`Sleazy Stunt' by Small Religious Right Group Falls Flat in Senate Race

Article excerpt

An effort by a small Religious Right group to circulate rumors that First Lady and Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton is a lesbian fell flat in September after the national news media declined to pick up the story.

The Christian Action Network (CAN), a Religious Right group based in Forest, Va., held a press conference in New York City Sept. 7 to announce plans to place ads in the New York media suggesting that Clinton is gay. The organization freely admitted that it had no hard evidence for the allegation but cited ongoing "rumors."

Americans United, which has monitored CAN for the past 11 years, said the action was a typically sleazy move by the group and its president, Martin Mawyer, a former employee of the Rev. Jerry Falwell's now-defunct Moral Majority.

"The Christian Action Network's rhetoric is so extreme that people may be tempted to dismiss the entire organization as a joke," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "But there's nothing funny about hate-mongering. Religious groups should elevate political discourse, not drag it down into the gutter. I call on all responsible Christian leaders to condemn this organization's vitriol and smear tactics."

CAN's fund-raising letters encourage hatred of homosexuals, make outrageous claims about public education and other targets and float improbable scenarios about a possible United Nations takeover of America.

Lynn cited the following examples:

* A January 2000 mailing asserting that CAN faces "voluntary bankruptcy" and may soon go out of business. The letter begged for $20 gifts and insisted that "the sheriff may come in any day and SEIZE our equipment, desks, phones and even chairs."

* A March 2000 letter written by Mawyer's wife, Bonnie, blasted Disney for allowing gay groups to visit Disney World. The letter asserts, "Now I have learned that the radical, perverted homosexuals and lesbians are already promoting their `2000 Disney Gay Day' -- with Disney's help! And they are timing it to occur in June -- right when children out of school will be flocking to Disney-owned parks! …