Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Invading the churches

Must-read of the day, from Sid Blumenthal's chip off the old block Max:
Avenging angel of the religious right

It's a profile of Howard Ahmanson, who (as previously noted) is also tied up with the Diebold voting-machine problem. Mostly, Blumenthal lays out the big picture regarding Ahmanson's plans for the right-wing domination of the nation's churches as well as its politics:
The Episcopal Church split is only a small part of Ahmanson's concerted efforts to radically transform not only American religion, but the nation's moral culture and, thereby, the country itself. His money has made possible some of the most pivotal conservative movements in America's recent history, including the 1994 GOP takeover of the California Legislature, a ban on gay marriage and affirmative action in California, and the mounting nationwide campaign to prove Darwin wrong about evolution. His financial influence also helped propel the recent campaign to recall California Gov. Gray Davis. And besides contributing cash to George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign, Ahmanson has played an important role in driving Bush's domestic agenda by financing the career of Marvin Olasky, a conservative intellectual whose ideas inspired the creation of the new White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

Of course, I've discussed this at length previously, particularly the involvement of the Institute of Religion and Democracy, which Blumenthal describes vividly:
The institute is directed by Diane Knippers, an evangelical Episcopalian and syndicated columnist who also happens to be a founding member of the Anglican Council and its acting executive director. She is the chief architect of the institute's Reforming America's Churches Project, which aims to "restructure the permanent governing structure" of "theologically flawed" mainline churches like the Episcopal Church in order to "discredit and diminish the Religious Left's influence." This has translated into a three-pronged assault on mainline Presbyterian, Methodist and Episcopal churches. With a staff of media-savvy research specialists, the institute is able to ply both the religious and mainstream media, exploiting divisive social issues within the churches.

"The larger framework for the challenge to the Episcopal Church is the ongoing right-wing effort to get control of the mainline denominations," says Alfred Ross, president of the Institute for Democratic Studies, a New York think tank that monitors anti-democratic political movements. "As the right looks to consolidate different squares on the chessboard, the mainline churches occupy key positions on that board."

Reportage like this is fundamental to the health of our democratic institutions, because it clearly exposes the thinking and machinations of the people driving the increasingly extremist conservative movement.

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