With Romney’s loss, despite a strong push from the White Evangelical community, the influence of that particular group is waning. But in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and throughout the Bush years, these politically conservative Evangelicals had quite a bit of power and money behind them. And with that came a large group of scam artists.
People made good money telling white conservative evangelical Protestants who were afraid of the other — afraid of gay people, afraid of black folks and black churches, afraid of women who acted in any way other than submissive to their husbands or virginal, afraid of women who’ve had abortions, scientists, anyone who isn’t Christian, anyone who is Christian in a way they don’t approve of — that their fear made them good Christians. These modern day witch-prickers ruined lives for money and when they’re questioned they found clobber verses and said “it’s in the book.”*
If this didn’t have any political impact it would still be awful. It would still cause people to abandon their gay children. It would still cause women to stay in abusive relationships because of these antiquated notions of gender roles in marriage and on the nature of divorce. It would still cause divisions among people based on their religions.
But of course, it also has a political dimension. They lobby hard against the rights of gay people and women, and they make policy worse.
Among the worst of the bunch are Tim and Beverly LaHaye: He had a horrible combination of John Birch Society and apocalyptic (I don’t even want to say Biblical, since what he describes and what’s in the Bible are so different) predictions that eventually lead to his co-writing the Left Behind books. And she founded the organization Concerned Women for America that pushed some of the worst of this hatred out there.
And why this history is relevant to a Washington State blog is that before running for office, newly minted Seattle mayoral candidate Tim Burgess worked at a firm that did consulting for Concerned Women for America. As Erica C. Barnett explained when he first ran for City Council.
Burgess, however, has a client in his past that won’t sit well in progressive Seattle. Burgess’s ad firm provided media planning, copywriting, media buying, and other consulting services to Concerned Women for America (CWA), a fundamentalist Christian group that’s best known for fighting against equal rights for gays and lesbians. Gay former council member, Tina Podlodowski, who has endorsed Burgess, says CWA is “not a group I could ever support. Clearly, he made a big mistake.” Among other things, CWA advocated against making emergency contraception available over the counter, arguing that access to it would encourage promiscuity; has said that legalizing gay marriage would destroy the fabric of society; actively opposes the Equal Rights Amendment; and believes that “politicians who do not use the Bible to guide their public and private lives do not belong in office.”
The firm Burgess cofounded, now called Merkle/Domain, services non-profits. According to Burgess, the firm represented CWA for eight or nine years. “We generally did not have an ideological screen on clients. We’ve served all kinds of groups, [including] some others that I don’t always agree with,” Burgess says. According to the Washington Secretary of State’s corporation listing service, Burgess’s clients did not include any liberal equivalent of CWA. They did include the African Wildlife Foundation, Mercy Corps, and the Lance Armstrong Foundation.**
Look, Burgess should be judged more on his time in office than for a consulting gig a decade ago. But it seems to me that this is a window on his character. He saw a scammy group that was doing harm to people’s lives and claiming to be Christian. And rather than use his position as an outspoken Christian to denounce that, Tim Burgess figured out a way to get a cut. Given that a lot was made out of it by activist groups when he first ran for City Council, you would think it would at least play a part in the biographies people are running now. But so far, I haven’t seen it.
* This is why I love HA Bible Study. It’s an extended running joke on why that doesn’t work in practice.
** The Lance Armstrong Foundation one might be something to revisit too now that we know a lot more about that one.