DISPELLING THE DEMONS - A Treatise on Effectively Confronting the New Religious Right
By: Jim Tremlett
Ever since Bill Clinton became president, the Religious Right's activities have increased dramatically. It would seem that, having taken it relatively easy for the last twelve years, the defeat of George Bush has become a rallying cry for them to get their act together and retake America for the "decent" citizenry. Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition has been among the most active of these organizations; orchestrating overthrows of local Republican organizations to get "Biblically oriented" representatives as chairpersons and delegates, and working to get CC members onto school boards, city commissions, and other low-level positions. Meanwhile, Donald Wildmon's American Family Association (AFA) has been redoubling their efforts to "clean up" Hollywood via an advertisement/petition campaign. Hollywood's usual crapola could stand a dose of intelligence, yes, but a call for a return to "standards" from a man who disliked Murphy Brown for "bitchiness" would be like going to the guillotine for a haircut. There have been several excellent articles written in THE ROC and other magazines about the new Religious Right, and the dangers they represent. However, few have really given us ways to fight this menace, other than helping us to "know thy enemy." If we are to overcome the wave of zealotry that is sweeping our country's political scene, we must do more than understand; we must fight. Here's how:
1. KEEP IN TOUCH: As masochistic as it may be, it pays to keep tabs on what the Religious Right is doing and saying. Write to organizations like the American Family Association, Christian Leaders for Responsible TV, The Christian Coalition, Focus On the Family, and others (many can be found in this issue under "Know Your Enemies") to get information. The cheesier your letter is, the more chance they'll think you're for real and respond quickly. DO NOT SEND THEM ANY MONEY! If they stop sending you material, get one of your friends to write in and borrow their copy.
It really works, too. When I was president of FACTS (Friendly Anti-Censorship Taskforce for Students at Ohio University, we had one of our members write away for information to several of these organizations. He wrote an extremely sappy letter bemoaning the sad state of American pop culture and showed an interest in "taking back" his child. While the PMRC never wrote back (I think his amusing pseudonym tipped them off), we get lots of stuff from the AFA and John Ankerberg ministries. Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism (Jay Sekulow's group, also allied with the Christian Coalition through the 700 Club and the new American Center for Law & Justice) even sent us a paperback copy of Sekulow's "From Intimidation to Victory: Regaining the Christian Right to Speak" through the mail.
While their tripe might nauseate you, remember that these materials are the direct pipeline to their flock. You will find out what their boycotts are as soon as their local chapters do, and can act right away. This also costs them extra money, helps deplete their resources, gives you valuable insight into their tactics and thinking, and is occasionally good for a laugh.
2. DEFUSE DEMAGOGUERY. Much of the Religious Right's attacks on our popular culture are based on spreading fear, exaggerations, and outright lies about their opposition. They accuse gays of being child molesters, feminists of being bull-dykes, and liberals as being potheads. They use old myths and spectacularly gruesome examples to "prove" their statements (like the kids who kill and mutilate their parents for Satan after listening to Led Zeppelin). Deny them this cheap victory by providing positive examples from the community and asking them to show some proof of these accusations; real proof, not conjecture.
3. REFUSE AND REFUTE: Be ready to counter letters to the editor, advertisements, and other propaganda with cool headed, factual countermeasures that effectively and clearly refute their arguments. For example, the Religious Right often talks about the "gay agenda": does anyone know of an actual gay agenda? What is it? Do they have it in writing? Who wrote it? Who implemented it? Once again, demand real proof.
4. MIND YOUR P'S AND S's: If you are ever fortunate enough to get into a panel discussion or a debate with members of the Religious Right, always remember your "prove it!"s and "so?"s. When they claim "sex education in the schools is pornography," say "Prove It!" When they moan about gays or porno mags, or anything else, say "So?" Don't let them just make blanket statements or play with people's heart strings; get them to expound upon their points (if they can) and refute them from that. When they go "End of discussion," say "No, I don't think so" and keep the heat on. Always be calm and never raise your voice; let them make fools of themselves, never allow them to make one out of you.
5. COUNTERACT & ATTACK: Learn to defeat them by using their tactics against them. When they announce a boycott of a product, start a campaign to counter that boycott and let the company know what you're doing. Write to the targeted show and show your support. Be sure to send the Boycotters something to let them know that you're onto them too. When they go against a school board to ban a book, get involved with the school, the teachers, and the students to save it.
6. DON'T HATE THE MEDIA, HELP IT: Call in the news whenever possible. The Religious Right has a love/hate relationship with the media: praising it when it makes them look good and damning it as the "liberal elite" when it exposes them for what they are. As a result, they are usually smooth while in front of the cameras; it's only when you get them out of range of a tape recorder that they go back to being themselves. Kudos to you if you catch them unawares...
Never let them hog all the air time; if they get a rally televised, make yourself seen by orchestrating a counter-rally, or holding another one at another time. Learn how to make press releases and use them frequently. Never lose your cool on screen, always appear more calm than your opponents. (A great example of this occurred in Columbus, Ohio when The Last Temptation of Christ got picketed. There was a big crowd in front of the theatre holding signs and marching and screaming and yelling about how evil the film was, and, across the way, a lone protester stood with a sign that read, "How can it be libel if it's a fictional character?" He got on the tube too, and made quite a poignant statement all by himself without resorting to violent, in-your-face shouting matches that often accompany counter-rallies).
7. NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK: Network like crazy to get others involved. There are several anti-censorship organizations working out there, but most of them work within a certain sphere and only help each other out on an irregular basis. That just won't work anymore. If the AFA can collect close to a million signatures demanding that Hollywood cleans up its act, we need to get as many or more telling the "liberal elite" to keep up the good work.
Be sure to write to, and support, groups like the ACLU and People For the American Way. As much as the Christian Coalition and Operation Rescue may badmouth them as having a "P.C. agenda setting," the ACLU has gone to court on behalf of some of the most P.I. people around, such as the Nazis, in trying to further define our rights. PFAW also produces an annual list of censorship attempts, which makes for good reading and an excellent resource. Remember, they're there for everyone, regardless of which side of the political fence you happen to sit on.
8. BURY THE PARTISAN HATCHET: The Christian Coalition may work within the GOP since it's the party closest to their own morality, but that doesn't make them their friends. Many Republicans are wary of the Religious Right, especially those trying to make the GOP pro-choice. We cannot believe in the old stereotype that portrays all Republicans as Buchananesque "Big Brothers" who want to implement evil Nazi mind control. Often they are just small, independent business people and others who are tired of what they perceive to be fiscal irresponsibility on the part of the Democrats. They don't like Ed Meese anymore than Hugh Hefner does, but they figure they have to take a little spinach with their steak if it cuts runaway spending.
Get to know your local Republicans. Try to figure out what you have in common, rather than what divides you. When the Christian Coalition comes around trying to take over the local commission, help them keep the floor. Expose the Religious Right for what it is, and most Republicans won't vote for it.
9. BOYCOTT COORS BEER: More than ever, it's the wrong beer now! Besides bankrolling such wonderful Religious Right allies like Education Research Analysts (Mel & Norma Gabler's book banning group from Dallas, Texas), Coors Family Philanthropy gives money to the Council for National Policy, a right-wing think tank whose membership includes the likes of Don Wildmon (AFA), Phyllis Schlafly (Eagle Forum), Tim LaHaye (a member of the old Religious Right), as is Jerry Falwell. Over the years, Coors Family Philanthropy has also bankrolled some very far-right organizations, such as Accuracy In Academia, and various anti-gay, anti-eco, and anti-anything-to-do-with-the-political-left groups. Why piss your rights away? BOYCOTT COORS, KEYSTONE, and KILLIANS' RED.
10. REGISTER TO VOTE: Many of the Religious Right's battles are easy victories since most Americans are so damn lethargic about voting. Relatively few vote in Presidential elections, and hardly anyone votes in local elections. This can be serious if groups like the Christian Coalition are aiming to gain power from the bottom up. Keep up with local issues, vote locally, and get your friends and co-workers to do the same.
This list is by no means exclusive. There are other things we can do (such as opposing Warning Stickers on albums to keep the flow of information open to all ages) to stymie, stall, and stop the onset of Christian America. Periods of liberty are few and far in between, and the fact that we've survived more than 200 years with the same Constitution is, in terms of history, a miracle. Let's work to keep our rights intact and growing for another 200.
(Editor's note: Jim Tremlett was the founder and President of FACTS at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Currently Jim is the "Philosopher-King" of the newly formed American Freedom Association (AFA). Not to be confused with Don Wildmon's "AFA," the American Freedom Association is a center for informational terrorism and grass-roots cultural deprogramming. All correspondence can be sent to: American Freedom Association, c/o Mr. Vomit, 6513 Linchmere Ln., Dublin, OH 43017.)