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defending the First Amendment against the Christian right ...

Jews On First!

... because if Jews don't speak out, they'll think we don't mind

Background and Analysis

Fundamentalist? Evangelical? Religious Conservative? Christocrat?

What's the proper word for those bent on forcing upon us a Christian government? Who are they? What are they saying? What does it mean?


Below on this page: Mainstream evangelicals condemn US torture; Christian right groups silent | An Evangelical Manifesto | Presidents Carter and Clinton found moderate New Baptist Covenant | Bush White House fights request for logs showing Christian right visitors | Some conservative evangelical denominations join new Christian Churches Together in the USA | | Times columnist sees religious right retreating; we disagree | Senator investigates ministries' spending" | Scandal allegations engulf Oral Roberts University | News reports about the religious right | In the News |Southern Baptist Convention elects new leader | In their own words | Senator John Danforth | Salem Communications radio network |

Additional reports on the religious right can be found in the sections on Dominionism, Books, and Current News. Please also see JewsOnFirst's November 2006 analysis, "Republican electoral defeat leaves religious right largely intact."

Rev. Jerry Falwell Dies

May 15, 2007

Rev. Jerry Falwell, an important leader in the Christian right's advance onto political terrain, was found dead in his office on May 15th. You'll find obituaries and statements about Falwell here.

Rev. Mel White remembers Jerry Falwell
Falwell's former ghost writer in conversation with JewsOnFirst.org

by Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak, May 16, 2007

We have posted a conversation with Rev. Mel White, who ghost-wrote Falwell's autobiography before coming out as gay and founding Soulforce, an LGBT civil rights organization.

White never stopped trying to change Falwell's attitude toward homosexuality. He moved to Lynchburg "to try to help him understand the tragic consequences of his anti-gay rhetoric." He attended Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church, and, as he tells JewsOnFirst.org Co-Director Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak, he found some admirable qualities in Falwell, who died Tuesday. To listen to White's ten-minute conversation with Beliak, please use the player or click here.





Newt Gingrich says that despite Falwell's death, it's still possible to convert whole nation
In Liberty University commencement address, former speaker assails "radical secularists"

by JewsOnFirst.org, May 29, 2007

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich made that statement about the prospects for converting the nation immediately after he gave the commencement address at Liberty University, a Christian school founded by the recently deceased Rev. Jerry Falwell. During his address, Gingrich, a possible presidential contender, said President Franklin D. Roosevelt believed his generation faced a war between Christianity and paganism. Click here.



Conversation with Dr. David P. Gushee, founder of Evangelicals for Human Rights

The interviewer is Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak of JewsOnFirst.org, January 11, 2007

David P. Gushee, PhD, is the Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy and Senior Fellow of the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Christian Leadership at Union University, a Baptist school in Jackson, Tennessee.

This wide-ranging, half-hour recorded conversation moves from Gushee's founding work with Evangelicals for Human Rights and his argument that torture is always wrong, to Jewish-Christian relations, then to Christian Zionism. That discussion proceeds to considering end-times scenarios and Christian environmental activism, in which Gushee is involved. He also mentions the book he is currently writing about an emerging evangelical center -- as contrasted with the Christian right.

The conversation concludes with a brief discussion about what a centrist evangelical position on homosexual relationships would look like. Gushee, who blogs at CounterCulture, says he rejects the hatred and homophobia expressed by religious right organizations. Please use the player or click here to listen to the conversation.

Punk Rock Gay Christians Rule!
An Interview with punk rocker/preacher Jay Bakker, featured in the Sundance Channel series One Punk Under God

by Jack E. Jett for JewsOnFirst.org, January 2, 2007

In 1995, God Bless The Go Go’s was released. They sang, “the drag queens have the navy tossing in their bed, Mary ate a little lamb and punk rock is not dead.” As an aged punk rocker, I am so thankful that I have lived long enough to see the fusion of Christianity and punk rock come to fruition... In my opinion, it is long overdue.

Jay Bakker is evangelistic royalty. As the son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, he is the Prince William of TV evangelists. The irony of all this is that the Bakkers' PTL [Praise the Lord] Network was one of the few TV events that punk rockers used to watch, more for its camp value than its message. Continue.

News reports on the religious right

Richard Cizik Resigns from the National Association of Evangelicals
Longtime lobbyist and media spokesman recently said 'I'm shifting' on gay unions.

Sarah Pulliam, Christianity Today, December 11, 2008

Richard Cizik resigned Wednesday night as vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) during a week of growing uproar over his comments that he is shifting his views on same-sex unions.

"Although he has subsequently expressed regret, apologized, and affirmed our values, there is a loss of trust in his credibility as a spokesperson among leaders and constituencies," Leith Anderson, president of the NAE wrote to board members today. Cizik did not return calls for comment.

Last year, more than two dozen evangelical leaders sought to oust Cizik, who has been vice president for 28 years, because of his "relentless campaign" on global warming. Continue.

Cizik Backers Push for a Like-Minded Replacement at the National Association of Evangelicals

Dan Gilgoff, US News and World Report, December 16, 2008

Reacting to Richard Cizik's resignation last week as chief lobbyist of the National Association of Evangelicals over comments he made that were supportive of gay civil unions, a coalition of roughly 60 evangelical leaders (mostly of the non-Christian right variety) has written to NAE President Leith Anderson pushing for a Cizik-like successor to 28-year NAE veteran. Someone who's not beholden to the Christian right, in other words, and who embraces more progressive causes like combating global warming. Full letter is here. Here's a Q&A with one of the letter's key drafters, David Gushee, a college professor and prominent activist in the progressive evangelical community. Continue.

Moderate Evangelical Richard Cizik's Resignation May Not Stop Broadening of the Evangelical Agenda

Dan Gilgoff, US News and World Report, December 12, 2008

Richard Cizik, the longtime Washington lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals—the largest evangelical umbrella organization in the country, representing roughly 45,0000 churches—resigned Thursday after igniting a firestorm in the evangelical world by vowing support for gay civil unions in an interview with National Public Radio.

Cizik has faced years of criticism from the Christian right over his advocacy for combating global warming, with many conservative evangelical leaders questioning the validity of global-warming claims and mankind's role in the process. Many of those leaders saw Cizik's so-called "creation care" activism as a sign of him trying to liberalize a traditionally conservative agenda and distracting from such fights as stopping abortion and gay marriage.

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, one of the Christian right's most powerful voices, tried to have Cizik fired in 2006 over his environmental work, but the National Association of Evangelicals' board of directors stood by him, according to a source close to the organization. Continue.

New Evangelists Buck the Christian Right
Younger Generation Wants Poverty, Global Warming Unjust Wars, AIDS On Agenda

Susan Donaldson James, ABC News, December 19, 2008

It might be easy to guess the social views of Chris LaTondresse, the son of white evangelical missionaries who served as a Bible camp counselor and attended the Christian Bethel University in Minneapolis.

But LaTondresse, 26, favors civil unions for gay couples and takes a "pro-life" stance, worrying more about what happens to the child "after the womb" and how to help pregnant women in trouble.

He applauded a recent National Public Radio interview with the man who has been considered a "hero" among young evangelicals -- Richard Cizik, the chief lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals -- who said that religious attitudes toward abortion and gay marriage are shifting. Continue.

What Cizik's Resignation Means for Creation Care
While some celebrate, others lament advocate's departure from National Association of Evangelicals.

Sarah Pulliam, Christianity Today, December 16, 2008

Conservative evangelicals who saw environmentalism as alarmism welcomed Richard Cizik's resignation as the National Association of Evangelicals' Washington lobbyist last week.

But evangelicals and scientists who had been working on "creation care" for several years saw it as a blow to their efforts.

More than 50 evangelicals — including several environmental advocates — sent a letter to the NAE President Leith Anderson this morning, signaling their support for Cizik's efforts and urging the organization to "carry out Richard's vision of a broad Christian moral agenda." Continue.

Defrocked pastor promoting documentary about own gay sex scandal

Associated Press, 365 Gay.com, December 18, 2008

Washington) Disgraced evangelical leader Ted Haggard has agreed to help promote a new documentary following his life in exile after a 2006 gay sex scandal - no longer bound by an agreement with his former church that prohibited him from talking publicly about the events that led to his downfall.

“The Trials of Ted Haggard,” directed by Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is set to air next month on HBO. Haggard has agreed to take part in publicity for the project, HBO said.

“We look forward to presenting the film, Ted Haggard and his family at a press tour in Los Angeles next month,” a spokeswoman for the cable network said Wednesday. Continue.

Architect of Religious Right Passes Away

Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service, BeliefNet.com, December 18, 2008

Washington - Paul Weyrich, a man who worked away from the limelight to galvanize conservative Christian political advocacy, died Thursday (Dec. 18).

Weyrich, 66, co-founded the now-defunct Moral Majority with the late Jerry Falwell and served as the first president of the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based conservative think tank.

"He was key behind the scenes in establishing the religious right," said Jerry Falwell Jr., who succeeded his father as president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. "I think he recognized that there were people in many different faiths who shared the same moral values and he saw the need for a coalition to pull those groups together. " Continue.

Paul Weyrich, “Godfather” of Modern Conservative Movement, Dead at 66
You may not know the name, but you know his work.

Bill Berkowitz, Religion Dispatches, December 19, 2008

For most Americans, the death of Paul Weyrich will not resonate; after all, most Americans have probably never heard of the man. He wasn’t a dashing celebrity, a sports star, a captain of industry, or a prominent public political figure; he wasn’t a regular guest on the premier talking-head TV programs; he never held elected office; there was no hint of a Ted Haggard/Newt Gingrich-like “values” scandal in his life. But Weyrich, who died after a long illness on Thursday, December 18 at the age of 66, and who wasn’t reticent about sharing his ideas and opinions, was, in fact, the connective tissue of the modern conservative movement.

In his book, With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America, William Martin pointed out that after Weyrich came to Washington in the late 1960s, he “received a revelation [about] how he might accomplish his dream [bringing together working-class Catholics and evangelical Protestants] when he attended a political strategy session run by liberal operatives.” Continue.

By the Way: The Rove of the Religious Right, A Eulogy

Randall Balmer, Religion Dispatches, December 22, 2008

Paul Weyrich, the architect of the religious right, died last week.

I’ve long referred to Weyrich, tongue only partially in cheek, as an evil genius. A conservative operative going back to the Goldwater presidential campaign in 1964, Weyrich recognized early on the electoral potential of America’s evangelicals, who until the late 1970s were not politically organized. Many, in fact, were not politically active; large numbers were not even registered to vote. But Weyrich saw an opportunity, and by his own account he spent years trying to mobilize evangelicals politically.

I met Weyrich only once, at an improbable gathering of religious right types in Washington DC, late in 1990 (improbable because I was clearly out of place in a room full of people like Weyrich, Ralph Reed, Richard Land, Donald Wildmon, and the like). But Weyrich at that meeting alerted me to what I have come to call the abortion myth, the fiction that the religious right coalesced as a political movement in direct response to the Roe v. Wade decision of January 1973. Continue.

The Evangelical Crackup

By David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times Magazine, October 28, 2007

In this widely discussed article, Kirkpatrick argues that the Christian right is coming apart as a national movement, losing its power in the Republican Party, while moderate evangelicals are diluting its monolithic focus on the wedge issues of homosexuality and abortion. (We do not contest these points, although we believe that Kirkpatrick, as other writers, misses the continuing, and in some cases growing power of the religious right on the state and local level.) He writes:

Just three years ago, the leaders of the conservative Christian political movement could almost see the Promised Land. White evangelical Protestants looked like perhaps the most potent voting bloc in America. They turned out for President George W. Bush in record numbers, supporting him for re-election by a ratio of four to one. Republican strategists predicted that religious traditionalists would help bring about an era of dominance for their party. Spokesmen for the Christian conservative movement warned of the wrath of “values voters.” James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, was poised to play kingmaker in 2008, at least in the Republican primary. And thanks to President Bush, the Supreme Court appeared just one vote away from answering the prayers of evangelical activists by overturning Roe v. Wade.

Today the movement shows signs of coming apart beneath its leaders. It is not merely that none of the 2008 Republican front-runners come close to measuring up to President Bush in the eyes of the evangelical faithful, although it would be hard to find a cast of characters more ill fit for those shoes: a lapsed-Catholic big-city mayor; a Massachusetts Mormon; a church-skipping Hollywood character actor; and a political renegade known for crossing swords with the Rev. Pat Robertson and the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Nor is the problem simply that the Democratic presidential front-runners — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator Barack Obama and former Senator John Edwards — sound like a bunch of tent-revival Bible thumpers compared with the Republicans. Click here.

The Whistle-Blower
Questions for Mike Jones

Deborah Solomon, The New York Times Magazine, June 3, 2007

Q: As the male escort who outed Ted Haggard, the celebrity preacher and former head of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, it was probably inevitable that you would write a memoir about your affair with him. Are you concerned that your new book, "I Had to Say Something," exploits his sorrows for financial gain?? No. I received a very small advance for the book. And when I decided to come out with the story last year, I lost everything. I lost all my massage clients; I lost all my personal-training clients. I got fired from my modeling job at the art school. Continue.

Post-Falwell, U.S. Religious Right remains a force

By Ed Stoddard, Reuters, June 1, 2007

DALLAS (Reuters) - U.S. evangelist Jerry Falwell has been laid to rest but it is premature to write the political obituary of the conservative Christian movement he once led.

The "Religious Right," a movement linked to the Republican Party that seeks to redraw U.S. public policy along evangelical Christian lines, remains a political force -- and doesn't need a unifying leader, experts on the movement say.

Falwell, who died in May at the age of 73, had been increasingly sidelined since 1989, when he disbanded the Moral Majority -- a group that drummed up support for conservative Republicans.

But the movement has moved from success to success over the years, even as Falwell's influence waned -- not least in playing an instrumental role in securing two White House terms for devout Christian George W. Bush.

"National-level leadership is less important than it was in the 1970s and 1980s when Falwell headed the Moral Majority because the movement has matured," said Matthew Wilson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University. Continue.

Chris Hedges: I Don't Believe in Atheists

Opinion Article by Chris Hedges, Truthdig, May 23, 2007

Sam Harris has conflated faith with tribalism. His book is an attack not on faith but on a system of being and believing that is dangerous and incompatible with the open society. He attacks superstition, a belief in magic and the childish notion of an anthropomorphic God that is characteristic of the tribe, of the closed society. He calls this religion. I do not.

What he fails to grasp is not simply the meaning of faith-something I will address later-but the supreme importance of the monotheistic traditions in creating the concept of the individual. This individualism-the belief that we can exist as distinct beings from the tribe, or the crowd, and that we are called on as individuals to make moral decisions that at times defy the clamor of the tribe or the nation-is a gift of the Abrahamic faiths. This sense of individual responsibility is coupled with the constant injunctions in Islam, Judaism and Christianity for a deep altruism. And this laid the foundations for the open society. This individualism is the central doctrine and most important contribution of monotheism. Continue.

Angry Atheists Are Hot Authors

Rachel Zoll, Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle, May 24, 2007

The time for polite debate is over. Militant, atheist writers are making an all-out assault on religious faith and reaching the top of the best-seller list, a sign of widespread resentment over the influence of religion in the world among nonbelievers.

Christopher Hitchens' book, "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything," has sold briskly ever since it was published last month, and his debates with clergy are drawing crowds at every stop.

Sam Harris was a little-known graduate student until he wrote the phenomenally successful "The End of Faith" and its follow-up, "Letter to a Christian Nation." Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" and Daniel Dennett's "Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon" struck similar themes - and sold.

"There is something like a change in the Zeitgeist," Hitchens said, noting that sales of his latest book far outnumber those for his earlier work that had challenged faith. "There are a lot of people, in this country in particular, who are fed up with endless lectures by bogus clerics and endless bullying." Continue

United States Exports Hate to Poland

Libby Post, The New York Blade, May 25, 2007

No longer content with the obscene political and monetary profits they realize in the United States, the radical Christian right is now exporting its number one product "homophobia"to Europe.

A few thousand zealots from the United States and other countries converged on Warsaw, Poland’s Palace of Culture and Science in mid-May for the World Congress of Families, a gathering that focused on "natural families."

"Natural families"? Continue

Poland Investigates Tinky Winky For Homosexuality

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff , May 28, 2007

(Warsaw) The Polish government has reportedly begun an investigation to determine if Tinky Winky and other Teletubbies are promoting homosexuality to children.

The Reuters news service reported Monday that the government's watchdog for children's rights has asked a panel of psychologists to investigate the popular children's television series. Continue.

Media Generated “Teletubby” Scandal Used to Make Pro-Family Polish Government Look Ridiculous

By Peter J. Smith, LifeSiteNews, May 31, 2007

WARSAW, May 30, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Tinky Winky the lavender alien puppet who minces about his way on the children’s BBC television programme “Teletubbies” with a lady’s handbag, has now minced his way into Poland as the center of a media-driven controversy designed to make the government’s campaign to protect children from homosexual propaganda look ridiculous.

The controversy began after media sources misrepresented remarks made by Ewa Sowinska, Poland’s Ombudsman for Children’s Rights in a May 28 interview from WPROST, a weekly opinion journal, regarding the “Teletubbies,” specifically Tinky Winky. Continue.

U.S. social conservatives take their message to Poland

David Crary, Associated Press, Advocate.com, May 10, 2007

Many prominent U.S. conservative groups are shifting their attention overseas this week, attending a conference in Poland that will decry Europe's liberal social policies and portray the host nation as a valiant holdout bucking those trends.

The World Congress of Families is expected to draw more than 2,500 people from dozens of countries to Warsaw's Palace of Culture and Science from Friday through Sunday.

Cosponsors of the congress include the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, the Heritage Foundation, and the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which promotes the ''intelligent design'' concept of the universe's origins. The U.S. groups are allied in opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage, and other policies they blame for weakening traditional families in Western Europe.

The chief organizer is a Rockford, Ill.–based conservative think tank, the Howard Center. ''Europe is almost lost—to demographic winter and to the secularists,'' says a planning document for the congress. ''If Europe goes, much of the world will go with it. Almost alone, Poland has maintained strong faith and strong families.''

Polish president Lech Kaczynski, who will address the congress, heads a conservative government that has tangled frequently with European Union officials over such issues as gay rights and his nation's tough abortion laws. Last month, after Polish officials proposed firing teachers who "promote" homosexuality, the E.U. parliament asked its antiracism center to examine ''the emerging climate of racist, xenophobic, and homophobic intolerance in Poland.'' Continue.

Center Closed to Make Way for Expanded Media Ministry

Email Letter from D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries, Center for Reclaiming America for Christ, June 08, 2007

In this email, Coral Ridge Ministries announces that, over a month ago, it shut down its Center for Reclaiming America for Christ. The email says: "This unanimous action by the members of the Board of Coral Ridge Ministries -- each one a close friend or associate of Dr. D. James Kennedy, who continues to recover from a cardiac arrest suffered in December -- came after a lengthy period of review. It was taken as part of a larger ministry restructuring designed to redirect Coral Ridge Ministries back to its core mission -- doing media ministry." It goes on to assure that Coral Ridge Ministries will continue to host an annual Reclaiming America for Christ conference. Click here.

Religious group closes Lauderdale center for conservative activism

James D. Davis, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, April 28, 2007

Fort Lauderdale · The Center for Reclaiming America has closed, halting its conservative activism and throwing the future of its signature annual conference in doubt.

An undisclosed number of employees were laid off on Thursday at the center's headquarters in Fort Lauderdale and its congressional chaplaincy office in Washington, D.C., in what its parent organization, Coral Ridge Ministries, called a "streamlining."

The closures put a stop to day-to-day actions such as e-mail and petition drives against abortion, pornography and same-sex marriage. Continue.

See also: our report on a conference the center held earlier this year, "U.S. Senate Chaplain withdraws from Christian nationalist conference." Click here.

The Evangelical Surprise

Frances FitzGerald, New York Review of Books, April 26, 2007

FitzGerald's essay discusses the relationship between right-wing evangelicals and the Republican Party Click here.

For God's Sake

Paul Krugman, The New York Times, April 13, 2007

In 1981, Gary North, a leader of the Christian Reconstructionist movement -- the openly theocratic wing of the Christian right -- suggested that the movement could achieve power by stealth. "Christians must begin to organize politically within the present party structure," he wrote, "and they must begin to infiltrate the existing institutional order."

Today, Regent University, founded by the televangelist Pat Robertson to provide "Christian leadership to change the world," boasts that it has 150 graduates working in the Bush administration.

Unfortunately for the image of the school, where Mr. Robertson is chancellor and president, the most famous of those graduates is Monica Goodling, a product of the university’s law school. She’s the former top aide to Alberto Gonzales who appears central to the scandal of the fired U.S. attorneys and has declared that she will take the Fifth rather than testify to Congress on the matter. Continue.

Philanthropic Donations Come From Your Heart, but Where Do They End Up?
Ex-Money Manager Says 'Enough!' to Secretive Christian Ministry

Glenn Ruppel And John Stossel, ABC News 20/20 via MinistryWatch (PDF), March 23, 2007

Anyone watching televangelists on television will hear plenty of pitches for money. Jan and Paul Crouch of Trinity Broadcasting say they need big bucks to keep their network on the air and to help the poor around the world.

Benny Hinn, of Benny Hinn Ministries, has made heartfelt pleas to help the people of Calcutta, while Rod Parsley of Breakthrough Ministries has asked for help to spread the gospel to the people of Nepal.

Christian ministries and charities promise to do all kinds of good things with your money, and that makes donors feel great about sending in their checks. The problem is, they can't always find out exactly how their donation is being spent. Continue

Trinity Broadcasting Network’s Response to ABC 20/20 Report Attempts to Mislead Donors, Transparency Grade Dropped to "F"

MinistryWatch.com, April 2007

On March 23, 2007, ABC’s 20/20 broadcasted a profile of MinistryWatch.com founder Rusty Leonard.

During this segment, 20/20 reported on the luxurious lifestyle led by Trinity Broadcasting Network’s leaders Paul and Jan Crouch, raising issues that MinistryWatch.com had previously brought to donors’ attention. TBN responded with a press release containing inaccuracies and questioning the trustworthiness of MinistryWatch.com as a source for 20/20’s report.

In MinistryWatch.com’s view, TBN’s response was an attempt to divert TBN donors’ attention away from the truth. Since Ministry-Watch.com seeks to help donors make wise and effective giving decisions, this Donor Alert highlights the errors in TBN’s press release so that donors will not be confused or misled. Due to TBN’s actions in this regard, TBN’s Transparency Grade has fallen to "F". Continue

Haggard moves from Colorado Springs to Phoenix for "new beginning"

Eric Gorski, Associated Press, Advocate.com, April 20, 2007

The Reverend Ted Haggard moved Wednesday from his longtime home in Colorado Springs, Colo., to Phoenix, where the disgraced minister will join the same church that helped fallen televangelist Jim Bakker. Haggard, 50, resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals last year, after a former male prostitute alleged a three-year cash-for-sex relationship.

The man also said he saw Haggard use methamphetamine. Haggard confessed to undisclosed ''sexual immorality'' and said he bought meth but never used it.

As part of his severance package from New Life Church, a 14,000-member congregation he started in his basement, Haggard agreed to leave Colorado Springs, a city he helped make an evangelical center. Continue.

Prosperity Gospel Preachers Under Pressure

Bartholomew's Notes on Religion, March 15, 2007

Two decades on from the infamous events of 1987, this year looks like it’s shaping up as a bit of an annus horribilis for those US evangelists who practice and preach the Prosperity Gospel. Continue.

Layoffs Follow Scandal at Colorado Megachurch

By Dan Frosch, The New York Times, March 6, 2007

Denver, March 5 -- In the wake of a scandal involving its founding pastor, the Rev. Ted Haggard, the New Life Church in Colorado Springs has been forced to lay off 44 of its 350 workers to offset a sharp drop in donations.

Mr. Haggard resigned as president of the 30-million-member National Association of Evangelicals in November and was removed as senior pastor of the New Life megachurch after a former male prostitute said that he had had a three-year sexual relationship with Mr. Haggard and had helped him obtain methamphetamines. Continue.

Living Word Christian Center May Have Been Paying for Pastor's Stunt Plane
CREW Sends Additional Information to IRS

News Release, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington via Common Dreams, February 9, 2007

WASHINGTON - February 9 - Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) provided the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with additional information, following up on a February 8, 2007 complaint against the Living Word Christian Center (LWCC) in Brooklyn Park, MN. Newly discovered information suggests that LWCC may have been paying for a stunt plane that Mr. Hammond currently owns.

CREW’s complaint alleges that LWCC, a church organized under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, engaged in illegal financial transactions with LWCC’s senior pastor and founder, James "Mac" Hammond, in which Hammond personally benefitted from the church due to his “insider” status as senior pastor and member of the board of trustees. Continue.

Churches struggle with transitions
Strong leader's loss brings grief, doubt.

By James D. Davis, The Sun-Sentinnel, February 3, 2007

On Dec. 28, the Rev. D. James Kennedy's heart stopped briefly. It was quickly revived, and he was rushed to nearby Holy Cross Hospital.

Ministers and staff at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church swung into action, keeping things running and assuring the 10,000 congregants that Kennedy was on the mend.

What they didn't dwell on, understandably, was what if the top man was unable to return -- what would happen to the Fort Lauderdale megachurch, and to the broadcast ministry, and the school and other organizations he heads. Continue.

D. James Kennedy Remains Hospitalized

CBN News, January 25, 2007

CBNNews.com - FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Coral Ridge Ministries says its founder, the Reverend D. James Kennedy, remains hospitalized, recuperating after suffering a cardiac arrest nearly a month ago.

On the Coral Ridge Web site, the Executive Vice President of Coral Ridge, Brian Fisher, requests continued prayer for Dr. Kennedy as he continues to recover from the heart attack and his subsequent surgery on January 3, to implant a pacemaker/defibrillator.

The 75-year-old Kennedy is a leader of the conservative Presbyterian Church in America. Continue.

Navy Chaplain: Ousted on grounds overturned by Congress

Ken Walker, Baptist Press, January 16, 2007

While the Navy has rescinded a regulation that restricted chaplains from conducting public worship outside of Sunday chapels, an evangelical claims the military branch is firing him for violating that guideline.

A chaplain at the Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Va., Lt. Gordon Klingenschmitt has been ordered out of the Navy as of Jan. 31, cutting short a military career that began 15 years ago as a missile officer in the Air Force.

"We’re being evicted from our home and I have no job," Klingenschmitt, a graduate of the Air Force Academy, told Baptist Press. "We’re in God’s hands. We’re accepting speaking invitations and will pursue whatever opportunities God presents." Continue

There's more on Klingenschmitt here.

USMC Chaplain who took a stand says Navy is retaliating

Ken Walker, Baptist Press, January 16, 2007

A Marine chaplain involved in a lawsuit alleging discrimination against evangelicals claims the U.S. Navy is retaliating against him for speaking out against its religious policies.

Lt. Cmdr. Gary Stewart said he is being transferred on short notice as retribution for challenging a statement by former Chief of Chaplains (and current U.S. Senate Chaplain) Barry Black at a congressional meeting last June.

Stewart has filed a complaint with the Department of Defense’s inspector general, asking for an investigation of alleged illegal retaliation. Continue

Christian Groups Trade Barbs On Their Sources of Funding
Accusations Fly of Partisan Influence on Left, Right

By Alan Cooperman, The Washington Post, January 11, 2007

Two influential Christian nonprofit organizations questioned each other's finances yesterday, each suggesting that the other is beholden to big donors with partisan political motives.

The clash between the National Council of Churches and the Institute on Religion and Democracy was a rarity in Washington, where liberal and conservative advocacy groups fight fiercely over issues but seldom dig deeply into each other's funding.

Both groups call themselves nonpartisan and are incorporated as tax-exempt charitable organizations. But the council, a New York-based alliance of 35 Christian denominations, is deeply involved in liberal social causes, such as reducing poverty and making peace; it achieved a long-standing legislative goal yesterday when the House voted to increase the minimum wage. Continue.

Institute on Religion and Democracy slams 'Leftist' National Council of Churches
New report from conservative foundation-funded IRD charges the NCC with being a political surrogate for MoveOn.org, People for the American Way and other liberal organizations

Bill Berkowitz, Media Transparency, January 19, 2007

If you prefer your religious battles sprinkled with demagoguery, sanctimoniousness, and simplistic attacks, the Institute on Religion and Democracy's (IRD) latest broadside against the National Council of Churches (NCC - website) certainly fits the bill. Continue.

'A pastor's pastor'
Church on the Way founder Jack Hayford is a quiet force among nation's evangelicals

By Brad A. Greenberg, The Los Angeles Daily News, January 4, 2007

VAN NUYS - Jack Hayford has heard the Lord's voice many times.

The seminal moment in a 50-year Christian ministry - which includes founding one of the country's largest churches, authoring some 50 books, composing 500 songs and rising to the presidency of his 5 million-member Pentecostal denomination - occurred in March 1969 at a Sherman Way stoplight.

Six weeks earlier, Hayford had become pastor of the 18-member First Foursquare Church of Van Nuys. As he sat at the Kester Street light, he refused to look to his left at First Baptist Van Nuys, then one of the nation's biggest churches. Continue.

Spirit and Power: A 10-Country Survey of Pentecostals

Poll results from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, October 2006

By all accounts, pentecostalism and related charismatic movements represent one of the fastest-growing segments of global Christianity. At least a quarter of the world's 2 billion Christians are thought to be members of these lively, highly personal faiths, which emphasize such spiritually renewing "gifts of the Holy Spirit" as speaking in tongues, divine healing and prophesying. Even more than other Christians, pentecostals and other renewalists believe that God, acting through the Holy Spirit, continues to play a direct, active role in everyday life. Click here for a page of links to the survey data, the report and an executive summary.

'Renewalist' impact grows
Pentecostals and charismatics, one-quarter of the world's Christians, will shape politics and culture.

By Jane Lampman | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Growing up in Colombia, José Soto Ávila had a loving family that gave him many opportunities. He became a chess champion and was given a car when he began his university medical studies. But a partying life led him into drugs and a catastrophic downward spiral, resulting in three suicide attempts.

Though he went through several rehabilitations, nothing prevented a relapse until a friend "told me that Jesus Christ could transform me," he says. Entering a Christian rehab home that demanded much of him, he "became a new man."

Two decades later, Pastor Soto shepherds Charismatic churches in Bogotá and Barranquilla and is organizing a church network across Colombia. "God is doing a powerful work in Latin America," he says in an interview during a US visit. "There is a great awakening, and many are being liberated." Continue.

Evangelical Author Puts Progressive Spin On Traditional Faith

By Caryle Murphy, The Washington Post, September 10, 2006

Lyndsay Moseley was no longer inspired by the evangelical Christian faith of her youth. As an environmental activist, she believed that it offered little spiritual support for her work and was overly focused on opposing abortion and gay marriage.

Then the 27-year-old District resident discovered Brian D. McLaren of Laurel, one of contemporary Christianity's hottest authors and founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in upper Montgomery County. Continue.

Disowning Conservative Politics Is Costly for Evangelical Pastor

By Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times, July 30, 2006

MAPLEWOOD, Minn. - Like most pastors who lead thriving evangelical megachurches, the Rev. Gregory A. Boyd was asked frequently to give his blessing - and the church's - to conservative political candidates and causes.

The requests came from church members and visitors alike: Would he please announce a rally against gay marriage during services? Would he introduce a politician from the pulpit? Could members set up a table in the lobby promoting their anti-abortion work? Would the church distribute "voters' guides" that all but endorsed Republican candidates? And with the country at war, please couldn't the church hang an American flag in the sanctuary?

After refusing each time, Mr. Boyd finally became fed up, he said. Before the last presidential election, he preached six sermons called "The Cross and the Sword" in which he said the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a "Christian nation" and stop glorifying American military campaigns. Continue

In the Fight
Should the Church Steer Clear of Politics?

By Matt Friedeman, AgapePress, August 4, 2006

There has been quite a bit of conversation recently about a New York Times article concerning the Rev. Gregory Boyd who, in a series of sermons titled "The Cross and the Sword," advised his mega-church congregation to "steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a 'Christian nation' and stop glorifying American military campaigns." Continue

Black Leaders Assail Evangelicals Over Anti-Gay, Choice Positions

by The Associated Press, June 27, 2006

(Dallas, Texas) Prominent black leaders said they will work to combat Christian conservatives they say have used gay marriage and abortion to distract from larger moral issues such as the war, voting rights, affirmative action and poverty.

The Revs. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Joseph Lowery and hundreds of black leaders from around the country are focusing on mobilizing black voters for the fall elections. They kicked off a three-day black clergy conference Monday in Dallas. Continue

'End Times' Religious Groups Want Apocalypse Soon
'End times' religious groups want apocalypse sooner than later, and they're relying on high tech -- and red heifers -- to hasten its arrival.

By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times, June 22, 2006

For thousands of years, prophets have predicted the end of the world. Today, various religious groups, using the latest technology, are trying to hasten it.

Their endgame is to speed the promised arrival of a messiah.

For some Christians this means laying the groundwork for Armageddon. Continue

For the continuation of this topic, click here

In the News

Unlikely Allies on a Former Wedge Issue

By Samuel G. Freedman, New York Times, June 28, 2008

During his years as the attorney general of Virginia, Mark Earley periodically visited his state’s prisons. In a very real way, he was looking at the human consequences of his career as a public servant, the men and women jailed for fixed, lengthy sentences without parole under laws Mr. Earley had endorsed. Not surprisingly, many inmates pulled back a few steps when introduced to their visitor.

Eventually, though, Mr. Earley took their measure. What he discovered, he recalled in a recent interview, were “not the Ted Bundys, the mass murderers” but “kids who reminded me of my kids, serving 5, 10, 15 years for drugs and going out and being rearrested again.”

In those moments of recognition, Mr. Earley began a startling transformation from a tough-on-crime crusader to an advocate for prison reform and a prominent critic of the very type of drug laws he had formerly promoted. Since leaving the attorney’s general’s position in 2001, Mr. Earley has taken his new cause to a position as president of Prison Fellowship Ministries, a national organization based in the Washington suburbs. Continue.

A Right-to-Lifer and the GOP's Nursing Home Dilemma

Stephanie Mencimer, Mojo Blog (Mother Jones Magazine), June 13, 2008

When Ken Connor was on Capitol Hill earlier this week, it was clear that people in his party deeply wish that he would go back to worrying about the unborn. The conservative Christian Republican trial lawyer had come to Washington to testify in support of a bill that would ban the use of mandatory binding arbitration clauses in nursing home contracts. Most nursing homes today, as a condition of admission, require vulnerable elderly people and their families to waive their right to sue a facility in the event of a dispute. Instead, they must take any complaints about medical malpractice or abuse to a private arbitrator, chosen and paid by the nursing home, in secret proceedings where any awards are much lower than they would be from a jury. The arbitration agreements are often buried in a stack of complicated paperwork, where in some cases, they have been signed by blind people and those suffering from Alzheimer's.

The nursing home arbitration bill is one of nearly a dozen Democratic-backed measures introduced in Congress over the past year that would ban mandatory arbitration in everything from new car contracts to meatpacking company agreements....

Connor sues nursing homes for a living, as a lawyer at a big-time plaintiffs' firm known for supporting Democrats. Just last month, Connor won a $2 million verdict against Sunrise Senior Living in California for letting an elderly woman develop fatal bedsores. So when he testifies on the Hill, Connor is essentially representing the nation's trial lawyers, who see mandatory arbitration as a threat to their livelihood. As such, Republicans would love to dismiss Connor as just another greedy trial lawyer. But Connor's religious-right bona fides simply make that impossible.

For three years, Connor served as the president of the Family Research Council, Continue.

U.S. religious freedom is being eroded, advocates say
Misconceptions and ignorance are weakening the Constitution's 'first freedom.'

Jane Lampman, The Christian Science Monitor, January 16, 2008

They are heroes in a battle most Americans think has already been won. On Wednesday evening, they are to be honored for their contributions to strengthening religious freedom at home and abroad.

Although the US is home to the greatest experiment in religious freedom ever, and the great majority of Americans support that principle, surprising gaps in knowledge and understanding remain when it comes to practicing that freedom. And support for it seems to rise and fall.

Only a slim majority (56 percent) of Americans said in a 2007 survey that freedom of worship should extend to people of all religious groups, no matter what their beliefs (down 16 points, from 72 percent in 2000). Continue

An Evangelical Manifesto

An Evangelical Manifesto
A Declaration of Evangelical Identity and Public Commitment

Evangelical Manifesto, May 7, 2008

An Evangelical Manifesto is an open declaration of who Evangelicals are and what they stand for. It has been drafted and published by a representative group of Evangelical leaders who do not claim to speak for all Evangelicals, but who invite all other Evangelicals to stand with them and help clarify what Evangelical means in light of “confusions within and the consternation without” the movement. As the Manifesto states, the signers are not out to attack or exclude anyone, but to rally and to call for reform.

As an open declaration, An Evangelical Manifesto addresses not only Evangelicals and other Christians but other American citizens and people of all other faiths in America, including those who say they have no faith. It therefore stands as an example of how different faith communities may address each other in public life, without any compromise of their own faith but with a clear commitment to the common good of the societies in which we all live together.

For those who are Evangelicals, the deepest purpose of the Manifesto is a serious call to reform—an urgent challenge to reaffirm Evangelical identity, to reform Evangelical behavior, to reposition Evangelicals in public life, and so rededicate ourselves to the high calling of being Evangelical followers of Jesus Christ. Continue.

A Gentle Plea for Civility
Why America needs An Evangelical Manifesto.

Os Guinness, Religion News Service, ChristianityToday.com, May 9, 2008

A terrible question now stalks this land: Who will step forward to lead America out of the bitterness and divisions over race and religion in public life?

Race is the older problem, and to Americans it stands as class does for the English — an abiding curse that has not healed and will not go away. Religion in public life is the newer challenge. Once thought settled through what James Madison called "the true remedy," it has degenerated sharply with the endless controversies of the past generation.

Both race and religion require healing and civility for their resolution, but in the present bitter climate, each has been used to exacerbate the other, and civility has been shouldered aside as weak and ineffectual. Continue.

Evangelicals Lament a Politicized Faith
New document calls for allegiance higher than political party, nationality, or ideology

Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service, ChristianityToday.com, May 8, 2008

Evangelical Christians should be defined by their theology — and not their politics — to avoid becoming "useful idiots" of a political party, a group of leaders said Wednesday in a new statement.

The document, "An Evangelical Manifesto," reflects the frustration of some within a movement that claims about one in four Americans over how they are perceived by others and who can speak for them. The 19-page document declares that evangelicals err when they try to politicize faith and use Christian beliefs for political purposes.

"That way faith loses its independence, the church becomes 'the regime at prayer,' Christians become 'useful idiots' for one political party or another, and the Christian faith becomes an ideology in its purest form," the document reads. Continue.

'Evangelical Manifesto' Aims to Depoliticize Religion

Alex Cohen, National Pubic Radio, May 7, 2008

A group of conservative Christians released an "Evangelical Manifesto" Tuesday. The statement tries to reclaim and de-politicize the word "evangelical." Alex Cohen talks with one of the document's signers, President of Fuller Theological Seminary Richard Mouw, about the manifesto's goals. Click here.

Manifesto aims to make 'evangelical' less political

Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY, May 7, 2008

An "evangelical manifesto" being released today by a group of Christian scholars and theologians is expected to try to take back the term "evangelical" from politics and return it to its theological roots.

"Evangelical" has been widely used to refer to Christians who have conservative political views, but the Evangelical Theological Society requires members to agree on just two points: inerrancy of Scripture, and belief in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as "separate but equal in attributes and glory" and essential for salvation. Continue.

U.S. evangelicals call for step back from politics

Ed Stoddard, Reuters, May 7, 2008

Dallas - A group of U.S. evangelical leaders called on Wednesday for a pullback from party politics so that followers would not become "useful idiots" exploited for partisan gain.

One in four U.S. adults count themselves as evangelical Protestants, giving them serious clout in a country where religion and politics often mix. Conservative evangelicals have become a key support base for the Republican Party.

But the movement has had growing pains and the statement issued on Wednesday, called an "Evangelical Manifesto," is the latest sign of emerging fractures as some activists seek to broaden its agenda beyond hot-button social issues such as opposition to abortion and gay rights. Continue

Murky Manifesto: Evangelical Statement Repudiates Theocracy – Sort Of

Joseph L. Conn, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, May 8, 2008

The Rev. John Huffman is an evangelical Christian and pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, Calif.

After seeing some of the more lurid representatives of evangelicalism on television, his daughters came to him and asked, “Dad, are you one of those?

To set the record straight, a horrified Huffman and over 70 other evangelicals have signed an “Evangelical Manifesto,” a document they call “a declaration of evangelical identity and public commitment.” They unveiled it today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Continue.

Reaffirmation, Reformation, and Repositioning at Heart of 'An Evangelical Manifesto'
Evangelicals Reclaim Theological Definition and Encourage Support of a Civil Public Square

Christian Newswire, May 7, 2008

Washington "An Evangelical Manifesto" was unveiled earlier today during a press conference at the National Press Club, calling for reaffirmation of identity, reformation of behavior and repositioning in public life among Evangelicals.

"This is not a rebranding or a relabeling issue," said Dr. Os Guinness, author and member of the Manifesto's drafting committee. "'Evangelical' is not a bad brand; the trouble is, we have a bad reality."

Such dynamics prompted a group of theologians and Christian leaders of considerable academic wisdom to carefully draft 'An Evangelical Manifesto.' This three- year effort has sought to reclaim the definition of what it means to be an Evangelical - a term that, in recent years, has often been used politically, culturally, socially - and even as a marketing demographic. Continue.

'Evangelical Manifesto' targets stereotypes

Mark Kelly, Baptist Press, May 7, 2008

Nashville, Tenn. (BP)--Citing widespread confusion about what it means to be an "evangelical," a group of Christian leaders issued a manifesto proposing to define the identity and commitments of evangelical Christians.

Appearing at a Washington, D.C., news conference May 7, the group unveiled "An Evangelical Manifesto" and invited other Christians and people of other faiths to engage in dialogue about what it means to follow Christ.

Evangelicals' primary identity "by definition is theological, not political, social or cultural," said John Huffman Jr., pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport News, Calif. "Yet we are quite concerned that, because some of the more strident voices in our midst, we are increasingly perceived as people whose primary agenda is political. That simply is not the case." Continue.

Clarifying the 'Evangelical' label?

Jim Brown and Allie Martin, OneNewsNow (American Family Association), May 7, 2008

A new document purports to "set the record straight" about what it means to be an evangelical Christian.

Drafters of "An Evangelical Manifesto" say they are trying to clear up the "confusion" and "consternation" that surrounds the term "Evangelical" in the U.S. The document was unveiled today at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, by a collection of theologians and religious leaders, including Dr. Os Guinness, Christianity Today editor-in-chief David Neff, and public relations expert Larry Ross.

Ross noted the drafters are troubled that in recent years the term "Evangelical" has often been used politically, culturally, and socially, and has even become a marketing demographic. Continue.

Manifesto miscue

Jim Brown, OneNewsHour (American Family Association), May 8, 2008

Influential Christian political activist Tony Perkins says, although well-intentioned, the new document titled "An Evangelical Manifesto" misses the mark.

Theologians and religious leaders who drafted the manifesto want to clarify the definition of the term "evangelical" and dispel the notion that evangelicalism is a political ideology. They argue that evangelicals need to reposition themselves in public life because the so-called "religious right" and "religious left" are "using faith to express essentially political points that have lost touch with biblical truth."

Family Research Council president Perkins is co-author of the book Personal Faith, Public Policy. He says signers of the Manifesto may want good government and a godly environment, but they do not want to take the steps necessary to achieve those goals Continue.

'Manifesto' excludes black Christians

Jim Brown, OneNewsNow, May 12, 2008

More concerns are being raised about the document "An Evangelical Manifesto" that was released last week. Conservative black pastor and political activist Dean Nelson says he's troubled by the document that purports to reclaim what it means to be an evangelical Christian.

Signers of "An Evangelical Manifesto" say evangelicals need to expand their concern "beyond single-issue politics such as abortion and marriage." They argue that the term evangelical is weighed down by "cultural and political baggage" from the "religious right" and "religious left."

But Nelson, who heads the Network of Politically Active Christians, believes the "cultural and political baggage" that the document refers to is being defined by the mainstream media. He argues that most evangelicals are involved in a variety of missions at home and abroad. Continue.

An Evangelical Response to "An Evangelical Manifesto"

Dr. Albert Mohler, www.AlbertMohler.com, May 2008

Who are the Evangelicals? The issue of Evangelical identity and definition has been central to the Evangelical project from its very beginning in America. Given the nature of the movement, definition is elusive and constantly contested.

The release of "An Evangelical Manifesto" on May 7 caught the attention of the national media, and thus it represents yet another opportunity for evangelical definition. The document, released May 7, also represents a challenge, for its framers hope to redefine the movement in the context of our unsettled times.

The Manifesto, released at a press conference at the National Press Club, represents an agenda. The press release offered by the organizers makes that clear: Continue.

Bush White House fights request for logs showing Christian right visitors

Records Kept Secret Pending Appeal

Associated Press, New York Times, December 22, 2007. Complete text.

A federal judge agreed to let the Bush administration keep secret the lists of visitors to the White House until an appeals court decided whether the documents were public records. The judge, Royce C. Lamberth of Federal District Court, granted the White House request five days after ordering the Secret Service to turn over the records to a liberal watchdog group that sought them under the Freedom of Information Act. The logs, being sought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, relate to White House visits regarding nine conservative religious commentators, including James Dobson, Gary Bauer and the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Click here.

White House Visitor Logs Are Public, Judge Rules

By Philip Shenon, New York Times, December 18, 2007

WASHINGTON — A federal judge ruled Monday that White House visitor logs were public records and ordered the Bush administration to stop withholding them from scrutiny by outside groups.

The ruling, by Judge Royce C. Lamberth of Federal District Court here, was a blow to the administration, which had tried to shield the logs under a claim of executive privilege. The blow could, however, be largely symbolic; the White House seemed likely to appeal the decision, which could hold up the release of any documents until after President Bush leaves office in 13 months. Continue.

Judge rules White House visitor logs are public documents

Associated Press, The First Amendemen Center, December 18, 2007

Washington — White House visitor logs are public documents, a federal judge ruled yesterday, rejecting a legal strategy that the Bush administration had hoped would get around public-records laws and let them keep their guests a secret.

The ruling in Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security is a blow to the Bush administration, which has fought the release of records showing visits by prominent religious conservatives.

Visitor records are created by the Secret Service, which is subject to the Freedom of Information Act. But the Bush administration has ordered the data turned over to the White House, where they are treated as presidential records outside the scope of the public-records law. Continue.

Bauer questions motive behind group's request for White House visitor logs

Jim Brown, OneNewsNow.com, December 19, 2007

A former presidential candidate believes an effort by a liberal special-interest group to obtain White House visitor records is an attempt to "intimidate" politically active Christians.

A federal judge ruled Monday that Secret Service logs of White House visitors are public documents. Judge Royce Lamberth has ordered that records regarding the visits of nine conservative Christian leaders with Bush administration officials be released to the liberal group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). Dr. James Dobson, Gary Bauer, and Jerry Falwell were among the visitors whose names Lamberth said must be released.

Bauer, the president of American Values, says he finds the freedom of information request by CREW "offensive." Continue.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics Statement: Federal Judge Declares White House Visitor Records Subject To The Freedom Of Information Act

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, December 17, 2007

From its first days, this administration has tried to keep the American public in the dark about what goes on behind closed White House doors. Through a secret agreement and a letter from Vice President Cheney’s counsel, the administration had attempted to permanently hide from view records related to those who visit the White House and the vice president’s residence. Today, a federal judge has cracked open those doors by holding that these are Secret Service records subject to public disclosure. As a result of CREW’s lawsuit, District of Columbia District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth has ordered the Secret Service to produce records of certain conservative leaders’ visits to the White House within 20 days. Continue.

White House told to detail Christian leader visits

Reuters, via the CREW website, December 18, 2007

A U.S. judge ordered the Secret Service on Monday to disclose records of visits by nine prominent conservative Christian leaders to the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney's residence.

The ruling, in response to a legal watchdog group's suit, could shed light on the influence leaders like James Dobson of Focus on the Family have had on President George W. Bush's administration. It may also affect legal efforts to force the release of visiting records of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and other similar cases.

"We think that these conservative Christian leaders have had a very big impact," said Executive Director Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which filed the case. Continue.

Mainstream evangelicals condemn US torture; Christian right groups silent

Faith groups mount campaign against torture
They're protesting Bush administration policies. But polls show Americans are split on the issue.

By Jane Lampman, The Christian Science Monitor, May 8, 2008

As Congress and the Bush administration skirmish over still-secret interrogation techniques, American faith communities are mounting a national campaign to prohibit torture and cruel and inhumane treatment of US-held detainees.

More than 175 religious organizations have joined the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT). Their aim is to build a moral consensus among Americans on the issue and to bring government policies in line with US law and international norms. Continue.

Christian Group Split Intensifies

Associated Press, Church Report, May 30, 2007

(AP) - The split between two faith-based political groups has intensified, with the new leader of the Christian Coalition of Alabama suing the organization's old leader.

Randy Brinson, the new president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, claims in a lawsuit that John Giles took the assets of the Christian Coalition of Alabama when he left to start Christian Action Alabama and won't return them.

In Brinson's view, Giles is setting a bad example for Christians interested in Alabama politics. "This is not the way to engage people of faith in the political process," Brinson said. Continue.

Evangelicals Condemn Torture

By Rachel Zoll, Associated Press, The Washington Post, March 12, 2007

The National Association of Evangelicals has endorsed an anti-torture statement saying the United States has crossed "boundaries of what is legally and morally permissible" in its treatment of detainees and war prisoners in the fight against terror.

Human rights violations committed in the name of preventing terrorist attacks have made the country look hypocritical to the Muslim world, the document states. Christians have an obligation rooted in Scripture to help Americans "regain our moral clarity." Continue.

An Evangelical Declaration Against Torture:Protecting Human Rights In An Age Of Terror

Evangelicals for Human Rights, March 12, 2007

From a Christian perspective, every human life is sacred. As evangelical Christians, recognition of this transcendent moral dignity is non-negotiable in every area of life, including our assessment of public policies. This commitment has been tested in the war on terror, as a public debate has occurred over the moral legitimacy of torture and of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees held by our nation in the current conflict. We write this declaration to affirm our support for detainee human rights and our opposition to any resort to torture. Continue

National Association of Evangelicals Endorses Statement Against Torture
Declaration calls for churches and individuals to act on "non-negotiable" issue.

Sarah Pulliam, Christianity Today, March 16, 2007

Torture is not an option, says the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), which endorsed a statement against the practice of torture this week.

The newly-formed Evangelicals for Human Rights, comprised of 17 activists and scholars, spent more than six months drafting the 18-page document, "An Evangelical Declaration Against Torture: Protecting Human Rights in an Age of Terror." The document is intended to be both a moral and theological statement.

"From a Christian perspective, every human life is sacred. As evangelical Christians, recognition of this transcendent moral dignity is non-negotiable in every area of life, including our assessment of public policies," the statement begins.

The NAE endorsed the document at their annual March 11 meeting, with one dissenting vote. Continue

Ethicist: National Association of Evangelicals torture declaration 'irrational'

Erin Roach, Baptist Press, March 15, 2007

An anti-torture statement endorsed by the National Association of Evangelicals "is a moral travesty managing not only to confuse but to harm genuine evangelical witness in the culture," a Southern Baptist ethics professor said March 15.

"The main problem I have with the NAE declaration is not moral but rational," Daniel R. Heimbach, professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote in a statement to Baptist Press. "While it loudly renounces ‘torture,’ it nowhere -- in 18 pages of posturing -- defines what signers of the document claim so vehemently to reject."

The NAE, which claims to represent 45,000 evangelical churches but does not include the Southern Baptist Convention, said in the statement approved March 11 that the United States has crossed the "boundaries of what is legally and morally permissible" in the war on terror. Continue

Christian activist says National Association of Evangelicals continues move to liberalism

Allie Martin, OneNewsNow.com (Focus on the Family), March 15, 2007

The founder of Olive Tree Ministries says it is no surprise a recent meeting of the board of directors of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) focused on liberal causes and not on evangelism. The organization's board of directors met last week and advanced what it called a "broad public agenda." Among other things, that agenda included the board's endorsement of a document titled "An Evangelical Declaration on Torture: Protecting Human Rights in An Age of Terror."

Jan Markell, founder of Olive Tree Ministries, has followed the activities of the NAE for years. She says the organization continues to move to the left while minimizing the Great Commission. Continue

Presidents Carter and Clinton found moderate New Baptist Covenant

Breakout sessions present differing views

by David Roach & Erin Roach, Baptist Press, February 4, 2008

ATLANTA (BP)--Special interest sessions during the New Baptist Covenant Celebration in Atlanta advocated diverse and at times conflicting viewpoints on issues ranging from the criminal justice system and poverty to sexual exploitation and responding to natural disasters.

The convocation included 16 breakout sessions offered Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 at the Georgia World Congress Center, and each featured a panel of participants addressing a specific issue. Baptist Press attended four of the sessions in order to provide a snapshot of the views expressed. Continue.

A Baptist Coalition Aims for Moderate Image

By Neela Banerjee, New York Times, January 27, 2008

For more than 150 years, Baptists in the United States have splintered along political, theological and racial lines. But this week, some of the country’s largest Baptist groups — representing about 20 million believers — will meet to try to mend the old fractures and, some leaders say, present a more diverse and moderate image of their faith than the one offered by the conservative Southern Baptist Convention.

The three-day meeting of more than 30 groups — known as the New Baptist Covenant Celebration, which begins on Wednesday in Atlanta — is a result of efforts by former President Jimmy Carter to draw together long-divided Baptists.

The meeting’s statement of shared purpose, known as its covenant, calls for Baptists to focus on their traditional values, like “sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ,” and to work together on social issues like fighting poverty. It does not create a new denomination. Continue.

Baptist Senator Says Claiming 'Christian' Title has Hurt GOP

Bob Allen, EthicsDaily.com, September 13, 2007

A Republican senator scheduled to speak at next year's New Baptist Covenant Celebration in Atlanta told a community newspaper in Iowa that positioning the party as the "Christian" choice has been detrimental to the GOP.

"That does turn some people off," Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in an interview with the Sioux County Index-Reporter. Grassley said he prefers to describe the party in a different way.

"I believe in the big-tent approach," he said. "We ought to be open to anybody who shares our conservative economic, political and social views."

Asked if ethical scandals like Idaho Sen. Larry Craig's arrest for disorderly conduct in an airport men's room diminish the GOP's "Christian" identity, Grassley sought to distinguish between the two.Continue.

SBC President Responds to Carter's New Baptist Covenant

Church Report, June 1, 2007

(CR) – Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president Frank Page has spoken out on the planned gathering of moderates and liberals in January 2008. He is calling for the organizers of the New Baptist Covenant to focus more on spreading the message of the Gospel instead of their plan to “take the microphone away” from conservatives.

Page’s response is to former U.S. president Jimmy Carter’s pitch to Southern Baptist to attend the gathering he is organizing with Bill Underwood, president of Mercer University. The gathering also has the approval of former U.S. president Bill Clinton.

“I will not be a part of any smokescreen leftwing liberal agenda that seeks to deny the greatest need in our world, that being that the lost be shown the way to eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord,” Page said in a statement. Continue.

Carter, Clinton Seek To Bring Together Moderate Baptists
Exiles From Conservative Group Targeted

By Alan Cooperman, The Washington Post, January 21, 2007

Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are leading an effort to forge dozens of small and medium-size, black and white Baptist organizations into a robust coalition that would serve as a counterweight to the conservative Southern Baptist Convention.

The giant SBC, with more than 16 million members, has long dominated the political, theological and social landscape among Baptists, often spawning resentment among smaller Baptist groups. It has also been closely aligned with the Republican Party.

The new coalition, which is Carter's brainchild, would give moderate Baptists a stronger collective voice and could provide Democrats with greater entree into the Baptist community. But Carter and other organizers are trying to walk a fine line, insisting that the alliance is not directly political while touting its potential to recast the role of religion in the public square. Continue.

Carter, Clinton woo Baptists to new coalition

By Ernie Suggs, John Blake, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 10, 2007

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton announced in Atlanta on Tuesday the creation of a Baptist organization they said would counter what they say is a negative image of their faith.

The New Baptist Convenant was announced at the Carter Center by representatives of about 40 moderate Baptist groups that have distanced themselves from the conservative Southern Baptist Convention. Carter and Clinton -- both Baptists -- said the New Baptist Convenant will look for solutions to problems such as poverty and racism. Carter and Clinton said they want to counter concerns that Baptists have been "negative" and "exclusionary" and promised an inclusive organization willing to debate openly all issues. Continue.

Carter, Clinton Meet with Baptist Group

Beliefnet (Associated Press), January 9, 2007

Jan. 9 - In a historic meeting that brought together two of the United States' three remaining former presidents, former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton met Tuesday with leaders from 40 moderate Baptist groups who pledged to work on 21st century social and environmental issues.

The groups - all members of the North American Baptist Fellowship - are planning a national Baptist celebration in January 2008 with Carter as the keynote speaker.

The 20-million-member North American Baptist Fellowship is part of the 102-year-old Baptist World Alliance. The more conservative Southern Baptist Convention decided in 2004 to pull out of the alliance. Continue

Carter, Clinton hope 'compassion' agenda will unite Baptists in North America

Marv Knox and Greg Warner, Associated Baptist Press, January 9, 2007

Baptists from across North America will convene in Atlanta early next year to emphasize their compassion rather than the racial, theological and social conflict that has divided them for decades.

Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton -- two of the world's most famous Baptist laymen -- announced the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant, tentatively set for Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2008. The announcement came Jan. 9, after the ex-presidents had met with about 80 leaders from 40 Baptist organizations in the United States and Canada at the Carter Center in Atlanta.

The 2008 convocation, which organizers expect will attract 20,000 people, will be "one of the most historic events at least in the history of Baptists in this country, maybe Christianity," Carter predicted. Continue

Baptist Covenant likely to avoid gay issues
New group to balance conservative Southern Baptists

Ryan Lee, Southern Voice, January 19, 2007

A new coalition of moderate Baptist leaders announced in Atlanta last week their intent to offer a spiritual alternative to the conservative Southern Baptist Convention by focusing "on issues that bind us together as followers of Christ rather than dwell on the differences that surely exist among us."

Backed by former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, the alliance of about 40 moderate Baptist organizations plan to host a massive assembly in Atlanta in January 2008 to brainstorm how the church can help alleviate societal problems such as poverty, inadequate healthcare, racism and religious intolerance. Continue

SBC Pastors Oppose Critics of New Baptist Voice

Lillian Kwon, Christian Post, January 15, 2007

Several Southern Baptists opposed the critical response of some fellow conservative leaders over a new Baptist initiative spearheaded by former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

"It would be difficult for me to criticize any evangelical Christian movement whose stated goals are to live out the gospel through doing justice and loving mercy," said Oklahoma pastor Wade Burleson, according to the Associated Baptist Press.

Carter and Clinton announced last week "The Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant" with leaders representing 20 million Baptists in North America. The initiative was launched to improve the "negative" Baptist image shaped by leaders representing "conservative political views and fundamentalist theology," according to Bill Underwood, president of Mercer University in Atlanta, and to demonstrate Baptist harmony, particularly through compassion works. Continue

Carter, Clinton call for 'A New Baptist Covenant'

Erin Roach, Baptist Press, January 18, 2007

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have proposed the establishment of a broadly inclusive alternative Baptist movement to counter what they called a negative image of Baptists and to address poverty, the environment and global conflicts.

Carter and Clinton kicked off their plans with a news conference Jan. 9 at the Carter Center in Atlanta, flanked by leaders of moderate Baptist groups including the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a breakaway group of an unverified number of churches that objected to the election of conservative leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention. Carter and Clinton announced a "Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant," tentatively set for Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2008, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, which they hope will attract 20,000 Baptists. Continue

First-Person: Voodoo ecumenism: Bill Clinton & Baptist unity

Russell D. Moore, Baptist Press, January 10, 2007

Louisville, Ky. (BP)--For years former President Jimmy Carter has sought to mobilize moderate and liberal Baptists toward an alternative to Southern Baptist conservatism. It's easy to see why Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) Baptists would want to be aligned with President Carter. He's a man of integrity who served with dignity in the White House, and he's someone who seems genuinely committed to following Jesus.

It's not news then that President Carter is at the center of yet another attempt at fostering "Baptist unity," a "Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant" for various representatives of the Baptist left. But Bill Clinton? According to recent news reports, the unity convocation is sponsored by not one but two former United States presidents, and the other one's from Arkansas. Continue

New York Times Challenged on "Evangelical Crackup"

Background by JewsOnFirst.org, November 7, 2007

In his October 28th New York Times Magazine cover story, David Kirkpatrick uses 8,000 words to argue that fundamentalist Christian evangelicals are losing their political clout. He opens with a vignette about a fallen Wichita, Kansas patriot pastor before moving to the main point of his report: evangelicals have lost the great power they had in the national Republican Party. Kirkpatrick proposes that the entire Christian right is moderating and diversifying. His report made the Times' list of most-emailed stories.

Nevertheless, as we have in the past, we disagree with this thesis and find ourselves in good company. Continue.

Shake, Rattle and Roil the Grand Ol’ Coalition

By David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, December 30, 2007

AS a Republican presidential primary candidate, Mike Huckabee is a puzzle.

A Southern Baptist pastor and thoroughgoing social conservative, Mr. Huckabee has struck a distinctly populist chord when it comes to economics. He has criticized executive pay, sympathized with labor unions, denounced “plutocracy,” and mocked the antitax group the Club for Growth as “the Club for Greed.” And when it comes to foreign affairs he sometimes sounds almost liberal; for example, comparing the United States’ place in the world to “a top high school student, if it is modest about its abilities and achievements, if it is generous in helping others, it is loved.”

Yet he has surged to the head of the pack in polls of Iowa Republicans in the week before their caucus and moved close to the front in national polls as well. Now his success is setting off a debate in his party over whether his success marks the fading of the old Reaganite conservative coalition — social conservatives, antitax activists and advocates of a muscular defense — or, rather, offers a chance for its rejuvenation. Continue.

Times columnist sees religious right retreating, moderating; we disagree on two occasions

JewsOnFirst disagrees with columnist Kristof's rosy view of moderating Christian Right

by JewsOnFirst.org, February 3, 2008, posted on Nicholas Kristof's blog.

Nicholas Kristof serves up a red herring when he admonishes liberals for scorning and deriding evangelicals. Perhaps we travel in the wrong circles, but we observe (and join in) denouncing and opposing the Christian right's proposals and actions. Kristoff is so anxious to present evangelicals as new and improved that a reader could conclude that the religious right is no longer a threat. We strongly disagree, even while acknowledging that many evangelicals are moderates and some are progressive.

It is more than likely that some of the do-gooding green members of conservative Christian churches whom Kristoff lauds are casting their primary votes for Mike Huckabee. It is not "deriding" Huckabee's faith (or even mocking his belief in creationism) when we point out the extreme nature of his faith-based positions.

Those positions would destroy our First Amendment's guarantee of the separation of church and state. Last month Huckabee called for amending the Constitution "so it's in God's standards." He wants the Constitution to outlaw abortion and same-sex marriage. He endorses his Southern Baptist denomination's call for women to subordinate themselves to their husbands.

Today's Christian right positions are by no means limited to the Huckabee campaign. The House of Representatives has passed one resolution affirming a Christian founding of the United States (H. Res. 847) and is considering a second (H. Res. 888). The Christian right is prosletyzing down the chain of command in the military. Christian right activists and lawmakers have limited access to reproductive health care and information. And can Kristof identify any of the new-style evangelicals who support extending full civil rights to gays and lesbians?

Because Huckabee is recognized as being "of" the Republican Party's conservative Christian base, we posted a a page on his positions (www.jewsonfirst.org/08a/huckabee_iowa.html) on the JewsOnFirst website. We wanted to call attention to the perils that his positions pose to the First Amendment and civic pluralism. It is scary to think that many Huckabee voters either support or don't mind his extreme positions. Jews, in particular have cause to worry, denounce and oppose those positions -- not to get distracted celebrating the overseas work of folks who are voting to impose their narrow, extreme doctrines on the nation.

Evangelicals a Liberal Can Love

Column by Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, February 3, 2008

At a New York or Los Angeles cocktail party, few would dare make a pejorative comment about Barack Obama’s race or Hillary Clinton’s sex. Yet it would be easy to get away with deriding Mike Huckabee’s religious faith.

Liberals believe deeply in tolerance and over the last century have led the battles against prejudices of all kinds, but we have a blind spot about Christian evangelicals. They constitute one of the few minorities that, on the American coasts or university campuses, it remains fashionable to mock.

Scorning people for their faith is intrinsically repugnant, and in this case it also betrays a profound misunderstanding of how far evangelicals have moved over the last decade. Today, conservative Christian churches do superb work on poverty, AIDS, sex trafficking, climate change, prison abuses, malaria and genocide in Darfur. Continue.

JewsOnFirst Takes Exception to Claim of Religious Right's Retreat from Culture Wars

JewsOnFirst's Letter to Editor of New York Times, December 4, 2006

When New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote urging atheists not to pursue a culture war (see below), he stated that "the Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars."

We disagreed and wrote the following letter to the Times, which did not publish it.

Letter to the Editor re: Nicholas Kristof column: "A modest Proposal…"

We agree with Nicholas Kristof ("A Modest Proposal for a Truce on Religion," Dec. 3rd) that a strident anti-religion campaign is hardly an antidote to the fundamentalism of the Christian Right. But we disagree with his statement that "the Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars." Although their Republican standard bearers lost control of Congress in the November elections, the major Christian Right organizations that we monitor have not laid down their cultural cudgels. They are simply reorienting their fierce campaigns against gay, lesbian and reproductive rights -- and against pluralism -- to battlefields beyond Congress.

Christian Right groups are conducting wars of intimidation against corporations that support LGBT organizations or use the term "holiday" instead of "Christmas." They are continuing their wars of harassment and attrition against family planning in dozens of states, and in hundreds of hospitals and pharmacies. Their generously endowed legal groups are defending schools and local governments in cases involving sectarian prayer and religious displays.

The Christian Right's justification for the intolerance undergirding all these campaigns is that Christians are the majority and it's "unfair" to make them defer to the sensibilities of religious minorities. Given all this, it's a mistake to dismiss the Christian Right's persistent fight to control not just our pluralistic culture but the fundaments of our lives.

Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak and Jane Hunter,
co-directors, JewsOnFirst.org

Please also see our election analysis: Republican defeat leaves religious right largely intact.

A Modest Proposal for a Truce on Religion

By Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, December 3, 2006

Taking aim at the increasing media presence of atheists, Kristof writes: "Now that the Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars, let's hope that the Atheist Left doesn't revive them. We've suffered enough from religious intolerance that the last thing the world needs is irreligious intolerance." Continue.

Senator investigates ministries' spending"

GOP Senator Investigates Spending at Several TV Ministries

Jacqueline L. Salmon, The Washington Post, November 7, 2007

Some of the nation's biggest televangelists -- including faith healer Benny Hinn and best-selling Christian book author Joyce Meyer -- are targets of an investigation by Iowa Sen. Charles E. Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.

After receiving reports of lavish spending at the ministries, Grassley said yesterday that he has requested detailed documents on the finances of the organizations, which bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in donations annually.

All of the ministries have been the target of complaints for years by watchdog organizations, which have alleged that the groups' charismatic leaders dip deeply into donations to fund extravagant lifestyles. Continue.

Praise and Dismay for Senate Scrutiny of Ministries' Finances
While some cheer inquiry into alleged misuses of church funds, others fear government intrusion.

Joe Maxwell, Christianity Today, November 6, 2007

A United States Senate committee is demanding a detailed look into the alleged lavish lifestyles of six prosperity gospel ministries, stirring both kudos and cries of concern from religious and First Amendment experts.

"If your house is in order, you have nothing to fear and much to gain from this process," megapastor Joel Hunter told Christianity Today. Hunter is senior pastor of the 12,000-member Northland, A Church Distributed, outside Orlando, Florida.

Some, however, worry that the Senate could be setting bad precedent.

"James Madison would be telling us, 'Take Alarm! Take Alarm!''' Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the journal First Things, told CT. "This is cause for alarm that a Senate committee would presume to directly exercise financial oversight of religious ministries. Continue.

Six Major Ministries Under Investigation

Sarah Miracle, Christian Broadcasting Network News.com, November 6, 2007

Six popular Christian televangelists are being investigated by the federal government for "possible misuse of donations."

The U.S. Senate Finance Committee sent letters to Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer, Randy and Paula White, Creflo Dollar, and Eddie Long, asking them all for detailed information on expenses, executive compensation, and amenities given to executives.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a ranking member of the Committee on Finance, is leading the investigation. Continue.

Integrity, Accountability and the Grassley Investigation
Six charismatic ministries are under the microscope as a U.S. Senate committee scrutinizes their spending practices. Is this from the devil—or God?

J. Lee Grady, Charisma.com, Fire in My Bones, November 9, 2007

Depending on how you look at it, Sen. Charles Grassley is either a crusader for righteousness or a devil with horns.

Some Christians feared he was the latter this week when the Iowa lawmaker, who is the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, announced that he has launched an extensive investigation into the spending practices of six prominent charismatic ministries. As soon as news of the probe broke on Tuesday, I started getting calls from people who are worried that Grassley is plotting to take away the tax-exempt status of all evangelical churches in America.

I have been assured by one of Grassley’s top associates that he does not have a hidden agenda, and he is not conspiring to deny anybody of religious freedom. What the senator does want is assurance that these six organizations are not taking money that was donated to charity and misusing it to buy mansions, plastic surgeries and other lavish perks. Continue.

Senator investigating Hinn, other television ministries

Erica Simons, Baptist Press, November 7, 2007

WASHINGTON (BP)--The leading Republican on the Senate Finance Committee is investigating prominent televangelists and their financial conduct, pursuing reports of elaborate private jets, Rolls Royces and indulgent salaries.

"It is important that the Congress and the public have confidence that public charities, which benefit from very significant tax breaks, are operated in a manner that promotes continued trust," Sen. Grassley, R.-Iowa, said in a Nov. 5 letter to the TV preachers.

Joyce Meyer and Benny Hinn are among representatives of six ministries asked to hand over their records of expenses and compensations to Grassley. Because of their non-profit "church status," all of the ministries are tax-exempt and not required to submit their financial information to the Internal Revenue Service. Continue.

Scandal allegations engulf Oral Roberts University

Former Oral Roberts University professor not surprised at changes to board of regents

Allie Martin, OneNewsNow.com, December 27, 2007

A former professor at Oral Roberts University says he's not surprised at the recent changes in the school's board of regents, and he expects more changes in the university's operation.

Televangelists Jesse Duplantis and Creflo Dollar resigned recently as Oral Roberts University (ORU) regents -- and regent Benny Hinn lost his status as a voting member. Those changes came on the heels of ORU president Richard Roberts' resignation and the promise of a $70 million gift to the school -- enough to erase the university's debt -- by Christian businessman Mart Green. The donation is dependent upon major changes being made to the university's everyday operation.

Dr. Tim Brooker, one of three former ORU professors suing the school over wrongful termination, expects regents to have more input into the university's activities. "The former role of the board of trustee members at Oral Roberts University was basically to come in once or twice a year, be wined and dined -- and no accountability," he points out. "It was a reward -- it wasn't an opportunity to serve." Continue.

Oral Roberts president resigns

Associated Press, USA Today, November 24, 2007

TULSA (AP) — The president of Oral Roberts University facing accusations he misspent school funds to support a lavish lifestyle resigned on Friday, officials said.

Richard Roberts' resignation is effective immediately, according to a statement e-mailed from George Pearsons, chairman of the school's Board of Regents.

Roberts and the university have come under fire since a lawsuit was filed by three former professors last month. Continue.

President of Oral Roberts to Take Leave of Absence

Ralph Blumenthal, The New York Times, October 18, 2007

The president of Oral Roberts University, Richard Roberts, said yesterday that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence following allegations of spending irregularities and family misconduct.

“The untrue allegations have struck a terrible blow in my heart,” Dr. Roberts said in a statement. “The untrue allegations of sexual misconduct by my wife have hurt the most. It has broken her heart and the hearts of my children.”

Dr. Roberts has led the university, which is in Tulsa, Okla., for 14 years. It was founded by his father, the television evangelist Oral Roberts. Continue.

Oral Roberts president to take leave
Oral Roberts University President Asks to Take Leave After Accusations of Improprieties

Justin Juozapaviciusm, ABC News, October 17, 2007

Oral Roberts University President Richard Roberts asked for and was granted a leave of absence Wednesday amid accusations of lavish spending at donors' expense and illegal involvement in a political campaign.

The 58-year-old son of the evangelist who founded the school said he would continue in his role as chairman and chief executive of Oral Roberts Ministries, and decried what he said were untrue allegations.

"I don't know how long this leave of absence will last, but I fully trust the members of the Board of Regents," Roberts said in a news release issued by the university. "I pray and believe that in God's timing, and when the Board feels that it is appropriate, I will be back at my post as president." Continue.

Professors' lawsuit against Oral Roberts University

Swails et al v. Oral Roberts University et al, Tulsa County District Court case #2007 66543

Professors John Swails and Tim Brooker, the complainants, allege that Oral Roberts University officials retailiated when Brooker resisted using students and the non-profit university's assets to aid a local candidate for office. When the IRS came to investigate the institution's involvement in the campaign, the university allegedly blamed Brooker. When Swails and Brooker subsequently brought evidence to university officials of the Roberts' family's personal use of the university's assets, they were harassed and forced out of their jobs.

To read the complaint, a PDF document, click here.

Professors Sue Oral Roberts President

By Ralph Blumenthal, New York Times, October 11, 2007

A suit filed by three former professors charges financial, political and personal irregularities by the president of Oral Roberts University, including a claim that he illegally mobilized students to campaign for a Republican mayoral candidate.

The president, Richard Roberts, the son of the university founder, the television evangelist Oral Roberts, has offered a series of denials. But he declined yesterday to respond in detail to the accusations in the suit.

The ex-professors, citing a secret internal report by an official of the Oral Roberts Ministries, linked to the university in Tulsa, Okla., sued on Oct. 2. They also contended that the Roberts house on the campus had been remodeled 11 times in 14 years, that the university jet took family members on trips and that the family’s university-paid cellphones sent text messages to “under-age males — often between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m.” Continue.

Oral Roberts' son, his wife face scandal at university
A lawsuit alleges lavish spending, political actions, other misdeeds.

Associated Press, The Los Angeles Times, October 6, 2007

Tulsa, Okla. -- Twenty years ago, televangelist Oral Roberts said he was reading a spy novel when God appeared to him and told him to raise $8 million for Roberts' university, or else he would be "called home."

Now, his son, Oral Roberts University President Richard Roberts, says God is speaking again, telling him to deny allegations in a lawsuit that threatens to engulf this 44-year-old Bible Belt college in scandal.

Richard Roberts is accused of illegal involvement in a local political campaign and lavish spending at donors' expense, including numerous home remodeling projects, use of the university jet for his daughter's senior trip to the Bahamas, and a red Mercedes convertible and a Lexus SUV for his wife, Lindsay. Continue.

Regent says ORU will make any needed corrections

Tulsa World, October 10, 2007

The chairman of Oral Roberts University's board of regents told applauding students in a chapel service on Wednesday that any corrections that need to be made to the university will be made.

Chairman George Pearsons, co-pastor of Eagle Mountain International Church in Newark, Texas, said regents have approved an independent investigation into allegations made against the university last week in a lawsuit. The outside group that will perform the investigation has not been formed, Pearsons said.

"Honestly, every organization has problems," he said after the chapel service on campus. "If there's something that needs to be fixed, let's fix it." Continue.

God speaks to Oral Roberts University prez about lawsuit allegations

Mike Carney, On Deadline Blog, USA Today, October 8, 2007

Did you hear about the scandal brewing at Oral Roberts University?

Richard Roberts, the school's president, is accused of making illegal campaign contributions, directing government professors to have their students help on campaigns and using college or ministry accounts to pay his family's personal expenses.

Back in 1977, Oral Roberts said God told him to found the Bible Belt school. Two decades later, God is once again speaking to the Roberts family, this time telling Richard not to worry about the accusations: "We live in a litigious society. Anyone can get mad and file a lawsuit against another person whether they have a legitimate case or not. This lawsuit ... is about intimidation, blackmail and extortion," God told Roberts, according to a speech that is quoted in a wire story on FoxNews.com. Continue.

Oral Report: Former Profs Say TV Preacher Roberts' School Is Immersed In Scandal

Rob Boston, Talk to Action, October 9, 2007

As Richard Bartholomew noted on Sunday, TV preacher John Hagee may not be the best person to investigate charges of unethical conduct at Oral Roberts University.

A truly independent investigation of the allegations at ORU is needed -- if for no other reason than to protect the people who have poured millions into the various arms of this ministry over the years.

Oral Roberts has certainly led a colorful life. He claims he once trembled before a 900-foot Jesus and has raised people from the dead. In 1987, Roberts announced that God "would call me home" unless supporters sent him $8 million in donations. Continue.

Former ORU professor speaks out about lawsuit, alleged financial mismanagement at Tulsa school

Alie Martin, OneNewsNow.com, October 10, 2007

A former professor at Oral Roberts University (ORU) says he had no other choice but to file a lawsuit against school officials -- after they allegedly fired him for raising concerns about questionable use of university finances and resources.

Three former ORU professors -- John Swails, Tim Brooker, and Paulita Brooker -- filed the lawsuit. According to the lawsuit, university president Richard Roberts is accused of illegal involvement in a local political campaign as well as lavish spending at donors' expense -- including numerous home remodeling projects, use of the university jet for his daughter's senior trip to the Bahamas, and a red Mercedes convertible and a Lexus SUV for his wife, Lindsay. Also, Mrs. Roberts is accused of running up more than $800 in monthly cell phone bills and sending text messages to underage males in the early morning hours -- on phones provided by the university.

The lawsuit claims the professors were terminated or forced to resign after they raised the allegations. In a recent chapel service, Richard Roberts defended the university. "We live in a litigious society. Anyone can get mad and file a lawsuit against another person, whether they have a legitimate case or not," said Roberts. Continue.

Some conservative evangelical denominations join new Christian Churches Together in the USA

New organization aims to unite five Christian 'families'
'Christian Churches Together in the USA' launches Wednesday with 36 denominations and more than 100 million churchgoers represented.

By Jane Lampman | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor, February 7, 2007

In a time of deep religious division and tension, many American churches are joining in a fresh bid for greater Christian unity. After five years of discussion and prayer, church leaders are to meet Wednesday in Pasadena, Calif., in the official launch of an ecumenical body – Christian Churches Together in the USA (CCT). Its mission: "to grow closer together in Christ in order to strengthen our Christian witness in the world."

In its inclusiveness, CCT offers a striking contrast to religious dissension in the political arena. The group involves churches from all five Christian "families" – Catholics, Evangelicals and Pentecostals, Mainline Protestants, Orthodox, and racial or ethnic churches – and represents the broadest ecumenical fellowship ever formed in this country. Continue.

Southern Baptist Convention elects new leader

Four Reasons Why The Southern Baptist Convention Election Matters To You (If You're Not A Southern Baptist)

Marc Ambinder, The Hotline (National Journal), June 16, 2006

A blogswarm propelled a revolution in the leadership of the nation's largest protestant domination yesterday; delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention chose an outsider from South Carolina as their new president, rejecting the establishment candidacy of an Arkansas mega-church pastor who had sewn up the body's top endorsements. Here's why it matters to students of American politics. The Southern Baptist Convention remains the most influential organized religious body in the South. More than 16 million Americans identify as Southern Baptists. The new president is Frank Page , pastor of the First Baptist Church of Taylors, S.C.

Page was drafted to run by SBC bloggers fed up by the SBC's establishment. The media says Page is "reform-minded," which is a word that smells like "liberal" to many outsiders. But Page has affirmed his belief in the inerrancy of the bible and the primacy of the Southern Baptist faith. What he'll reform, he says, is the operations of the SBC institution and its perception to outsiders that it's closed and intolerant. (He responded to a note from the Hotline with a simple sentence. "Please pray for me," he wrote. Continue

A Shift Among the Evangelicals

By E. J. Dionne Jr., The Washington Post, June 16, 2006

Dionne writes that the surprise election of Rev. Frank Page to head the Southern Baptist Convention, "is not some liberal victory. Indeed, the Baptist Press reported that Page went out of his way to tell reporters that he was not elected 'to somehow undo the conservative resurgence' in the convention. But he also signaled that the spirit he hopes to embody is quite different from that of the angry, right-wing, politicized preacher who has been a stock figure in American life for more than two decades." Click here.

In their own words

Overheated Rhetoric
What should we make of bestselling books blasting Christians?

Charles Colson and Anne Morse, Christianity Today, June 21, 2007

The problem is, these aren't our books, but books about us, books that stridently attack conservative Christians as "theocrats" and "fascists" -- evangelical mullahs intent on replacing the government with our own "religion-soaked political regimes," as one overheated author put it.

Conservative guru Kevin Phillips offered one of the first books, American Theocracy, which accuses President Bush of sending secret coded messages to the faithful in his speeches. Nixon aide turned whistleblower John Dean followed, attributing all the evils in American life to conservatives and the Religious Right.

Just a week before the 2006 election (coincidence?), former Bush aide David Kuo published a book accusing the White House of cynically exploiting evangelicals for political gain. He recommended that evangelicals "fast" from politics for a time. Randall Balmer, an evangelical himself, authored Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America, in which he claims that right-wing "zealots" have hijacked the evangelical faith and distorted the gospel. Continue

Trinity Broadcasting Network’s Response to ABC 20/20 Report Attempts to Mislead Donors, Transparency Grade Dropped to "F"

MinistryWatch.com, April 2007

On March 23, 2007, ABC’s 20/20 broadcasted a profile of MinistryWatch.com founder Rusty Leonard.

During this segment, 20/20 reported on the luxurious lifestyle led by Trinity Broadcasting Network’s leaders Paul and Jan Crouch, raising issues that MinistryWatch.com had previously brought to donors’ attention. TBN responded with a press release (click here for TBN’s press release) containing inaccuracies and questioning the trustworthiness of MinistryWatch.com as a source for 20/20’s report.

In MinistryWatch.com’s view, TBN’s response was an attempt to divert TBN donors’ attention away from the truth. Since Ministry-Watch.com seeks to help donors make wise and effective giving decisions, this Donor Alert highlights the errors in TBN’s press release so that donors will not be confused or misled. Due to TBN’s actions in this regard, TBN’s Transparency Grade has fallen to "F".

MinistryWatch.com regrets that it must take this measure. Unfortunately, TBN’s decision to significantly distort the truth in its press release, combined with its previous actions to withhold critical information donors need to make wise stewardship decisions about their support for TBN, makes such a response necessary. MinistryWatch.com’s desire is that TBN will undertake meaningful reforms of its business and ministry practices and enter into a process that will restore the TBN network and its leadership to full effectiveness as a sound, biblically-based Christian ministry. Continue

'Environmental' Bandwagon Not for All Evangelicals

Jennifer Morehouse, Church Report, January 22, 2007

It has come to light that not all evangelicals are willing to hop onto the "environmental" bandwagon. According to a press release from the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance (ISA), the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) has not endorsed a new "collaboration" of scientists and evangelicals.

The release states, "Although NAE Vice President for Government Affairs Rich Cizik is involved in the collaboration, the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance has independently confirmed that the NAE board has taken no action on the effort. The organization’s official statement remains the document, ‘For the Health of the Nation,’ which emphasizes our Christian responsibility to care for God’s creation but does not endorse a partisan political agenda." Continue

The 'Religious Right' is Under Attack and One Guy is Fed Up

by Wendy Cloyd, Focus on the Family, August 9, 2006

An interview with Patrick Hynes about his book In Defense of the Religious Right where he says we needn't worry about theocracy because right-wing Christian clergy don't want to take on government posts. He wrote the book, according to Focus, because, as a Republican consultant, "he has become acutely aware of the constant barrage of left-leaning media in a determined smear campaign against what they label the Religious Right -- conservatives working to protect family values." Click here.

The Insider
Christian Organizations Protecting America

by Iain Thatcher, The Churchreport.com, seen April 13, 2006

"If you believed everything you read in the liberal press, and I pray you don’t, you would think that Christian leaders were actively working in Washington to dismantle our government and set up a theocracy, similar to that in Iran. The facts, however, say something different, but one thing that is clear is that the old guard of Christian political involvement has some powerful new members.

"We looked at 20 of the top Christian ‘political’ organizations in an attempt to see through the liberal smoke screen and see what old members were still in their seats of power, and who the young whippersnappers who had gained seats at the table were. The results, in no particular order, were quite eye opening as the influence of these organizations is quietly being felt around the country, and their connections to each other are many and varied." Click here for the report.

Top 20 Christian Political Organizations

The Churchreport.com, seen April 13, 2006

Photos and blurbs on the big names of the religious right. Companion piece to "The Insider" above. Click here

Senator John Danforth

'St. Jack' and the Bullies in the Pulpit
John Danforth Says It's Time the GOP Center Took On The Christian Right

By Peter Slevin, The Washington Post, February 2, 2006

"Jack Danforth wishes the Republican right would step down from its pulpit. Instead, he sees a constant flow of religion into national politics. And not just any religion, either, but the us-versus-them, my-God-is-bigger-than-your-God, velvet-fist variety of Christian evangelism.

"As a mainline Episcopal priest, retired U.S. senator and diplomat, Danforth worships a humbler God and considers the right's certainty a sin. Legislating against gay marriage, for instance? "It's just cussedness." As he sees it, many Republican leaders have lost their bearings and, if they don't change, will lose their grip on power. Not to mention make the United States a meaner place. Click here to read the report.

Onward, Moderate Christian Soldiers

By John C. Danforth, New York Times, June 22, 2005

In this op-ed article, former Republican senator from Missouri, who is also an ordained minister, deplores the Christian right's campaign to make its beliefs into law. "In the decade since I left the Senate," Danforth writes, "American politics has been characterized by two phenomena: the increased activism of the Christian right, especially in the Republican Party, and the collapse of bipartisan collegiality. I do not think it is a stretch to suggest a relationship between the two." Click here to read the op-ed.

Salem Communications radio network

Christian radio website to maximize hosts’ heft

By Alexander Bolton, The Hill, March 14, 2006

Salem Communications, home to the big names in right-wing talk radio, is rolling out a website for its hosts to organize their listeners: "The purpose is to build a powerful online activist community from the large nationwide audience of conservative radio listeners. Political observers say Democrats have thus far been more effective then Republicans at using the Internet to raise money and mobilize supporters." Click here

A Higher Frequency
How the rise of Salem Communications' radio empire reveals the evangelical master plan

By Adam Piore, Mother Jones Magazine, December /January 2006

"Though the chain is not as large as Clear Channel Radio (which owns 1,200 stations) or Viacom's Infinity Broadcasting (178), Salem's programming is available to one-third of the U.S. population; its websites are read by some 3 million people. Salem Radio Network News division is, according to its website, 'the only Christian-focused news organization with fully equipped broadcast facilities at the U.S. House, Senate, and White House manned by full-time correspondents-ensuring timely, on-the-spot coverage of breaking news…specifically created for Christian-formatted radio stations.' In a move that mirrors the Republican Party's objectives, Atsinger and Epperson have recently expanded Salem's stable of Christian talk-show hosts-James Dobson, Randall Terry, Janet Parshall-to include conservative Jews like Prager and Michael Medved. The company is a leading outlet for Christian rock, one of the music industry's fastest-growing segments, and is chasing after black and Latino listeners. The company was also quick to embrace iPod technology to do what evangelicals call 'godcasting.'" Click here to read this article on the Mother Jones website.

  

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