Right-Wing Radio Host Mark Belling Subject of Protests
MILWAUKEE . . . Mark Belling, the resident right-wing talk jock on WISN-AM Talk Radio in Milwaukee, was taken off the air for a week after using the epithet "wetback" on his program October 27. The contemptuous comment came during a diatribe in which Belling warned that illegal immigrants would flood the polls on Milwaukee's south side on election day, Nov. 2. Belling's hasty apology, laced with sarcasm and jokes, further fueled public outrage.
The protests were immediate and unified a broad array of Latino and other community leaders. Leading the charge was Robert Miranda, editor of the Spanish Journal and a board member of the Wisconsin Center for Pluralism. Other Latino leaders who added their voices to the protest were Maria Monreal-Cameron, President of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Enrique Figueroa, Director of the Roberto Hernandez Center at UW-Milwaukee; Ricardo Diaz of the United Community Center; Oscar Cervera, Director of the Federation for Civic Action; and State Rep. Pedro Colon.
Milwaukee Congregations Allied for Hope, the Milwaukee County Labor Council, the Islamic Society, the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Common Council, the Wisconsin Center for Pluralism and many other groups complained to WISN radio and its corporate parent, Clear Channel Communications.
At least three advertisers withdrew from supporting Belling's 3-6pm weekday program, and organizers planned to lodge formal complaints with the Federal Communications Commission. Lively protests were held outside the WISN-AM studios, at WDJT-TV (which suspended Belling's Sunday morning talk show for a week) and at the Waukesha Freeman newspaper, which publishes a weekly column by Belling. Groups involved in the anti-Belling protests agreed to form an ongoing Coordinating Committee Against Hate Speech. A web site, www.firebelling.com, has been launched to support the ongoing protests.
Belling has worked at WISN-AM for 15 years. He occasionally fills in for Rush Limbaugh when Limbaugh takes time off from his nationally syndicated show. Belling regularly attacks the usual suspects -- labor unions, welfare mothers, feminists, gay people, liberals, the unemployed, etc. -- with derision and invective. His program is said to attract the lion's share of the male demographic, ages 25-54.
Once back on the air Nov. 15, Belling played the martyr and inveighed against the liberal "hypocrites" trying to silence him. About his show, the unrepentant Belling defiantly vowed: "Nothing about it or me is changing."
Clear Channel (some of whose stations promoted pro-war rallies in 2003) has promised to conduct diversity training for its employees at WISN, to air public service announcements about diversity, and to invite Latinos to sit on a local advisory board.
--- Spanish Journal, WISN-AM, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, www.firebelling.com
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Tiny Grantsburg Ignites Evolution Controversy
GRANTSBURG . . . The small city of Grantsburg in Wisconsin's northwestern Burnett County has garnered nationwide publicity for a new policy that allows non-Darwinian theories of the origin of species to be included in the school district's science classes.
The move was condemned by proponents of church-state separation who see it as opening the door to the teaching of creationism or the newer concept of "intelligent design." A letter signed by more than 300 biologists and religious studies teachers from around the state called for the policy to be reversed. The academics said that evolution is the only scientifically valid theory of origin, that alternative theories "have no standing within the scientific community," and that students would suffer from such "misguided action."
The State of Wisconsin mandates the teaching of evolution but also allows local districts great leeway in designing their curriculums. As the Grantsburg policy does not prohibit the teaching of evolution, it is within state guidelines.
Grantsburg school board president David Ahlquist, pastor of the local Grace Baptist Church, denies the policy was motivated by his religious beliefs. He has been criticized by some teachers in the past for mixing religion with public education, once in the case of a school Christmas pageant replete with religious symbols.
In the past 15 years, religious conservatives across the country have attempted to introduce creationism and intelligent design into science classes in public schools, with mixed results. Creationism is based on the Biblical doctrine that God created the world and all life within one week. Intelligent design proponents claim that life forms are too complex to be explained by natural selection alone and that some guiding intelligence must be involved, although they do not explicitly name God as the ‘designer.'
The Seattle-based Discovery Institute is the leading promoter of intelligent design. Substantial funding for Discovery comes from the Maclellan Foundation, whose mission is to "subdue the institutions of man to the authority of Jesus Christ." (Milwaukee's Bradley Foundation donated $175,000 to Discovery in the 1990s.)
Critics charge that intelligent design is being used to undermine evolution and to advance a conservative religious and political ideology in the public schools.
--- Associated Press, www.discovery.org, www.au.org
(Americans United for the Separation of Church and State)
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Book Ban Fails; More Books May Be Targeted
TOWN OF MERTON . . . The adolescent coming-of-age book The Perks of Being a Wallflower has survived a challenge by parents Karen and Kurt Krueger, who objected to some sexual content and vulgar language. Perks was one of 16 books students could choose to read in an elective modern literature course at Arrowhead High School. Students were the most vociferous defenders of the book. Perks will remain available to juniors and seniors at the school's north campus.
The Kruegers, who previously home-schooled their kids for ten years, learned about Perks when their son brought it home. They can appeal the decision to the full school board. Mrs. Krueger says she is also considering challenges to The Joy Luck Club, Like Water for Chocolate and Chronicle of a Death Foretold, all award-winning books.
The Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association received reports of a total of 458 challenges to books last year. For each report, the ALA notes, four or five incidents go unreported.
--- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel , www.ala.org
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Voter Suppression and Dirty Tricks Mar Election
STATEWIDE . . . Attempts at voter suppression and other dirty tricks marred the November election in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin GOP worked aggressively to purge voting rolls in the Democratic bastion of Milwaukee of any ineligible voters. It attacked an effort by the local NAACP to register voters at the county jail and, just three minutes before the deadline, submitted 5,619 names and addresses to be disqualified. The City Election Commission nixed the effort, saying potential voters affected by the purge had no time to appeal. A later review by the city found that hundreds of the addresses were indeed valid and that others were the product of data entry errors rather than fraud. Undaunted, the GOP submitted another 37,000 names on Oct. 30, a move that City Attorney Grant Langley dismissed as "outrageous" and "purely political."
In Milwaukee's central city, anonymous fliers with the fictitious heading "Milwaukee Black Voters League" were distributed. The flier contained bogus warnings to recipients such as "If you've ever been found guilty of anything, even a traffic violation, you can't vote in the Presidential election" and "The time to register for voting has expired. If you haven't registered, you can't anymore."
The Milwaukee Public Schools curtailed a service learning project in which MPS students canvassed city neighborhoods encouraging voter participation after the state GOP and right-wing radio hosts, especially WTMJ's Charlie Sykes, objected to the sponsorship of the Wisconsin Citizen Action Fund. The canvassing was part of a broader educational effort that included mock elections, debates and discussions of voting rights in the classroom. Opponents attacked the canvassing program as partisan and orchestrated a torrent of public criticism -- some of it racist and abusive -- which led MPS to pull out.
(Neither Sykes nor MPS apparently had any partisan concerns in March of 2000 when presidential candidate George W. Bush was allowed to hold a campaign event at Fritsche Middle School. Charlie Sykes broadcast his radio show from the school that day, and footage of Bush dining with Fritsche students was aired on national newscasts.)
Newspapers across the state noted a level of incivility unseen in previous presidential contests. Beyond the usual filching of yard signs, several Madison residents woke one day to find swastikas burned into their lawns near their Bush-Cheney signs. Young Republicans with bullhorns disrupted several Kerry-Edwards campaign events. And as we went to press, charges were pending against individuals who allegedly slashed the tires of 20 vehicles rented by the GOP to carry voters to the polls in Milwaukee.
--- Wisconsin State Journal, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Christian Conservatives to Flex Their Muscles
Beyond the Election
"This alliance between religion and politics didn't just happen.
I've been dreaming and working on this for years."
-- conservative strategist Paul Weyrich
Assiduously courted by the Republican Party and emboldened by statistics suggesting that 30 million evangelicals played a pivotal role in President Bush's re-election victory, Christian Right and "traditional values" organizations plan to embark on an aggressive campaign to re-shape America's social and political landscape.
The plans are evident in the agenda announced by Rev. Jerry Falwell, former leader of the Moral Majority, who is establishing a new lobbying group, The Faith and Values Coalition. In his own words, Falwell's first four-year plan includes: "1) the confirmation of pro-life, strict constructionist U.S. Supreme Court justices and other federal judges; 2) the passage of a Federal Marriage Amendment; and 3) the election of another socially, fiscally, and politically conservative president in 2008."
Falwell has plenty of company.
Contemporary Christian and traditional values groups emerged in the wake of Supreme Court decisions that barred prayer in public schools and legalized contraception and abortion. The perceived threat from the civil rights advances made by women and gays and lesbians, along with increasing permissiveness in cultural matters, further mobilized social conservatives, fearful that the country was slipping into social chaos and sin.
In 1979, right-wing strategist Paul Weyrich encouraged Falwell to create the Moral Majority. Weyrich courted evangelicals and forged their alliance with the economic and political right, whose goals of reduced government, unregulated capitalism and anti-communism appealed to many Christian conservatives. Seeing the Democratic Party as liberal, even (in Falwell's words) "un-Godlike," they flocked to the GOP and worked fiercely for the election of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. and George W. Bush.
Today, dozens of national groups with cable networks, publishing empires, and sophisticated lobbying operations are planning to press their advantage and move the Christian Right agenda forward.
CHRISTIAN COALITION, www.cc.org
The Christian Coalition, founded by Rev. Pat Robertson in 1989, claims 2 million members and has 30 state chapters. Its central mission is to elect pro-family, Christian candidates to political office. To do this, former Coalition President Ralph Reed famously recommended that Christian candidates use stealth tactics to disguise their true motives: "The first strategy, and in many ways the most important strategy, for evangelicals," he said, "is secrecy."
The Washington, DC-based Christian Coalition, now directed by Roberta Combs, has a major lobbying presence on Capitol Hill and distributes millions of "voter guides" during primary and general elections in both state and national races. In 2000, the Coalition boasted that it distributed 70 million such guides to affiliated groups and churches nationwide. In 1999, the IRS determined that these guides were not really "non-partisan" and stripped the group's tax-exempt status. The Coalition's annual income of about $26 million at that time has been halved. It has been rocked recently by race discrimination lawsuits filed by employees.
CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA, www.cwfa.org
Concerned Women for America, based in the nation's capital, was established in 1979 by Beverly LaHaye as a sort of anti-National Organization for Women. It seeks to "to protect traditional values that support the Biblical design of the family." CWA works to defeat state laws promoting equal rights for women. It opposes all sex education that is not abstinence-only in design and has represented abortion protesters in many court cases. It has led the fight against the use of "Harry Potter" books in schools. It opposes all measures meant to protect gays and lesbians, including hate crime legislation. If you watch public affairs shows you are apt to notice that many of CWA's media representatives are men.
AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATION, www.afa.net
The American Family Association, once known as the National Federation for Decency, is led by Rev. Donald Wildmon and based in Tupelo, MS. It has 21 state and many more local affiliates. AFA owns more than 200 radio stations across the U.S. and produces videos and programming for other Christian stations. Its primary concern has been "indecency" and "un-Christian" values in the media. It has crusaded against PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and is currently promoting a boycott against Disney films, theme parks and products. AFA's legal arm, the Center for Law and Policy, challenges sex education curriculums and defends the use of Christian symbols in schools and other public institutions.
FOCUS ON THE FAMILY, www.family.org
Focus on the Family was founded in 1977 by James C. Dobson and is based in Colorado Springs, CO. Focus has an annual budget of more than $100 million and almost 1,000 employees. It has more than 2 million subscribers to its ten Christian-themed magazines and makes millions on books, videos and other products. Dobson is heard daily on 3,000 radio stations in the U.S. and overseas. Focus supports prayer in public schools and tax credits and vouchers for religious schools. It opposes abortion and civil rights for gays and promotes the idea that "homosexuality is preventable and treatable" through the widely discredited concept of "reparative therapy."
FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL, www.frc.org
The Family Research Council was established by James Dobson in 1981 as the lobbying arm of his family values group in Washington, DC. It has since become independent. Under the leadership of former Reagan advisor Gary Bauer in the 1990s, FRC lobbied aggressively for restrictions on abortion and on federal funding of family planning services. It opposes any advances in civil rights for gay people and has published reports that equate homosexuality with pedophilia and bestiality. It has led censorship battles, worked to de-fund the NEA and PBS, and fought for filtering software on library computers. Gary Bauer has moved on to the group American Values. FRC is currently headed by former Louisiana State Rep. Tony Perkins.
NATIONAL RIGHT TO LIFE COMMITTEE, www.nrlc.org
The National Right to Life Committee, founded in 1973, lobbies Congress and organizes grass-roots activists around the country on anti-abortion legislation. It has 50 state affiliates and several thousand chapters at county and local levels. Recent victories include passage of the so-called "partial-birth abortion" ban, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act and a measure (tacked on to a budget bill) allowing federally-funded health providers (doctors, clinics, HMOs) to refuse to provide abortion services or referrals. A new step in the NRLC's strategy of chipping away at abortion is the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, which would require doctors to provide fetuses with anesthesia during the abortion process. The NRLC opposes embryonic stem cell research, RU-486 and The Pill.
AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE, www.aclj.org
The American Center for Law and Justice was established by Pat Robertson in 1990. It is dedicated to "defending and advancing religious liberty, the sanctity of human life and the two-parent, marriage-bound family." With an annual budget of $16 million and a network of attorneys nationwide, ACLJ has been in the forefront of many lawsuits involving faith-based social services and prayer and religion in public schools. It has challenged anti-bias ordinances that include sexual orientation, and defended anti-abortion protesters blocking clinics as well as a pharmacist who refused to dispense birth control on religious grounds. Its Director and Chief Counsel is Jay Sekulow, a frequent guest on news shows.
TRADITIONAL VALUES COALITION, www.traditionalvalues.org
The Traditional Values Coalition, founded in 1980 and based in Anaheim, CA, claims a membership of 43,000 churches nationwide. Its chairman is Rev. Lou Sheldon who, in many TV appearances, has made a name for himself preaching against the alleged "homosexual agenda." TVC has organized anti-gay initiatives in four states and was a chief proponent of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. It also crusades against abortion and the teaching of evolution and sex education in the schools. "Give us a few more years under the belt," says Sheldon, "and we will learn how to replace many of the school board members."
"America is a nation based on Biblical principles.
Christian values dominate our government . . .
Politicians who do not use the Bible to guide their public and private lives
do not belong in office."
-- Beverly LaHaye, founder of Concerned Women for America
Christian Conservative Groups in Wisconsin FAMILY RESEARCH INSTITUTE, www.fri-wi.org
The Family Research Institute of Wisconsin is leading the fight for the state constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage. Passed in the last session of the legislature, this amendment needs to be approved again in the new session beginning in January after which it will be placed before the public as a referendum. If approved by voters, it will become law. The amendment would not only bar gay marriage, it would prohibit civil unions and domestic partner benefits. When not attacking the civil rights of gays and lesbians and suggesting that they are "recruiting" and despoiling our youth, Executive Director Julaine Appling can be heard inveighing against the evils of sex education and Planned Parenthood on her weekly Wisconsin Family Connection radio broadcast. FRI sponsors two sub-groups, Wisconsin Physicians Resource Council and the Wisconsin Coalition for Traditional Marriage. The first involves health professionals who speak out against abortion. The second is a coalition of mostly evangelical religious leaders opposed to gay marriage.
WISCONSIN CATHOLIC CONFERENCE, www.wisconsincatholic.org
While socially progressive on issues like poverty and worker's rights, the Wisconsin Catholic Conference hues to the Vatican's edicts that homosexuality is "intrinsically disordered" and that abortion is murder. Executive Director John Huebscher testified in favor of the anti-gay marriage amendment and consistently speaks out against abortion and family planning services.
WISCONSIN RIGHT TO LIFE and PRO-LIFE WISCONSIN,
www.wrtl.org and www.prolifewisconsin.org
Wisconsin Right to Life is the state affiliate of the national anti-abortion group and Pro-Life Wisconsin calls itself the "100% Pro-Life Voice" -- "Defending God's plan for human life without exception and without compromise." Both are active in electing like-minded legislators. Both support the Conscience Clause Bill (AB 67), the Ban on Human Cloning (AB 104 / SB 45) and oppose state funding for stem cell research.
Christian Right Priorities andTactics
Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act (H.R. 235)
Would lift the IRS restriction on houses of worship endorsing candidates for public office. (All other tax-exempt entities would still be prohibited from engaging in political activity.)
Federal Marriage Amendment (HR 56)
Would place a ban on same-sex marriage into the U.S. Constitution. Defeated by the House this year, it is expected to be re-introduced in the new Congress.
The passage of laws that will deny federal courts the authority to hear cases related to specific issues, like school prayer or same-sex marriage. Six such bills are making their way through Congress.
Supporting only those nominees for federal judgeships who have strong records as "pro-Christian, pro-life, pro-family" jurists. Aggressively opposing those who do not.
Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act (HR 4420 and S 2466)
Would require those performing abortions to inform the woman about the alleged pain felt by the fetus and require her to sign a form allowing the use of pain-killing drugs for the fetus during the procedure.
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Citizens Confront Hatred
and Build Community in Central Wisconsin
WAUPACA . . . On August 20, members and supporters of Toward Community: Unity in Diversity held a Rally for Human Diversity outside Camp Tamarack near Waupaca, where the white supremacist preacher Pete Peters convened his annual "Bible Camp."
Peters heads the Colorado-based ministry Scriptures for America. The Anti-Defamation League calls Peters a "proponent of Christian Identity, which argues that Jews are spiritually degraded and pose a threat to civilization, that blacks and other people of color are inferior to whites, that homosexuals should be executed and that northern European whites and their American descendants are the ‘chosen people' of scriptural prophecy."
Several camp participants confronted the diversity proponents, whose worse fears about the "Bible Camp" were confirmed. Members of the Peters group argued that the Holocaust never happened and that the Bible decrees that homosexuals should be executed. One claimed there is a widespread Jewish conspiracy to blend all of humanity into a "mongrel" race.
"I am very proud of our effort," said Scott Peeples of Toward Community. "While we likely had not changed their minds, they most certainly hadn't changed ours. We were respectful with our words and with our signs, but firm in our determination that hatred of non-whites, Jews and homosexuals cannot be tolerated. Their quest for racist solitude in the scenic confines of Camp Tamarack had been disrupted. The voice of respect for human diversity had been heard."
Meanwhile on October 14, Kathy Flores of Toward Community and Holocaust survivor Henry Golde met with a new Social Justice Group in Marshfield and afterward spoke about peace-building at the UW-Extension in Marshfield. The Social Justice Group and the presentation came about in response to the actions of Christine Miller, a Marshfield area resident who created a Holocaust denial exhibit which was displayed at the public library last year.
At the presentation, Flores spoke about social justice issues and Golde recounted his experiences as a Holocaust survivor. A question and answer session followed in which Miller again asserted that the Holocaust never occurred and called Golde's experiences into question. Flores reports that the audience rallied around Mr. Golde and purchased copies of his Holocaust memoir, Ragdolls.
Toward Community's 11th annual Celebrate Diversity Picnic in Menasha drew 250 participants this summer. The group's mission is "promoting unity, diversity, understanding and justice in the Fox Valley." To get involved, either call (920) 731-6602, ext. 506; visit www.towardcommunity.org; or write: Toward Community, P.O. Box 2181, Appleton, WI 54912.
--- www.adl.org, www.towardcommunity.org
"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice,
but there must never be a time when we fail to protest."
-- Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel
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