Traditional Values Coalition, accused of lying and bribery, is banned from Capitol Hill for a year
Is Lou Sheldon's Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) involved in bribery and extortion? Those are just some of the accusations being leveled against it this week. What's more, those accusations are coming from prolife conservatives, furious over the organization's campaign to stop a bill allowing the importation of prescription drugs from Canada and Europe.

The TVC says the bill "would open the floodgates for RU-486 and other harmful drugs to enter America." In fact, says a direct mail campaign from Sheldon, the bill might make the abortion drug "as easy to get as aspirin…Any 14-year-old with her Dad's or Mom's credit card is in business when it comes to buying RU-486." The letter targets several prolife members of Congress (which have received 100 percent ratings from the National Right to Life Committee), suggesting they are "forget[ting] the sanctity of life."

One problem, notes National Review Online's Ramesh Ponnuru, who has been watching this story closely:

The TVC's claims aren't true. The importation bill does not make it legal, or likely, that people are going to be able to get RU-486 along with aspirin at a 7-11. As a matter of law, the importation bill does not appear to override all other regulations. … With the exception of the Rev. Jerry Falwell, no pro-life organization or spokesman agrees with TVC's analysis. Even opponents of the bill disagree with the TVC.

One such opponent not mentioned by Ponnuru is the Family Research Council. Policy analyst Richard Lessner says the group opposes the bill because it essentially means importing other countries' price controls. However, Lessner told The Washington Times, "The bill will not make RU-486 any more available than it is now."

So why is the TVC so adamant? "Some social conservatives are suggesting that the TVC was paid off by the pharmaceutical lobby. Mike Schwartz, a vice president of Concerned Women for America, says that several social-conservative organizations were offered money in return for making the RU-486 arguments," says Ponnuru. Schwartz told him, "I am ashamed to be in the same business with these people [Sheldon and Falwell]. It is lying to the grassroots by people whom they believe are sincerely interested in the cause, not in payoffs to tell lies."

Sound angry? Oh yeah. But the prolife representatives are even more so, and have banned TVC from meetings of the Values Action Team for a year, both because of its "recent actions" and "overall reputation."

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(Ponnuru explains the background for that overall reputation: "In 1998, the TVC defended prochoice Republican Senate candidate Matt Fong from the attacks of primary opponent Darrell Issa, who was running as a prolife conservative—after Fong donated $50,000 to the group. In 1999, the Orange County Register reported that the gambling interests had given money both to TVC founder Lou Sheldon and his son in return for their lobbying support.")

"As you are now well aware, your recent conduct has infuriated the prolife community in Washington," says a letter to Sheldon and his daughter, Andrea Lafferty, from Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), who opposes the bill—but not for the RU-486 canard. (Excerpts from the letter were published in The Washington Post and The Washington Times.) "Your willingness to attack Members of Congress whom you should regard as friends without so much a warning is offensive. The spurious nature of the claims…shows a lack of regard for the truth. Your unwillingness to return calls or accept an invitation to discuss this matter betrays a lack of forthrightness or good will."

But suppose for a moment that this has nothing to do with money. Perhaps TVC is truly upset about the possibility—however remote, or however dismissed by other prolife organizations—that the bill could make RU-486 more accessible, and came to that conclusion without selling its soul to the American pharmaceutical lobby. The problem with believing that, says Ponnuru, is that the lobbying group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America has its fingerprints all over TVC's actions. "A set of TVC's talking points was written by a PhRMA lawyer, and a TVC letter to congressmen by a PhRMA lobbyist," he reveals. But TVC hasn't ever mentioned its connection with PhRMA in this battle.

TVC has never been on the A-list of prolife and profamily organizations, and has neither the clout nor the constituency of such groups as the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, or Concerned Women for America, to name a few. But this brewing scandal could mean its utter isolation from that community. Of course, if it's getting loads of money from business lobbies, Sheldon's group will probably survive even with harsh criticism from its supposed allies.

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Mel Gibson's The Passion:

  • Passion elicits unfair conflict | Any piece of pop culture that touches on serious religious themes inspires its share of controversy, but the noisy assaults on Mel Gibson's unfinished film The Passion, which describes the final 12 hours in the life of Jesus Christ, seem unfair and painfully premature (Michael Medved, USA Today)

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  • Stirring Passions | Gibson's film about Jesus raises Jews' fears (Newsday)

  • Is Mel Gibson's film passion for Jesus misplaced? | Whatever Gibson's intentions, the film will be perceived as anti-Semitic, because the Christian Bible holds that Jesus was a Jewish prophet rejected and betrayed by his own people (Alex Beam, The Boston Globe)

  • Mel Gibson's Washington Power Play | Gibson yesterday screened a two-hour rough cut of "The Passion" for a select group of Washington pundits, clergymen, cybergossip Matt Drudge and Hollywood lobbyist Jack Valenti, and at least one White House staffer (Lloyd Grove, The Washington Post)

  • Mad Mel | An inside look at Mel Gibson's anti-historical, anti-intellectual, anti-Semitic film about the crucifixion (Paula Fredriksen, The New Republic)

Politics and law:

Church and state:

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History and archaeology:

  • Jewish Yad Avshalom revealed as Byzantine Christian shrine | A fourth-century inscription on one of the walls near the Jewish monument, recently uncovered by chance, marks the site as the burial place of the Temple priest Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist who baptized Jesus (Ha'aretz, Tel Aviv)

  • In the crossfire | Real-life archaeology is getting more dangerous than in the movies (

  • DNA used in attempt to solve Christian mystery | Genetic fingerprinting might soon clear up an ancient Christian mystery—the origins of medieval parchments and even the Canterbury Gospels, thought to have arrived in Britain in 579AD (The Guardian, London)

  • Scientists prepare to excavate Black Sea | Scientists also are interested in the ruin, because it could finally clinch the Noah flood theory that has gained the most attention for the trip — and the most criticism (Associated Press)

Missions and ministries:

  • Evangelizing the world | The death of communism and consequent decline of Russia has coincided with a marked rise in America's evangelist fervor, but their mission is increasingly seen as part of the new imperialist agenda (Editorial, New Straits Times, Malaysia)

  • The new nun | A 32-year-old woman is letting go of what she calls the "image of success for a Medford girl"—marriage, big house, adorable kids, and a part-time law practice. Her reason: Because God has something else in mind (The Boston Globe Magazine)

  • Summertime for some means 'super cool' God-loving fun | Vacation Bible schools, more than a century old, now come in elaborately prepackaged kits that provide not only the usual Bible lessons, crafts and songs, but squirt toys, personalized Web sites and DVD presentations with behind-the-scenes features and "director's cut" versions (The Contra Costa Times, Calif.)

  • Students soothe cuts and bruises, slings and arrows | An aspiring doctor is among UCLA student volunteers with a mobile medical clinic that serves the homeless in Hollywood (Los Angeles Times)

  • Evangelical group offers religion, food | The Convoy of Hope pulled into this border town yesterday, feeding hungry locals hot dogs and Christianity in equal measure (The San Diego Union-Tribune)

  • Chaplains as comforters and counselors | Hospital chaplains see human emotions at their most raw (The New York Times)

  • An end to his life, not his message | Irvine evangelist who had AIDS helped raise churches' awareness. His videotaped remarks will be shown Thursday at his memorial service (Los Angeles Times)

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  • Driving Jesus crazy | Sooner or later, there had to be a backlash against the largely American phenomenon of preempting political debate by injecting "Jesus" into whatever social or political argument happened to dominate the hour (Editorial, The Japan Times)


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Clergy sex abuse:

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