President Bush held his first face-to-face White House meeting with prolife leaders late in December. Six evangelical prolifers went to the Oval Office to watch Bush sign the document proclaiming January 19, 1992, as “Sanctity of Human Life Day.” Although Bushhas held several sessions with religious leaders, including many who are active in prolife work, past meetings focusing specifically on the abortion issue were hosted by Vice-president Dan Quayle or former Chief of Staff John Sununu.

Christian Action Council (CAC) executive director Tom Glessner called the meeting “very significant” for the prolife cause. “To invite prolife leaders into the Oval Office is a statement by the President of the United States that this is a priority issue for him,” Glessner said, adding that “everybody in the prolife movement has been frustrated” by the lack of direct access to the President.

A similar meeting scheduled last year was canceled by the White House after squabbling broke out among prolife groups over who should be invited. To avoid that problem this year, the White House kept the meeting small, letting the CAC extend invitations. Those attending were Glessner, Harriet Lewis and Doug Scott of the CAC, Robert Dugan of the National Association of Evangelicals, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Robin McDonald of the Capitol Hill Crisis Pregnancy Center. During the little-publicized meeting, Bush reaffirmed his opposition to abortion and commended the work of the prolife movement, singling out crisis-pregnancy centers.

Skinner Reaches Out

New White House Chief of Staff Samuel Skinner invited six leaders of several Washington-based evangelical groups into his office last month for a “get-acquainted” meeting. Many evangelicals and prolifers feared that with the departure of John Sununu, their access to the Bush administration would be limited (CT, Jan. 13, 1992, p. 46). However, participants said Skinner, a prochoice moderate, appeared to be signaling his willingness to listen to that branch of the Bush constituency.

Skinner, who identified himself as an Episcopalian/Presbyterian, said he honed an understanding of evangelicals while growing up “in the back yard” of Wheaton College in Illinois.

Politics Makes Strange …

More than 370 national organizations, including many religious groups, have joined together in urging the House Ways and Means Committee to repeal the limit on tax deductions for charitable contributions by upper-income taxpayers. In a letter to committee chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.), the wide-ranging nonprofit coalition said the limit has become “especially onerous at a time when charities and state and local institutions are strained in their … efforts to provide essential services.”

Antiporn Unit Scorned

Citing the use of “illegal and unconstitutional tactics,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is calling for the abolition of the Justice Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section. “FBI agents have testified—in sworn depositions—that this is a hit squad of zealots traveling around the country in an attempt to wipe out an entire category of constitutionally protected material,” said Marjorie Heins of the ACLU.

At a Washington press conference, the group released a new report, “Above the Law: The Justice Department’s War Against the First Amendment,” which alleges the unit’s prosecutions are “religiously motivated attempts to drive the producers and distributors of constitutionally protected, sexually oriented materials out of business.”

In a statement responding to the ACLU report, the National Coalition Against Pornography praised the work of the Justice Department section, which has never lost a case it has prosecuted. The statement criticized the ACLU and the pornography industry for hiding behind such vague terms as “art” and “speech.” “These people are fighting for their bank accounts, not free speech,” it said.

Briefly Noted

Introduced: By prolife representatives Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), and Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), a “prolife alternative” to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The Restoration Act, which would legislatively support religious liberty protections, has been stalled for more than a year over disagreements about its abortion implications (CT, June 24, 1991, p. 52). The new bill is not expected to resolve the stalemate, however, as several key prolife religious groups are maintaining support for the original RFRA.

Filed: By the U.S. Justice Department, a lawsuit charging a New York City suburb with religious discrimination. The Bush administration suit, filed in Manhattan, says that Airmont, New York, zoning laws preventing Orthodox Jews from having home synagogues violate the federal Fair Housing Act.

Launched: By the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), a Christian Citizenship Campaign for the 1992 elections. According to the NAE’s Robert Dugan, goals of the campaign are to “recruit millions of evangelicals to pray knowledgeably for their political leaders and to register at least one million to vote.”

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