March 1999 AU Bulletin

Religious Right Grills GOP Presidential Candidates

Religious Right leaders, hoping to come together behind a single candidate in the 2000 presidential race, recently held an interview session with six potential Republican candidates.

The Committee to Restore American Values conducted the meeting in Washington on Feb. 3. Sen. Robert Smith (R-N.H.), Alan Keyes, Steve Forbes, Gary Bauer and Rep. John Kasich (R-Ohio) were in attendance, and former Vice President Dan Quayle was interviewed by telephone from Indiana.

Candidates were allowed to give 15-minute presentations, then quizzed for 45 minutes on a variety of topics of concern to the Religious Right, such as abortion, gambling and gun control.

In addition, candidates were asked to fill out a 79-point questionnaire. Inquiries included whether "In God We Trust" should remain on U.S. currency, whether "under God" should be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance and whether they would defy a hypothetical order from the Supreme Court and display a creche on the White House lawn.

The nearly two dozen Religious Right leaders involved in the group included Christian Coalition Executive Director Randy Tate, Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly, Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson, Free Congress Foundation President Paul Weyrich and Michael Farris, head of the Home School Legal Defense Association.

Teacher Who Fears 'Mark Of The Beast' Fired In West Virginia

A high school physics teacher in Elkins, W.Va., who thinks the school's identification badge may be the biblical "mark of the beast" has been fired for insubordination.

The Randolph County Board of Education voted 4-1 on Feb. 4 to dismiss Philip Hudok. Two weeks earlier, the board made an exception for Hudok and permitted him to have a badge without a bar code, which he said violated his religious beliefs. However, when he failed to require his students to wear their badges, he was let go from the school.

Hudok believes that the badge's bar code is similar to the "mark of the beast," a Satanic identification described in the Bible's Book of Revelation. Hudok has received legal assistance from the Rutherford Institute, a Religious Right group best known for its support of Paula Jones in her case against President Bill Clinton.

District Superintendent Glen Karlen has said that students who share Hudok's religious concerns about the badges can raise their complaints individually.

American Women Moving Right, Poll Says

A new poll suggests American women are shifting to the right on a variety of social issues, including the relationship between religion and politics.

The Center for Gender Equality's national survey found that more than twice as many women think the Christian Coalition works "in the interests of women" than think it is a threat. Nearly half of those polled said the United States would be better off if "politicians were guided by religious values when making policy decisions," and 36 percent agree with a Southern Baptist resolution that insists "wives should submit graciously to their husbands."

"The American principles of separation of church and state are under attack," Center President Faye Wattleton said. "We are increasingly concerned about the erosion of gains and the erosion of support for abortion rights, along with the increase in political action of religious organizations in the national policy debate."

The Christian Coalition was quick to praise the results of the new study. Randy Tate, the Coalition's executive director, said that the poll proves that Pat Robertson's political group is in the "mainstream."

Princeton Research Associates conducted the poll through interviews with 1,000 adult U.S. women.

Ten Commandments Plan Scuttled In Tennessee

The county commission of Blount County, Tenn., has shelved a proposal to post the Ten Commandments in the local courthouse in the face of a possible legal challenge from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

On Jan. 21, the Blount County commissioners voted 12-9 to table the resolution which was being pushed by June Griffin, a local woman who said that she received a mission from God to get all of Tennessee's 95 counties to display the Decalogue in their courthouses.

Americans United Litigation Counsel Ayesha Khan had written to the commission and warned that the effort was blatantly unconstitutional and would lead to a lawsuit. County Attorney Norman Newton, whose opinion on the matter was sought by the commission, agreed with Khan's conclusions.

Promise Keepers Cancels State Capital Rallies In 2000

Fearing computer failures from the "Y2K" bug and facing logistical and financial difficulties, Promise Keepers has cancelled plans to hold rallies at all state capitals on Jan. 1, 2000.

Instead of the public events, the evangelical Christian men's group has announced that it will attempt to coordinate smaller venues in local churches and homes.

"It's not been postponed," Joe Woodrick, a Promise Keepers regional director told The Washington Times. "It's been changed in form. We are making plans for what we'll be doing at that day and time."

Steve Chavis, national spokesman for the group, told the Times that the abridged Jan. 1 meetings will be part of a larger undertaking known as "Mission America," with a number of evangelical ministries planning a series of events throughout the year called "Celebrate Jesus 2000."

'Jesus Imposed His Views,' Says Calif. GOP Official

John McGraw, the incoming chairman of the California Republican Party, believes the GOP should emulate Jesus and impose its views on people.

In an interview in the January issue of San Francisco Faith, McGraw, who will formally take over the state party this month, vowed to push the GOP toward stronger positions on abortion, homosexuality and other social issues.

"Christ came down to this earth and he spent his whole life imposing his views on people," McGraw told Faith. "Killing our babies" is the "issue of the century," he continued. "Compared to that, cutting taxes or any other issue pales in comparison."

McGraw, a Roman Catholic, is also lobbying the Catholic hierarchy to adopt his ideological perspective. "I think the biggest problem with the vocations today is that the Church [is] not standing for anything," McGraw said. "That is not appealing....This namby-pamby stuff just doesn't work."

McGraw has said publicly that he believes that the bishops should withhold communion from Catholic politicians who favor abortion rights. As a delegate to the national Republican Party, he voted to deny party funds to GOP candidates who failed to toe the party line on so-called partial-birth abortions.

Minnesota House Bans Controversial Prayers

The Minnesota State House has directed the legislative chaplain's office to offer "nondenominational" prayers that respect "the religious diversity of the House."

Rep. Peggy Leppik (R) introduced the change so the House would not be promoting or offending any specific faith.

"The House is not a house of worship. It is a house of government," said Leppik, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "The chaplain is there not to serve his own followers. He is there to serve all the members of the House....When the prayer becomes highly sectarian, it can also become disrespectful or insensitive to members of the House who do not belong to that religion."

Though Leppik's proposal ultimately passed, the Minnesota Family Council condemned the change. Council President Tom Prichard said, "By requiring chaplains to perform nondenominational prayers, the legislature is, in effect, setting up a 'politically correct' state-mandated prayer."

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Welcomes Wiccans

"Charitable choice" funding of religious groups to provide social services may be extended to include Wiccans in Wisconsin.

State Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen (R), who led the way last year in adopting charitable choice provisions for Wisconsin, is now heading a panel researching "faith based" approaches to preventing crime.

Jensen has reportedly made a deliberate effort to reach out to a variety of different faith groups. He said that Wiccans, a nature-based faith whose members are frequently referred to as "witches," have expressed an interest in the panel's work, and Wiccan representatives may testify before Jensen's committee this spring.

Jensen emphasized the importance of treating all faiths equally, even if that means groups such as the neo-Nazi "Christian Identity" church and Satanist organizations would also be eligible for tax support.

"We can't allow the aberrations to eliminate the possibilities for the general," Jensen told Madison's Capital Times. "We can't allow someone to point to a Satanic worshiper and...wipe all religion out of the public square....One thing that is very clear is that you cannot discriminate among faiths, you have to be open to all faiths, and the programs must be voluntary."

Jensen, rumored to be a potential candidate for governor, addressed the issue of religion in society in his inaugural address on Jan. 4. He told the Wisconsin State Assembly, "For each of us here who have been lifted by our faith in God, let us resolve to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of all of our society knowing the same restorative power."

Attacks On Christians Break Out In India

Violence by Hindu nationalists in India has led to multiple attacks on Christian churches and the killings of an Australian missionary and his two young sons.

Under intense criticism for moving too slowly to stop the violence, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee addressed the nation on state-run television on Jan. 30 to condemn the attacks as "a blot on our collective consciousness" and a violation of India's "tradition and culture of tolerance." Vajpayee, head of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, has also been denounced for exonerating some militants associated with his political party.

One influential party member, Tourism and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Madan Lal Khurana, has resigned in part because of his party's anti-Christian rhetoric and affiliation with Hindu militant groups.

Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi insisted that the government could do more to protect religious minorities.

"Places of worship have been torched, innocent people bullied, threatened, beaten, injured and even killed," Gandhi said, as reported by The New York Times. "Instead of moving swiftly and decisively to end the violence and apprehend the perpetrators, homilies are given about national debates."