."

Alabama's Moore Is Judge, Not Ayatollah, Insist Groups At Rally

Americans United joined several religious and civil rights groups at a rally outside the Alabama Supreme Court in Montgomery Feb. 22 to protest a religiously based ruling issued by Chief Justice Roy Moore in a legal dispute over child custody.

Moore, best known for erecting a two-ton Ten Commandments monument inside the judicial building, has come under fire for an opinion he issued in late February. The case dealt with a California lesbian who sought custody of her three children, who currently live in Alabama with the woman's ex-husband.

The court ruled unanimously to deny custody to the woman, but Moore went out of his way to write a separate religiously grounded opinion blasting homosexuality as an "inherent evil."

Citing the Bible as well as legal history, he wrote, "Homosexual conduct is, and has been, considered abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature's God upon which this nation and our laws are predicated."

Elsewhere in the opinion, Moore seemed to imply that homosexual acts are worthy of the death penalty, writing, "The State carries the power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit conduct with physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution. It must use that power to prevent the subversion of children toward this lifestyle, to not encourage a criminal lifestyle."

During the rally, Laura Montgomery Rutt, a civil rights and civil liberties activist, read a statement from Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn.

"Justice Moore has made a mockery of our freedoms with his narrow-minded, intolerant and frankly dangerous views," said Lynn, in the statement. "His opinion reads like something out of the Dark Ages, not 21st century America. If Justice Moore cannot separate his personal religious beliefs from his job and it's obvious that he has no intention of even trying to do so then he ought to step down. Justice Moore was elected to a secular office to represent all residents of Alabama. He's chief justice, not chief ayatollah."

About 100 anti-Moore protestors gathered at the courthouse, among them several Alabama religious leaders.

Several organizations have called for Moore to resign, while others have asked the state Judicial Inquiry Commission to investigate him. But Moore said he has no intention of stepping down.

Meanwhile, a new poll shows residents of Alabama split over Moore's opinion. The poll found that 70 percent believe that sex between members of the same sex is "always wrong," but only 50 percent said they agreed with Moore that homosexuality is an inherent evil. Forty percent disagreed, and 10 percent either said they did not know or had no opinion.

Education Secretary Calls For 'School Choice,' While Right-Wing Cries 'Amen!'

U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige has strongly endorsed education "choice," much to the delight of sectarian school lobbyists and Religious Right leaders, who say the move is long overdue.

Paige, speaking at a conference of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), a voucher front group run out of Marquette University, said public education cannot be reformed without options.

"While America enjoys a voyage of choice and freedom, our education system missed the boat," Paige said at the conference in Philadelphia Feb. 28. "It's surprising that a country that says it values education hasn't powered it up with the energy of choice. But it's not just a surprise. It's a disgrace."

Paige asserted that "choice" helps public education and "brings us closer to equality." He refrained from using the word "voucher" during the speech but did talk extensively about President George W. Bush's proposal to create a refundable tax credit to cover the cost of tuition at religious and other private schools. Critics have blasted the proposal as a backdoor voucher.

"Instead of handing over more dollars to the system, this tax credit would allow families to use their own money to make their own decisions," Paige said. "The tax credit is refundable, which means it even helps families too poor to pay taxes."

Paige praised BAEO for its work, saying, "The more liberty we give to parents, the more they will understand and value it. The more we tell people about freedom, the more they will demand it. You are the prophets of parental choice. You have a great American message. Preach it boldly."

The Family Research Council (FRC), a Religious Right group in Washington, reprinted excerpts from Paige's speech in its weekly e-mail update, saying Paige "passionately promoted parental choice in education."

Officials with the Roman Catholic Church, however, want an expansion of the Bush tax credit. Sister Mary Ann Walsh of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference told The National Catholic Register that the Bush tax credit does not go far enough.

"It provides no help to lower- and middle-income parents who are currently struggling to pay for their children's Catholic education," she said.

To remedy that situation, U.S. Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) has introduced legislation in the House of Representatives that would give private and home-schooling parents a tax credit of $2,500 per child per year in elementary schools and a $3,500 credit for secondary school students.

Asserting that the proposal is an "idea whose time has come," Smith insisted that Catholic school parents should get a break because they pay for schooling twice.

Pizza Magnate Seeks To Erect 250-Foot Crucifix In Mich. Town

Pizza magnate Thomas Monaghan's plan to erect a 250-foot tall crucifix complete with a 40-foot Jesus has sparked controversy in Ann Arbor Township, Mich.

Monaghan, who founded the Domino's Pizza chain but later sold it, has been busy converting this suburb of Ann Arbor into a type of Roman Catholic mini-theocracy, critics say. The New York Times reported in February that Monaghan has built a church, a Catholic school, a Catholic day-care center, two convents as well as offices for two Catholic radio stations, a mission and a Catholic newspaper.

Monaghan's latest proposal is to move Ave Maria College, another institution he founded, from its current site in Ypsilanti to Ann Arbor Township. Monaghan wants to greatly expand the school, turning it into a university and adding the giant crucifix as a visible symbol of the enterprise.

Some township residents who live near the proposed site say the structure would be too big. Resident David Swain told The Times that traffic is already bad enough at Christmastime when Monaghan erects a large holiday lights display.

The town's planning commission has recommended against the complex and large crucifix, saying it would place burdens on public services like firefighting and water and sewage resources. Monaghan, however, is not giving up. He is already sponsoring three lawsuits against the town over other matters and is considering new litigation over the crucifix. In addition, Monaghan has moved to influence local politics, even though he does not live in the town.

In 2000, Monaghan backed a slate of four candidates who challenged incumbents on the township board who had voted against Monaghan's project. The Times reported that the four received tens of thousands from PACs either formed by Monaghan or his associates. The sums were staggering, given that most board candidates in the town rarely spend more than $1,000 on a race.

The heavy-handed politicking backfired, however, and all members of the Monaghan slate lost. Some township residents were not pleased by the effort. Jeff Basch, attended a recent meeting of the planning commission to complain that Ann Arbor Township was turning into "a theocracy."

Monaghan declined to speak to The Times. But he has said in previous interviews that he intends to dedicate the rest of his life to spreading Catholicism. Monaghan, 64, was raised by nuns who took him in after his father died. Monaghan was only 4 at the time and according to one associate gained "a very vivid sense of Catholic identity" from his upbringing.

Liberian Dictator Says Country Under Rule Of Jesus Christ

Brutal Liberian dictator Charles Taylor has declared his nation under the rule of Jesus Christ, a move that has been applauded by TV preacher Pat Robertson.

Taylor, a former warlord and international pariah, appeared at a recent "Liberia for Jesus" rally where he told the crowd that his nation must rely on Jesus to end its problems.

"When the president says, 'I cannot help you and all help comes from God,' you'd better believe it," Taylor told a crowd of thousands packed into a sports stadium in the Liberian capital of Monrovia. "I say to you, 'Above me is a higher, higher, higher authority, and that authority is Jesus Christ."

Robertson helped organize the rally, and his Christian Broadcasting Network carried a laudatory report about the event on CBN's website (www.cbn.org). The report noted that in preparation for the rally, Taylor ordered all businesses and churches be closed for "three days of prayer, praise and repentance." During the rally, Taylor "lay prostate on the floor and led the nation in repentance before God," CBN reported.

"I can see angels moving through this stadium!" Taylor told the crowd. "And they went back to God and said, 'Lord, Liberia is knocking on the door.' And I can hear him say, 'Open the door and let Liberia in!"

In February Christianity Today reported that Robertson helped organize the event, but most of the work in Liberia was handled by a Robertson associate, Bishop John Gimenez of Rock Church in Virginia Beach.

Gimenez told CBN, "I believe that this rally is like the atomic bomb of peace.... This is the Liberian people's time to repent. God is going to listen to them. God is going to heal their land."

According to the CBN report, "For three days Christians of every denomination repented and prayed for deliverance from witchcraft, ritual killings, war, sickness, corruption, immorality and poverty."

Liberia, an impoverished nation of about two million on the west coast of Africa, has been racked by years of civil war and corrupt governments. As Christianity Today reported, "The jobless rate is 95 percent. The average annual income is $490. Taylor, who set off the civil war in 1989, came to power by force in 1996. A suspect election confirmed his position in 1997." Taylor has also been accused of plundering the nation's assets to enrich himself and ordering the murders of political opponents.

Liberia is not a predominantly Christian nation. Only about 35 percent of the population is Christian. Forty-three percent follow traditional native religions, and the rest are Muslims. Some observers believe the Jesus rally was a primarily political event, an effort by Taylor to turn Liberians away from an armed opposition movement called Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). Taylor claims that LURD is a front for an extreme Islamic political movement based in neighboring Guinea. Opponents believe the rally was designed to make it appear that Taylor is battling radical Islam.

In March, the magazine Africa News ran a column blasting the rally, calling it "an orchestration" for political purposes.

"The utterances from the scoundrel Charles Taylor and his minions in the weeks preceding this jamboree focused on the so-called 'Muslim threat' to 'Christian Liberia' manifested in the 'predominated Muslim LURD,' supported by a Muslim president in neighbouring Guinea," wrote H. Boima Fahnbulleh, former Liberian foreign minister. "This was what the cabal in Monrovia sold to the Liberian people and some of those in the Bible Belt in the United States. It was a ruse, tawdry and unconscionable, but for a regime without credibility and reputable friends internationally, the religious card is a desperate throw of the dice."

Fahnbulleh asserted that Taylor's plan would backfire because Liberians know him too well.

"They know Charles Taylor has murdered people who took sanctuary in the House of the Lord, but they follow him in this stupid ritual of religious mockery," he wrote.

Taylor has virtually no support in the international community. His regime has been accused of numerous human rights abuses and atrocities. Last month, the BBC reported that after Taylor declared a state of emergency due to activity by LURD fighters, hundreds of child soldiers were sent to the front lines. According to the report, boys as young as 6 have been forced to fight in Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia.

Taylor has used child soldiers before, and in 1990 ordered his army to forcibly induct young boys. They were later drilled to fight in an infamous "Small Boy Unit." Given no education, the boys were later kicked out of the army and left to wander the streets of Monrovia, where many must beg for a living.

Despite Taylor's poor reputation, Robertson continues to work with him on a plan to open a gold-mining operation in Liberia. A Robertson-owned company, Freedom Gold, is exploring for gold in southeast Liberia. If gold is found, Taylor's government will receive royalties and rental fees from Robertson's firm.

Falwell Launches New Cable TV Channel

Move over Tinky Winky! TV preacher Jerry Falwell has announced the launch of a new, 24-hour cable channel that he says will provide programming "especially designed for evangelical conservatives."

Falwell's Liberty Channel is a satellite-based network that Falwell says will offer "family programming, concerts, sports, and much more, including news programs that discuss topics, from a Christian worldview, you will not likely see on network and cable television."

Falwell will host his own program, "Listen America," that will run Fridays at 10 p.m. Falwell describes the program as a "'live' national call-in talk show" featuring "the hottest topics in the news from a biblical perspective and Christian worldview."

Other shows in the line-up include "Law & Justice," hosted by attorney Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel, a Religious Right legal group affiliated with Falwell; "Judicial Watch" hosted by Bill Clinton antagonist Larry Klayman and "The Right Side" with Armstrong Williams.

The channel will also carry a Bible prophecy program hosted by Ed Hinson, dean of the Tim LaHaye School of Prophecy at Liberty University and "Great Truths from God's Word," described as a "college-level teaching program designed to equip Christians with a thorough knowledge of Bible doctrines, events and characters."

Falwell's channel will also air his weekly services from Thomas Road Baptist Church on Sunday morning, which will re-air throughout the week.

In a recent promotional e-mail about the channel, Falwell urged interested parties to visit the channel's website at www.thelibertychannel.org.

Penna. School Drops Creationist Program After AU Complaint

A rural school district in western Pennsylvania has cancelled a planned presentation by a creationist after a warning from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The West Greene School Board in Greene County had voted 6-2 in January to allow evangelist Steve Grohman to give a presentation on creationism during the school day. The board reversed its vote Feb. 28 after receiving letters from Americans United and the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Courts have consistently held that creation science cannot be taught in public schools," wrote Ayesha Khan, AU legal director, in a Feb. 1 letter to the board. Khan's letter cited case law and noted that the proposed presentation was clearly unconstitutional.

The board deliberated the matter for more than hour before voting 6-3 to cancel the program. A large crowd of local residents turned out for the meeting, and the Washington, Pa., Observer-Reporter noted that sentiment seemed "decidedly mixed."

"I've been to [Grohman's] website," resident Glenn Ruse told the board. "He's a little too radical for me. I think this guy has his own itinerary, which is to build up a congregation for the Baptist church."

The board's attorney, Barbara Rizzo, told members that a lawsuit would delay the seminar and could be costly. Board members concluded that it would be irresponsible for the district, which is in the red financially, to spend money on a lawsuit.

"This has been a tough night and tough decision," said board member Debbie Crouse. "Sometimes we have to set aside our personal views, I guess. And it's with a heavy heart that I make this decision, but I don't want to put the school district in the position to fight a lawsuit."

The board left open the possibility that Grohman could speak to students after hours or at some other venue.

In other news about creationism:

The Ohio State School Board held a special session March 11 to hear presentations about integrating "intelligent design" into state science standards.

The event drew over 1,000 observers and took place at a large auditorium in Columbus. The board made no decisions but held the hearing to gather information. During the two-hour event, they listened to both advocates and opponents of intelligent design.

Intelligent design is a modified form of creationism that some Religious Right groups are aggressively promoting. Unlike traditional creationism, advocates of intelligent design acknowledge that the Earth is ancient and concede that some forms of evolution have occurred. But they insist that humans are so complex that a designer (presumably God) must have had a hand in creation.

Critics say advocates of intelligent design are trying to water down the teaching of evolution in public schools because it offends their religious beliefs and assert there is no scientific evidence backing the idea.

"They're not part of science," Dr. Lawrence Krauss, chairman of the Physics Department at Case Western Reserve University, told the board. "What they're attacking is not Darwinism but science."

End Church-State Ties, Top English Bishop Tells Church Leaders

A leading bishop in the Church of England has called for his denomination to sever its official ties to the state.

Bishop Mark Santer of Birmingham made the proposal during a March 9 address to his diocesan synod. Santer, who is retiring in May, called into question the role of the British prime minister in appointing bishops, the presence of bishops in the House of Lords and the role of the reigning monarch as supreme leader of the church.

Santer asserted that England may do away with its monarchy some day and said the church should prepare for that eventuality now.

"The Church of England ought to prepare for that possibility by so modifying its relationship with the state as to be relatively independent of any changes in the constitution of the country as a whole," he said. "Should we not prepare for that possibility by already seeking to secure a position that is not so mixed up with the power of the crown?"

Santer also called the presence of bishops in the House of Lords, Britain's upper legislative chamber, "anomalous and not seriously defensible."

"Without in any way denying that we have served parliament well in the past, we should now withdraw," Santer said. "We have plenty to do in attending to our primary tasks in our diocese. By sensible use of the media, we can be at least as effective in making our views known on issues of public policy as we can by going to the House of Lords."

According to Santer, a doctrine of church-state separation would benefit the church by making it independent. He noted that since 1945, churches in the former East Bloc survived regimes hostile to religion because they were not dependent on the government for money and support.

Santer also seemed to resent some of the state interference in church matters that the close ties have spawned. He noted that under the arrangement, the prime minister has the power to name bishops, even though the prime minister may not even be a church member.

Catholic Charities Should Not Be Exempt From Contraception Law, AU Says

Catholic Charities of Sacramento should not be exempt from a California law that requires employers to provide contraceptive coverage to employees, Americans United has argued in a brief filed with the California Supreme Court.

Catholic Charities, a social service provider that receives huge government subsidies annually, is challenging a 1999 California law that requires most employers in the state to provide contraceptive coverage to employees through health-care plans. The law contains an exemption for houses of worship, private religious schools, seminaries, convents and other religious institutions deemed "pervasively sectarian."

State officials have refused to exempt Catholic Charities, arguing that the organization is not totally religious. They have noted, for example, that Catholic Charities hires non-Catholics, makes its services available without regard to religion and does not seek to convert those its serves to Catholicism.

The organization argues that since Catholic doctrine holds that use of artificial birth control is a sin, it cannot morally offer contraceptives to its employees. In its brief, Americans United argues that Catholic Charities could easily circumvent the issue by providing its employees with a health-care stipend and letting them choose their own plan.

The brief also argues that purchase of a health-care plan does not infringe upon Catholic Charities' freedom of religion because the decision to use the plan to purchase contraceptives rests ultimately with the employee.

"When Catholic Charities purchases a comprehensive insurance plan," insists the AU document, "it cannot be said to 'participate in, facilitate, support, or materially cooperate' with any particular employee's use of that plan any more than it can be said to 'participate in, facilitate, support, or materially cooperate' with an employee's decision to use a portion of his or her paycheck to pay for an abortion or to give a donation to the local Planned Parenthood."

The case, Catholic Charities of Sacramento, Inc. v. California Department of Managed Care, is pending before the California high court. Lower state courts have ruled against Catholic Charities.

Powell Comments On Condoms Spark Attacks From Religious Right

Secretary of State Colin Powell came under blistering attack from Religious Right groups after he told a national television audience that sexually active young people ought to use condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

While taping a special for MTV Feb.14, Powell took a question from a teenage girl in Italy who asked him about the Catholic Church's opposition to the use of condoms to prevent disease.

Powell replied, "I certainly respect the views of the Holy Father and the Catholic Church. In my own judgment, condoms are a way to prevent infection, and therefore I not only support their use, I encourage their use among people who are sexually active."

Religious Right groups immediately declared all-out war. Kenneth Connor, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), called Powell's comments "reckless and irresponsible" and added, "President Bush should repudiate Secretary Powell's comments and publicly exhort him for his irresponsible remarks."

Gary Bauer, ex-presidential candidate and former head of the FRC, also castigated Powell. The secretary of state, said Bauer, should "get a briefing on the fact that he's in an administration that is stressing abstinence rather than condoms."

James Dobson of Focus on the Family was also not pleased.

"Colin Powell is secretary of state, not the secretary of health," he said. "He is talking about a subject he doesn't understand."

Powell refused to back down. Asked about the matter Feb. 17 on CNN's "Late Edition" Powell replied, "I have no apology for the way in which I answered the question." He also told NBC's "Meet the Press" program, "[It is time] for us to speak out clearly and responsibly to help millions. And as my daughter told me when I was getting ready for MTV, 'Dad, don't try to snow these kids.'"

Despite the entreaties from the Religious Right, Bush did not publicly take Powell to task. In fact, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters that Bush did not object to what Powell said.

"There's, of course, a group of people who are going to be sexually active no matter what anybody in the government, or anybody's family, says about abstinence," Fleischer said. "The president's point is they both need to be highlighted."

Dobson claimed victory anyway. Appearing on CNN's "Larry King Live" March 7, Dobson insisted that Bush "absolutely contradicted Colin Powell" when he spoke in favor of abstinence-based programs at a Catholic church in New York City shortly after Powell's remarks were made public.