House Speaker Hastert Names Catholic
Priest As New Chaplain
Desperately seeking to defuse a festering inter-religious controversy, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives made a surprise appointment in late March and named a Roman Catholic priest as House chaplain.
The Rev. Daniel P. Coughlin of Chicago was sworn in March 23 by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). Coughlin had been interviewed for the post just three days before, and many political observers speculated that Hastert's swift action indicated his desire to put the controversy over the House chaplain behind him.
The flare-up over the chaplaincy began five months ago when the previous occupant, the Rev. James Ford, announced his retirement. A House committee of Republicans and Democrats began meeting to select a replacement. According to various accounts, their top choice was the Rev. Timothy O'Brien, a Catholic priest in Washington, with the Rev. Charles Parker Wright, a Presbyterian minister, listed as one of two runners-up. Even though O'Brien received the most votes among committee members, Hastert and House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) later announced that the position would be given to Wright.
Democratic members of the House charged that O'Brien had been passed over due to anti-Catholic bias. In media interviews, O'Brien complained of being subjected to inappropriate questioning from evangelical Protestant House members, including one member who wondered if the priest's clerical collar would be divisive.
The flap quickly took on political dimensions. Republicans, still smarting from GOP presidential candidate George W. Bush's visit to the stridently anti-Catholic Bob Jones University in South Carolina, were eager to prove to Catholic voters, an important swing bloc in national elections, that they hold no animus toward members of that faith.
When it became obvious that Democrats would not support Wright's appointment, he withdrew his name from consideration, leading Hastert to tap Coughlin. Hastert, a Chicago-area native who lists his religion as "Protestant," apparently chose Coughlin on the basis of a recommendation from Cardinal Francis George, Chicago's conservative church leader.
On the House floor, an angry Hastert accused Democrats of exploiting the situation to make Republicans appear to be anti-Catholic. "I have never seen a more cynical and more destructive political campaign," Hastert said. "That such a campaign should be waged in connection with the selection of the House chaplain brings shame on this House."
But Democrats responded that Hastert was to blame for the fiasco by rejecting O'Brien when he was the favored choice of the committee. "I don't care who is chaplain," Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mitch.) told The New York Times. "If you're going to have a process, you want it to be fair."
Hastert's appointment of Coughlin didn't end the bitterness. Two weeks after the swearing-in, the Republican National Committee announced plans for a Catholic mass and reception in honor of the new chaplain. Some Democrats saw the event as a partisan maneuver.
Charging that the Republicans were trivializing the mass, Rep. Jerry Kleczka (D-Wisc.) said, "For them to use the Catholic Church in a continuing attempt to attract Catholic voters is, I think, disgusting." Kleczka, a Catholic, said he was particularly offended that RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson was a reader at the April 11 service.
Nicholson, however, hailed the event as "a wonderful, historic, auspicious occasion." He said the Coughlin selection would squelch charges that the GOP is anti-Catholic.
"They were bogus in the first place," he told Catholic News Service. "But this certainly is proof positive that the Republican Party is a very pro-Catholic, inclusive party."
Meanwhile, Coughlin saw his new role in quite specifically religious terms.
According to CNS, he told the GOP reception, "I love the Lord Jesus Christ, and I have a great partnership with Christ. If I can bring that to the Hill and to anyone I meet, I just continually praise God for that."
Americans United Executive Director Barry Lynn said the whole controversy underscores why the position should be done away with. "Having a taxpayer-financed chaplain is misguided and divisive, and Congress would be wise to take a lesson from this mess and abolish the post altogether," said Lynn.
Discrimination OK Under 'Charitable Choice,' Rep. Souder Concedes
Houses of worship would be permitted to engage in open religious bigotry and continue to receive federal housing funding under "charitable choice" legislation approved by the House of Representatives April 6, a key congressional backer of the idea has admitted.
The concession came as the House was considering the American Homeownership and Economic Opportunity Act (H.R. 1776), a $6.9-billion program intended to make it easier for municipal employees to buy a home. An amendment sponsored by Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) added charitable choice language to the bill that makes religious institutions eligible for funding under the legislation. Souder's controversial proposal passed 299-124. (The full bill passed by a 417-8 vote.)
During floor debate, Souder was forced to concede that under his proposal, churches affiliated with institutions such as Bob Jones University could engage in federally funded religious discrimination. Souder also conceded that some minority religious groups would probably be denied funding under his plan.
On the House floor, Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) asked Souder, "Next year, would a church associated with Bob Jones University be able to put out a sign saying, 'Using your tax dollars, no Catholics need apply here for a job'?"
In response, Souder said, "If Secretary Cuomo or the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development chose to give [federal funding] to a place that would discriminate on that basis, which could include Jewish, Catholic, evangelical, then that could happen."
Souder went on to acknowledge that some minority religious groups probably would not get funding under his proposal. Edwards asked, "Would the Wiccans be able to apply for federal tax funding?"
Souder, apparently looking beyond the November election, responded, "It is unlikely under President Bush that the witches would get funding."
Americans United, which has led the fight against charitable choice funding since its inception in the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, found Souder's floor remarks revealing and deeply problematic.
"The secret's out: charitable choice funds religious bigotry with our tax dollars," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "Every American who values basic fairness and decency should be appalled."
Continued Lynn, "Souder proved a point we have been making for several years. Under charitable choice, federal tax dollars can go to religious groups that could then use the money to openly discriminate. This is fundamentally un-American. Souder's remarks about Wiccans were equally troubling. Under his approach, religious groups he approves of get aid from the government, and groups he doesn't like get left out. For a member of Congress to endorse this narrow-minded approach is shameful and offensive."
Supreme Court Hears Arguments In Texas 'Football Prayer' Case
Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court grilled attorneys closely on both sides of the issue during a spirited oral argument March 29 over the constitutionality of school-sponsored prayer before football games in Texas.
The case is being closely watched, since it is the first religion-and-schools dispute before the high court since 1992. Religious Right groups, which favor the pro-prayer policy in place in Santa Fe, Texas, brought out their big gun: attorney Jay Sekulow of TV preacher Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice.
Arguing on behalf of the school district, Sekulow insisted that the policy in Santa Fe, which permits a student elected by his or her peers to give invocational "messages" before football games, is neutral because it is "student led." Sekulow insisted that the prayers are permissible because the decision is left to the student. The attorney attempted to portray the policy as one meant to foster free speech.
But Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was quick to demolish that argument. Under close questioning, Sekulow was forced to admit that under the Santa Fe policy, school officials would not permit certain types of "messages," such as a student calling on the football team to physically assault members of the opposing team.
Justice David Souter followed up, asking Sekulow if a student would be free to give a message insisting that "religion is bunk." Although Sekulow argued that a student could give such a message, Souter countered that the school district would probably not allow it, since it would not qualify as an invocation.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, generally regarded as a swing vote in the case, seemed troubled by the district's policy of allowing students to vote on having prayer. "So they have a school election on whether or not there should be prayer," he said. "That, I think, is what our Establishment Clause [of the First Amendment] jurisprudence seeks to keep out of schools."
Texas Attorney General John Cornyn joined Sekulow in arguing on behalf of the prayer policy. Since it is unusual for a state attorney general to defend a local school district at the highest court in the land, Cornyn's appearance was widely interpreted as an effort by presidential hopeful Gov. George W. Bush to court the Religious Right.
Anthony P. Griffin, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union in Texas, faced a barrage of questions from the court's anti-separationist bloc, led by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Antonin Scalia. Rehnquist and Scalia both implied that the Santa Fe policy may be constitutional because, as Rehnquist put it, "Nobody has to go to football games." But Griffin quickly quipped, "When you're a teenager, yes you do."
The case, Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, was filed by two anonymous families, one Mormon and the other Roman Catholic. A decision is expected by early July.
Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief before the high court urging the justices to strike down the prayer policy. According to the AU brief, the policy fosters religious majoritarianism and requires students to participate in religious worship against their will.
Baptist Children's Home Can't Discriminate With Tax Dollars, Groups Say
In a ground-breaking case that will test the boundaries of tax aid to church-run social services, Americans United and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky have filed suit against public funding of a Baptist children's home in Kentucky.
Americans United and the ACLU charge that the state government may not pay for services at the Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children (KBHC) because the religious group uses the money to advance its religious agenda.
The dispute over state funding of the Baptist agency arose in October 1998, when the KBHC fired family specialist Alicia Pedreira because she is a lesbian. Despite exemplary job performance, Pedreira was terminated because Baptist officials said homosexuality conflicts with Christian beliefs that are central to the agency's mission.
The firing took place even though $13 million of the Baptist home's $19 million budget last year came from the state government. Sources say only 5 percent of the religious agency's funding came from Baptist churches.
The Pedreira v. Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children lawsuit, filed April 17 in federal district court in Louisville, charges that the constitutional separation of church and state forbids government funding of a religious organization that discriminates on the basis of religion and uses taxpayer money to advance a particular religious viewpoint.
Plaintiffs in the case include Pedreira, three members of the clergy and an African-American civil rights activist. A couple whose child was helped by Pedreira at the Kentucky children's home also are plaintiffs. The couple said she was the first counselor to make a difference in their son's life.
Americans United Trustee Paul D. Simmons, a Baptist minister and a clinical professor at the University of Louisville Medical School, represented AU at a press conference announcing the filing of the lawsuit.
"Churches should get their hands out of the public coffers, and government should stop trying to use churches as proxy service providers," Simmons said.
Urging Baptist leaders to remember their historic doctrines, Simmons observed, "Baptists once held the position that churches should reject entangling alliances with government powers....Accepting government monies means the church must accept public accountability, which is necessary and right."
Congressional Leaders Sponsor Birthday Gala For Pat Robertson
Top leaders of Congress helped cosponsor a birthday celebration for TV preacher Pat Robertson in March, despite the religious broadcaster's record of religious and political extremism.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) were among the "Inner Circle Sponsors" on the invitations for the Pat Robertson 70th Birthday Celebration, which took place March 24 at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C.
Other "Inner Circle Sponsors" included U.S. Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.), House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas), U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.).
Ironically, although the officials' names were listed prominently on invitations for the $50 per person event, observers who attended didn't see any of them there. However, top officials from Robertson's home state were well represented at the five-hour celebration. They included Gov. Jim Gilmore, Lieutenant Gov. John Hager and Attorney General Mark Earley. (Gilmore sat beside Robertson at the head table during the dinner.)
Americans United criticized the congressional endorsement of the TV preacher. Said AU's Executive Director Barry W. Lynn, "Pat Robertson makes Bob Jones III look tolerant, yet major leaders of Congress still sign up to kiss his ring and toss him flowers. What a disgrace!"
Lynn charged that Robertson's power in Congress and in national political circles has reached new heights even though his Christian Coalition has waned in influence.
Lynn also said that Robertson's rhetoric has remained extreme. The day before the event, Americans United released a document to the media pointing out Robertson's long track record of extremism.
Although members of Congress were in short supply, a number of Religious Right personalities turned out. Among those in attendance were the Rev. Jerry Falwell (who gave the invocation), evangelist Benny Hinn, former Christian Coalition Executive Director Ralph Reed, school prayer activist William Murray and the Rev. Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition.
The birthday celebration was held under the aegis of the "Pat Robertson 70th Birthday Committee, Inc.," a separate group set up for the occasion. Observers believe the Christian Coalition and Robertson's religious ministries were kept at arm's length so that nervous donors could claim they were not supporting Robertson's extreme political and religious agenda.
Among the "Gold Sponsors" of the evening was First Virginia Bank. Price Waterhouse Coopers took a full-page ad in the program, as did Bogart Holland, a senior vice president at Paine Webber.
In other news about Robertson:
* Although he has not been a minister since 1988, when he voluntarily gave up his Southern Baptist ordination while running for president, Robertson has continued to preach and practice faith healing on television. But now the religious broadcaster claims to be a minister once again. Days after his 70th birthday, the Virginia Beach evangelist was "re-ordained" at a ceremony at his Regent University.
During the March 27 event, six religious leaders formed a semi-circle around Robertson and laid hands on him, proclaiming him ordained anew. The six were evangelist D.G.S. Dhinakaran of India; Jack Hayford of The Church on the Way in Van Nuys, Calif.; John Howe, a Florida bishop in the Episcopal Church; Frank Hughes, a retired Baptist pastor in Virginia; Vinson Synan, Regent's divinity school dean and Thomas Trask, chief executive of the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination.
Robertson's action was not without controversy. The Rev. Donald Dunlap, who was pastor of Freemason Street Baptist Church in Norfolk, where Robertson was originally ordained in 1960, told reporters only his church could re-ordain Robertson and said the ceremony at Regent was meaningless. "You cannot reaffirm what no longer exists," he said.
* Death penalty foes were surprised recently when Robertson, a long-time supporter of capital punishment, called for a temporary ban on executions. During a symposium at the College of William and Mary April 7, Robertson told a questioner in the audience he still believes the death penalty is morally justified in some cases but that it is being applied in a discriminatory manner. He called for a moratorium to study the issue.
A few days later fellow Virginia TV preacher Jerry Falwell took issue. "Pat and I do not disagree on many things, but on this one we do," he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "While courts do make mistakes, I do not believe the mistake level is at the point where we need to rethink our whole system, and I personally believe that we need to reduce the time between conviction and execution."
Oklahoma Legislators Want To Put 'Creator' In Science Textbooks
Escalating an ongoing controversy in Oklahoma, the state House of Representatives passed a bill April 5 requiring public school science textbooks to say there is "one God as the creator of human life in the universe."
The proposal was attached to a measure dealing with the Oklahoma State Textbook Committee, a panel that sparked controversy last year when it ordered that all science texts must carry a disclaimer criticizing evolution. The move was widely interpreted as an attempt to bring creationism in through the backdoor.
The disclaimers were put on hold after Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmonson ruled that the textbook committee has no authority to order them. That prompted the legislature to jump into the fray.
The "creator" measure was sponsored by Rep. Jim Reese, a Republican from Nardin. Reese insisted the move is legal, citing references to God on money and in the Pledge of Allegiance. On the same day it passed Reese's amendment, the House approved a separate scheme that would give the committee the authority to insert "a one-page summary, opinion or disclaimer" into all textbooks.
Reese's amendment passed 99-0, but there is some indication that many lawmakers voted for it only because they believe it will be removed from the bill later when a conference committee composed of members of the House and state Senate take up the legislation. An effort to bypass the conference committee failed when it deadlocked 49-49.
Americans United warned Oklahoma legislators that they are inviting a lawsuit if the bill becomes law. "This legislation is outrageous and unconstitutional," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "This is America, not Iran. Our legislators are not supposed to be judges of religious truth."
Continued Lynn, "The Constitution requires public schools to be neutral on religious matters. Forcing science books to acknowledge 'one God as the creator' is a far cry from neutrality."
Lynn said Americans United will monitor the progress of the legislation and added, "The conference committee should have no question about what will happen if this bill becomes law. Americans United will not hesitate to file suit, and I am confident that courts would strike down this patently unconstitutional effort."
Reed Apologizes For Lobbying Bush On Behalf Of Microsoft
Former Christian Coalition Executive Director Ralph Reed has apologized after it became public that he was being paid by Microsoft to lobby presidential hopeful George W. Bush while serving as a paid consultant to the Republican candidate.
Reed, who is a senior adviser to Bush's campaign, acknowledged last month that it was wrong of him to encourage "a small number of individuals" to lobby Bush on Microsoft's behalf. Reed denied having discussed the Microsoft case with Bush personally.
"It is an error that we regret," read an April 11 statement issued by Reed's political consulting firm, Century Strategies. Just one day earlier Reed had refused to comment on the matter when contacted by The New York Times.
Microsoft is currently embroiled in a costly anti-trust lawsuit and apparently hoped to curry favor with Bush in the event that he is elected president. The Justice Department is suing the corporation, alleging that it worked to stifle competition and create a monopoly in the provision of personal computer operating systems. The government won its case against Microsoft in early April, and a federal judge is mulling over what types of penalties to apply against the firm
Reed has worked as a consultant for Microsoft since 1998. According to The New York Times, Reed's Atlanta-based firm was asked to counter efforts by Microsoft's business competitors by persuading prominent Bush supporters to approach the Texas governor and express views favorable toward Microsoft. The paper reported that the plan was laid out in detail in a series of e-mails from John Pudner, senior project manager at Reed's firm.
Copies of the e-mails were sent to The Times by a recipient who disagreed with the maneuver. Another source reported that Reed's consultants were to be paid $300 for each letter they had sent to Bush.
The Times reported that the Reed scheme, which lasted only about 10 days, was a flop and said Bush received only one letter about the matter from a high donor. Nevertheless, the Bush team was clearly irked to learn about the secret lobbying project. The campaign issued a statement saying Reed "made the right decision" and adding, "We're pleased that he will cease his effort to lobby the governor on this issue."
Reed will apparently not be fired by the Republican candidate. According to columnist Robert Novak, Bush supporters in Washington wanted to get rid of Reed, but the candidate's inner circle in Austin saw the former Pat Robertson prot\xe9g\xe9 as "an important link to the key religious conservative constituency."
Religious Right Backs Special Role At UN For Catholic Church
Conservative Protestant groups, including James C. Dobson's Focus on the Family, have banded together to help the Vatican fend off an effort to end its official seat at the United Nations.
Leaders from both religious and secular right-wing groups appeared at a press conference at the UN March 15 to denounce an effort to reclassify the church's status.
The Roman Catholic Church, under the auspices of the "Holy See," holds status as a Non-Member State Permanent Observer at the United Nations. The church hierarchy uses this position, which is the same as the country of Switzerland, to oppose population control, sex education, abortion services, women's issues and gay rights, especially in the Third World. The special designation allows the Vatican to participate in UN debates but gives it no vote in the General Assembly.
Catholics for a Free Choice (CFC), a Washington-based group that is spearheading the drive to change the Vatican's role, says it would like to see the Holy See have the same UN status as other religious groups--a non-governmental organization. CFC has launched a "See Change" Campaign calling on the UN secretary general to revise the church's status. More than 400 organizations have endorsed the CFC effort.
To counter that move, right-wing leaders gathered 1,015 signatures from religious and secular groups opposing any change in the Vatican's status. Backers include conservative Protestant-oriented organizations such as Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, the National Association of Evangelicals and Charles Colson's Prison Fellowship. In addition, the appeal was endorsed by several hard-line Muslim groups and Kathryn Balmforth, a law professor at Brigham Young University, a Mormon school.
"We Christians from all denominations will stand with our Catholic allies to see that the abortion industry is not successful at silencing the Holy See at the UN," said Tom Minnery, vice president of Focus on the Family.
American politicians have also weighed in. The Republican National Committee's Catholic Task Force has declared its support for the Vatican's special status. Task Force Co-Chair Bonnie Livingston (wife of former U.S. Rep. Robert Livingston, R-La.) said the drive to "kick the Vatican out of the United Nations offends Catholics."
RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson in March demanded that Democratic candidates Al Gore and Hillary Clinton repudiate the move to change the Vatican's role. He called the effort "a very unholy war" that seeks to "muzzle the voice of over 1 billion Catholics."
Meanwhile, in Congress Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.) has introduced a resolution (S.Con.Res. 87) supporting continuation of the Vatican's preferred position. In the House, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) has filed a similar measure (H.Con.Res. 253), which is cosponsored by Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) and Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas).
House Votes Down School Prayer Scheme In New Hampshire
The New Hampshire House of Representatives has defeated a resolution calling on Congress to pass a school prayer amendment.
Lawmakers in the conservative, 400-member body voted down the plan 179-162 March 23. The amendment in question has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.). It reads, "Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit individual or group prayer in public schools or other public institutions." It is not expected to see movement this year.
According to the Manchester Union Leader, Rep. Raymond Buckley, a Manchester Democrat, argued in favor of the resolution, saying it is the answer to "what's ailing the souls of America's children."
But other lawmakers remained skeptical, arguing that the amendment would foster religious divisiveness in public schools. "I believe House Resolution 20 isn't about voluntary prayer, it's about involuntary prayer," said Rep. Frances Potter, a Concord Democrat.
A few weeks earlier, the New Hampshire House voted overwhelmingly to kill a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would have removed the ban on taxpayer funding of religious schools.
By a 241-85 vote, the legislators voted to retain a sentence in the New Hampshire Constitution that reads, "[N]o money raised by taxation shall ever be granted or applied for the use of schools or institutions of any religious sect or denomination."
The New Hampshire House has a 246-153 Republican majority.
Christian Prayers At Minnesota Legislature: Like It Or Leave?
An unholy row over legislative prayers has divided the Minnesota House of Representatives.
The nasty battle broke out in February after Rep. Arlon Lindner, a Republican from Corcoran, accused a Democratic lawmaker of being a member of the "irreligious left" and made anti-Semitic comments on the House floor.
Until last year, prayers that open meetings of the House were "non-denominational." But the chamber is now under Republican control, and some of the prayers being said are leaving some lawmakers a little uneasy. For many, things went too far when House leaders recently brought in a choir to open the day's session with a musical rendition of the Apostles' Creed.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that the song left some House members "visibly uncomfortable with what they considered an overly religious display." A bloc of legislators later pushed through a rule requiring that in the future, prayer be non-denominational.
One of the lawmakers offended was Rep. Michael Paymar, a St. Paul Democrat who is Jewish. Paymar told the House, "I would like to be part of that moment where a religious leader gets up before us and has a prayer. But I would like that to be non-denominational, and I would like it to be respectful of who I am."
Lindner quickly replied, "You know, we're told there's one God and one mediator between God and man. That man is Jesus Christ. And most of us here are Christians. And we shouldn't be left not able to pray in the name of our God....And if you don't like it, you may have to like it. Or just don't come. I don't come sometimes for some prayers here....We have that privilege, and you need to exercise it. But don't impose your irreligious left views on me."
At this point, Rep. Matt Entenza, a Democrat from St. Paul, rose and asked Lindner to rethink his comments. When Lindner refused to reply, Entenza put forth a "protest of dissent" petition asking the House Ethics Committee to reprimand Lindner. It was signed by 60 House members, including eight Republicans.
Of Leo And Lenin: Happy Earth Day From The Religious Right
Is actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio a communist?
The Family Research Council (FRC) seems to think so. In an April 20 "CultureFacts" alert headlined "Of Leo and Lenin," the Washington, D.C.-based Religious Right group said DiCaprio and "several other entertainment types" were descending on the nation's capital the following weekend to "celebrate population control, economic redistribution and the environment."
The FRC, a spinoff of Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family, thought the timing of the Earth Day event was mighty suspicious. "The socialist-leaning movement known as environmentalism," the FRC noted darkly, "is observing the 30th Annual Earth Day, which happens to coincide with communist dictator Nikolai Lenin's birthday."
Coincidence? The FRC apparently doesn't think so.
Instead of DiCaprio and company, the FRC recommended that Americans look to the Interfaith Council for Environmental Stewardship, a new coalition of conservative religious leaders that will offer a "Judeo-Christian" alternative on the environment.
The Council held a press conference in Washington, D.C., April 17 to release a document called the "Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship." Endorsers include James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family, TV preacher D. James Kennedy, the Rev. Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association, Charles Colson of Prison Fellowship, Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ, World magazine editor Marvin Olasky, Christian Reconstructionist author George Grant and Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
Conservative Catholics included the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus of the Institute on Religion and Public Life, the Rev. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life and the Acton Institute's Robert Sirico, a Catholic priest who spearheaded the Cornwall Declaration.
The religious leaders charge that liberal environmentalists "elevate concern for nature above concern for people." They deny that global warming is occurring, argue that there is no overpopulation crisis and insist there is no evidence for rampant disappearance of species.