Who Is D. James Kennedy and Why Should We Fear Him?

Article excerpt

One of the important far right preachers with a highly political message is televangelist D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Although he is less visible in the media than Pat Robertson and James Dobson, he is almost as influential. He broadcasts weekly over 360 television stations, five cable networks, and the Armed Forces Network. His Truths That Transform is on more than three hundred stations six days a week.

Kennedy is a minister in the Presbyterian Church of America, a splinter denomination with a seminary in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and a branch in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is reputed to be a member of the steering committee of the hardcore Christian Reconstruction organization's Commit tee on Revival, which favors the death penalty for abortionists, homosexuals, and incorrigible teenagers, among others. He is also a member of the highly secret Council on National Policy, which meets four times a year to plan and coordinate the strategy of the religious and secular far right. And last fall, he formed the Center for Reclaiming America to promote his political agenda during the presidential campaign and thereafter.

Earlier, in 1995, he established the D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship not far from the Capitol and congressional offices. Its purpose is to minister to politicians and their families and to deliver religious literature to them. At its first anniversary, the center gave the first Christian Statesman of the Year Award to the most loyal right-wing fundamentalist senator: John Ashcroft of Missouri. Kennedy noted that Ashcroft "makes his Christian commitment to Christ and the guidance of the word of God determinative in the kind of legislation that he will promote" Ashcroft leads "daily devotions" in his Capitol office.

This year, Kennedy's center plans to launch a Bible study group on Capitol Hill for members of Congress and weekend training sessions for congressional employees. Kennedy has also recently sent out a letter to his mailing list, enclosing a "1997 State of the Nation Survey" in which he says, "We are absolutely involved in a `cultural war' for the very `soul' of America" That survey, which used thirty two slanted, yes no undecided questions similar to those of the Christian Coalition, included the following:

* Should Congress grant "special legal rights" to homosexuals?

* Should public school teachers be allowed to teach homosexuality as "normal"?

* Should our schools have the academic freedom to teach creationism along with the theories of evolution?

* Should pastors and others be allowed to publicly speak out against sins like homosexuality without fear of being charged with a hate crime?

* Should Congress approve a measure guaranteeing students the right to voluntary prayer in school, at graduation, or at sports events?

There were also questions about building up U.S. military strength, abolishing the National Endowment for the Arts, establishing a flat tax, withdrawing from the United Nations, and urging Congress to investigate the Clinton administration on six issues. In short, the entire right-wing agenda was called the "Spiritual State of the Nation Survey."

Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries is not only highly political, with petitions sent to senators and other officials, but is a very commercialized operation. Almost every mailing asks for money. For example, one included, "Be sure to sign the petition to your governor and return the entire page with your gift today" Even when Kennedy sent out a special mailing against the National Endowment for the Arts, it included "Enclosed is my gift of $ --- ".

His mailings are frequent. One at tacked the media, saying, "I am being pressured to get off of television" and asking for "a generous tax-deductible gift to keep us on the air every week." Among his mailings was an attack on the National Education Association, claiming that "homosexuality is literally being taught and promoted to school children across the U. …