Ever since Gary Bauer, the president of Family Research Council, stepped into the debate over China, he has been criticized by fellow conservatives as well as fellow Christians. Mr. Bauer is not one to shrink from such criticism. Nor does he deny growing speculation in Washington that he might be interested in his own bid for the White House, rumors he showed no interest in dispelling during a conversation with WORLD after last week's Lafayette Park rally.
WORLD: What's it like inside the Buddhist camp? How do you defend your involvement with this coalition?
BAUER: I guess I should reassure people that being with these folks on this issue does not in any way, shape, or form mean we will be any less aggressive in going after those same folks on things that we have deep, deep disagreements about.
I think this will help our movement, in the sense that some folks, who thought we didn't care about anyone else but people of our own faith, will now understand that we really mean it when we say there are certain God-given rights, and they go to everyone by virtue of their being God-given.
WORLD: If you are making room on the issue of China's human-rights record for people you would otherwise disagree with, are they making room for you?
BAUER: Yes, but I'm going to press them on it because I've now more than earned my credentials. I wrote an editorial about [dissident] Wei Jingsheng, who is not a Christian. I'd like to see some of them write about Christians' being persecuted.
I think we've won the battle for the American public. Where we haven't won the debate is with the elites in Washington. These unique coalitions we are putting together might eventually reach the Washington elites.
WORLD: Does this threaten your own fundraising base?
BAUER: Oh, there are a number of folks who are unhappy with me. My attitude has been that when you support someone, you presumably support a package of things. This position that I've taken certainly should not have surprised anybody. I don't think anybody I would have lost for FRC over speaking out against persecution in China is something that would worry me. I don't think I could sleep at night if I'd remained silent in this debate.
It's a little sensitive. How can I deal with this without causing myself an even bigger problem?[pause] No major donor has quit.
WORLD: There are Christian groups who say your stance puts Christians in China at risk-
BAUER: That's ridiculous.
WORLD: How are you addressing that?
BAUER: Churchill was not in Nazi Germany. Look, you don't have to go and see evil directly with your eyes to know that something's evil. How many of us were ever in the gulag of the Soviet Union? But we knew what was going on. At some point you have to learn from history.
All during this century, unfortunately, there have been Christian organizations who said, in the 1930s, standing up to Hitler would make things worse for Christians and Jews in Germany. During the Cold War Ronald Reagan was supposedly making things worse for Christians in the Soviet Union. History has proven them wrong every time.
There is an obligation to speak up on behalf of believers who are being persecuted. We have talked regularly with people in China working with the underground church, and those people are begging us to continue to speak up.
WORLD: Other mission groups say they are being told it's harmful to speak up. Have you been in touch with any of these groups?
BAUER: I've got to be honest with you: There is nothing that they could tell me that would change my mind about this. Billy Graham went to the Soviet Union during the Cold War and said there was no persecution. He was going to the fake church, the state-controlled church.
WORLD: This issue has gained a life of its own this year. What is the priority?
BAUER: My overall goal is for our policy toward China to be built on American values. The specific issues that I spend time on are, first, religious persecution and the protection of human rights. Then, their grotesque so-called family planning program. And, third, what I see as the long-term national security threat to the United States. America's leaders really aren't thinking through what we are going to do to prevent China from becoming the predominant power in the Pacific, which will have incredible implications for American families.