From its beginning four years ago, the Moral Majority has officially clothed itself in nonpartisan garb. In May, however, Jerry Falwell’s operatives were caught letting their Republican slip show by sending out an “urgent” mail-gram designed to disrupt the recent Democratic National Committee fundraising telethon.

“Please help!” the memo began. “Democratic National Committee [DNC] plans to use the telethon to raise between $8 and $10 million to elect liberal, anti-family, pro-homosexual, pro-nuclear freeze, pro-abortion candidates.” Falwell urged his troops to do three things: watch the telethon, call in to “let them know that you support the President and resent their slanted distortions,” and, incidentally, “send a gift of $15 to Moral Majority.” Ann Lewis, political director for the DNC, fielded calls in California during the telethon. “I received four hang-ups or anti-Democratic calls for every pledge,” she said. Computer records show this ratio was approximated across the country. Despite the interference, Lewis said the DNC raised more than $12 million—“more than any other single fundraiser.”

It is not known how many crank calls were incited by the Republican mailing to one million party members, and how many originated with Moral Majority’s list of 100,000 supporters.

“Many of us thought that dirty tricks were behind us,” Lewis said. “When an organization run by a minister deliberately and openly tries to practice sabotage against a political party, it is no wonder people are so cynical about politics and so reluctant to get involved.”

Moral Majority spokesman Cal Thomas is quick to point out, “We are not a Republican organization. A lot of conservative Democrats are with us.” The mailing, confined to states east of the Mississippi because it was sent just three days before the telethon, appears to have been a spur-of-the-moment idea copied from the Republican letter. Thomas said, “We had information that aside from the normal give and take of politics, there were going to be fabrications about the President and the administration.”

Thomas believes political realities, rather than strategy, will cause Moral Majority to appear to side more solidly than ever with Republicans. “In our judgment the Democratic party tragically has been taken over by ultra-left-wing interest groups.”

Christians in Congress who also happen to be Democrats found the incident perturbing, if they knew of it at all. Illinois Democractic Rep. Paul Simon said, “Self-restraint is essential for a free system to work. All of us in both parties ought to respect the rights of each to operate freely and without hindrance.”

Looking ahead to 1984, Moral Majority hopes to broaden its support base and engage more actively in partisan politics through a new political action committee named “I Love America PAC.” Cal Thomas said the group will test the waters of support through a fund-raising effort this month and “wait to see if it strikes a responsive chord” before spelling out its goals. A political action committee may contribute up to $5,000 directly to a candidate running for office, or it can opt for “independent expenditures” such as purchasing advertising space or air time to endorse candidates. Thomas said the group plans to “assess each race independently and see which type of involvement is indicated.”

Whether Moral Majority’s tacit endorsement of Republican policies and candidates will alter the voting behavior of many evangelicals remains to be seen. According to Gallup polls, 57 percent of evangelicals classify themselves as Democrats, compared with 49 percent of the voters at large.

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