Establishment Clause Adult Attention Deficit Disorder
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Sep 20, 2006 at 11:10:34 AM EST
One broad strategy of Christian nationalism involves simultaneous advances along several related fronts. Laurie Goodstein, for the New York Times reports on a declared push by the IRS to monitor possible church and charity abuse of tax exempt status in the 2006 election cycle [links : possible Focus On The Family tax status abuse], and controversy swirls around an IRS investigation into the tax status of a liberal Southern Californian church whose pastor gave an antiwar speech criticizing George W. Bush prior to the 2004 election. Churches and nonprofits can be improperly yoked to partisan politics, but the partisan organizing of churches through government agencies advocated by the leaked Kline memo [see full story] blatantly violates established church/state boundaries while the H.R. 2679 bill to come before the US House as soon as this week would seriously impair legal redress for establishment clause violations. [see inside]
Judicial sanction for Ten Commandents displays on courthouse lawns seems a minor affront (some might conclude) next to a recently leaked memo, from the offfice of Kansas state attorney general Phil Kline, that appears to enlist Klein's own office in organizing the 2006 election GOTV effort, through churches, for the Kansas GOP. Meanwhile, the H.R. 2679 bill submitted by US Rep. John Hostettler of Indiana and likely to come to before the US House of Representatives as early as this week would remove awards for attorney's fees in Establishment Clause cases ( across the board, not just in the case of religious momuments ) and so substantially undermine, especially at the local and state level, the abililty of embattled minorities to combat the type of Christian supremacy, in public schools and elsewhere, that recently led to the hounding, under shadow of death threats, of a Jewish family from its home in a rural southern Delaware town.

Such multiple attacks test for weak spots in defense, work together synergistically, and capitalize on a public  attention deficit regarding long term political processes and on a mainstream media penchant for decontextualized news.

Both the Kline memo and H.R. 2769 point towards a two-pronged strategy that could make the controversy over the tax status of overly politicized churches and charities partially irrelevant - what if local and state government does partisan political organizing through churches and charities ? Local and state goverments are less than likely to - in effect - sue themselves and if the federal government ( rightly ) picks up the slack that approach, certain to prompt outraged howls of protestation against alleged federal coercion, will serve as political and PR fodder for the long term project of the American Christian right to reduce federal power. And, if H.R. 2679 passes, private citizens will be very hard pressed to come up with the tens of thousands of dollars in fees necessary to press charges in Establisment Clause violations. What can be done ? Before anything, concerned Americans opposed to the aims of Christian nationalism, and reporters and journalists concerned simply with journalistic integrity, must learn to keep their eyes on not one but several balls at once. Moving forward, the stark reality that the GOP and the champions of Christian supremacy are working to stack the power equation in favor of state and local government, and against private citizens, points to a possible PR opening for the Democratic Party - if democrats can succesfully paint the GOP as the party of religious coercion and as the friend of big business, corporate, and religious interests set against victimized Americans.

John Hostettler represents a district in Indiana that includes Evansville.  

by khughes1963 on Wed Sep 20, 2006 at 11:14:10 PM EST
I'm new to the constellation of Christian supremacist leaders of which Hostettler is certainly more than a minor star. He'll be at the Family Research Council's D.C. conference ths weekend, I noticed.

by Bruce Wilson on Wed Sep 20, 2006 at 11:34:41 PM EST

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