NEW YORK - Institutionalized Christianity in the U.S. has grown so extremist that it poses a tangible danger to the principle of separation of church and state and threatens to undermine the religious tolerance that characterizes the country, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, warned in his address to the League's national commission, meeting in New York City over the weekend.
"Today we face a better financed, more sophisticated, coordinated, unified, energized and organized coalition of groups in opposition to our policy positions on church-state separation than ever before. Their goal is to implement their Christian worldview. To Christianize America. To save us!" he said.
Foxman proceeded to describe the process and to name names: "Major players include Focus On Family. Alliance Defense Fund, the American Family Association, Family Research Council and more. They and other groups have established new organizations and church-based networks, and built infrastructure throughout the country designed to promote traditional Christian values."
The ADL, considered the largest Jewish organization in America, has in the past spearheaded campaigns against religious preachers and Christian elements deemed unusually extreme. But this is the first all-out media assault by an ADL head on the U.S. Christian establishment.
"In 2002, leaders from 10 conservative Christian organizations formed the `Arlington Group,' an alliance of over 50 of the most prominent Christian leaders and organizations. Their Web site documented in considerable details the agenda of a wide range of issues, including judicial nominees, stem-cell research, same-sex marriage, abortion restrictions and the faith-based initiative - and their expectation of success on these issues [was high] because of their perceived political strength," Foxman said.
He noted that churches and organizations of this sort have always been active in America, but they had never before been so aggressive and determined. "They intend to Christianize all aspects of American life, from the halls of government to the libraries, to the movies, to recording studios, to the playing fields and locker rooms of professional, collegiate and amateur sports; from the military to SpongeBob SquarePants," Foxman charged. "No effort is made to hide their goals or their ambitions, and their vision of America is far different from ours."
Foxman traced the growing spread of Christian extremism to a crisis in values among large segments of the American population and a corresponding yearning for religious content, along with the presence of President George Bush as an encouraging ally. However, Foxman identified the central cause as a sense of persecution and the perception that religion, in general, and Christianity, in particular, are under attack from the liberals in the U.S.
In his speech, Foxman presented the as yet unpublished results of an opinion poll commissioned by the ADL. The survey found that an overwhelming 75 percent of Americans who attend church once a week believe that religion is under attack in America. Among evangelicals, that figure rises to 80 percent. Among those who attend church regularly, 70 percent think that Christianity is particularly threatened; 76 percent of evangelicals agree.
The poll also revealed that 60 percent of church members, and 69 percent of evangelical favor instituting organized prayer in America's public schools.