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National NOW Times >> August 1995 >> Article

The Re-Packaged Bigotry of the Christian Coalition

by Sandy Alexander, NOW intern

NOW Action Vice President Rosemary Dempsey speaks out about the "Religious Wrong" at NOW's rally in Columbus Ohio.

The misnamed Christian Coalition is having great success in showing off its seemingly sweet new packaging, while the underlying product is growing more dangerous every day. Youthful director and spokesperson Ralph Reed is the telegenic new mouth piece for the closed-minded and selectively-interpreted religious views of the group's founder, reactionary broadcast evangelist Pat Robertson.

 A similar public relations strategy is evident in the packaging of the Coalition's "Contract With the American Family." It uses the reasonable and benevolent-sounding goal of "strengthening the American family" to mask legislative proposals that would threaten such fundamental freedoms as the separation of church and state and women's rights to reproductive planning.

The Coalition is making the most of this growing publicity, a powerful lobbying presence, millions of dollars in funding, and the deference of elected officials and presidential hopefuls. The Coalition is quickly amassing the power to see its agenda realized.

 "Their agenda is rooted in elitism, restricted only by what polls say voters are willing to accept," says NOW Action Vice President Rosemary Dempsey. "It is masked in rhetoric that appeals to people's desire for a better society, but also uses their fears to cast blame. It is an agenda we are working to unmask, to educate the public about and to see brought to a halt before more real families are hurt."

 The "common sense values" that the Contract wants to restore include measures that would:

  • abolish the long-held Constitutional doctrine of separating church and state;
  • endanger the quality of education for low-income and special needs children by abolishing the Department of Education and installing voucher programs that divert dollars from public to private schools, which can reject students for numerous reasons;
  • threaten children's basic human rights by rejecting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;
  • end federal funding of the NEA and PBS, thereby endangering educational and cultural exhibits, workshops, and programs;
  • return prayer to schools;
  • deny children potentially life saving sex education under the guise of parental rights to regulate school curriculum;
  • endanger millions of families by transforming the bureaucratic welfare state into a system of private and faith- based compassion;
  • make birth control, family planning and other women's health services unavailable by denying funding to health clinics;
  • and undermine the right of all women to choose abortion.
Some religious denominations have started asking if it is appropriate to associate the word "Christian" with conservative political agendas. One group of 80 ecumenical leaders issued a "Cry for Renewal" that protested the actions of the Coalition and its identification with the Republican Party. The statement also criticized religious liberals who were affiliated with the Democratic Party for not showing, "moral imagination or prophetic integrity."

One question looming on the horizon: if the Contract is, as it claims, "the first word, not the last word," then where will the Coalition stop? A new, similarly unsigned and more extreme contract could be taken seriously if the Coalition continues to gain political power, if more religious-right supported candidates are elected, or if one wins the presidency. Dempsey says NOW's resounding answer is "stop these regressive measures now."

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