A Radical Religious Crusade . .

Article excerpt

They claim to be Christians but never speak of tolerance, forgiving, sharing or freedom of conscience.

Who are they? They're called the "pro-family" religious right. Among the better known groups are Robert Simonds' Citizens for Excellence in Education, Phyllis Schafly's Eagle Forum, Randall Terry's Operation Rescue, and Beverly LaHaye's Concerned Women for America.

The well-organized Christian Coalition is the religious right's most active political action group. At heart, it is a religious crusade that uses top-notch political organizational strategy. Founded in 1989 by multimillionaire televangelist Pat Robertson, its growth has been phenomenal. In just six years, the coalition has become a potent force with 1.5 million members, 1,500 chapters in 50 states, and a $20 million budget. A survey of coalition newsletter readers showed that 79 percent of them are fundamentalist or Pentecostal Christians. Five chapters were organized in the St. Louis area in 1994.

Why is the coalition's growth so rapid? Its members' description of themselves as "pro family" appeals to those who deplore society's move away from traditional values and nuclear families. Many agree with the coalition's announced public goals: smaller government, lower taxes, less regulation, a balanced budget, term limits and welfare reform. However, there are other, private goals.

Religious-right groups are termed radical because their ultimate goal is to transform the United States into a theocracy. They seek to unite their version of Christianity with the government:

"What Christians have got to do is to take back this country. I honestly believe that in my lifetime, we will see a country once again governed by Christians and Christian values."

Ralph Reed, executive director,

Christian Coalition, May 1990

Recently, coalition leaders denied their goal of subverting the First Amendment. They've learned that very few Americans want any religion, even their own, to unite with the government. History has proved that coerced religion corrupts the coercers as well as the religion. The coalition's goal of converting our democracy into a theocracy has gone underground.

Another reason coalition members are called radical is their practice of deceptively infiltrating organizations. A 1990 state manual instructs members: "Never mention the name Christian Coalition in Republican circles. Become directly involved in the Republican Committee yourself so that you are an insider."

Although coalition leaders have repeatedly stated their hope to control the Republican Party by the year 2000, they now disavow that goal.

The coalition advocates "pro-family" values. This phrase excludes single-parent families, unmarried partners and those who have had abortions or advocate choice. It also defines the family as patriarchal, with wives subordinate to husbands:

"The husband is the head of the wife, and that's the way it is, period. …