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Congressional Leaders Endorse Religious Right’s Agenda

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Senate Majority Bill Frist promised that Republican leaders would work to implement the religious right’s political agenda in a closed-door briefing with the Family Research Council, according to audio of the event made public by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

“You stand up for our families, our children, you never back down,” Frist, R-Tenn., said via speakerphone to the March 17-18 gathering at <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Washington, D.C.’s Willard Hotel. “That’s why we are winning these larger battles today. Together we are leading our nation forward. We have a president, a House of Representatives, a Senate that shares our values and the American people are on our side.”<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
“In this Congress we are going to continue to work on the issues that are important to you, to me and above all, America’s future,” Frist continued.
 
Among those issues, Frist mentioned promoting “a culture of life” and removal of “activist judges who are not interpreting the Constitution” but “rewriting it.”
 
Those judges “will not stop until they have imposed their vision of marriage on every state of the union,” said Frist, who is said to be considering a run for president in 2008.
 
“We will take action to protect the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman,” Frist promised.
 
Frist said he and others would be discussing with the group “what the proper time is” to vote on a Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution. “We know we are right. We want to win. We want to protect marriage from activist judges once and for all, and we will do it.”
 
“We’ve got to move forward on protecting the sanctity of every human life,” Frist continued. “I will do it on the floor of the Senate with the strong support of my senators in a bill that will save Terri Schiavo’s life today, and I think hopefully that speaks directly to the fact that this Congress under this leadership focuses on the dignity of life and the sanctity of life in a very direct way.”
 
After recess, Frist said, Republican leaders would work on laws restricting access to abortion.
 
“I truly believe that with this leadership, working with this president, we can pass these measures, and this Congress will become the most pro-family Congress in our nation’s history,” he said.
 
“The work that you do makes our country a beacon of liberty, a beacon of freedom for the world,” Frist told the group. “I will continue to rely on your support and your guidance and your prayers as we move forward in this cause of freedom.”
 
DeLay, R-Texas, said ethics allegations against him are part of a conspiracy to silence the conservative agenda.
 
“One thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo, to help elevate the visibility of what is going on in America,” DeLay told the crowd. “That Americans would be so barbaric as to pull a feeding tube out of a person that is lucid and starve them to death for two weeks–I mean in America that is going to happen if we don’t win this fight.”
 
“We have to do everything in our power to save Terri Schiavo and anyone else who may be in this position.”
 
“This is exactly the issue that is going on in America, of attacks against the conservative movement, against me and against many others,” DeLay said.
 
“The point is that the other side has figured out how to win and defeat the conservative movement,” he said. “And that is to go after people personally, charge them with frivolous charges. And link that up with all these do-gooder organizations funded by George Soros [a liberal billionaire who reportedly spent millions trying to defeat President Bush in last year’s election] and then get the national media on their side.”
 
“That whole syndicate that they have going on right now is for one purpose and one purpose only,” DeLay said, “and that’s to destroy the conservative movement. It’s to destroy conservative leaders.”
 
“This is a huge nationwide concerted effort to destroy everything we believe in,” he said.
 
“One way they stopped churches from getting into politics–it was Lyndon Johnson who passed a law that said you couldn’t get into politics or you were going to lose your tax-exempt status, because they were all opposed to him when he was running for president,” DeLay said.
 
“That law we are trying to repeal, and it’s very difficult to do that,” he said.
 
“The point is when they can knock out a leader, then no other leader will step forward for a while, because no other leader will want to go through the same thing.”
 
The effect, DeLay, is to “force Christians back into the church, and that is what’s going on in America.”
 
“It is a political maneuver, and they are going to try to destroy the conservative movement, and we have to fight back.”
 
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said of DeLay, “Top on his agenda, and one of the reasons he has worked to build a conservative majority is that he wants to see abortion outlawed in America. He wants Roe v. Wade overturned.”
 
“Can you see the bull’s eye that has created on him?” Perkins continued. “He is No. 1 enemy to the liberal syndicate on the left, who wants to take him out.”
 
Last year DeLay was admonished three times by an ethics committee after three fund raisers identified with him were indicted in Texas. Recently he is being questioned about whether he knew a trip he took to South Korea was paid for by a foreign agent, a violation of House rules.
 
Barry Lynn of Americans United said the comments by DeLay and Frist prove that Congress is “beholden to the religious right’s narrow vision for America.”
 
Lynn said he found it “appalling” that top leaders of Congress would use the personal tragedy of Schiavo, a brain-damaged Florida woman at the center of a right-to-die controversy, for political reasons.
 
AU said it released the recording to the media and the public because the organization “does not believe that powerful groups with controversial and narrow fundamentalist agendas that they seek to impose on all Americans should be permitted to plot and scheme in secret.”
 
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.