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Crusade for a Christian Nation
A lthough not nearly as well- known or flamboyant as the Rev. Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson, Dr. D. James Kennedy, who was recently inducted into the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) Hall of Fame, has created a media and ministerial empire that is packing a powerful political punch.
The senior minister of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida’s Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and the president of Coral Ridge Ministries (CRM), Dr. Kennedy’s media outreach began in 1974 with radio. These days, his media empire reaches millions of people around the world—with programs such as “Truths That Transform,” which was named the NRB’s Best Radio Teaching Program for 2004, the “Kennedy Commentary,” a daily 90-second radio feature, and the “Coral Ridge Hour,” NRB’s 2003 Television Program of the Year.
The NRB is the world’s largest association of Christian communicators, with over 1,700 member organizations. According to Dr. Frank Wright, the current president of the NRB, Kennedy was being honored in recognition of his “invaluable contributions to the field of Christian communications, all the while exhibiting the highest standards of conduct and evidence of faithfulness in Christ.” Wright was formerly the executive director of Kennedy’s Washington, DC- based Center for Christian Statesmanship and had worked with CRM for more than 20 years.
In early February, Coral Ridge Ministries held its 10th annual political training event, the Reclaiming America For Christ conference, sponsored by the Ministries’ Center for Reclaiming America. “America can be returned to moral and spiritual sanity,” Dr. Kennedy said in a pre-conference press release. “But that will only happen as Christians return to the public square—something already happening in the last 25 years to great effect. This conference will enlist new recruits and recharge those already engaged in the great task of reclaiming this nation for Christ.”
“As culturally concerned Christians, we were energized by last year’s battles to defend marriage and vote like-minded public servants into local and national office,” said Dr. Gary Cass, Center for Reclaiming America executive director.
Speakers at the two-day conference included some of the major movers and shakers on the Christian right:
- Christian historian David Barton, the head of WallBuilders
- Columnist David Limbaugh, author of the bestselling book Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity
- Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
- Dr. Wanda Franz, president of the National Right to Life Committee
- Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association
- Alan Sears, president of the Alliance Defense Fund
- Wendell Bird, constitutional attorney and author of The Origin of Species Revisited
- Recording artist and “former homosexual” Stephen Bennett
- Dr. Daniel Dreisbach, author of Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State
- Dr. Rick Scarborough, president of Vision America
In 1995, Kennedy established the Washington, DC-based D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship (www.statesman.org), in order to offer spiritual counsel to members of Congress and their staffs. Among the Center’s projects is The Statesmanship Institute, a weekly program “for Christians in government” to give them “the tools to integrate biblical principles with your calling to public service” which offers:
- A Capitol Hill Bible Studies for staff on Capitol Hill
- A monthly series of lunches called Politics & Principle which “features a modern-day Christian Statesman who shares from a personal perspective, the challenges of living out Christian faith in today’s political environment”
- The Distinguished Christian Statesman Award, which “recognizes one outstanding public leader” each year—last year’s recipient was Representative John Hostettler (R-IN). (Previous winners include Kay Cole James, a longtime Christian right activist and currently the Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Majority Whip Tom DeLay [R-TX], and Judge Roy Moore.)
Recently, a Center press release pointed out that Bill O’Reilly, the host of the Fox News Channel’s “O’Reilly Factor,” had been surprised to discover that the ten- year-old operation existed. O’Reilly then mentioned it on his program, claiming that he was interested in finding out “which political leaders had been influenced by the Gospel message the Center proclaims.”
“Dr. D. James Kennedy’s multidimensional empire is a direct challenge to mainstream Christianity,” said Frederick Clarkson, a veteran journalist that has been following and writing about right-wing movements for more than 20 years. “Kennedy was one of the leaders of a schism that created the conservative Presbyterian Church in America 30 years ago,” Clarkson told Media Transparency in an email interview.
Although he may not be as well known as other Christian right leaders, Kennedy has been involved in multiple projects with his radical right colleagues. He was a member of the first board of directors of the Moral Majority. He also served on the initial executive board of the Coalition for Religious Freedom (CRF), an organization established by Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church while Rev. Moon was in prison in 1984. According to Sara Diamond, “the organization was financed primarily by the Unification Church, which gave an initial donation of $500,000.” The CRF’s executive board included Jerry Falwell, James Robison, Rex Humbard, Jimmy Swaggart, Kennedy, and Tim LaHaye, the co-author of the wildly popular Left Behind series of books” ( Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right , South End Press, 1989).
Kennedy, along with more than 30 Christian groups, was involved in the founding and funding of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), an organization formed to pursue “religious liberty” and family preservation” lawsuits. In her 1996 book, Facing the Wrath: Confronting the Right in Dangerous Times (Common Courage Press), Diamond wrote, “The ADF represents a serious escalation in the Christian Right’s legal action project.”
According to a People For The American Way’s Right Wing Watch report on the organization, the ADF’s major activities include:
- Defend[ing] family values and working against the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union)
- Strategiz[ing] and coordinate[ing] with [likeminded] lawyers all over the United States
- Working with over 400 lawyers, more than 125 right-wing organizations, and many ministries
- Arguing high profile cases before the Supreme Court, including Boy Scouts of America v. Dale and Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network
- Vigorous nationwide advocacy against same-sex marriage
- Training and recruiting conservative legal teams
- Defending the right of Christians to share the gospel in workplaces and public schools, claiming that any efforts to curb such proselytizing are anti-Christian
What distinguishes Kennedy from the more colorful, media-genic, and ubiquitous religious right figures is that, “Kennedy has shepherded his flock in a more orderly, and Presbyterian style into the Christian Right,” Clarkson pointed out. “For many years, Kennedy did a fundraising cruise called The Bible Boat to the Caribbean in the winter.
“In 1994 this was replaced with the annual Reclaiming America for Christ conference. This was his first foray into forming his own political network. Extending his operations to Washington, DC, through The Center for Christian Statesmanship appears to be a logical outgrowth of this process.”
Kennedy is also founder of Evangelism Explosion, a lay witness training program through which the ministry claims that 4.5 million people came to Christ last year. Kennedy launched Evangelism Explosion International in 1967.
According to a profile of Kennedy in the Institute for First Amendment Studies’ Freedom Writer, the program is “a sophisticated 13-week training seminar in discipleship.” EE training “is the most intense evangelism training in the world. It is used by hundreds of conservative Christian churches across the country, and has made inroads into every single country in the world.”
In an April 1999 article on the website of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Rob Boston argued that Kennedy didn’t believe in the concept of the separation of church and state: “Kennedy’s 1994 book, Character & Destiny: A Nation In Search of Its Soul , is riddled with attacks on the constitutional principle.
“Among other things, Kennedy calls church-state separation ‘diabolical,’ a ‘false doctrine’ and ‘a lie propagated by Thomas Jefferson.’ Kennedy also lapses into red-baiting, writing, ‘This phrase does not appear in the United States Constitution at all, but in Article 52 of the Constitution of the Soviet Union—now the Soviet disunion. Defunct, because they tried to get rid of God.’ A 1996 Kennedy tome, The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail: The Attack On Christianity And What You Need To Know To Combat It , coauthored with Jerry Newcombe, calls the wall of separation a ‘great deception [that] has been used to destroy much of the religious freedom and liberty this country has enjoyed since its inception’.”
Addressing the more than 900 attendees at the recently concluded Reclaiming America for Christ conference, Kennedy pointed out that there was a “crack in the Jericho wall of naturalistic evolution. I’m sure some of us will be around when the walls come tumbling down.” Kennedy went on to say that “Communistic evolution, according to the Senate committee that examined it, is responsible for 135 million deaths in peacetime. There’s no religion that has a tiny fraction of that many deaths on its conscience.”
Kennedy is not going to rest on his laurels. The Center for Reclaiming America’s Dr. Gary Cass recently unveiled four new ambitious initiatives intended to expand the impact of its work. The initiatives include: the establishment of Liberty’s Voice, a lobbying office in Washington; developing the Strategic Institute, a think tank that will “add intellectual muscle” to the Center’s pro-family efforts; launching the National Grassroots Alliance, an initiative to boost the Center’s grassroots network of 400,000 evangelicals up to one million; and Reclaiming America’s Media, to better communicate the Center’s message.
Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering conservative movements.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.