The New Christian Right Leadership Network
Chip Berlet printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 05:38:21 PM EST
Who will be setting the agenda for the Christian Right in 2007? Several groups would like to assume that role, although they will have to figure out exactly what happened in the 2006 midterm elections and how to ensure that White Christian evangelicals vote the Christian Right party line in 2008. For many years the Christian Right pre-election voter mobilization conference was hosted by the Christian Coalition, with the title "Road to Victory." The Christian Coalition, however, has unraveled as a national group. In late September 2006 a coalition of Christian Right groups stepped into the void and staged a national pre-election conference, the Values Voters Washington Briefing.

According to a report published by Political Research Associates, "The conference was coordinated by FRC Action, the political action arm of the Family Research Council, with Tony Perkins at the helm. Cosponsors included the political action arms of three other Christian Right groups: Focus on the Family Action (Dr. James Dobson), Americans United to Preserve Marriage (Gary Bauer), and American Family Association Action (Donald Wildmon). Most of these groups have close historical ties. Dobson's Focus on the Family created the FRC to lobby Congress before it was spun off as a separate entity. Gary Bauer ran the FRC from 1988 to 1999. The wild card in this coalition is Wildmon, known for his inflammatory anti-gay rhetoric and occasional detours into veiled anti-Semitism. His American Family Association pulls this coalition further to the right."

In addition, the Alliance Defense Fund has partnered with the Family Research Council, and is likely to get more media attention in the coming months as court cases are filed. What follows are some capsule descriptions from the PRA report, by Chip Berlet and Pam Chamberlain, Running Against Sodom and Osama: The Christian Right, Values Voters, and the Culture Wars in 2006:


Family Research Council Action

Focus on the Family was originally located in Southern California, far from the Washington public policy debates during the 1970s. Founder James Dobson created a Washington presence for his organization by starting a think tank/lobbying arm and calling it the Family Research Council. Incorporated in 1983, the FRC was at first a closely aligned with Focus on the Family, becoming more influential under the leadership of Gary Bauer from 1988 to 1990 when Bauer then left to become a candidate for President. Issues around tax-exempt status resulted in a separation between Focus and the FRC, and now both organizations have 501 c (4) spinoffs, Focus on the Family Action and Family Research Council Action, to allow them greater permission to lobby.

The organization has maintained its focus on its definition of family issues: opposition to reproductive rights, homosexuality, and support for strictly traditional gender roles. The current President is Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana legislator.

Perkins maintains a strong connection to FRC members through his daily web messages from Washington and a print distribution center in Holland, MI, the home of the FRC’s original benefactor, Edgar Prince. In the twenty years since its founding, the FRC has become the premier lobbying arm of the Christian Right in Washington, well positioned to sponsor its recent summit.

Focus on the Family Action

From an Arcadia, CA radio show that began in 1977, Focus on the Family has grown to become the largest Christian Right organization in the country, with a campus of buildings on 50 acres of land in Colorado Springs, CO, an annual budget of $130 million, and its own zip code. James Dobson is its founder, a Christian conservative trained as a child psychologist. While Dobson has always emphasized the evangelical nature of the group, its mission, according to its own 2000 strategy statement, was to motivate “the people of God to practical action in their communities and our nation in defense of righteousness.”

At two points in Focus’ history, it became clear that Dobson would need a separate organization to representing the group when it wished to lobby. First came the Family Research Council in 1983, but as that group developed its own identity, Dobson founded Focus on the Family Action in 2004 to represent his own advocacy interests and once again to protect the 501 c (3) status of his parent organization.

Focus on the Family Action takes a hard line on homosexuality, whether it be same sex marriage, the ex-gay movement, or normalizing homosexuality in schools. It holds positions against gambling, pornography, and activist judges, and in October 2006 it joined forces with FRC Action to produce a voter scorecard.

Americans United to Preserve Marriage

Gary Bauer, this group’s President, has been associated with a number of Christian Right organizations since he served in the Reagan administration. Assuming the post of President of the FRC in 1988, Bauer led the group through a major growth stage, leaving to run for President in 2000. Less successful in attracting popular support as a candidate than as a voice of Christian social conservatism, Bauer withdrew after faring poorly in the early primaries.

In 1996 he founded the Campaign for Working Families (CWF), a political action committee, directing individual campaign contributions to the group’s endorsed candidates. The organization claimed credit for helping many conservative victories in 2002. Positioning itself as “Pro-life, Pro-family and Pro-growth,” the CWF reassured contributors that, “Supporting CWF takes the guesswork out of identifying the true conservatives from the pretenders.” http://www.cafpac.com/contribute.php

Bauer’s own American Values organization was started to provide a forum for his personal views. It hosts his End of Day Report email and reprints his frequent op eds in places like the conservative Washington Times. The American Values slogan is the model for the summit’s slogan, which is a shorter version of Bauer’s “Life, Marriage, Family, Faith, and Freedom,” reflecting the centrality of Bauer’s vision for America in the formation of the summit. Americans United to Preserve Marriage shares a street address, a web appearance, and much content with American Values.

American Family Association Action

Donald Wildmon is a United Methodist minister from Mississippi whose ministry has been to run his American Family Association since 1977. The AFA began as a conservative culture watchdog for the entertainment industry, believing in a direct correlation between the values represented by American TV, movies, and popular music and the decline of American moral behavior. From humble beginnings, the organization has grown to employ a staff of 150 and to claim over 3 million supporters.

The AFA is known for its campaigns against abortion, pornography, and gambling and its unapologetic stance against “the homosexual agenda.” It calls for boycotts of corporations that are “pro-homosexual,” like sponsors of the TV show “Ellen,” and the Ford Motor Company’s advertising campaign targeted to the gay market. “You have to use language that your audience understands,” Wildmon explained at the summit. “Politicians respond to votes; corporations respond to money.” The combination of AFA’s outspoken stance on pornography, abortion, and gambling, its nasty attacks on the “homosexual agenda,” and its hardball tactics have, in the past, isolated it from the other big Christian Right organizations. But Wildmon’s co-sponsorship of the 2006 summit, through his political action arm, AFA Action, indicates a shift further to the Right for this coalition.


Chip Berlet and Pam Chamberlain, Running Against Sodom and Osama: The Christian Right, Values Voters, and the Culture Wars in 2006. A Report from Political Research Associates, October, 2006

http://www.publiceye.org/christian_right/values-voters/vv-toc.html


Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates

The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates
Chip's Blog




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Any list that's created to try to define this network is by definition incomplete, but I would certainly include the following personalities and the groups they lead:

D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries has also fissioned off its own political arm, the "Center for Reclaiming America for Christ," which irregularly hosts a "Reclaiming America for Christ" conference for activists; their next conference is in March 2007.

Rick Scarborough's Vision America, also known for organizing "Patriot Pastors," hosted the "War on Christians Conference" in March 2006.

VanguardPac and TheVanguard.Org, created by Rod Martin, who wrote the article, Quiet Revolution: The Christianization of the Republican Party" in Christian Statesman, the publication of the National Reform Association.

One starting point to view this ever-widening network is the Arlington Group, a nexus of Christian ministries, political organizations, media and financiers. Its mailing address is the same as that of the Family Research Council.
--
Acquire the Evidence: on Ron Luce, Teen Mania Ministries and the "BattleCry" campaign. acquiretheevidence.com

by Mike Doughney on Tue Jan 02, 2007 at 05:18:38 AM EST

These are all important Christian Right activists to watch. Teen Mania is especially weird, yet apparently quite popular.
_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Tue Jan 02, 2007 at 09:30:26 AM EST
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