Wisconsin Center for Pluralism
Summer, 2002 Report

CONTENTS:
Supreme Court OKs School Vouchers
Labor Peace Ordinance Under Attack
Bradley Foundation Names New Chairman
Green Supports Churches in Politics Bill
UW System Must Give Records to Affirmative Action Opponents
Wisconsin Conservative Leadership Coalition Forms
Board Member Wants God Back in the Schools
Radio Talk Jocks Help Orchestrate Recall Efforts
English-Only Policy Approved
Hate Crimes/Incidents Reported Across Wisconsin
Wis. Christians United Leader Fined for Harassment
National Briefs

EDITOR: Jamakaya, Executive Director, Wisconsin Center for Pluralism



Supreme Court OKs School Vouchers;
Opponents to Insist on Accountability

On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of using of public funds for religious school tuition in Cleveland. The decision is significant nationally and especially in Milwaukee, where more than 10,000 children currently attend private and religious schools with taxpayer money. Since the inception of Milwaukee's "school choice" program, more than $140 million in public funds have flowed to private schools.

Critics have attacked the voucher concept for draining resources from the public schools and lack of public accountability. Voucher schools are not required to hire certified teachers or to disclose academic performance data or attendance and drop-out rates. They are not required to provide bilingual education or services to special education students. They are also exempt from state laws prohibiting discrimination based on pregnancy, marital status or sexual orientation.

Milwaukee School Board member Jennifer Morales told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "It's time to move on, and the discussion has to be around account-ability. ... The public needs to be able to see classroom by classroom what's going on with its tax dollars."

Stan Johnson, President of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, urged that public dollars be invested instead in programs that are proven successes: "We know that smaller class sizes, early childhood and after-school programs, and recruiting and retaining talented, trained and caring teachers work."

According to the editors at Rethinking Schools: "Vouchers have been a bedrock of the conservative agenda to privatize our schools and transform education into yet another individual consumer item. This conservative agenda is at odds with this country's long-standing belief that public education is a cornerstone of our vision of a more democratic America, where public institutions are responsible to, and controlled by, the public."

--- www.rethinkingschools.org, www.weac.org

Return to Contents



MMAC to Continue Fighting "Labor Peace" Ordinance

US District Judge Lynn Adelman has dismissed a challenge to Milwaukee County's labor peace ordinance filed by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, but the business group vows to fight on.

The ordinance applies to contractors who do more than $250,000 in business with certain county departments. In the event of union organizing drives, the law orders employers to avoid anti-union campaigns and intimidation of workers. It also forbids unions from picketing and strikes. The county can terminate the services of any contractor who violates the ordinance.

Proponents believe the law reins in both sides during potential labor disputes while ensuring the uninterrupted delivery of county services. But the MMAC claimed the measure violated the free speech and due process rights of its members and interfered with the National Labor Relations Act. The group said the ordinance inhibited members from doing business with Milwaukee County.

Judge Adelman found no evidence that any MMAC member was prevented from doing business with the county. In dismissing the case, he said: "The plaintiff is asking me to resolve questions about the constitutionality of an ordinance in the absence of a live dispute. ... Dislike for a law does not establish a justifiable case or controversy."

Nate Elias of the MMAC said his group would continue to oppose the ordinance. They feel they have a close ally in newly elected County Executive Scott Walker and are appealing to him for help in the fight.

--- Milwaukee Labor Press, Business Journal

Return to Contents


Bradley Foundation Names Thomas L. "Dusty" Rhodes Chairman

Milwaukee's Bradley Foundation, one of the country's leading funders of conservative causes and right-wing groups, has chosen Thomas L. "Dusty" Rhodes as chairman of its Board of Directors.

Rhodes is president of National Review, the publication of conservative opinion most associated with William F. Buckley Jr. He is the founder and co-chair of the American Civil Rights Coalition, whose goal is to reverse affirmative action programs. He is a past trustee of the Manhattan Institute and the Heritage Foundation, two leading right-wing think tanks.

Rhodes is also co-chair of the Club for Growth, a political action committee for "economic conservatives" whose agenda is "fundamental income tax reduction and simplification; repeal of the death and capital gains taxes; school choice for all families; free trade; and personal accounts for Social Security."

Rhodes apparently takes his tax-cutting stance literally; he sits on the boards of at least two companies, Delphi International Ltd. and Oracle Reinsurance Ltd., which are based in the tax haven of Hamilton, Bermuda.

---National Review, www.clubforgrowth.org

Return to Contents


Rep. Green Co-Sponsors Bill to Let Houses of Worship Engage in Partisan Politics

Wisconsin's 8th District U.S. Representative Mark Green (R) is among 129 co-sponsors of a House bill that would change the Internal Revenue Service Code to allow houses of worship to actively participate in partisan political activity --- including endorsing and financing candidates.

Current law already enables houses of worship, their leaders and congregants to speak out on all social and political issues, however, they are forbidden to endorse particular parties or candidates. This restriction on campaigning applies to all tax-exempt non-profit organizations. But HR 2357, the so-called "Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act," introduced by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), only lifts the ban on houses of worship, not other tax-exempt groups. The bill is being pushed aggressively by Pat Robertson and other conservative evangelical leaders.

--- Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Return to Contents


Madison . . .
UW System Must Provide Records to
Affirmative Action Opponents

On July 2, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered the University of Wisconsin System to release detailed records of student admissions to the Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO), a Virginia-based think tank which challenges affirmative action programs.

CEO sought admissions records from 11 UW campuses, the UW-Madison Law School and the UW Medical School from 1993 to 1999. The records include test scores, class rank, grade point average, race, gender and ethnicity. Such statistics are likely to be used in what the Institute for Democracy Studies calls "ideologically driven research" to undermine support for affirmative action programs and other diversity initiatives.

The UW System initially gave CEO almost 400 documents on its admission policies, but declined to provide more specific information due to privacy issues. It was supported by the 4th District Court of Appeals which ruled that federal law requires all such records to remain confidential. The Supreme Court reversed that ruling, however, saying the law applies only to infor-mation that identifies specific students. The court said the UW System could bill CEO for the costs of expunging student names from the data it must now turn over.

Longtime conservative activist Linda Chavez is the founder and executive director of CEO. Other leaders include Abigail Thernstrom, author of America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible, and John Miller of the National Review who wrote Unmaking of Americans: How Multiculturalism Has Undermined America's Assimilation Ethic. CEO is a project of the Equal Opportunity Foundation, which receives major funding from Milwaukee's Bradley Foundation. The Equal Opportunity Foundation opposed the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1990.

--- Wis. State Journal, Institute for Democracy Studies


California . . .
Affirmative Action Referendum
Set for 2004

Proponents of a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the state of California from collecting information on the race of students and state employees have obtained enough signatures to qualify the measure as a ballot initiative in 2004.

The "Racial Privacy Initiative" was spearheaded by Ward Connerly, an African American member of the University of California Board of Regents and a leader of the movement seeking a so-called "color-blind" society by opposing affirmative action programs.

In 1996, Connerly and his organization, the American Civil Rights Coalition, allied with national conservative think tanks and right-wing groups to successfully pass Proposition 209. Proposition 209, paradoxically dubbed "The California Civil Rights Initiative" by supporters, banned the use of affirmative action in state employment, education and contracts. The new initiative is aimed at preventing the state from even collecting data on race and ethnicity, with exemptions for medical research and law enforcement.

One year after implementation of Proposition 209, the percentage of African, Hispanic and Native American freshmen admitted to UC-Berkeley fell from 23.1% to 10.4%. At UCLA, minority admissions plummeted from 19.8% to 12.7%.

--- New York Times, www.acri.org

Return to Contents



Wauwatosa . . .
Wisconsin Conservative Leadership
Coalition Forms

Leaders of the group Tosans for Responsible Government have created a new political action com-mittee called the Wisconsin Conservative Leadership Coalition. Seizing on the momentum of recall campaigns in Milwaukee County, the group is enlisting the support of business owners and executives to carry statewide its message of cutting taxes and reforming government.

"We are determined to go after government inefficiencies," said Robert Dohnal, a Wauwatosa pharmacist. The group plans to target lawmakers who fall short of its expectations and promote new candidates for political office. The Coalition will also publish a journal, Conservative Digest, to disseminate its views.

Republican State Senator Bob Welch is said to be a "staunch" supporter of the new group. Welch consistently receives among the lowest numbers on the State AFL-CIO's legislative scorecard of issues important to working families as well as Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin's legislative scorecard of reproductive health issues. He also appears on Wisconsin Environmental Decade's list of the "Dirty Dozen" most anti-environment politicians.

--- The Business Journal, Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, Wisconsin Environmental Decade, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin

Return to Contents



Kewaskum . . .
School Board Member Mary Meisser
Aims to Bring God into Schools

While seeking re-election to the Kewaskum School Board earlier this year, Mary Meisser wrote a lengthy letter to The Kewaskum Statesman addressing what she called the "fundamental" issue facing public schools today: "the presence of God in our schools." Meisser won the April 2 race.

"Schools are much more conducive to learning if the values contained in the Ten Commandments are referenced and God's timeless influence in our world, nation, art and music is not ignored," she wrote. "We must not be afraid. If we take the initial step, God will bless our district. We simply need to trust Him. ... We are called to make acts of faith many times in our lives --- sometimes on a daily basis. God will help us and protect us but we need to ask His help and then let Him do what He does best."

--- Kewaskum Statesman

Return to Contents


Milwaukee . . .
Radio Talk Jocks Help Orchestrate Recall Efforts

Citizen anger over an expensive pension deal for some Milwaukee County employees was seized on by right-wing radio personalities and activists and molded into a movement that is changing the face of Milwaukee politics. County Executive F. Thomas Ament resigned his position in February and seven County Board members who voted for the deal have been recalled.

Leading the charge were radio talk jocks Charlie Sykes and Jeff Wagner. Both men played prominent roles at public meetings, standing under promotional banners that read "Thank you Charlie Sykes, Jeff Wagner, 620 WTMJ." WTMJ radio is owned by the parent company of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Sykes is a long-time conservative commentator and regular contributor to a right-wing think tank called the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. Wagner is a former GOP candidate for State Attorney General who ran on a platform of reinstating the death penalty and sending 9-year-old offenders to boot camp. He apologized for dirty tricks during his failed campaign.

Bryan Olen, a spokesman for the recall group Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG), served on the Cudahy School Board and survived his own recall in 1993. His support of charter schools and massive budget cuts sparked the recall effort. Running as a Re-publican, he lost a bid for the State Assembly in 1998.

Orville Seymer of the Apartment Assn. of S.E. Wisconsin lives in Franklin but has led recall efforts against several central city representatives. He reportedly ousted from CRG meetings citizens who did not support the candidacy of GOPer Scott Walker for County Exec.

In June, fliers with a gun-toting John Wayne and the message, "Life is tough, but it's tougher when you're stupid. Don't be stupid ... work WITH Scott Walker," appeared in the mailboxes of county supervisors.

--- Shepherd Express, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Return to Contents


Brown County . . .
"English-Only" Approved

On July 17, the Brown County Board of Super-visors ignored the wishes of its own Diversity Affairs Council and voted 17-8 to adopt a resolution affirming English as the language of Brown County government.

The measure stirred considerable debate, with critics saying it was "divisive" in a community that has seen increased racial and ethnic diversity. Since 1990, the county's Latino population has risen from 1,500 to 8,700, and the Asian population, mostly Hmong, has doubled to more than 5,000. Twenty years ago, Green Bay was 95% white, now it is 85% white.

County Executive Nancy Nusbaum opposed the measure and, as we went to press with this report, was considering a veto. She told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "This appeals to the latent fears that reside in most communities of someone who is different."

--- Appleton Post-Crescent, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Return to Contents


Jefferson and Milwaukee . . .
Anti-Gay Killers Sentenced

On March 21, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge John Ullsvik sentenced Darrin Grosskopf, 33, to life in prison for the hate crime murder of a gay man, Keith Ward, in Waterloo in 2001.

On February, Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge M. Joseph Donald sentenced Pablo Parilla, 26, to life in prison for the murder of his sister's ex-lover, Juana Vega, in November of last year. Family members and gay and lesbian friends of Vega worked to have the murder charged as a hate crime because of Parilla's oft-stated hatred for Vega's sexual orientation and his anger that Vega had allegedly "turned" his sister gay. The District Attorney decided the evidence did not support the hate crime enhancement but, in an ironic twist, Judge Donald referred to the murder as a hate crime during Parilla's sentencing hearing.

--- Wisconsin State Journal, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Milwaukee . . .
Racist Fliers Left at Museum

On May 28, racist fliers were discovered outside America's Black Holocaust Museum on N. 4th St. They were placed there by Brian T. Werner, 22, of Waukesha who sports tattoos that say "White Power" and "Hate."

The fliers contained racial slurs and asked why any white people should be concerned about the fate of 7-year old Alexis Patterson, an African American child who disappeared May 3 on her way to school. Many concerned citizens, black and white, have joined in the search for Alexis.

Police arrested Werner on a disorderly conduct charge, but the District Attorney's office, while acknowledging the hateful content of the note, declined to prosecute, citing First Amendment free speech rights.

--- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Appleton . . .
Synagogue Defaced

In late February, a member of the Moses Montefiore Synagogue on Meade St. in Appleton called police to report that a swastika had been painted on the glass door of the synagogue. The damage was minor but police investigated the incident as a hate crime. No one has been apprehended.

--- Appleton Post-Crescent

Cottage Grove . . .
Swastika Painters Charged

Two men were charged with graffiti and disorderly conduct for spray-painting swastikas on a home owned by a black family on April 24. With the addition of the hate crime enhancer, the misdemeanors were elevated to felonies. The men charged are Andrew E. Smith, 23, and Paul C. Jenkins, 23, who was also charged with obstructing police and bail jumping.

--- Wisconsin State Journal

Kenosha . . .
Racist Motorist Sentenced

On April 25, Kenosha County Judge Michael Wilk sentenced James Langenbach, 30, to 176 years in prison for deliberately running down two black teens with his car in 2001. Both boys have recovered from serious injuries.

Judge Wilk said: "There are no words that adequately describe the repugnance and revulsion that a civilized person should feel. You are deserving of the contempt and scorn of a civilized society."

--- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Kaukauna . . .
National Alliance Drops Lit

Several citizens in Kaukauna reported finding racist literature from the National Alliance left in their doors in late April. The 4-page pamphlet was headlined "Let's Stop Being Human Shields for Israel" and had commentary blaming Israel and Jews for the World Trade Center attacks. It touted the alleged superiority of the white "Aryan" race and included a membership form intended for a "White person of moral character."

--- Appleton Post-Crescent

Manitowoc . . .
Arsonists Sentenced

In February, U.S. District Judge Charles Clevert sentenced Andrew Franz, 23, to 19 years in prison for his role in helping to burn down the home of a Hmong family in Manitowoc in 1998. Franz and six friends allegedly plotted to torch the home of the Chao Lee family to "send a message" that Asians were not welcome in the area. In separate trials, Augustine LaBarge and Michael Nicholson were found guilty and sentenced to 10 and 18 years, respectively.

The Lee home was completely destroyed in the blaze but the family, including six children, managed to escape injury. The family came to the U.S. from Laos shortly after the Vietnam War. "We came here seeking peace," Chao Lee said at the sentencing hearing, "but this is not peace."

--- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Beloit . . .
Anti-Arab Harassment

In April, Federal Judge Barbara Crabb sentenced Thomas D. Iverson, 45, to two years and three months in prison after he pleaded guilty to making telephone bomb threats to a store owned by a Jordanian immigrant. Iverson made the phone threats in the weeks following the 9/11 attacks.

--- Capital Times

Return to Contents


Madison . . .
Small Fine Fails to Quell Ralph Ovadal's Zeal

"The defendant breached the peace. He verbally attacked a lone woman. He participated in physical intimidation."

Those were the words of Dane County Circuit Court Judge Paul Higgenbotham on May 29 when he fined Ralph Ovadal $1,000 for an incident of disorderly conduct at Mazomanie Beach last summer. Ovadal, leader of Wisconsin Christians United, is known for his aggressive crusades against gays and lesbians and Wisconsin's nude beach.

On May 28, 2001, Ovadal and several followers approached a woman unloading her bicycle from her car in the parking lot at Mazo beach. Ovadal menaced the woman, repeatedly calling her a "whore" and demanding that she repent.

The fine was imposed instead of a 90-day sentence despite the fact that Ovadal's rap sheet includes more than 67 previous arrests. Judge Higgenbotham said he considered jail time for Ovadal but decided "It's only going to create a martyr out of you, and I'm not going to do that."

In April, Ovadal and members of WCU waved anti-gay banners and engaged in shouting matches with students outside many high schools, including those in Mount Horeb, Oregon, Merrill, Milwaukee and Green Bay. Students were holding a "National Day of Silence" to enlighten teachers and students about the oppression of gay teens.

Ovadal's anti-gay campaign continued through the summer at Pride festivals around the state. The photo at right shows an Ovadal supporter with his allegedly "Christian" message outside the PrideFest celebration at Milwaukee's Maier Park in June.

--- Capital Times, Wisconsin IN Step

Return to Contents


National Briefs . . .
Denial of Family Planning Funds: A Sop to the Right?

WASHINGTON, DC . . . President Bush's denial of $34 million in family planning funds to the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) was criticized by some observers as a concession to his support base of right-wing and social conservatives.

In denying the funds, Bush cited their potential use for abortions and forced sterilizations in China. How-ever, U.S. law already prohibits any U.S. funds from promoting abortions overseas, so no part of the funds would have been used in China. In addition, UNPF is on record against any coercive family planning practices. The $3.5 million of its $270 million budget that goes to China involves women's literacy and health care education and teaching about informed consent.

Just last year in testimony before Congress, Secretary of State Colin Powell praised the "invaluable work" of the Population Fund around the globe.

U.S. Rep. Carol Maloney (D-NY) criticized the White House for its "mindless zeal to take care of their right-wing base," and the New York Times called de-funding UNPF "an inexcusable sop to right-wing anti-abortion activists in an election year. It will increase the number of abortions worldwide by depriving poor women of the education and help they need and that the U.N. agency provides."

The European Union has since stepped forward to provide the $34 million to the U.N.

--- New York Times, www.unpf.org

William Pierce, America's Leading Neo-Nazi, Dies

HILLSBORO, WV . . . William Pierce, a lifelong white supremacist who built the National Alliance into the country's largest neo-Nazi group, died in July at age 69.

A colleague of George Lincoln Rockwell and his American Nazi Party in the 1960s, Pierce later organized the racist, anti-Semitic National Alliance from names collected while organizing youth for Alabama Gov. George Wallace's presidential campaigns. In the 1970s, he spread his calls for "white power" and revolution through a newspaper, the National Vanguard.

The Vanguard evolved into a larger publishing enterprise which distributed racist comics aimed at young people as well as Pierce's own books, "The Turner Diaries" and "Hunter." "The Turner Diaries," a book depicting the glories of race war, was cited by Timothy McVeigh as inspiration for his bombing of the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Members of The Order, a group formed in response to the book, were convicted of murdering a Jewish talk show host in Denver. "Hunter" depicted the assassination of Jews and interracial couples.

Pierce also spread his views through radio broad-casts and a sophisticated web site. A few years ago, he purchased Resistance Records, which has become the largest distributor of racist music aimed at youth.

--- New York Times, Southern Poverty Law Center

Christian Coalition Settles Racial Bias Complaints

WASHINGTON, DC . . . The Christian Coalition has quietly settled a racial bias suit brought against it by ten African American employees who worked in the data entry and remittance departments at its national headquarters. The women workers said they were victims of "Jim Crow-style racial discrimination," including being forced to use the organization's back door and a segregated break room. They said they were also excluded from the group's annual Christmas party and other social events.

Five additional workers joined an amended suit, charging that the Christian Coalition retaliated against them after they filed the initial claim. Among them was a white employee who said he was fired because he refused orders to spy on black co-workers.

Terms of the settlement were sealed by the court.

--- Associated Press

Return to Contents

To the Center for Pluralism Home Page



NEED A SPEAKER FOR YOUR EVENT?

Does your group want to learn more about the Radical Right?
Call the Wisconsin Center for Pluralism's Speakers Bureau.
Phone: (414) 272-9984 ~ E-mail: [email protected]