United States of Jesus

The folks who are "reclaiming America for Christ" are pushing an agenda for a Taliban-like state where Scripture is law

That tactic certainly has worked for Christian conservatives in the San Diego suburbs. Their takeover of the Grossmont Union High School District School Board is a model of Christian political strategy. Gary Cass, a local pastor, had launched a petition drive in the mid-1990s to oust the School Board president, who supported adding "sexual orientation" to the district's antidiscrimination policy. The drive failed, but Cass established an antigay constituency, and it helped him gain a seat on the board in 1998.

Cass, who regularly attended Kennedy's conferences in South Florida, says he began holding "Reclaiming San Diego for Christ" conferences. "I thought being right would be enough," Cass says. "It wasn't. That's when we decided to get involved in politics." He was elected to the county's Republican Central Committee, which helps select and groom candidates. He encouraged other conservative Christians to run for seats on the central committee. By the fall election of 2002, Christians had gained sway over the county's Republican Party, which was using school boards and city councils to build "farm teams" for recruitment of candidates for higher office.

Voter turnout was extremely low in the 2002 election, and, just as Bailes advises, Republicans did their best to court that tiny wedge of undecided voters. Cass and two of his congregants, this time emphasizing fiscal restraint more than hot-button social issues, were listed as endorsed candidates on the GOP voting guide. All three won, giving the conservatives a "4-1 super majority" on the School Board, Cass says.

Local pastor O'Neal Dozier preaches that gays make God vomit. In his spare time, he helps Jeb Bush select Broward County's judges.
Local pastor O'Neal Dozier preaches that gays make God vomit. In his spare time, he helps Jeb Bush select Broward County's judges.

God's Gavelers

Winning elections is all well and good, but that goal clearly takes a back seat to gaining control of the judiciary. How can that be achieved? "One case at a time," says Mathew Staver, who in 1989 founded Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit legal defense law firm based in Orlando. A former pastor, Staver is one of the pioneers of what he calls the religious liberty legal litigation movement, which began only in the 1990s. Lantern-jawed with short dirty-blond hair, Staver calls the judicial system the "epicenter for the battle over our religious freedoms, the sanctity of human life, and our traditional family values."

The litigation movement has made headway, especially in schools. Last year, Liberty Counsel won a lawsuit on behalf of the Child Evangelism Fellowship in California, which sponsors an after-school religious program called the Good News Club. The suit was filed over a policy by the Los Angeles Unified School District that allowed Boy Scout and Girl Scout meetings for free on school property but charged a fee for church, community, and business groups. A federal judge ruled that the fees discriminated against the Good News Club and were a violation of the First Amendment.

To some, this might seem a benign victory, but it's merely the means to a greater end for theocrats.

"Now, every one of those schools has become an open door for evangelism," Staver declares, "so that right after the last bell on a public school, you can now begin a Good News Club, which I describe as a high-powered Sunday School program that not only teaches morals and character and values and respect but most of all introduces young people to Jesus Christ who will change their mind, renew their mind, and restore the culture. Every public school in America is an open area for evangelism, and every school should have a Good News Club or an after-school Christian club to reach these young people in America."

Liberty Counsel plans to give the ACLU a run for its money. Staver recalls the case of a high school commencement speaker who planned to talk about "what Jesus had done for her." School officials forbade her to talk on that subject. Staver called the school's superintendent, who said the ACLU could file a lawsuit over the issue. When Staver learned that it had been five years since the ACLU had last contacted the school, he gave the administrator a choice: fear the absentee ACLU or see him in federal court tomorrow. The school relented.

Gay rights are the "biggest threat to our religious freedom," Staver says. The U.S. Supreme Court's decision earlier this year that overturned a Texas law that criminalized sodomy drives Staver and Co. bonkers. To understand why, he says, you have to go all the way back to the creation of Adam and Eve. "Somehow in that relationship as husband and wife, as a unit, together, they are in his image," he explained. Any other arrangement is dangerous. He analogized it to radioactive material, which is beneficial if it remains inside the nuclear reactor but destructive if it leaks out. Same deal with human sexuality: Take it out of the radioactive container of marriage and you've got an adulterous and homosexual China syndrome that "produces destruction and death."

It's time to get Jesus into the judicial mix, Staver says. "Now we're working to establish Liberty University School of Law, which will open its doors in August 2004," he announces. "We are going to teach lawyers to think in a biblical, Christian world view. They will indeed expand this area of litigation." Those students will in turn one day become instructors at other law schools, and, most important, they'll become judges, he promises.

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