Jan 29, 1998

Washington, D.C. -- Americans United for Separation of Church and State has issued a new report detailing the Rutherford Institute's history of attacks against President Bill Clinton and the First Lady, debunking claims by the Institute's founder that he is not hostile to the president.

The Rutherford Institute, based in Charlottesville, Va., is handling Paula Jones' sexual harassment case against Clinton. When First Lady Hillary Clinton stated recently that right-wing groups were engaged in a "conspiracy" to discredit her husband, John W. Whitehead, founder and president of the Institute, was quick to deny the charge. Whitehead has insisted that the organization is not part of the Religious Right and is not in league with right-wing "Clinton-bashers."

Americans United says the facts speak otherwise. In a newly issued report, AU details the Rutherford Institute's long record of hostility toward the Clintons.

Highlights include:

An April 1994 article in a Rutherford Institute magazine calling Clinton's proposed health care reforms "the new Fascism." The article includes a photograph of Nazis wearing swastika armbands under a banner bearing the presidential seal reading, "Health Security." A separate article in the same issue asserts, "We have every indication that Clinton is quietly constructing a despotic government and a new society of intolerance to traditional values. So why don't we do something? The American people must recognize that Bill Clinton is a wolf in sheep's clothing."

A March 1994 Rutherford Institute fund-raising letter that asserts that under Clinton's proposed health care reform, "your child would suffer and die needlessly. You would be powerless." The letter also asserts, "We must stop the Clinton administration from destroying our rights as parents and our constitutional freedoms as citizens."

A January 1997 Rutherford appeal for funds noting that in the wake of Clinton's reelection "many people are disheartened and disillusioned. But this is not the time to become discouraged and give up." The letter goes ont to charge that Clinton's support for legal abortion could lead to "euthanasia for the aged and the killing of those considered not fit to live."

Rutherford's links to the Rev. Jerry Falwell, perhaps the most extreme of the Clinton-bashers. Whitehead has a regular column in Falwell's newspaper, and in a recent fax bulletin, Falwell praised Whitehead as "a fine Christian man" and asked supporters to pray for him.

Rutherford client Jones had her first major media exposure on TV preacher Pat Robertson's "700 Club." Robertson has repeatedly attacked Clinton and given the Jones story further coverage on his network.

The report also notes that Whitehead's Institute has a long history of using standard right-wing themes in fund-raising letters, including attacks on public education, gay people and separation of church and state.

"John Whitehead, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson preach a gospel of hate, and President and Mrs. Clinton rank high on the list of their targets," said Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn. "Americans need to be aware of the activities of these Religious Right leaders and groups and the scurrilous tactics they often use."

Full copies of the four-page report are available on request from Americans United. For a copy, call Rob Boston or Steve Benen at (202) 466-3234.