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Winter, 2000

Anti-Semitic Incidents in Eau Claire

Anti-Semitic messages were left in the mailboxes of three Jewish residents in Eau Claire. The threats, which were found during the eight-day celebration of Hanukkah, stated "It is time for a Jew to die in Eau Claire --- this time they are not getting away." Police also are investigating strange calls reported at another Jewish residence. During one of the early morning calls, a male asked, "Do you know the Lord?" and "Do you know Jesus Christ?" (Leader-Telegram 12/7/99)

State Sued for Plan to Hire Marriage Coordinator

The Freedom From Religion Foundation and Madison minister Rev. Charles Wolfe have filed a federal suit charging that Wisconsin's plan to hire a marriage policy coordinator violates the separation of church and state. The state budget includes $210,000 to hire an employee who would help clergy establish requirements --- such as premarital counseling and follow-up sessions --- for couples who want to be married in a church (Milw. Journal Sentinel 12/25/99). The idea is based on the nationwide Marriage Savers movement promoted by conservative Christian organizations such as Promise Keepers and Focus on the Family and its Madison affiliate, the Family Research Institute (Wis. State Journal 6/13/99).

Elections 2000

Supreme Court candidate Diane Sykes has been criticized by her opponent for her membership in a conservative professional group (Milw. Journal Sentinel 10/14/99). Sykes is on the advisory board of the Federalist Society, which says it seeks to counter the "left wing advocacy" of the American Bar Association. The Society is funded by the Bradley Foundation and other right wing foundations (Right Guide 1997).

Presidential candidate Gov. George W. Bush has been making overtures to religious conservatives in recent months. In September he was criticized for missing a conference of U.S.-Mexico governors in order to speak at the Dallas church of his close friend, Rev. Tony Evans, a prominent speaker for the men's evangelical group, Promise Keepers (Associated Press 9/4/99). In October, Bush delivered a speech to the Christian Coalition where he was warmly received by founder Pat Robertson who indicated that he favored Bush over other Republican candidates (Milw. Journal Sentinel 10/2/99).

In the Schools . . .

The Waukesha Taxpayers League has threatened a recall election of school board members accused of breaking a promise to cut taxes. Ruth Page Jones, the president of Project ABC, a group which promotes excellence in Waukesha schools, says that she doesn't believe that the community will support the recall. "I find it hard to believe there are enough people who would demand [the] $12 [tax break] at the risk of compromising the quality of our schools," Jones said (Milw. Journal Sentinel 10/25/99). The taxpayers league is led by Christine Lufter, who co-founded the right wing Independent School Board Members of Wisconsin (Milw. Journal 1/7/93) and by Jim Lufter, a member and former candidate for the U.S. Taxpayers Party, a political party which advocates public policy based on Biblical laws (USTP 4/10/98).

A sex education speaker sponsored by the anti-abortion movement has been speaking at schools and events throughout the state. Pam Stenzel, founder of Straight Talk Inc., has brought her abstinence-only message to public schools such as Waupun High School, Ladysmith High School and Middle School, Flambeau High School,and Wauwatosa East and West High Schools (Milw. Journal Sentinel 12/4/99, Leader-Telegram 2/1/96). Sponsors of the talks include Wisconsin Right to Life, Collegians for Life, the Family Life Council, the Wisconsin Abstinence Coalition, and the Wisconsin Coalition of Pregnancy Centers (Janesville Gazette 10/27/95, Plymouth Review 6/12/97, Collegians 10/4/94, Family 11/14/99).

Christian Coalition Chairman Subpoenaed
In Elections Board Investigation

Wisconsin Christian Coalition chairman Brent Pickens has agreed to comply with a court order requiring him to give a sworn statement regarding a mailing sent out during the 1997 Supreme Court race between Jon Wilcox and Walt Kelly. Pickens is one of three members of the Wisconsin Coalition for Voter Participation who have been refusing to disclose the source of funding for a mailing of 354,000 supposedly non-partisan postcards. The cards, however, were nearly identical to Wilcox campaign ads, and an affidavit filed in Dane County Circuit Court by the State Elections Board linked the mailing to the campaign. If it is determined that the group and the campaign collaborated, the money spent on the mailing could be ruled an illegal, unreported contribution, and civil or criminal charges are possible. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 2/17/00).

Hate Groups Active in State

Burlington residents recently found racist literature containing slurs against Jews, blacks, and other ethnic groups on their doorsteps. The 32-page newspaper was distributed by the World Church of the Creator (Racine Journal Times 2/23/00), a white supremacist group linked to the gunman suspected of racially motivated shootings in Illinois and Indiana last summer (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 7/7/99).

An Eau Claire police officer says that Nazi and white supremacist activity is increasing in area schools. In a speech at UW-Eau Claire, Bruce Van Valkenburg, community relations officer for the Eau Claire Police Department, expressed concern that students would be attracted to organized hate groups, such as the World Church of the Creator and Hammerskin Nation, both of which have Wisconsin branches. Authorities worry that this could lead to an increase in hate crimes. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, eighteen hate crimes were committed in Wisconsin in 1998. However, Van Valkenburg estimates that there have been that many in the Chippewa Valley alone (Eau Claire Leader-Telegram 2/10/00).

Two Appleton-area residents were featured on an A&E cable network documentary on white supremacists. "Investigative Reports" showed the couple living in Oak Park, Mich., where their home served as the headquarters of Resistance Records, which specializes in white power bands. The 1995 program, which was rebroadcast in February, says that Mark Wilson "helps inspire racial separatists around the world" and that Dana Wilson "prides herself on being an excellent Aryan mother." In an interview with the Appleton Post-Crescent, Mark Wilson acknowledged that he and his wife once held racist beliefs, but says they are no longer part of the movement (Associated Press 2/12/00).

Group Sponsors Firearms Violence Prevention Event

Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort (W.A.V.E.) is coordinating Wisconsin’s participation in a firearms violence prevention event. The national event, Silent March, is a grassroots call to action to end the epidemic of gun violence that takes the lives of approximately 30,000 Americans every year. Shoes will be collected, each pair representing one of the victims, and displayed at the Democratic and Republican Conventions this summer as an illustration of the toll of gun violence in America. In conjunction with the national event, W.A.V.E. is sponsoring Silent March-Wisconsin, a local event in which over 400 pairs of shoes, representing Wisconsin’s firearm victims in one year, will be used to call attention to the devastation gun violence has reeked across our state. For more information, call 414/964-6228.

            Religious Right Joins with Anti-Labor Forces

            The Oregon chapter of the Christian Coalition has thrown its weight behind a "paycheck protection" ballot initiative intended to cripple labor unions. Labor leaders say that Initiative 25, which would force unions to get written approval from members in order to spend dues on lobbying and candidate donations, would unfairly remove unions from the democratic process. 

            Initiative sponsors are paying the Christian Coalition for signatures gained on ballot-qualification petitions. A Coalition fundraising letter, which blamed "big labor" for allegedly "backing the effort to normalize homosexuality," told members, "God can give us the victory, but we must do the fighting."

            The Religious Right is backing a similar anti-labor ballot drive in Colorado. According to Robert Greene, president of the Colorado State AFL-CIO, the "paycheck protection" initiative represents the "marriage of convenience" between the Religious Right and anti-labor groups like the National Right to Work Committee (In These Times 5/29/00).

            Falwell Aims to Register 10 Million Voters

            Televangelist Jerry Falwell, leader of the defunct Moral Majority, has announced plans to register 10 million voters at conservative Christian churches before the November election. Critics have charged that the campaign is a ploy to help the presidential bid of George W. Bush. Although Falwell claims there is no partisan motive, he says, "people who pray will probably vote all right, too." (Journal Sentinel 4/15/00).

            Christian Coalition Rates Wisconsin Congressmen

            The national Christian Coalition has given a 100% rating to three Wisconsin congressmen. Paul Ryan (R-Janesville), Mark Green (R-Green Bay), and F. James Sensennbrenner (R-Menomonee Falls) received perfect scores for their votes on issues such as abortion, education, and taxes. Dane County Democrat Tammy Baldwin was given a 0% rating by the Coalition (Christian Coalition 5/00).

            Taxpayer Group Opposes Union Labor Agreement
            for Lambeau Field Project

            The Brown County Taxpayers Association objects to a commitment by the Green Bay Packers to use union contractors and subcontractors on the Lambeau Field renovation. "We don't think this is beneficial for the taxpayers," says group president Frank Bennett.

            The state legislature did not take up an amendment to the stadium plan that would prohibit "discrimination" on the basis of whether a contractor's employees are covered under a collective bargaining agreement (Associated Press 6/11/00).

            Ovadal Goes to Court Over Nude Beach Protest

            Anti-gay activist Ralph Ovadal has appeared in court rather than pay the $125 ticket he received for blocking access to a nude beach at Mazomanie. Wardens testified that Ovadal and 50-75 protesters stretched a chain across the road, and confronted beachgoers by shouting at them, including calling them pedophiles.

            Ovadal claims that he was ticketed because he is a "high-profile politically incorrect individual," and he says the state is protecting "the sexually perverse elite who want to have this beachfront brothel on the Wisconsin River." Dane County Circuit Judge Steven Ebert announced he will issue a written statement on the case within 90 days (Capital Times 6/6/00). Ovadal is founder of Wisconsin Christians United which has the mission of "driving homosexuals back into the closet."

            Religious Release Program Raises Questions

            A controversial program in the Augusta school district will allow students to leave school for an hour each week for religious instruction. So far, 212 of the district's 692 students have enrolled in the program which was developed by the local ministerial association. Non-participating students will be sent to study hall. 

            In a letter dated May 5, which included an enrollment form, school district administer Fred Brown said the religious release time would provide moral training and enrich the lives of children. ACLU director Chris Ahmuty says that, although the program is legal under state law, the district may not endorse or promote it. "I think that Augusta has crossed the line," said Ahmuty (Leader-Telegram 6/9/00).

            Promise Keepers Return to Milwaukee

            The evangelical men's group, Promise Keepers, plans to hold a conference on August 11 and 12 at Milwaukee's Bradley Center (Promise Keepers 6/00).

            The group has become well-known for holding huge rallies where men are urged to retake control of their wives and families. However, critics charge that the group's leaders are promoting a wider political agenda which includes sexism and homophobia.

            Neumann Forms Group to Elect Right Wing Candidates

            Former congressman and failed senatorial candidate Mark Neumann has formed an organization called Citizens for a Better America to help elect right wing candidates this fall.

            Neumann says that about 60 candidates have responded to his letter that promises money and grass roots support to those who share his conservative views. Neumann denies that he is using the group to lay the groundwork for a gubernatorial bid (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 8/29/00).

            Right Works Behind the Scenes in Election 2000

            "Our crowd needs to get into the battle, keep their mouths shut and help this man win." So says Rev. Jerry Falwell in a recent New York Times article in which "religious right" leaders expressed their satisfaction with the Bush campaign.

            Although some social conservatives complained about the centrist rhetoric at the Republican National Convention, Chuck Donavan of the
            Family Research Council reminded followers that they are winning on their core issues. "In terms of substantive action, the platform and the choice of Cheney, social conservatives have every reason to be pleased.  And if you've got to choose something, take the substance over the symbol."

            Leaders like Rev. Pat Robertson agree. At a crowded rally, Robertson promised to re-energize the Christian Coalition and distribute 75 million voting guides at churches this fall. Ralph Reed, a former executive director of the Christian Coalition and now a top Bush adviser, said that "social conservatives have become increasingly mature and sophisticated about the political process and understand that . . . a governing majority requires that you work with others with whom you occasionally disagree." (New York Times 8/3/00).

            Hate Group Meets Near Waupaca

            A Colorado-based hate group, Scriptures for America, met at a bible camp near Waupaca over the Labor Day weekend. Featured speakers at the event included national leaders of the white supremacist movement: Pete Peters, who claims that the bible calls for the execution of homosexuals; Charles Weisman, who supports the genocide of Jews and an America for "whites only;" and Richard Kelly Hoskins, who created a blueprint for biblically-based racist terrorism.

            Devon Burghart of the Center for New Community, a group that monitors hate groups, says that the gathering is intended to mobilize supporters and establish a permanent base in the region. Area ministers and civil rights groups held a prayer vigil and protest to oppose the event (Post-Crescent 9/2/00).

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