Conservative Leaders Seek Divorce From Pro-marriage Group

Some conservative leaders are cutting ties to a national organization formed to oppose gay marriage, asserting that the group has connections to a radical Islamic movement.

Politically conservative Rabbi Marc Gellman resigned from the advisory board of the Alliance for Marriage (AFM) in December after Jewish World Review, a right-wing journal, published an article asserting that an Alliance member, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), has ties to terrorists.

The article, written by Steve Emerson, asserted that the ISNA has raised money to pay for the legal defense of an accused leader of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Emerson called the ISNA "a radical group hiding under a false veneer of moderation."

Gellman told The Forward, a Jewish newspaper, "My moral conscience cannot allow me to be associated with an organization, ISNA, that terrorist experts...consider a front for Hamas and other hateful terrorist groups."

ISNA leaders deny any ties to terrorism.

"We are celebrating our 40th anniversary, and we have a record of credibility, trustworthiness, balance and moderation," ISNA Secretary General Sayyid M. Syeed told The Washington Times.

Matt Daniels, director of the AFM, declined to comment on the controversy directly but did release a letter from an attorney, Chuck Allen, citing sources that defended the ISNA.

"ISNA has not been listed or identified as a terrorist group by any federal department or agency," Allen reported. He added that "the FBI and the Department of Defense have worked with the ISNA on issues related to Islam and the Muslim community."

Paul Weyrich and Gary Bauer, two longtime Religious Right leaders, urged the AFM, which was formed with the goal of adding an amendment to the Constitution banning gay marriage, to investigate the charges.

"I hope that concern over ISNA doesn't lead to division in the pro-family movement at the very time we need unity to fight for this amendment," said Weyrich. "I don't want to see the pro-family movement damaged because of this. If you have a problem, acknowledge it and move on."

Bauer, a former presidential candidate who now runs a right-wing political action committee, concurred, telling The Times that the AFM should not "brush off or ignore the concerns that have been raised."

The AFM's troubles do not appear to have dampened the Religious Right's enthusiasm for an anti-gay marriage amendment. Some groups have promised to make the issue a litmus test during this year's elections, and pressure on lawmakers is expected to be intense.

Although the drive has been led primarily by mostly fundamentalist Protestant Religious Right groups, Roman Catholic prelates are also jumping on board. In Massachusetts, Boston Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley last month exhorted Catholic lawyers and judges to oppose gay marriage, the Boston Globe reported.

Speaking at a "Red Mass" for members of the legal profession, O'Malley remarked, "We cannot afford to be asleep at the switch. We cannot afford to run for cover. Today, at this Red Mass, I call on you, our Catholic lawyers and jurists, to live your baptismal commitment. Your baptism and your profession invest you with a great responsibility. Use your wisdom to defend the truth, to defend marriage. Do it with a passion and do what is right."

Failed Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork has also been drafted for the cause. At a later luncheon for Catholic lawyers, Bork ridiculed last year's 4-3 ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalizing gay marriage.

The ruling, Bork asserted, rests on "arguments that did not rise above the quality of a late-night philosophy session in a dormitory."

Bork, a convert to Catholicism, added, "We are no longer a government of laws, but one of four lawyers wearing robes."