1. Conflicting Signals on Christian Right Support for Giuliani
Rudy Giuliani, on the heels of his Pat Robertson endorsement, is getting signals from other Christian right leaders that his promises to appoint "strict constructionist" judges are not enough: To win over the base, he has to vow to nominate judges dedicated to overturning Roe v. Wade. Will he do it? Let the flip-flop watch begin.
In a speech to the conservative legal group the Federalist Society a couple of weeks ago, Giuliani pledged allegiance to rounding out a conservative majority anchored by Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, and Samuel Alito. But he managed to talk about strict construction without once mentioning Roe, much to the chagrin of some members of his target audience. And that was in all likelihood deliberate, since Giuliani apparently believes that part of what makes a strict constructionist is an adherence to precedent -- even what a judge considers to be bad precedent -- and therefore a strict constructionist could uphold Roe.
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins took to the pages of Politico to excoriate Giuliani for his stance on Roe. Perkins revealed that he met with Giuliani privately at the Values Voter Summit last month, and that the candidate "affirmed his view that a strict constructionist judge could uphold Roe v. Wade because of legal precedent." Giuliani is trying to have it both ways: hoping that the "strict constructionist" promise will steer Christian right voters in his direction, while avoiding offending pro-choice voters with anti-Roe promises. But the Christian right insists on purity, and Perkins made that clear when he disparaged Robertson for compromising. "That is why it is all the more appalling to see social conservative leaders embrace Giuliani's campaign," Perkins wrote, as "many of his supporters are using the language of 'strict constructionism' to defend their dubious decision and to urge 'pro-life' Americans to join them. ... They are making the spurious argument that only judicial appointments matter."
At the same time, though, Perkins' ally and American Values president Gary Bauer told the National Review that Giuliani could capture the Christian right vote, although "it would require a sell job that goes beyond anything he's done up until now. ... It probably would mean very specific assurances on a handful of key things that people would want to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt. But I think it can be done."
2. Oral Roberts University President Resigns Amid Scandal
Richard Roberts, the president of Oral Roberts University accused of diverting university finances for his family's personal use and illegally using the university's tax-exempt resources to campaign for a Republican mayoral candidate, resigned last weekend following a vote of no confidence by the university's board of regents. Roberts had been on a leave of absence after three professors terminated by the university sued last month, claiming they were fired for speaking out about the financial irregularities and for refusing Roberts' instruction to cover up the political activities. A former accountant for ORU and two former students have since filed three additional lawsuits. The accountant alleges that he was forced to cover up financial improprieties on Roberts' behalf. The students charge that the value of their degrees from the institution has been diminished since the firing of the three government professors who are the plaintiffs in the original suit.
Some ORU critics have been skeptical that the board is dedicated to any meaningful change in how the university, which is over $50 million in debt, is operated. Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, is investigating three members of the board of regents -- Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, and Kenneth Copeland -- for allegedly using their tax-exempt ministry funds for their own personal enrichment. And Copeland's son-in-law, George Pearsons, is the board's chairman.
Late yesterday the board of regents concluded a two-day meeting, but refused to release the audit of Roberts' spending conducted by the university's lawyers at the Washington, D.C., law firm Miller and Chevalier. Pearsons announced that the university had received two "seed-faith" gifts of $8 million and $2 million, and the Tulsa World reported that the $8 million donation came from an Oklahoma businessman who pledged an additional $62 million gift pending an examination of the institution's finances.
3. Huckabee Appears on TV: Not as a Candidate, But Definitely as a Theocrat
Mike Huckabee is appearing every day this week on Kenneth Copeland's Believers' Voice of Victory program, and the first two episodes featured a lot of discussion about "character," "integrity," and "excellence." All that talk didn't move Copeland to mention either the Grassley probe of his ministry or the ORU scandal, but he did display a keen understanding that he shouldn't be using his nonprofit television ministry to bolster his friend Huckabee's candidacy. He began each program with the meaningless disclaimer that Huckabee was appearing as an ordained minister, not a candidate. Oh, and by the way, he's running for president.
Copeland echoed other Huckabee supporters' praise, talking about "God's anointing and calling on this man." He then launched into a discussion of how America's universities have been "dumbed down," but that the standards are higher at Christian schools, including at ORU, which Copeland said demands "excellence."
Throughout the campaign, Huckabee has made clear his views on evolution, abortion, and marriage, all rooted in his fundamentalist reading of the Bible, which apparently -- who knew? -- lays out God's plan for governing America. But appearing with Copeland, Huckabee felt even freer to talk about how at age 15 he first understood "that [God] owns me, that my life doesn't belong to me. ... And we have to look at our lives as a matter of what does He want me to do because after all, he's the master, I'm the servant. I'm not here to please me, I'm here to please Him."
As Arkansas governor, Huckabee added, "I had to come to the conclusion that I only had one client ... when I laid my head on the pillow, I'd say, 'Lord, are you pleased?' ... even if I get voted out of office, I'll never get voted out of heaven."
Copeland chuckled, "The devil doesn't have a prayer."
4. Huckabee Endorses Tithing.
In each of the first two episodes with Copeland, Huckabee talked about what he considers to be the biblical imperative of tithing, which was pretty amazing, because whether tithing is biblically required is quite controversial among Christians. Although the Grassley investigation has focused attention on how much money the larger prosperity ministries pull in, and what that money is used for, Grassley's not investigating the theological underpinnings of the ministries. But the theology of the tithe as obedience to God is how the ministries get their money in the first place.
Huckabee's line about tithing being required to demonstrate obedience to God is straight from the prosperity preacher playbook. The preacher has a direct line to God, so giving up 10 percent of your gross income to the ministry (not to mention love offerings and other gifts) means you're obeying God. If you don't give, you have a rebellious spirit and therefore are destined to hell and even a terrible fate here on earth, as your life won't be blessed with the abundance that flows from obedience to God's directive to give your money to someone like Kenneth Copeland or Rod Parsley.
The prosperity preachers maintain that they're not forcing anyone to do anything they don't want to do, but a powerful cult of personality surrounds the preacher -- I've seen it myself, and have talked to people who've experienced it in my reporting for God's Profits. It's a remarkable component of modern American Christianity that rattles a lot of Christians -- even political and theological conservatives. Huckabee's embrace of it says a lot about his theology and how he would -- or would not -- address the alleged misuse of tax-exempt money. His friend Copeland is the country's leading proponent of prosperity preaching and is a mentor and spiritual leader to countless other evangelists who replicate his teaching all over the world.
5. Annapolis Summit Distresses Christian Zionists
Christian Zionists are protesting the Annapolis Summit this week, belittling efforts to forge a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as, in Gary Bauer's words, "delusional." James Hutchens, who serves as a regional director for Christians United for Israel (CUFI), organized a protest of the summit, calling it the "diplomatic lynching" of Israel. Bauer and CUFI executive director David Brog were part of a delegation of Jewish and Christian leaders opposed to a two-state solution who met with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and other White House officials on Monday to voice their opposition.
Bauer wrote to supporters, "It is immoral for the U.S. to pressure our Israeli allies in the face of such evil. More concessions in Annapolis would demoralize our friends and encourage our enemies."
Would that be one of the handful of key things Bauer is looking for Giuliani to say?
Contact me at tapthefundamentalist at gmail dot com.