Religious Broadcasters Celebrate Greater Access In Washington

The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), an umbrella group for evangelical Christian television and radio preachers, is celebrating a new level of access to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

A self-congratulatory article in the NRB magazine said that NRB President Frank Wright has worked to raise the organization’s political profile.

“When [he] took the helm of NRB in 2003, he recognized the still untapped power of an association of 1,600 organizations,” the magazine noted. “In essence, he was directing the political equivalent of an 800-pound gorilla that most on Capitol Hill did not even know existed.”

The article said the religious broadcasters felt they had to be active on Capitol Hill since Congress has the power to regulate the airwaves through the Federal Communications Commis­sion.

But in surveying the past two years, the article makes it clear that the NRB lobbies frequently on issues that have nothing to do with the airwaves. For example, it spent much time trying to pass legislation removing the ban on partisan politicking by houses of worship and pushing a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

In November, the NRB hosted a “Capitol Hill Broadcast Summit,” during which a “Faith & Freedom Award” was presented to U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.). Attendees also went on a “Christian Heritage” tour of the Capitol with historical revisionist David Barton of Texas.

Members of the group’s president’s council also met with FCC Commis­sioner Kevin Martin and listened to speeches by U.S. Reps. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) and Mike Pence (R-Ind.). A “private White House briefing” with Tim Goeglein, a top Bush aide, rounded out the agenda.

In other news about the Religious Right:

• The GOP/Bush bandwagon is losing a few Religious Right allies. John Whitehead, founder and president of the Rutherford Institute, has been warning evangelicals about the dangers of aligning too closely with a partisan movement. Whitehead has gone so far as to warn of “a startling parallel between the road America is traveling and that of pre-Nazi Germany.”

Wrote Whitehead recently, “Turning to the present day, the close identification of evangelical churches and organizations with the Republican Party, and in particular the current Bush Adminis­tration, has, in the opinion of some, resulted in their being manipulated and co-opted by political power.”

Lamenting public indifference, he added, “In fact, some of the scandals surrounding George W. Bush – Enron, Halliburton, the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the Abu Ghraib tortures, to name a few – could have toppled a president 30 years ago.”

• TV Preacher D. James Kennedy’s “Reclaiming America for Christ” conference attracted nearly 900 attendees with a mix of fundamentalism and ultra-conservative political rhetoric.

“We used to be a minority, and now we’ve got to learn how to lead,” Gary Cass, executive director of Kennedy’s Center for Reclaiming America, told the crowd during the Feb. 18-19 gathering. “It’s very ambitious, and we can’t do it alone, and that’s why you’re here.”

The Miami Herald reported that during the event, Southern Baptist Con­vention official Richard Land bragged that the re-election of President George W. Bush was “a pro-life, pro-family, pro-Judeo-Christian win.”

According to CNSNews.com, Land added, “We’ve got the Holy Spirit’s wind at our back.”

Kennedy’s organization, based in Ft. Lauderdale, plans to open a lobbying office in Washington this year and says it will form a group called the National Grassroots Alliance to push for Religious Right causes.

Kennedy himself was ill and did not attend the event.