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Money, Power and The Radical Right in Pennsylvania,
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II. The Foundations of Modern Religious Political Extremism in America


Reconstructionism is the common foundation on which many religious political extremist organizations base their mission and activities. While the influence of Reconstructionism varies with individual organizations, its tenets of Christian dominion and political control are clearly present in most radical right groups. Reconstructionism is rooted in dominion theology, which is based on the belief that Christians are mandated by God to control - have dominion over - the earth. Thus, Reconstructionists strive for political power and consequently, control of public policy.
   In the 1993 study, Without Justice for All, Reconstructionism is defined:

In theological terms, Reconstructionism is a variation of Dominion or Kingdom ideology, which says that Christians should have dominion over all they see because God has given it to them. Reconstructionism holds that Christians have a biblical mandate to reconstruct the kingdom of God here on earth, and it is this tenet which is in large part responsible for the Christian Right's drive to dominate electoral politics as a means of controlling society . . . Reconstructionism today finds its foremost advocate in Rousas John (R. J.) Rushdoony, a minister with the Presbyterian Church in America.* Rushdoony's influence on the Christian Right in this country cannot be underestimated. 2
*The Presbyterian Church in America is a fundamentalist group that broke away from the mainstream Presbyterian Church (USA).

   The goal of Reconstructionists is to have their biblical interpretation rule every aspect of life, including education.3 Rushdoony believes democracy is a "heresy",4 and "admonishes Christians that in creating God's kingdom here on Earth, they must remember that 'a monarchy is not a democracy.'"5 Rushdoony claims, "Democracy is the great love of the failures and cowards of life."6 The pursuit of total dominion is described in the November 1994 issue of Rushdoony's newsletter Chalcedon Report as "preparing the path for the Kingdom". Reconstructionist theology dictates that, among other things, women may not wear red dresses; all kitchens be Kosher; slavery be allowed; and women and children be chattel. The leaders of the Reconstructionist movement are highly motivated to see these changes enacted because they believe that their members "will lead in the 'Dominion Century'".7
   Unsurprisingly, legal systems must also comply with the Reconstructionist interpretation of Biblical Law. Rushdoony's organization Chalcedon helped establish the radical right legal organization, The Rutherford Institute, "to promote, through the courts, the Religious Right's agenda."8 "What is particularly frightening, is the Reconstructionist view of crime and punishment."9 In his writings, Rushdoony lists eighteen "capital crimes", including blasphemy, witchcraft, astrology, adultery, promiscuity, incorrigible delinquency, homosexuality, and, in the case of women, unchastity before marriage. Biblically endorsed forms of execution include stoning, burning (at the stake, for example) and "the sword". Punishment for non-capital crimes generally involves whipping or restitution in the form of indentured servitude or slavery. Prisons would likely be only temporary holding tanks while prisoners awaited sentencing.10
   In the April 1994 Chalcedon Report, the Reconstructionist mission is defined: "Only when we have God's law govern a nation, and Christian schools provide its education, can we speak of a Christian culture." This is the agenda that propels the radical right. Rushdoony has apparently found an electoral vehicle for these ideas in the United States Taxpayers Party. His photograph appears prominently among those calling for a USTP Presidential Nominating Convention to be held August 15-18, 1996 in San Diego, California. 11

A Global Movement

   Radical right leaders are not interested in reorganizing only American society. In the November 1994 Chalcedon Report, the article "Discipling The Nations For The Third Millennium" addresses criteria, strategies, and the status of international efforts. The "Criteria for Developing Discipleship Models" are:

1. Spiritually Receptive: The people need to be spiritually receptive - desperately hungry for Scripture's answers to immediate questions of survival. Usually this would require a nation just emerging from national calamity: war, oppression, drought, epidemics, economic collapse - or all the above.
2. Friends in High Places: To effectively establish a model it is advantageous to enjoy the acquiescence if not outright support of a few highly placed government offices (not as an official policy - but in practice)...
3. Location, Location, Location: ...We must ask what nations for geographical, historically, ethnic or political reasons are well situated to influence their neighbors.12

The strategies for carrying out this mission are outlined in four steps: service, stewardship, education, and discipleship training. The fourth step clearly demonstrates the Reconstructionist strategic plan.

In our model, discipleship candidates - after being carefully screened - will attend a rigorous six week 'basic training' program designed to prepare them in key aspects of evangelism, discipleship, leadership, establishing mercy works and micro-enterprises; in short - transforming their culture."13 (emphasis added)

According to the article, these steps have already been implemented in Nicaragua, South Africa, and Uganda.
   This international focus is also an integral part of other religious political extremist organizations. Pat Robertson's 1993 book The Turning Tide: The Fall of Liberalism and the Rise of Common Sense discusses the countries in which he is already involved and those that are ready for the "turning tide". This list includes: France, Rumania, Ukraine, Japan, China, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Zambia, Mozambique, Angola, and Cuba. Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) has offices in the capital or a major city in many of these countries as well as broadcasting privileges, and school, hospital and prison programs. A recent "700 Club" (part of CBN and hosted by Robertson) broadcast chronicled the Haitian "blitz" organized by CBN and run by one of Pat Robertson's sons, Gordon P. Robertson. The Rutherford Institute operates offices in Bolivia, Hungary, and England.14

III. Family Planning and Politics In Pennsylvania

Early attempts to outlaw abortion
   Pennsylvania's legislative history includes a high level of anti-choice activity. Along with having a large rural population which tends to be conservative on social issues, "Pennsylvania appears to be one of the few states in the country heavily influenced by both the Roman Catholic Church and fundamentalist Christians."15 In 1970, Pennsylvania's restrictive abortion law was declared unconstitutional. During the ensuing decade, the Pennsylvania General Assembly attempted to restrict access to abortion several times. Often, the attempted restrictions were found unconstitutional by courts ranging from the county level Court of Common Pleas to the United States Supreme Court.
   In response to the United States Supreme Court's legalization of abortion in 1973 in Roe v. Wade, the Pennsylvania Senate introduced the Abortion Control Act of 1974 (1974 ACA). According to Howard Fetterhoff, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference supported the bill, "Regretting, as the bill's sponsors do, that for the time being, nothing more [restrictive] can be done."16 Something more restrictive was attempted when the 1974 ACA reached the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Rep. Martin Mullen (D-Philadelphia), anti-choice leader of the House during the 1970's, tried to outlaw abortion completely by attaching an amendment to the 1974 ACA. During debate over his amendment, Mullen's zealousness was challenged by Rep. William Shane (D-Indiana).

Shane: Mr. Speaker, how many votes did you obtain when you ran for governor in the May 1974 primary?
Mullen: I only obtained, believe it or not, 200,000 votes. I was terribly disappointed because the pro-life people in Pennsylvania just did not catch on. In other words. . . [I] took a trouncing.
Shane: How many votes did Gov. Shapp obtain in that May Primary election?
Mullen: I think it was approximately 630,000 votes.
Shane: Did you not, before the primary election state that your candidacy would be a referendum on abortion?
Mullen: I did that. There is no question about it. I tried to make it a referendum on abortion, but I did not succeed. I was trounced.
Shane: I thank the gentleman. I have always respected the sincerity with which he held his beliefs, but it is also my sincere belief that many, many-probably a large majority of his fellow Pennsylvanians-do not share his sincerely held beliefs.17

Mullen withdrew his amendment and the 1974 ACA passed the House and Senate. However, Gov. Shapp vetoed the bill.
   During the 1980's, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference continued to propel anti-choice legislation and abortion continued to be a politically volatile issue. Rep. Stephen Freind (R-Delaware) and Rep. Greg Cunningham (R-Centre) joined Rep. Mullen (D-Philadelphia) as the anti-choice leaders in the House. Americans United for Life, a national organization based in Chicago, began working with anti-choice legislators to plot strategy and develop legislation. One of the most regressive actions of the House and Senate, during this time, was the elimination of state funding for family planning services in 1981.

Regulating abortion out of reach
   In 1981, Freind and Cunningham introduced an Abortion Control Act. The four-bill package (HB 1725-1728) was considered the "most comprehensive attempt at regulation of abortion introduced anywhere in the country."18 Rep. Harry Bowser (R-Erie) proposed the Abortion Control Act be subjected to a referendum in the 1982 general election. Anti-choice groups opposed a referendum because public opinion polls continually demonstrated support for legal abortion.19 Initially, the referendum proposal passed 102-89. House members were suddenly called off the floor to take phone calls from priests in their districts.20 Subsequently, there was a motion to reconsider the Bowser amendment and the referendum failed a second vote, 93-100. Ultimately, the House and Senate narrowly passed the Abortion Control Act. Governor Richard Thornburgh's December 1981 veto of that bill proved a short-lived reprieve. After five months of behind-the-scenes negotiations, Freind, Cunningham and Thornburgh's staff created a new Abortion Control Act. This time, there was little debate as the legislation went through the House and Senate and was signed by Thornburgh in 1982.
   In response to the passage of the Abortion Control Act, the Women's Law Project filed suit in federal district court challenging the constitutionality of the Abortion Control Act. The case became known as American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists v. Thornburgh. Judge Daniel Huyett II issued a preliminary injunction against the Abortion Control Act's 24-hour delay and two appellate court judges enjoined the Abortion Control Act. The Commonwealth appealed the decision and the case eventually went to the Supreme Court, which struck down most of the Abortion Control Act's provisions in 1986.
   In 1982, pro-choice Democrat Ruth Rudy defeated Rep. Cunningham (R-Centre) in the general election and Rep. Mullen (D-Philadelphia) lost his seat to redistricting. Stephen Friend emerged as the anti-choice leader of the House. In an attempt to provide state funding for anti-choice organizations, Freind introduced a million-dollar appropriation into the 1985-1986 budget. Friend's proposed amendment would only fund agencies that provided services to pregnant women and did not "perform, refer, or counsel for abortions."21 The funding was eliminated in Senate conference committee. Freind made a second attempt at funding anti-choice centers or "crisis pregnancy" centers with an amendment to the 1986-1987 budget. In a replay of the 1985 budget debate, Freind's amendment was eliminated in Senate conference committee. This time, before the committee could vote, Freind offered the legislation as an amendment to a bill on the state's administrative code. The bill, with Freind's amendment, passed the House, but the Senate sent it to the Appropriations Committee, where it died.
   In 1986, Robert P. Casey was elected to his first term as Governor of Pennsylvania. While Casey's opinion on abortion was not a secret, he rarely discussed his beliefs during the campaign. Later, opposition to reproductive rights would become his calling card and provide Casey with national attention he otherwise would not have received.
   The 1987 ACA, introduced by Freind, included only one new provision, a ban on the use of legal services funds to advocate for or against legalized abortion. Other provisions were rewritten in an attempt to respond to federal court decisions. An example is the "Paternal Notification" provision of the 1987 ACA. The Supreme Court had struck down requiring spousal consent in (1976) Danforth, but had never ruled on spousal notification. The 1987 ACA legislation was written in a way that would allow a "notified" father to file a civil suit in a local court and prevent an abortion from being performed.
   Before the judiciary committee could review the 1987 ACA, Rep. Freind amended it to HB 1130, a bill which had already passed the Senate 45-0.22 With minor changes, Freind's amendment passed the House (145-53) and the Senate (33-16).23 Governor Casey vetoed the bill citing constitutional questions and his feeling that the bill was poorly crafted. Friend called Casey's veto the "single worst betrayal in the history of Pennsylvania."24 Casey did indicate, though, that he was eager to work with legislators to draft a "constitutional" ACA.
   In January 1988, another version of the Abortion Control Act was released with the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference's endorsement. The new version of the ACA included: elimination of paternal notification, changes in the information clinics were required to give the Health Department, and a new section mandating that clinics post the "conscience clause" - the right to refuse to perform or participate - provision of the Act in a prominent place.25 Sen. Edward Helfrick (R-Northumberland) introduced Casey's 1988 ACA as an amendment to an underage drinking bill. Pro-choice senators unsuccessfully attempted to remove rape and incest reporting requirements. The 1988 ACA passed the House and Senate and was signed by Casey immediately, prompting a lawsuit by Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania, representing pro-choice advocates and the interest of women, against the Governor.

Legislation in the post-Webster era

The July 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Webster v. Reproductive Health Care Services provided additional opportunity for states to restrict abortion. According to Rep. Freind, "The Court appeared to hold that it was permissible to regulate, restrict and in some cases outlaw abortions if there were a rational basis for doing so."26 In response to the Webster decision, the National Right to Life Committee held a "legislative strategy conference" on October 2 and 3, in Washington, D.C. The National Right to Life Committee drafted eight sample pieces of legislation "that state pro-life organizations will be considering for introduction in their state legislatures."27 All of the National Right to Life Committee agenda items were either incorporated into the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act of 1989, House Bill 1979, or introduced separately by Freind.
   On October 3, 1989, Freind introduced the Abortion Control Act of 1989. He outlined five goals for the new ACA, which included at least one provision that could directly challenge Roe v. Wade. "Such a process would permit the [Supreme] Court to either overturn Roe or to continue the erosion process begun under Webster."28 Changes from previous ACA legislation included bans on "sex selection" abortions, on all abortions after 24 weeks, and on fetal tissue research. The ACA passed the House 143-58, making the Pennsylvania House of Representatives the first legislative body in the country to pass anti-choice legislation following the Webster decision.29 The 1989 ACA passed the Senate and was promptly signed by Governor Casey. Pennsylvania now had the strictest abortion law in the country and was poised to provide the Roe v. Wade test case.
   In the 1990's, the focus of the anti-choice movement shifted from the legislature to the courts as abortion restrictions passed during the 1980's traveled through the judicial system. One of the most significant of these cases was Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, which challenged the restrictions of the 1988 and 1989 Abortion Control Acts. In June of 1992, the Supreme Court handed down its ruling upholding all provisions of the ACA except "husband notification". After further action in lower courts, the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act, originally passed in 1989, took effect on March 19, 1994. Under this law, doctors are required to lecture women seeking abortions according to a state script, and then delay the abortion procedure for twenty-four hours. A parent of a minor also must endure the lecture and delay before giving consent for the abortion to be performed. A minor who is unable to get a parent to comply with the law cannot have an abortion unless she obtains a court order.
   In his pursuit of making abortion illegal, Rep. Steven Freind had attracted stiff electoral opposition. He retained his seat in 1990 with the help of an enormous influx of funds from the House Republican Campaign Committee, but it was clear that further retention would be difficult. In 1992, he vacated his seat to mount a challenge to pro-choice Republican U.S. Senator Arlen Specter. Freind's try for the Republican Senate nomination was a dismal failure. In addition, the anti-choice Republican who was nominated for his former House seat was defeated by pro-choice Democrat Greg Vitali, who overcame a Republican registration edge of over two to one.

State funding for anti-choice activities

After Freind left the House, another of his legislative goals was realized. In his 1992 budget, Governor Casey proposed the creation of a two-part appropriation titled Women's Service Programs. Half of the proposed $2 million was to go to family planning providers for testing and screening for health conditions such as diabetes or hypertension, but not for family planning services. The other half was earmarked for "programs which provide alternatives to abortion".30 The appropriation was passed and the Department of Public Welfare began a search for an agency to receive the "alternative" funds. In May 1993, a sole source contract was approved with Lifeline of Southwest Pennsylvania. Department records indicate that Mary Beliveau, Legislative Coordinator of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, was instrumental in the selection of Lifeline.31
   Although the appropriation listed medical services as a use of funds, the contract with Lifeline provided only for counseling services. This counseling consisted of an effort to dissuade a woman from choosing abortion, along with referrals to agencies serving pregnant women and mothers and infants. The budget also provided for purchase of computers, TV/VCR's and telephone equipment ($145,600), office furniture, equipment and supplies ($77,325), administrative salaries and benefits ($199,453), printing and advertising ($80,000), and $100,000 for educational expenses including $50,000 for the purchase of 100 fetal models. A total of $1,964,053.25 was to be spent in providing 16,667 hours of counseling to 11,111 low income women.32 A second contract was signed for July 1, 1994 through June 30, 1995 for $1.5 million.
   In response to questioning by Representative Babette Josephs during the March 8, 1996 budget hearing, the Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare wrote a letter to the House Appropriations Committee which revealed that the Lifeline organization had not been able to fulfill its contractual responsibilities. Problems identified were poor fiscal management and difficulty in the subcontracting process. Of the $4,465,000 appropriated, $974,308 had been spent to counsel 3,199 women. Secretary Houstoun also indicated that the Ridge administration was attempting to implement this program with another agency, Morning Star.33

Family planning funding restored

In 1994 family planning advocates extracted public commitments from both major party gubernatorial candidates, Republican Tom Ridge and Democrat Mark Singel, to restore state funding for family planning after a fourteen-year lapse. A coalition, Family Planning for a Healthier Pennsylvania, involved over one hundred organizations and thousands of individuals, and seemed to have succeeded when newly-elected Governor Tom Ridge proposed in his first budget $4.06 million for Women's Medical Services, including contraceptive services, although that amount was later reduced by one-half.
   While a long-term grass-roots effort was instrumental in securing the funding, another important factor was that the traditional opponent of this funding, the powerful Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, was absent from the debate. Although the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has consistently and vocally opposed family planning and reproductive rights, in 1995 they were strongly committed to passage of Ridge's school voucher plan which would have provided state funds to private schools through tuition vouchers. It appeared that the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference was loathe to antagonize Governor Ridge, and remained relatively silent on this issue.
   Leadership of the anti-family planning forces was left to the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, which claims to oppose only abortion and to not have a position on contraception. The Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation was reduced to asserting, in the face of common sense and of any credible evidence, that increasing funds for contraceptive services would lead to more abortions.
   While there is strong public support in Pennsylvania for family planning services, the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation had a powerful friend in Rep. Joseph Pitts (R, Chester), Chair of the Appropriations Committee. Pitts, a long-time supporter of radical right causes, inserted restrictive language into the budget legislation which would have made the funds useless.
   Pitts' long-standing ties to religious political extremist groups were evident in 1985, when he was on the board of The Rutherford Institute of Pennsylvania, a radical right non-profit law firm.34 The Rutherford Institute has defended protesters at women's health clinics, challenged laws protecting homosexuals, and campaigned against former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders. (The activities of The Rutherford Institute are more fully described in the "Profiles" section of this monograph.)
   In 1989 Pitts became the Minority Chair of the Appropriations Committee, the most influential committee assignment in the House of Representatives. The Appropriations Committee decides how the state's money is spent, and the committee chair is included in closed-door budget negotiations. When the Republicans achieved the majority in 1994, Pitts became one of the most powerful elected officials in the state. As Majority Chair of the Appropriations Committee, "Pitts can have a profound effect on public policy."35
   In June 1994, after a massive public outcry from many who had trusted that the Governor would restore family planning funds, Ridge signed the 1995-1996 state budget withholding his approval from the anti-family planning restrictions, citing the section in the 1989 Abortion Control Act which prohibited state interference in contraceptive choice. The Department of Public Welfare and family planning agencies signed contracts to provide birth control services. The services were provided, but no funds were received by the councils. Representatives Pitts and Katie True (R, Lancaster) had met with the Governor and persuaded him to attach crippling restrictions to the agreements, which the family planning councils would be required to sign in order to be reimbursed.36 These restrictions limited the expenditure of funds to contraceptive supplies rather than services, allowed the use of funds only for expenditures for supplies in excess of funds expended in the prior fiscal year, and include a rule prohibiting providing pregnant women with information about abortions. This last restriction contradicted federal regulations which require that pregnant women receive information about all of their options.37
   Again, family planning legislators and advocates lobbied to ease the restrictions so that state funding could be used to provide services to low income women. After intense negotiation, the Governor agreed to insert a preamble into the contract which limited the effect of these restrictions to only those funds provided in the Women's Medical Services, allowing funds from other sources such as patient fees, private contributions and federal government grants to be used to provide the comprehensive health care which family planning agencies provide to their clients.38