Michael Scanlon: How to "bring out the wackos"
Here's something that should at least temporarily replace "poor, uneducated, and easy to command" as the most outrageous characterization of conservative Christians.

Salon.com reports from the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearings on the practices of lobbyists Jack Abramoff, Ralph Reed, and Michael Scanlon.

Weblog doesn't have time to go into all the details of the investigation here. If you need a background briefing, Wikipedia has a pretty good one. What Weblog is more interested in is how sure Scanlon (and presumably the others, including former Christian Coalition president Reed) were that they could convince conservative Christians that they were opposing gambling by protecting gambling interests.

Indian tribes wanted their casinos protected from competition, such as state lotteries and casinos on other tribes' land. So the lobbyists decided to mobilize Christians against the proposals to expand local gambling.

Here's Salon's Michael Scherer:

Consider one memo highlighted in a Capitol Hill hearing Wednesday that Scanlon, a former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, sent the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana to describe his strategy for protecting the tribe's gambling business. In plain terms, Scanlon confessed the source code of recent Republican electoral victories: Target religious conservatives, distract everyone else, and then railroad through complex initiatives. …
The brilliance of this strategy was twofold: Not only would most voters not know about an initiative to protect Coushatta gambling revenues, but religious "wackos" could be tricked into supporting gambling at the Coushatta casino even as they thought they were opposing it.

The use of the term "wackos" was Scanlon's, not Salon's. Here's what he wrote (it's on p. 119 of this massive file):

We plan to use three forms of communications to mobilize and win these battles. … Our mission is to get specifically selected groups of individuals to the polls to speak out AGAINST something. To that end, your money is best spent finding them and communicating with them on using the modes that they are most likely to respond to. Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them. The wackos get their information form [sic] the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet, and telephone trees. [bold added]

That's not the only interesting document in that huge file released by the Indian Affairs Committee. The e-mails from Reed to Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell are interesting, too.

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What's particularly interesting about all this is that Christian voters probably could have been mobilized against expanding gambling in the South without all the deception that these records detail. There's a long tradition of opposing expansion of problematic businesses while not getting too upset over existing businesses. They might have even been happy to make common cause with the Coushatta Tribe against the expansion. Certainly they would have mobilized to oppose the expansion of gambling without the use of all the gambling money that went into the Abramoff efforts.

But that's the whole point: For Abramoff, Scanlon, Reed, and the others involved, the intent apparently wasn't to fight off expanded gambling. It was to get as much money as they could from these tribes.

If you feel bad being called a wacko, remember: Abramoff called the Indians "monkeys," "troglodytes," and "idiots."

Baylor's new president
Those of you who have watched the Battle for Baylor will be interested to learn that the university has a new president. It's John Lilley, who previously led the University of Nevada at Reno and Pennsylvania State University-Erie. He's a Baylor grad, but perhaps not a Baptist. In Erie, he was a ruling elder of the First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, a PCUSA church. But the Baylor press release says "While a student at Baylor and USC, Dr. Lilley, a licensed Baptist minister, served as minister of music at two Baptist churches." He told today's press conference that he'll be attending First Baptist.

Weblog doesn't know much about him, but it's worth noting that Hunter Baker, who has written on Baylor fights for Christianity Today, says, "He will be in favor of the faith-learning integration project already underway and will continue on the path to making Baylor a true research university."

Also, it's worth noting that the BaylorFans message board, largely populated by the kinds of people who thought that former Baylor president Robert Sloan was a "fundamentalist" bent on destroying the university, is generally upset with the appointment.

So it sounds like good news. But we'll withhold judgment until we can actually do some reporting on this.

Who brought up the Klan?
The Austin (Tex.) American-Statesman has a story today on 30 pastors rallying to support the state's marriage amendment. It's got the five W's, but given the point of the story, the most important question is never answered.

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The title: "Pastors gather in Austin to back marriage amendment."

The deck: "Group careful to distance itself from KKK, which also supports Prop 2."

Of the 298-word story, 126 words are devoted to the Klan:

While supporting the amendment on Tuesday's ballot, several Austin-area pastors said they wanted to distance their message from that of the Ku Klux Klan, which is planning a rally on Saturday to support the amendment.
"We have nothing in common with the Ku Klux Klan," said Michael Lewis, the president of the Austin Area Pastors Council. "As Christians, we have to distance ourselves, particularly on racial issues. We're separate from them."
"I am particularly concerned about the Ku Klux Klan and other rogue groups that are supporting the passage of Proposition 2," said Steve Washburn, the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Pflugerville. "But their language is laced with hate, and we want all who are listening to know we are here out of love."

So here's the question: Who brought up the Klan? Did American-Statesman reporter Lilly Rockwell ask Lewis and Washburn what they thought about the Klan's support of the amendment? Or did they just start talking about the Klan?

If Rockwell brought it up, that's an unconscionable smear and a severe violation of journalistic ethics.

If Lewis and Washburn brought it up, they're foolish, and they're wrong to suggest that the Klan has such significant political power that it's an important part of the story.

City officials are encouraging people to ignore the Klan's rally. Good strategy. So who's the one who thinks the most important thing about a pastors' rally is that they aren't Klan members?

More articles


  • Texas ministers mobilizing parishioners | A group called the Texas Restoration Project says members want to restore the state's religious heritage, and leaders have encouraged 2,000 ministers to register voters at church on what they are calling "Reclaiming Texas Sunday" (Associated Press)
  • House vote counters eminent domain measure | Churches, said Rep. Phil Gingrey, "should not have to fear because God does not pay enough in taxes" (Associated Press)
  • Former political force on wane | The Christian Coalition is absent from the stage as Virginia elects governor (Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.)
  • Massachusetts Senate approves bill cracking down on deceptive signature gathering tactics | The bill stems from complaints by some voters and gay activists who said paid signature gatherers lied and tricked voters into signing a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Massachusetts, the only state to allow same-sex marriage (Associated Press)
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  • Hart warns of theocracy trap | America risks becoming a theocracy because of the religious right's sway over politics, former U.S. Sen. Gary Hart warned Thursday in a talk in Denver (The Denver Post)
  • Turlington hears call to run | Tillie Turlington didn't just decide to run for a seat on the Wake County school board. First, she prayed for guidance (The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)
  • Bush administration's moral compass is lost | There comes a time when silence is immoral. Now, I believe, is that time (Cathleen Falsani, Chicago Sun-Times)
  • Bishops and pawns | The GOP is counting on Bishop Harry Jackson and his High Impact Leadership Coalition to bring African Americans to the Party (Bill Berkowitz, WorkingForChange.com)
  • She speaks for God, but we can't print it | The plan was to walk right up to the founder and ask why her quaint little Christian-based country store known as Piecemakers shouldn't abide by Orange County health codes (Dana Parsons, Los Angeles Times)
  • Peace now | Christian pacifists ignore the true ambitions of terrorists (Joseph Loconte, The Wall Street Journal)

Politics (non-U.S.):

  • Egypt mixes politics and religion | With only one week to go before Egyptians begin electing a new parliament a row has broken out about mixing politics and religion (BBC)
  • Now that there's a Sanhedrin, who needs the Supreme Court? | A year after its establishment, it is impossible to see the new Sanhedrin as the domain of the extreme right wing alone (Nadav Shragai, Haaretz, Tel Aviv)

U.K. drops Moon ban:

  • Controversial cult leader is allowed back into Britain | The Rev Sun Myung Moon, 86, founder of the Unification Church, was given an exclusion order ten years ago amid allegations that his church used underhand methods to manipulate and recruit members (The Times, London)
  • Moonies leader in Britain today after ban ends | The head of the Moonies, one of the world's most controversial religious movements, has had a long-standing ban on entering Britain lifted by Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary (The Telegraph, London)
  • Britain lifts ban on Rev. Sun Myung Moon | Britain lifted a 10-year-old ban that kept the Rev. Sun Myung Moon from entering the country, saying Friday that the controversial religious leader was unlikely to threaten public order (Associated Press)
  • "Moonies" church founder to visit as ban lifted | "The Unification Church in the United Kingdom is extremely small and any visit from its founder is now considered unlikely to present any threat to public order in this country," a Home Office spokesman said (Reuters)
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  • U.S. prods, makes promises to end violence in Sudan's Darfur region | With violence sharply increasing in Sudan's Darfur region, the Bush administration is engaged in a delicate balancing act of prodding the government in Khartoum to take steps to end the terrorism while encouraging it to believe relations with the United States are on the cusp of improvement (The Washington Post)
  • Cultivating independence | South Darfur has witnessed aid workers being taken hostage and hundreds more families being evicted in recent weeks (The Guardian, London)
  • Blind spot | Why won't liberals push for intervention in Darfur? (Richard Just, The New Republic)

Jimmy Carter:

  • Carter condemns abortion culture | Former President Jimmy Carter yesterday condemned all abortions and chastised his party for its intolerance of candidates and nominees who oppose abortion (The Washington Times)
  • Carter: Policy by religion has nation at risk | Admitting that his presidency was flawed, he takes the White House to task in his first `political' book (Newsday)
  • GOP's fundamentalism hurts U.S., Carter says | In a new book, the former president expounds on politics past and current (Tammy L. Carter, The Orlando Sentinel)


  • Californians consider abortion limits | Californians will decide whether to make it harder for girls to terminate pregnancies without their parents' knowledge, but recent polls suggest they will reaffirm voters' long-standing support for unfettered abortion access (Associated Press)
  • Teen girls anxious about abortion-notification measure | Kids and parents don't always see eye to eye, says one student -- 'I wish I could vote so bad' (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Whitman supports Republicans for Choice | Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman called on moderate Republicans Thursday to become more vocal within the party as she helped launch a new St. Louis-based chapter of a GOP group that supports abortion rights (Associated Press)
  • Spiritual healing after abortions | A psychologist's retreat for those battling unresolved feelings uses religious guidance (Chicago Tribune)
  • The silent scream | Don't address fetal pain unless child may survive to remember it, abortionists argue (Pia de Solenni, The American Spectator)

Life ethics:

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  • Bill would push FDA on 'morning-after pill' | Lawmakers frustrated with U.S. regulators' slow pace introduced a bill Thursday to force the Food and Drug Administration to decide whether the "morning-after pill" can be sold without a prescription (Reuters)
  • Safety, efficacy, morality | The FDA gets religion (Ronald Bailey, Reason)
  • Doyle vetoes ban on human cloning | Governor says bill would have limited stem cell research (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
  • Also: Wisconsin governor vetoes cloning ban | Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed legislation Thursday banning human cloning, saying it would criminalize research that could one day cure diseases such as Parkinson's (Associated Press)

Samuel Alito:

  • Nominee is said to question church-state rulings | Senators of both parties said Thursday that Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., President Bush's choice for the Supreme Court, had told them he believed the court might have gone too far in separating church and state (The New York Times)
  • Ideology serves as a wild card in Senate debate on court pick | As Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. makes the rounds on Capitol Hill, debate has been renewed on the extent to which a nominee should be judged on his political leanings (The New York Times)
  • Distorting Sam Alito | Brilliant Alito is, but alas not brilliant enough to divine O'Connor's inconsistencies (Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post)
  • What's too conservative? | There is no requirement of moderation in the abstract. President Bush needn't nominate a compromise candidate just to show he's a good sport (Michael Kinsley, The Washington Post)
  • How one justice can tilt a court | It's this head-on collision between Alito and O'Connor that tells you what a difference a justice makes (Ellen Goodman, The Boston Globe)
  • Bring it on | The Alito battle will be fought over two main issues: abortion and religious freedom (Cal Thomas, The Washington Times)

Alito's faith:

  • Should senators ask Alito about the role of his faith? | If confirmed, he would become the fifth Catholic among the nine justices on the Supreme Court (The Christian Science Monitor)
  • The Catholic choice | The Church must decide whether to pressure judges on abortion like it does elected officials--or risk looking blatantly partisan (Amy Sullivan, Beliefnet)
  • Judges' faith does matter | At times, a Catholic Supreme Court judge may be religiously obligated to put his beliefs first—and recuse himself (Stephen Bainbridge, Beliefnet)


  • Religion in the News: Is shunning illegal? | A woman who left the Amish community years ago is refused service by an Amish thrift store owner. The shopper claims her civil rights have been violated; the owner says that serving someone excommunicated from the church would be a serious moral offense (Associated Press)
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  • Charles Colson's Christian-based prison project on trial in Iowa | Prison Justice Ministries' InnerChange Freedom Initiative is a 'government-funded conversion program' says Americans United's Barry Lynn (Bill Berkowitz, MediaTransparency.org)


  • Church reviews role in gay adoptions | Catholic panel convened on issue (The Boston Globe)
  • Pope bidding to repair old disagreement | The Pope should apologize for evangelism in Russia (Steve Gushee, Palm Beach Post)


  • Methodist court ruling fuels revolt | The 65 active Methodist bishops in the nation, meeting in Lake Junaluska, N.C., unanimously voted Wednesday to issue a pastoral letter contesting a 5-3 ruling last weekend in Houston by the eight-member Judicial Council. The council's rulings are the final word on Methodist doctrine (The Washington Times)
  • A most un-Christian divide | Beth Stroud and her supporters represent a quintessentially American individualism, a lack of respect for due process and incremental change that has the potential to wreak havoc in our churches. (Elizabeth Eisenstadt-Evans, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • Methodist bailout | Bankrupt denomination turns to lobbyists and foundations for aid (World)


  • Bishop: Anglican will one day embrace gays | The first openly gay Episcopal bishop said Friday he believed that the wider Anglican Church will eventually embrace homosexuals, but perhaps not in his lifetime (Associated Press)
  • Gay bishop meets head of Church | Bishop Robinson told BBC News: "The issue has to be faced because gay and lesbian people have to be faced" (BBC)
  • Archbishop meets US figure at heart of row | The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, yesterday met Bishop Gene Robinson, the openly gay American bishop whose consecration has brought the Anglican Church to the brink of schism (The Times, London)
  • Gay US bishop in 'candid' talks with Archbishop of Canterbury | Robinson to attend debate and weekend services; 'Rogue' ordinations escalate church crisis (The Guardian, London)
  • Evangelicals defy bishop by holding 'irregular' ordinations | The Church of England's civil war over homosexuality escalated yesterday after conservative evangelical clergy staged an "irregular" ordination in defiance of their bishop (The Telegraph, London)
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  • UK group imports African bishop in gay clergy row | Traditionalist British Anglicans have defied church leaders in an escalating row over gay clergy by importing a conservative African bishop to ordain three deacons (Reuters)


  • Judge upholds Oregon gay marriage ban | A judge on Friday upheld a gay marriage ban adopted by Oregon voters last year, rejecting claims that the amendment made too many changes at once and interfered with local government (Associated Press)
  • This they believe: Gay marriage vote crucial | Man, woman - that's the message Carrollton church pounds home (The Dallas Morning News)
  • Why gay rights? | Law protecting homosexuals unneeded, unenforceable (John N. Frary, Morning Sentinel, Waterville, Me.)

Church life:

  • Ripon pastor accused of selling church | Fiancée seen driving BMW around town (The Record, Stockton, Ca.)
  • Also: Ripon pastor secretly sells church (KOVR, West Sacramento, Ca.)
  • Scot to lead Christian church to be built in Muslim stronghold | A Scottish archdeacon is to run the first Christian church to be built in the conservative Muslim state of Qatar since the arrival of Islam in the 7th century (The Scotsman)

Missions & ministry:

  • Donations for hurricane relief exceed $2-billion, but costs soar | Much of the latest increase reflects gifts that were sent through the mail or collected by church congregations (The Chronicle of Philanthropy)
  • New postal rates to increase costs for charities | The Postal Rate Commission has recommended new postage rates for charities, to take effect in January, that would result in double-digit percentage increases in postage for some nonprofit mailings (The Chronicle of Philanthropy)
  • Southern Baptists dispute media reports | 'Absolute falsehood' that disaster relief teams withheld water (Baptist Press)
  • Billy Graham association says no more crusades | Though long-assumed, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association on Thursday gave its first official word that the ailing evangelist would no longer hold crusades (WCNC, Charlotte, N.C.)
  • School due for major face-lift | Church group sets campus work day (Pasadena Star-News, Ca.)
  • Faith through healing | Though his hands have lent a healing touch to patients in countries far across the globe, Dr. Mark Bruce, an osteopathic physician at Elmbrook Memorial Hospital, believes his work is nothing more than a blessing and a duty he was put on Earth to do. It was this belief that led Bruce, a Brookfield resident, on a medical survey mission with other members of Elmbrook Church, to Indonesia in 2003 (GMToday, Milwaukee)
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  • Revolution reaches out to teens | Christian conference aimed at helping youths meet challenges (The Charlotte Observer, N.C.)


  • Bible study policy raises ire | UW-Eau Claire resident assistant can't lead group (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
  • Also: UW-Eau Claire reviews Bible-study ban (Associated Press)
  • Holiday backers decry e-mail halt | Citing technological concerns, the School Board temporarily blocks a flood of e-mails from a group opposing changes to the school calendar (St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)

Evolution and ID:

  • In Intelligent Design case, a cause in search of a lawsuit | For years, a lawyer for the Thomas More Law Center in Michigan visited school boards searching for one willing to challenge evolution by teaching intelligent design (The New York Times)
  • Professor defends 'Intelligent Design' | A biology professor who supports classroom discussion of "intelligent design" testified Friday that major peer-reviewed scientific journals shun articles on the concept because it is a minority view (Associated Press)
  • Trial peeks into class | Judge hears how Dover teachers reacted to dispute (York Daily Record, Pa.)
  • In court Thursday and Friday | A wrapup (York Daily Record, Pa.)
  • ACLU lawyer speaks out against 'intelligent design' | He calls it religion masked as science (The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.)
  • Taking heed of lesson from Galileo's day | Evolution is the new Copernican revolution (Ellis Henican, Newsday)
  • It's all about bacterial flagella | Scott Minnich loves the bubonic plague (Mike Argento, York Daily Record, Pa.)


  • Exhibit faithful to the Bible | Display reproduces sacred traditions (The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Ca.)
  • Friendliest book in the world | Tony Campolo sets his record straight on Bibles and endorsements (Gene Edward Veith, World)


  • Police identify suspects behind schoolgirl beheadings | Authorities refused to release the suspects' names but said the investigation into the beheadings of the teenagers in Poso district, Central Sulawesi province, was moving forward (The Jakarta Post, Indonesia)
  • Vietnam accused of pursuing crackdown on Christians | The Washington-based Freedom House Center for Religious Freedom says the Vietnamese government is responsible for the violent repression of ethnic Hmong Christians (Radio Australia)
  • Egypt arrests blogger | Abdolkarim Nabil Seliman, a 21-year-old law student at Al-Azhar University, was critical of Muslims who rioted against Christians (News24.com, South Africa)
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  • Witness search in vicar stabbing | Detectives investigating the stabbing of a vicar in north-west London want to trace people parked nearby in case they can provide vital clues (BBC)
  • Suspended priest files lawsuit against accuser | A Catholic priest suspended by the Archdiocese of Miami because of sexual abuse allegations filed a defamation lawsuit against one of his accusers on Thursday (The Miami Herald)
  • Church revises offer for victims of abuse | The Anglican Church will today make a revised offer of compensation to each of the 36 sexual-abuse victims of serial pedophile Robert Brandenberg (The Advertiser, Adelaide, Australia)
  • Ashamed and outraged in Atlanta | Upset by a lawsuit filed against Bishop Earl Paulk Jr., pastors in the Atlanta area are calling for higher standards of morality in church leadership (J. Lee Grady, Charisma)
  • Earlier: Lawsuit says minister swapped salvation for sex (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sept. 24)


  • Narnia film set to premiere as a big plug for Christianity | Zondervan, the evangelical imprint for publishing giant HarperCollins, is calling New Zealand's $219 million Narnia movie, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, one of the year's "biggest religion stories" (NZPA, New Zealand)
  • Cary Elwes fine with network duel over Pope | It's hard to find anything positive to say about the network duel that resulted in ABC's move this week to schedule its "Have No Fear: The Life of John Paul II" movie Dec. 1—three days before CBS's four-hour miniseries, "Pope John Paul II," which airs Dec. 4 and 7 (Los Angeles Daily News, Ca.)

Other stories of interest:

  • Tension over Christmas observance begins | It's weeks before Thanksgiving but already interest groups are preparing for an intense year of conflict over Christmas observances by cities and public schools, with one conservative group lining up hundreds of attorneys to work on the issue (Associated Press)
  • Peyote not harmful to American Indians | In fact, researchers from Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital found that members of the Native American Church performed better on some psychological tests than other Navajos who did not regularly use peyote (Associated Press)
  • Author sees Einstein's faith as key to world peace | Talk slated at Princeton University Store (Princeton Packet, N.J.)
  • Commissioners fire museum director involved in statue flap | The Douglas County Board of Commissioners this week fired Stacey McLaughlin, the county museum director who was heavily involved in a fight over a statue that stood in Roseburg almost a century ago (Associated Press)

Related Elsewhere:

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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's executive editor. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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