Layoffs on the Religious Right

Breaking addendum: It looks like Citicorp isn’t the only organization in the process of laying off its workers. The Colorado Independent writes that after spending a half a million dollars in support of California’s anti-gay marriage Proposition 8, Focus on the Family is preparing for a second round of layoffs, having laid off 46 workers just two months ago:

This is the third year that Focus has laid off employees due to budget cuts. In its heyday, the ministry, which relocated to Colorado Springs from Arcadia, Calif., in 1991, employed more than 1,500 people. Many of those employees worked in mailroom and line assembly jobs, processing so much incoming and outgoing correspondences that the US Postal Service gave Focus its own ZIP code.

In September 2005, nearly 80 employees were reassigned or laid off in an effort to trim millions of dollars from its 2006 budget. In addition, 83 open positions were not filled in the layoff, which included eliminating some of the ministry’s programs. At the time, Focus employed 1,342 full-time employees.

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Barna Groups Survey on how People of Faith Voted

A week after the election, The Barna Group, a religious-oriented research and polling organization, provided an extensive look at how people of faith voted in the presidential election. In a campaign that seemed to be run by the Energizer Bunny it kept going and going and going—and in which Sen. Barack Obama beat Sen. John McCain by 53 to 46 percent—two-thirds of all registered voters (67%) said they followed the 2008 election campaign very closely and another one-quarter (27%) followed it somewhat closely. People who do not consider themselves to be Christians followed the campaign slightly more closely than did those who claim to be Christian (71% versus 67%).

Evangelicals, which make up 7% of the national population, have the highest rates of voting turnout among all voter groups and are, in fact, strikingly different from the rest of the population—even from other born-again Christians who are not evangelical, according to Barna. Amongst this group, 88% voted for McCain and 11% for Obama; McCain’s vote was about equal to the numbers that voted for President Bush in 2004. Barna reported that while evangelicals were generally unenthusiastic about either candidate, they came through in a big way for the McCain/Palin ticket.

Barna points out that “unlike other polls, [it] classif[ies] a person as an evangelical based upon their answers to nine questions about their theological beliefs. [While] [m]ost national surveys simply ask people if they consider themselves to be evangelical, born-again or a committed conservative Christian.” However, The Barna survey also examined the voting behavior of people who identified themselves as evangelicals and found that self-identified evangelicals represented 41% of the adult population, although just 16% of them qualified as evangelicals under the Barna Group’s theological-based classification questions. Within this grouping, 61% voted for McCain and 38% went with Obama.

In non-born-again categories, a higher proportion of voters identify themselves as either Democrats (44%) or independents (24%), and one-quarter of the non-born- again group (27%) as Republicans. Non-Christians overwhelmingly voted Obama/Biden—62% to 36%—numbers that surpassed the group’s 20-point margin for John Kerry in 2004 and the 15-point margin for Al Gore in 2000.

Other findings:

• Protestant voters, evenly divided between being registered as Democrats and Republicans, sided with Sen. McCain by a 53% to 46% margin, which was just half the margin accorded to George W. Bush in 2004 (57% to 42%), but within range of the 4-point preference given to Mr. Bush in 2000 (51% to 47%).

• Catholic voters—48% of whom are aligned with the Democratic Party, 28% with the Republicans, and one-fifth who remained independent (20%)—backed Sen. Obama by a 56% to 43% outcome. According to Barna, that was far different than the even split in 2004 (49% for Pres. Bush vs. 49% for Sen. Kerry) and substantially more support for the Democratic candidate than for Al Gore in 2000 (49%, versus 43% to Mr. Bush).

• Atheists and agnostics (who represent about one out of every ten adults)— about 40% were registered Democrats, 40% independents, and just 20% Republicans— voted overwhelmingly for Obama (76% to 23%).

• Other faiths, including Jews, Buddhists, and Muslims (who represent about 5% of America’s adult population), voted for Obama by 62% to 36%, about the same numbers as for Kerry in 2004.

(For a breakdown of which issues motivated evangelicals, as well as the survey’s methodology, see How People of Faith Voted in the 2008 Presidential Race.)

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Faith in Public Life, Sojourners, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good Release Post-Election Poll

On Friday, November 14, a new post-election poll—“Religion in the 2008 Election,”—provided an in-depth look at the shift in priorities and moral agenda for Catholics, evangelicals, and religious voters overall in the 2008 election. Conducted by Public Religion Research, the poll was co-sponsored by the groups Faith in Public Life, Sojourners, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

According to a Faith in Public Life news release, the topics explored in the new survey include:

• Candidate friendliness to religion

• The impact of Sarah Palin’s nomination on evangelical voters • Support for a broader values agenda • Attitudes toward a common ground approach on abortion • Voting issue priorities • Beliefs about causes of the economic crisis

Go here for complete results.

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Rev. Moon’s Plans for the United Nations

“Mr. Moon, an eccentric billionaire, convicted tax cheat, conservative publisher and power broker, grandly donned scarlet robes and a golden crown at the Dirksen Office Building. ‘I am God’s ambassador, sent to earth with his full authority,’ he announced.” New York Times editorial, June 27, 2004

To some, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon may be a relic of a bygone era; to others, he’s a brother from another planet. But despite the fact that news about Moon’s various religious/media/business endeavors rarely appears on the radar screens of the nation’s media (both mainstream and alternative), Moon continues to move ahead on a number of fronts. His Washington Times continues to be the daily house-organ/must-read for conservatives; he has spent hundreds of millions of dollars supporting right-wing organizations and causes; he controls the US sushi industry; he does business with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il: and as Moon watchdog John Gorenfeld has reported, Moon officially considers himself Emperor of the Universe, claiming the imagined endorsements of dead US presidents.

One of Moon’s least reported-on projects entails the establishment of an Interfaith Council to promote and oversee “all global, regional, and local interfaith dialogues among the great religions, civilizations, cultures, governments… to help resolve politico-religious, sectarian and ethnic conflicts and tensions in various parts of the world,” Richard Bartholomew recently reported at Talk2Action.

One prominent person carrying water for Moon and his Universal Peace Federation —which appears to pretty much oversee most of Moon’s significant projects these days—is Congressman Jose de Venecia Jr., former Speaker of the Philippine House of Representatives.

In an undated speech published on Moon’s Universal Peace Federation Web site, de Venecia Jr. stated:

One of the great missions of Rev. Moon is to see how we can bring about a unification of the great religions of the world…and under the leadership of Rev. Moon—I had the privilege to present to the Security Council last year—a resolution for a dialogue among civilizations, among religions, among cultures, for an interfaith dialogue and I am happy to report to you that the following month, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously approved our resolution calling for an interfaith dialogue among the great religions of the world.

The news hook?

Bartholomew’s report pointed out that in July of this year, the Muslim World League held a global interfaith dialogue meeting in Madrid, during which time, as Arab News reported, de Venecia Jr. presented a draft resolution calling on the conference to petition King Abdullah, King Juan Carlos of Spain, and Spanish Premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to organize a joint Saudi-Spanish request to the UN for an Interfaith Council

Although this hasn’t yet materialized, the Madrid meeting led directly to the recently concluded November 11-13 Saudi-sponsored “Culture of Peace” conference at the UN, another activity that de Venecia has advocated.

According to the Associated Press, the two-day conference was called to promote a global dialogue about religions, cultures and common values. The dialogue ensued. President Bush attended and spoke, and a statement on the importance of religion and humanity’s common values was issued. The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins pointed out that Leonard Leo and Donald Argue, members of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, said that the language was “a cleverly coded way of granting religious leaders the right to criminalize speech and activities that they deem to insult religion.”

Moon’s UN project? Still in the hopper!

To gain a better appreciation for Moon’s powerful political, religious, and economic empire, check out John Gorenfeld’s Bad Moon Rising: How Reverend Moon Created the Washington Times, Seduced the Religious Right, and Built an American Kingdom (PoliPointPress, 2008).

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Jewish Group Protests Mormon Posthumous Baptisms of Jewish Victims of the Holocaust

The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors recently held a press conference in New York City to demand that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) stop posthumous baptisms of Jews killed in Nazi concentration camps. Charging that the Mormons continuously violate a 13-year-old agreement prohibiting such baptisms, Ernest Michel, honorary chairman of the group said that “Baptism of a Jewish Holocaust victim and then merely removing that name from the database is just not acceptable.” Michel, whose parents died at Auschwitz, spoke on the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nazi-incited riots against Jews, the Associated Press reported.

In 1995, the Church agreed not to perform baptisms or other rites for Holocaust victims, except in the very rare instances when they have living descendants who are Mormon, the AP pointed out. Although talks between The American Gathering and the Church had been going on, Church spokesman Mike Otterson said Michel’s decision to publicly denounce the Church seems like a unilateral termination of the discussion.

“Those steps by Mr. Michel on behalf of the American Gathering were both unnecessary and unfortunate and belie the long and valued mutual respect that we have had in past years,” Otterson said in an e-mail.

Michel noted that posthumous baptisms of Holocaust victims play into the hands of Holocaust deniers. “They tell me, that my parents’ Jewishness has not been altered but … 100 years from now, how will they be able to guarantee that my mother and father of blessed memory who lived as Jews and were slaughtered by Hitler for no other reason than they were Jews, will someday not be identified as Mormon victims of the Holocaust?”

The agreement with the Mormon Church does not cover all Jews, only those slaughtered in the Holocaust. Helen Radkey, a Salt Lake City-based researcher who has done work for The American Gathering, told AP that she had “seen a steady procession of Jewish Holocaust names, especially names with camps linked to them, going to the International Genealogical Index.” She admitted that “There’s no possible way of knowing exactly how many names, but it’s substantial.”

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RD Tidbits

Election Day Nightmares: In a WorldNetDaily column Jill Stanek, the head of BornAliveTruth.org, an anti-abortion group that spent more than $500,000 for anti-Obama ads in several swing states, wrote:

Altogether, this [the election results] means we are fooling ourselves if we think the United States is still a Christian nation. Its people just elected a barbarian as president, authorized the killing of both its youngest and sickest, rejected scientific fact that human life begins at conception, blocked parental intervention of abortions of young girls, and voted down the wording of an abortion ban they said only two years ago they would support….

Full text here.

While his boss, James Dobson, was grieving, and as he watched the victory of Obama—and the triumphs of many Democratic Party candidates on Election Day from his Colorado Springs, Colorado, headquarters, Tom Minnery, Senior Vice President of Focus on the Family Action, invoked the memory of Winston Churchill while trying to buoy up the spirit of the GOP faithful.

“The spirit of Winston Churchill was alive and well on Tuesday night at Focus on the Family Action headquarters,” Minnery said.

“You may recall that in the most desperate days of World War II when Great Britain was being pounded daily by Hitler’s Luftwaffe that Winston Churchill called on his countrymen not to despair from danger but to rise to the challenge.”

“Do not speak of darker days,” he said. “Let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days; these are great days, the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we shall all thank God that we have been allowed, each one of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable.”

Joel Hunter’s Rising Star: Two days after Sen. Obama emerged victorious, Time profiled Joel Hunter, senior pastor of the nondenominational Longwood, Florida-based Northland Church. In a piece titled “Who Is Joel Hunter, and Why Is Obama Praying with Him?”, reporter David Van Biema pointed out that Hunter, along with Dallas Pentecostal megapastor T.D. Jakes, Houston Methodist minister (and George Bush favorite) Kirbyjon Caldwell and Otis Moss II, the retired pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, participated in a telephone prayer session with Obama several hours before he was declared the winner. Hunter, who came to the media’s attention in 2006 when an arrangement for him to take over as head of the Christian Coalition, the political machine founded by Pat Robertson, imploded as it became clear that Hunter intended to steer it into more moderate waters.

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Read all of Bill Berkowitz?s articles here and sign up for his RSS feed here. *** Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer and longtime observer of the conservative movement.