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    Alongside figures like LaHaye and leaders of the anti-abortion movement, the nascent CNP also included Joseph Coors, the wealthy beer magnate; Herbert and Nelson Bunker Hunt, two billionaire investors and energy company executives known for their advocacy of right-wing causes, and William Cies, another wealthy businessman.

    Interestingly, the Hunts, Cies and LaHaye all were affiliated with the John Birch Society, the conspiracy-obsessed anti-communist group founded in 1959. LaHaye had lectured and conducted training seminars frequently for the Society during the 1960s and '70s a time when the group was known for its campaign against the civil rights movement.

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    In 1988, writer Russ Bellant noted in his book The Coors Connection . . .  that many CNP members have been associated with the outer reaches of the conservative movement.      

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    Tom Ellis, a top political operative of the ultra-conservative Jesse Helms, followed LaHaye as the CNP president in 1982. Ellis had a checkered past, having served as a director of a foundation called the Pioneer Fund, which has a long history of subsidizing efforts to prove blacks are genetically inferior to whites.

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    In addition to obsessing over communist threats and buttressing white supremacist ideology, the CNP has included many members bent on replacing American democracy with theocracy.

    LaHaye, like the whole of the nation's Religious Right leaders, nurtures a strong contempt for the First Amendment principle of church-state separation, because it seriously complicates their goal of installing fundamentalist Christianity as the nation's officially recognized religion. LaHaye has worked within the CNP and other groups to replace American law with "biblical law."

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    For many years, the late leader of the Christian Reconstructionist movement, Rousas J. Rushdoony, was a member. Reconstructionists espouse a radical theology that calls for trashing the U.S. Constitution and replacing it with the harsh legal code of the Old Testament. They advocate the death penalty for adulterers, blasphemers, incorrigible teenagers, gay people, "witches" and those who worship "false gods."

    Another CNP-Reconstructionist tie comes through Howard Phillips, the Constitution Party leader. Phillips, a longtime CNP member, is a disciple of Rushdoony and uses rhetoric that strikes a distinctly Reconstructionist tone. In a 2003 Constitution Party gathering in Clackamas, Oregon, Phillips told party members and guests, "We've got to be ready when God chooses to let us restore our once-great Republic." A report by the Southern Poverty Law Center said that Phillips proclaimed that his party was "raising up an army" to "take back this nation!"  

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    The CNP's current executive director, a former California lawmaker named Steve Baldwin, has tried to downplay the organization's influence on powerful state and national lawmakers. He has remained cagey about the CNP's goals, insisting it is merely a group that counters liberal policy arguments.

    In many ways, Baldwin himself exemplifies the CNP's operate-in-secret strategy. As a political strategist in California in the early 1990s, Baldwin was one of the key architects of the "stealth strategy" that led to Religious Right activists being elected to school boards and other local offices.

    "Stealth candidates" were trained to emphasize pocketbook issues such as taxes and spending. But once elected, they would pursue a Religious Right agenda, such as demanding creationism in public schools.    

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    In the spring of 2002, while working at the CNP, he penned a controversial article for the law review at TV preacher Pat Robertson's Regent University. The piece, "Child Molestation and the Homosexual Movement," linked pedophilia to homosexuality.

    The article went on to become a staple in the Religious Right's anti-gay canon, despite the fact that its claims were challenged by legitimate researchers.

    "It is difficult to convey the dark side of the homosexual culture without appearing harsh," wrote Baldwin. "However, it is time to acknowledge that homosexual behavior threatens the foundation of Western civilization the nuclear family."

    "I just had the basic view of the American public -- it can't be that bad out there." Marine Travis Williams after 11 members of his squad were killed.

    by Steven D on Sun Jan 14, 2007 at 06:49:25 AM PST

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