I quake as I ponder the questions: Is the Family Research Council genuinely pro-life? Is it even pro-family? Are we witnessing one more case study in which the Religious Right sacrifices principles on the altar of political expediency? Perhaps we’re in a flashback to the 2008 election, when Pat Robertson cynically endorsed pro-choice Republican Rudolph Giuliani for president despite his checkered history on “family” issues. His reason: Giuliani could beat the Democrats.
I shiver because I’m always leery of second-guessing motives. I’d rather crawl into each other’s skin and discover why we hold our respective views even while we debate. The FRC, a conservative Christian advocacy group spawned by James Dobson’s Focus on the Family in the early 1980’s, worries over western humanity’s eroding sexual morality and opposes abortion on demand. I find common ground on those issues. In my view, however, the organization morphed into another link in the Right’s choke hold on evangelical Christianity. Dobson, along with Jerry Falwell, Robertson, and others, naively saw the Republican Party as God’s tool and muted the church’s independent, prophetic voice, molding a sneer on the back-to-the-Bible movement in the process. The call for social and environmental justice – which rings from the Scriptures just as loudly as family values – was pushed off to evangelical academies and the enclaves surrounding Jim Wallace, Ronald Sider, and Tony Compollo. A potential dialogue with many Roman Catholics, who view abortion through the prism of their church’s progressive social teaching, was muffled.
But I never questioned the FRC’s integrity. Dobson seemed sincere, as did Gary Bauer, one of the organization’s early presidents. Tony Perkins wended his way through Louisiana Republican politics before stepping into its presidency in 2003 – and there’s no scandal in that. He was probably unwise in speaking before a white supremacist group, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Believe it or not, campaigning politicians cram their schedules with so many speaking engagements they barely know where they are. There was no real sign of duplicity or cunning.
Until now. The evidence is darkly compelling: The FRC may very well be disingenuous and devious after all, and I take no pleasure in saying that. It is demonstrating, once again, why the loosening choke hold must finally break.
The organization blatantly and falsely alleges that the recently-passed health care legislation, formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act but derisively called “Obamacare,” provides federal dollars for elective abortions. The FRC, along with the Susan B. Anthony List and the National Right to Life Committee, has targeted pro-life Democrats in the upcoming election, claiming their “yes” votes betrayed the cause. Among the supposed turncoats: John Boccieri and Steve Driehaus of Ohio as well as Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper and Congressman Tom Perriello of Virginia. All are Catholics. Their votes for expanded health care fit the philosophy of the Consistent Life Network , which seeks to guard life from abortion, war, poverty, racism, and euthanasia. The FRC could heed the network’s words of wisdom: “We challenge those working on all or some of these issues to maintain a cooperative spirit of peace, reconciliation, and respect in protecting the unprotected.”
Chris Korzen of Catholics United and David Christensen of the FRC recently debated over whether the legislation funds abortions. As usual in debates these days, the antagonists could not even agree on the facts. But Korzen emerges victorious when nonpartisans weigh in. Factcheck.org researchers found no abortion funding; Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University and an expert in health care, culled the bill before it became law and discovered the same thing. He charges: “I think that the (right-wing) groups that are doing this have a political agenda and it’s a partisan political agenda and they’re not particularly interested in the truth. What they want to do is elect Republicans.” The hypocrisy unveils itself even more: Republicans Jo Ann Emerson and Cynthia Lummis were dropped from the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony list because they did not meet SBA standards. No one targets them.
And then there are the pro-choice voices: the National Abortion Rights Action League refused to endorse the legislation because of its spending restrictions on abortions.
Suddenly, cold reality bears down like an arctic front: The FRC would reach across the aisle if it were really pro-life and thank those Democrats. It would understand that “liberals” such as Hubert Humphrey were pro-life and pro-family. It would forge alliances, recognizing that the abortion issue transcends the liberal-conservative divide. Most important, it would emulate Ephesians 4:15 and speak the truth in love. After all, the FRC claims to be a Christian organization.
Alas, deeds testify louder than vision statements and web site descriptions. The FRC has lost sight of the word, “Christian” and is now merely conservative. It brazenly forges ahead with undisguised, misleading propaganda. Korzen is right when he echoes Jost: “So why are these groups ignoring the facts and attacking pro-life Democrats who worked tirelessly to ensure that health care reform prohibited abortion funding? Because their campaign is really about winning back GOP control of Congress.” Truth is merely an expendable tool.
There is nothing wrong with campaigning for Republicans, but the FRC does it disingenuously. It uses the pro-life issue as a foil, harming itself and the cause in the process. Worst of all, it tarnishes the image of Christ. No political victory is worth that price.
For further reading:
Christensen, David, “No apologies for being consistently pro-life,” August 2, 2010, http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2010/08/no_apologies_for_being_consistently_pro-life.html
Korzen, Chris, “Prolife movement and GOP politics: an unholy alliance,” July 28, 2010, http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2010/07/pro-life_movement_and_gop_politics_an_unholy_alliance.html
Ertelt, Stephen, “Family Research Council Includes Pro-Life Democrats in List of 2010 Targets,” LifeNews.com, April 19, 2010, http://www.lifenews.com/nat6266.html
Jost, Timothy, “Response to United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,” March 14, 2010, http://law.wlu.edu/faculty/facultydocuments/jost/Jost_Response_to_Bishops_3.14.10.pdf.
Jost, Timothy, “Jost Response to 5/20/10 USCB Letter,” http://law.wlu.edu/faculty/facultydocuments/jost/Jost%20Response%20to%20USCCB%20on%20PPACA%205%2024%2010.pdf, May 24, 2010.
Zwick, Jesse, “As Midterm Campaigning Heats Up, Anti-Abortion Advocates Target Pro-life Democrats,” http://washingtonindependent.com/94380/as-midterm-campaigning-heats-up-anti-abortion-advocates-target-pro-life-democrats, August, 11, 2010.