Religion and Government – Program 3

By: Dr. D. James Kennedy, Mr. John Buchanan; ©1984
Why would some claim that a pro-family agenda could actually harm America? What do they see as the dangers of promoting strong families?

Are Pro-Family Organizations a Threat to America?


Tonight, what is the relationship of religion to government?

[*** Excerpts of commercials from People For The American Way ***]

James Robison: I am sick and tired of hearing about all of the radicals, and the perverts, and the liberals, and the leftists, and the communists coming out of the closets. It’s time for God’s people to come out of the closets, out of the churches and change America. We must do it.
Jerry Falwell: We have got to raise up an army of men and women in America to call this nation back to moral sanity and sensibility. I call that the Moral Majority.
D. James Kennedy: ….Christian freedom in particular which is, I believe, today under serious attack.

[end excerpt]

However there are those who disagree. T.V. producer Norman Lear founded an organization called People For The American Way, whose opinion of such Christians is:

[*** Excerpt People For The American Way commercial ***]

Martin Sheen: If you are alarmed by these voices of intolerance, please call this number. I’m Martin Sheen, a member of People For The American Way. Washington and Jefferson knew the dangers of mixing church and state. Today, extremists are using religion to manipulate political debate. Their aim is to impose their beliefs on you. And if you remain silent they will succeed. Call this number and make your pledge of $15 or more, to help carry this warning to other Americans. Don’t take your freedom for granted.

[end excerpt]

Tonight, representing People For The American Way is their chairman, John H. Buchanan. From 1965 until 1981 Mr. Buchanan was a Congressman representing the 6th District of Alabama in the US House of Representatives. My second guest is Dr. D. James Kennedy, senior minister of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He is president of the Coalition for Religious Liberty and a board member of Concerned Christians for More Responsible Citizenship. Please stay tuned for this important discussion.

Ankerberg: Welcome. Thanks for joining us tonight. On stage is former Congressman, John Buchanan and Dr. D. James Kennedy from Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida. Gentlemen, we are here tonight to discuss religion and politics. And Mr. Buchanan, in a letter that I have that you wrote you said, “There can be no doubt that the so-called pro-family movement is gaining a stronghold throughout our nation. Their gains have been made in part because the pro-family television ministry reaches millions of Americans, intimidating them into believing the lie that unless you are pro-family, as they define it, you are un-American and unchristian.” Now, Dr. Kennedy, I am going to come to you because you are one of those people that are on television. The man sitting next to you says you and I, talking to the people he is writing to, dare not underestimate the threat of the pro-family movement. Are you a threat?
Kennedy: Well, I hope that I am a threat to all of those that would attempt to destroy the family in America which is the foundation stone of American society, and certainly only a moral and spiritual threat, if any. But we certainly do believe that the family is very vitally important, and we believe that there are many threats which are impinging upon the family today. So much so that there is legislation which has been introduced into the Senate to try to protect the family. And we are trying to do that. I think that any intelligent American today knows that the American family is in serious trouble. Our divorce rates are about the highest in the world. And we are having all sorts of difficulties. I think the family needs protecting and we are trying to help it.
Ankerberg: Former Congressman Buchanan, how in the world can you be against people that are for the family?
Buchanan: Well, that’s not exactly what I said. I talked about the pro-family movement as defined by a certain set of people. And personally I grew up in a Christian family, for which I thank God. It was the finest inheritance I could have had. I have a wife and two daughters and we are Baptist Christians. And….
Ankerberg: You’re still a Baptist minister, aren’t you?
Buchanan: Yes, sir. I deeply believe in the importance of the family unit in society. That isn’t at all what I was talking about in my letter. I was talking about an agenda that, for example, has taken a position in opposition to meeting the growing and tragic problem of family violence in the United States. I was talking, for example, about the Rev. Greg Dixon, who was then National Secretary of Moral Majority and head of its Indiana chapter, who led an effort – a successful effort – a couple of years ago to get the state legislature in Indiana to weaken child abuse legislation in a year in which eight children were beaten to death in Indiana. I don’t consider that pro-family, I consider it anti-family. I was also talking about an anti “women’s right” agenda.
Ankerberg: Before you go to the next one, let’s go back to Mr. Dixon, because I checked with Moral Majority, and you know he hasn’t been there for a year and a half. That legislation that you are talking about, the reason that they were against it was not because of the fact that they were against battered women not having shelters, they just didn’t want it in the hands of the federal government. They wanted it in the hands of the state government.
Buchanan: But it was the hands of the state government was where it was. It was state law in Indiana. And, in fact, whatever the motivation, Greg Dixon is a Christian, he is my brother, he is sincere, but whatever his motivation, it in fact strengthened a situation in which eight children were beaten to death because it weakened the law which sought to protect such children. And I don’t think that a pro-family agenda.
Ankerberg: If I remember the media though, the eight children that were talked about, the police wanted to have the right at the local state area to be able to get involved in that and under the bill that Mr. Dixon was against at that time, he wouldn’t have been able to do that, the police wouldn’t have been able to get into that.
Buchanan: No that’s not correct. It was already state law. It was state law providing shelters for battered children and help for families who had the problem of violence. And it was that existing law in Indiana which was weakened through the leadership of Greg Dixon and Indiana Moral Majority. And what the letter said was I don’t consider that a pro-family agenda.
Ankerberg: Let me ask you this, why do you go back to somebody that’s not even in that and talk about that in the current day when something happened a year and a half ago and that man is not with Moral Majority any more?
Buchanan: Well, he was then National Secretary of Moral Majority when he did that. He was head of its Indiana chapter when he did that. He did it as a Moral Majority leader and I use that to illustrate the fact that when he had that position he did that act which I do not consider a pro-family act. My objection is not their being for families, it is a particular agenda I consider negative and against the interest of many families.
Ankerberg: Yes, but you know that the Christians across the country, and I think Dr. Kennedy you would back this up, the Christians are not for laws that would keep people….
Buchanan: Am I not a Christian?
Ankerberg: Well, you are saying that certain Christians, namely the people in the Moral Majority, the “far right” as you are calling them, are against that. And I would say that’s not true. They have made that public in their statement. Mr. Dixon is no longer with them. Their view on that thing was that it was tied to the federal control. They didn’t want that, they wanted it in the hands of the state authorities.
Buchanan: But he is still adjoined with them in ACTV, I believe. Well, never mind.
Ankerberg: Well, the word, I checked on it today, and the word from the top was that he is no longer with them. But, Dr. Kennedy, in this thing of, do Christians have the right to get involved, to put their views in there, into society, are we like former Congressman Buchanan said here that, “Of course Jerry Falwell, President Reagan and all the other leaders of the pro-family movement have a constitutional right to live their own lives as they see fit. But they have no constitutional right to limit your personal choices or mine by imposing their values and beliefs on us”? Are we imposing our beliefs? Are Christians across the world imposing this because they vote for a measure?
Kennedy: John, I believe that many people don’t understand what really is involved in the relationship of legislation and morals. The truth is that every legislative enactment that has ever been made has been the imposition of some moral code on society. When we pass laws against prostitution we impose certain restrictions on prostitutes. When we pass laws against stealing, we impose our moral code of honesty on thieves. When we pass laws against murder, we inhibit the activities of would-be murderers. And the same thing is true down the line. The question is not whether we impose some morality on people when we pass legislation, the truth is that all legislation does that. The question is simply whose morality is going to be imposed? Now America was founded upon the Judeo-Christian ethic, and for almost 200 years, in fact prior to the Constitution, for 350 years this nation, its laws were indeed an imposition of the Judeo-Christian ethic upon society. Now what we have is with the humanist ethic, the humanist religion, becoming rampant in America, it is an effort on their part to remove this Christian foundation from America and to impose the non-theistic, humanistic ethics which are virtually antithetical to every Christian moral position there is upon society. And so they continually say, “Oh, you are imposing your morality upon us.” But they are just as actively engaged in imposing their morality upon us.
Buchanan: But we are Christians, too. You both are acting as if people who disagree with you are not Christians. I find this very demagogic, John. I am really shocked at your questions and your attitude thus far. I have been a Christian for many years, but I believe in civil rights. I believe in women’s rights. I believe in public education. I believe that we need to protect children who are victims of violence. That’s not because I am not a Christian, it’s because I am a Christian, John. Your questions are just too demagogically stated. You are taking excerpts from a letter which I stand behind every word. You are misreading what I say, misinterpreting what I say. You are saying why are you attacking the Christians. I, as a Christian, resent that very much.
Ankerberg: You say it right in your own letter.
Buchanan: I do not attack Christians, my friend. I am a Christian, a Baptist Christian.
Kennedy: But John, let me ask you a question then. If you are a Baptist Christian, which I accept your statement….
Buchanan: Well, I hope so.
Kennedy: …. how is it that you are the Chairman of Norman Lear’s People For The American Way which has given us such pro-family programs as “All in the Family” and “Maude” and “Divorce, American Style” and such programs as these which certainly belittle all of the traditional values that we have held in this country? How do you account for that?
Buchanan: I don’t think that Norman Lear did “Divorce, American Style.” But he did do “Maude” and “All in the Family.”
Kennedy: And “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.”
Ankerberg: He did do “Divorce, American Style.”
Kennedy: Did he?
Buchanan: Did he do that too? Okay.
Kennedy: Do these represent pro-family values to you?
Buchanan: I think “All in the Family” was a significant moral statement making us look at ourselves and at the problem of attitudes of race against race that I would consider other than Christian. We all laughed at Archie Bunker, but….
Kennedy: Who was a representative of the Christian on the program and the agnostic meathead….
Buchanan: Oh, I don’t think so. I think. ..No, I think….
Kennedy: But he was always portrayed as the Christian….
Buchanan: I think that’s humor and satire. And I think one of the problems is, here is a man whose job it was to try to help people laugh, but also to try to make them face up to certain national problems like the problem of racism. But, James, I must tell you, I don’t have to defend everything Norman Lear ever did to be for his rights as an American citizen, associated with him in defense of the First Amendment. I am for the First Amendment and for separation of church and state, because I am an old fashioned Southern Baptist Christian.
Kennedy: Well, if you are an old fashioned Southern Baptist Christian, you told me a while ago that you are in the employ of People For The American Way.
Buchanan: I said I was a part-time aid chairman. That’s a little different.
Kennedy: Well, you are just a part-time employee?
Buchanan: I am the leader of the organization, but I spend so much time on it I receive some recompense for some of my work.
Kennedy: Okay, I was….
Buchanan: That’s not a very unusual arrangement in this society.
Kennedy: No, but we have just seen something of what Norman Lear has done. And also, I was reading that Playboy Magazine has made a $40,000 grant to People For The American Way, that they support People For The American Way. They have made several other grants to People For The American Way. So what we have in effect is Hugh Hefner is paying part of your salary. Hugh Hefner, which represents female genitalia on display, which represents antifamily values at their worst, which represents sado-masochism, which represents lesbianism, which represents every kind of non-family value that could possibly be imagined. And he’s paying your salary as a Southern Baptist minister. How do you explain that?
Buchanan: Well, that’s a very demagogic way to say it.
Kennedy: Well, everything is demagogic to you.
Buchanan: No, several years ago… .several years ago Playboy Foundation did, in fact, give, I believe, a $20,000 contribution.
Kennedy: $40,000.
Ankerberg: $40,000. It’s in your records.
Kennedy: It’s in their statements.
Buchanan: What was the date of that contribution?
Kennedy: 1982.
Buchanan: Okay. Then that was part of an annual budget that’s about 3.5 million dollars. Most of it comes from individuals, a variety of entities, foundations, corporations. A lot of it comes from individuals all across the country. Some of it comes from Baptist Christians and Presbyterian Christians. I personally think it was a mistake to accept a contribution from Playboy Foundation. I was not a party to that procedure. But that is a fact out of the 3.5 million or so a year, there was a contribution of Playboy.
Ankerberg: You also advertised in Playboy.
Buchanan: You said it was $40,000, I thought it was $20,000.
Ankerberg: You also advertised in Playboy. You got free advertisment and you put your ads in there.
Buchanan: In many different publications.
Ankerberg: Yes, the question is with the standards that you hold as a Christian, and I hope that you don’t think we are demagogic because we ask the hard questions. We can be friends, but sometimes friends can disagree.
Buchanan: I think you are very unfairly stating some things John, I really do.
Ankerberg: Okay.
Kennedy: John, let me….
Ankerberg: That’s why I documented it in your letter. I didn’t read anything but your letter.
Buchanan: But you misread my letter and misinterpreted what I said and when I tried to correct you, you tried to cut me off. My remarks about the pro-family movement were not that I am anti-family, as you implied in your very first intervention. It is rather that I don’t agree with the interpretation of being pro-family that says you should be against doing something about violence. You should be against women’s rights. You should take some of the other postures taken by the “pro-family” movement in order to be a pro-family person. You see, our purpose is to say you can take many different positions as a Christian and still be a Christian. You can take many different positions on political issues and still be a moral person. You can take many different positions and not necessarily be someone who is immoral or unchristian because you believe this or that.
Ankerberg: Alright, John, let me give you an example here. This is an outline of “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.” This is your boss. He has exposed ….
Buchanan: He is not my boss! I am the chairman! He was our founding chairman.
Ankerberg: And he is still involved.
Buchanan: He has no authority in our organization. I am the chairman of that organization.
Ankerberg: Okay, I guess what Christians that look at biblical absolutes, that aren’t so flexible as you seem to be making them, this… you tell me if you think this jibes with biblical absolutes.
Buchanan: What is a greater biblical absolute than “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” John?
Ankerberg: Alright. Let’s listen to what he put on the screen in front of America. Here is the outline.
Buchanan: Do you love me, John?
Ankerberg: I love you.
Buchanan: Well, I wish you would show it a little bit.
Ankerberg: Well, the truth will set you free too. Here “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” is described. Mary’s grandfather exposed himself to small girls. Her sister slept with so many men she didn’t know whose baby she was carrying. In fact, she went to so many motels she used to come home with Gideon Bibles. She had a whole shelf of them. (And I don’t see the real humor from a Christian point of view.) Neighbors Ed and Howard were homosexual lovers. A teenager massacred a family of five and it became hilarious when he also finished off two goats and eight chickens. On their wedding night Merle went to a prostitute while his bride joined her lesbian friend. Medics transplanted a Great Dane’s testicle into a human. In “Maude” you have the first program on television where the heroine, the main character in the story, has an abortion. Are those Christian values?
Buchanan: No, I don’t think so. Indeed, I do not approve of “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” nor have I ever.
Ankerberg: Then why is it that you are with a group of people that are advocating they want that to be presented to the American people?
Buchanan: Because Chuck Bergstrom of the Lutheran Council, who is chairman of our executive committee, would also disapprove of “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.” But he has, as I have, some strong feelings about the First Amendment and the absolute separation of church and state, and that’s what our organization is about. Our organization has from its inception been composed primarily of mainstream religious leaders, business leaders, some entertainment people like Norman. It certainly was his idea. But from it’s very beginning we have had people like Chuck Bergstrom and like me, deeply involved in the leadership of an entity dedicated to religious liberty, to the separation of church and state and to the First Amendment. That’s what we are about.
Ankerberg: Yes, now, can you see, though, why so many people across America hearing and seeing these things on television are saying, “We have got to get involved in the political scene because we do not want that to be presented to our children. We do not want that kind of a standard.” I don’t think you want that kind of a standard and yet you are working with the very folks that are advocating that standard be applied and have done it.
Buchanan: No, that is precisely incorrect.
Ankerberg: They haven’t done it?
Buchanan: You are taking a part of the work of a single individual, who did not organize this entity in order to put on “Maude” on television. He organized this entity because he was concerned about the subject of religious liberty and about the freedom of all Americans to know the kind of freedom of conscience that the First Amendment has guaranteed us. He was one of a group of individuals who did this. Our organization is about the First Amendment and religious liberty. It is comprised of many religious leaders and of people who are a diverse group of people across a spectrum in terms of both faith and politics.
Ankerberg: John, let me just inform you about a book that was written. It is entitled See No Evil by Jeffery Collin, Simon and Schuster, 1979. His father was president of CBS during the years that Norman was coming out with this program. In here he has got it documented how Norman thought about those, and one of the things that he says in this book is basically that this organization was formed so there wouldn’t be the family hour cutting in to telling him what to show on Archie Bunker. And he fought it and helped organize it. In fact, this was one of the things that spurred that on. What do you say when a person like this, in the industry, that knows and documents it in a 200-page book, says that this is the motivation for your boss? This organization ….and then he also goes on to say….
Buchanan: There you go again. Norman Lear is not in any sense my boss. I am chairman of a non-profit, 501(c)(3) Corporation.
Ankerberg: Okay.
Buchanan: If I have a boss it would be Chuck Bergstrom of the Lutheran Council who is chairman of our executive committee. But he is not my boss either. I am the leader of that organization. That’s like saying to a church pastor, “You have a former deacon over here who is into all sorts of sin and he is your boss.” And why are you…
Ankerberg: John, but the problem is….
Kennedy: May I interrupt a minute and say this. I don’t think it is like that at all. Has the People For The American Way, under your chairmanship, publicly renounced and denounced Norman Lear for all of these anti-family things that he has done? Have you?
Buchanan: Certainly not. I am not prepared now to denounce Norman Lear.
Kennedy: Well, then that is different. If we had a deacon in our church….
Buchanan: Well, I think you are being very unfair in that portrayal as well.
Kennedy: John, let me finish. If we had a deacon in our church who was involved in some sort of immorality, then the church should take discipline against him and remove him from that position, and not simply condone him, and refuse to publicly renounce what he has done if you believe that it is wrong.
Buchanan: Well, I don’t know what kind of churches you pastored, Jim, but I never pastored a church in which the members were not people who were capable of sin and error of various kinds and I can’t think of many instances where people were excommunicated or kicked off the board of deacons of any of my churches. I will tell you, the church in which I grew up….
Ankerberg: John…
Buchanan: Please.
Ankerberg: Go ahead.
Buchanan: The church in which I grew up had deacons who were slum landlords in housing for black people who were exploited systematically, and people who had nothing and whose rights were systematically violated by deacons of my church in which I grew up. And if you want to excommunicate deacons, I would say that is a good place to begin. But it never happened. Now I don’t think we should take some of the actions of a man, whom you misunderstand in my judgment, and say to me that I have to say to this person, “I reject you altogether because there are some things you have done of which I disapprove.” If I did that I would have to reject most everybody I know.
Ankerberg: No, we never reject the person, but we do reject the things that he is presenting and stands for.
Buchanan: But he also stands for some other things, deep love for this country.
Ankerberg: We don’t deny the good things, but what about the bad things?
Buchanan: Commitment to the principle of separation of church and state and the First Amendment. These are things for which I also stand and that’s what our organization has done.
Kennedy: John, may I say this, that there are some that have been within your organization that would disagree with that. Monsignor George Higgins, who is a leader in the Catholic Social Justice and Labor Action Group, made a public resignation from the group’s advisory board and he said that the reason that he did that is because the People For The American Way, “employ the same singleminded emotional scare tactics associated with the religious right whom they are continually attacking.” And I also know that Father Hesburgh, who is the president of Notre Dame, resigned from the People For The American Way for similar reasons.
Buchanan: No, Father Hesburgh did not resign and I could present you a letter from this man, which is a very friendly letter to us, even though he did become unhappy about some of the same material and fund raising letters with which I also became unhappy.
Ankerberg: Okay we are going to hold it right here for this week, and hope that you will join us next week as we continue this conversation.

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