Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Religious Right is alive and well, despite what Hugh Hewitt says

Think Progress notes more government funded Religious Right propaganda.

Mother Jones has a big takedown of the religious right here, and here, and here.

From the last article; which discusses Salem Communications, whose radio stations carry one "Hugh Hewitt," who is often found asking the disingenuous question, "What religious right?"

By melding business savvy, generous political giving, and an unshakable faith in their own moral righteousness, Epperson and Atsinger have built Salem into a blue-chip Wall Street company that has tapped into what Medved calls “a conservative religious counterculture” that is “far more powerful and far more significant than anything in the stupid counterculture of the 1960s.”

For all such thunder, resembles any other radio station. In its studio, a chubby, disheveled engineer spins the dials while a moody young woman struggles to keep pace with the flood of calls to Prager’s show. In his office, general manager Terry Fahy pores over Arbitron ratings and listener patterns. Look a little closer, though, and you’ll notice that the engineer’s T-shirt is emblazoned with a huge American flag and the words “God Bless America,” the screener’s handbag sports a “Jews for Bush and Cheney” pin, and on Fahy’s bookshelf is a small glass cross and a piece of framed scripture—the latter a gift from missionaries who smuggle Bibles into China.

According to University of Akron political science professor John C. Green, conservative Christians listen to Salem’s stations “the same way sports fans listen to sports radio shows,” keeping abreast of the latest developments regarding abortion, gay marriage, Iraq. In many ways, Green says, the chain typifies “the congealing of the religious communities into a potent political force. When traditional issues become important in campaigns—as they did in the last campaign—they can have a huge impact.” Programming such as Salem’s “challenges people to accept their obligation as Christian citizens,” says Frank Wright, president of National Religious Broadcasters. (Epperson currently serves on NRB’s board.) “Our faith in Jesus Christ has eternal spiritual dimensions, but it has a temporal practical obligation to live out your faith in the world around you. That means being involved in the world around you, whether it be the law or medicine—certainly government and politics.”

Salem’s stations allow the religious right to share information, mobilize allies, and galvanize public opinion. During the Terri Schiavo battle, Dobson took to Salem’s airwaves and told listeners: “A woman’s life hangs in the balance. We really have to defend this woman, because if she dies, the lives of thousands of people around the country can be killed, too. There’s a principle here: It’s a paradigm of death versus a paradigm of life.” Dobson’s cohost then reeled off the phone numbers of Florida legislators. Salem’s founders are as politically skilled as their hosts. Time magazine recently named Epperson—who’s twice run for Congress as a Republican—as one of “the 25 most influential evangelicals in America” in a cover-story package that asked “What Does Bush Owe Them?” Atsinger is a Bush Pioneer, meaning he gave $100,000 to the president’s reelection campaign. In the 1990s, he helped revolutionize California politics, first by running Christians for local school boards and then backing candidates who took over the legislature. In 2000, the two men, along with a close political ally, funneled $780,000 into a California state ballot initiative to ban gay marriages. Both have served on the board of the Council for National Policy, a secretive and exclusive network of conservative activists and moneymen...

In addition to patient proselytizing, Salem’s rapid expansion owed a lot to Reagan-era deregulation. Until 1987, the FCC required broadcasters to provide equal time to political opponents. And the last thing a religious broadcaster wanted to do was eat up airtime with liberals “promoting” abortion and homosexuality. But when the FCC repealed the fairness doctrine, the shackles that had forced Salem to tiptoe cautiously around the society’s great cultural fault lines fell away. KKLA station manager Terry Fahy first realized the raw political power Salem now commanded when Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ hit the theaters in 1988. KKLA spearheaded a demonstration at MCA Universal Studios, where chanting protesters mobbed the entrance, waving signs and banners. “They were saying Route 101 is really blocked, you can’t get there,” remembers Fahy, who now manages Salem’s four-station L.A. cluster. Tens of thousands of people also participated in protests at theaters and video stores nationwide. That was a lot of Christians—enough, by any objective measure, to wield significant political clout if harnessed.

It was around this time that Jerry Sloan, a former fundamentalist minister turned gay activist who heads Project Tocsin, which monitors the political activities of evangelical groups in California, began hearing the name Edward Atsinger III. The reason had nothing to do with radio. In 1989, a mysterious entity named the Capitol Commonwealth Group began recruiting Christian activists to run for school boards and other offices. “Nobody knew who they were, but we got word from candidates who said they were being asked questions about their feelings on homosexuality and abortion,” Sloan says.

Liberals would forever after ruefully refer to what happened next as the “San Diego Surprise.” Sixty of the mysterious group’s 90 candidates won. The surprise part came when parents realized the new school board members advocated school prayer and creationism—and that their financial backers were the largely unknown, but ex- tremely wealthy, evangelicals Howard Ahmanson Jr. and Robert Hurtt, who’d founded a like-named lobby shop (Capitol Resource Institute) a few years earlier. Ahmanson is an heir to a savings and loan fortune and a trustee of a think tank run by the Reverend R.J. Rushdoony, who preached that the death penalty should be instituted for crimes against the family, such as homosexuality and marital infidelity (see “A Nation Under God,” page 32). Hurtt is a wealthy businessman and devout follower of James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family and a Salem host.

Salem Communications is thus one of the epicenters of the religious right, and Hugh Hewitt is either being willfully ignorant or intentionally lying when he denies the existence of such networks and their agenda.

Gary De Mar, one of the luminaries of the American Taliban, is not amused.

But here's a good quote from Reconstructionist Gary North to ponder, from the first link in the Mother Jones series:

We must use the doctrine of religious liberty…until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy constructing a Bible-based social, political, and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.

This is why the religious right must be opposed.

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