This Week

Issue: "Religious liberty fight," June 20, 1998

Vouching for choice

The school choice movement won its biggest legal battle ever when Wisconsin's Supreme Court voted 4-2 last week to allow up to 15,000 low-income children to attend private religious schools with the help of state vouchers. People for the American Way announced immediately that it plans to appeal the ruling on the grounds that it violates the separation of church and state. But Justice Donald Steinmetz addressed that issue in his ruling, saying that a student would qualify for a voucher "not because he or she is a Catholic, a Jew, a Muslim, or an atheist; it is because he or she is from a poor family and is a student in the embattled Milwaukee Public Schools." Gov. Tommy Thompson, an advocate of vouchers, also discounted the criticism. "Religious values aren't our problem," he said. "Low test scores are."

Pro-lifers get Barry's Boot

Most media pundits used the occasion of Barry Goldwater's death to make a point about the state of the modern Republican party. The swaggering cowboy Goldwater shook his fist at establishment GOP liberals in 1964, and the fist-shaking continued into the '80s and '90s, directed at mainstream Republicans of a different stripe-religious conservatives and pro-lifers. Modern country-club Goldwaterites savored victory last week as they gave Barry's Boot to pro-life Republicans in primary contests from sea to shining sea. "Moderate" Republicans outpolled pro-lifers in two key California races: In Sacramento, pro-lifer Barbara Alby had the backing of Gary Bauer's PAC but lost to millionaire businessman Doug Ose, a pro-abortion candidate who pumped $1 million of his own money into the contest; and in Los Angeles, pro-abortion state assemblyman Steve Kuykendall won the nod to face a Democrat incumbent. In New Jersey, pro-abortion Republican congresswoman Marge Roukema barely staved off a pro-life challenge, winning last week by just 1,500 votes. The nine-term incumbent prevailed in what the Bergen (N.J.) County Record called "the most aggressive primary challenge she has faced since her election to Congress in 1980" from pro-lifer Scott Garrett. Money made the difference. In the last two weeks of the campaign, Ms. Roukema received three times the amount of money her opponent took in: $26,500 vs. $8,130. Eleventh-hour contributions from the Republican pro-abortion PAC Wish List and from Speaker Newt Gingrich's Monday Morning PAC helped eke out the victory. Said Gingrich spokesman Mike Shields: "Newt enjoys working with her and would miss her thoughtful ideas if she were gone."

Family value

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What's the value of a strong marriage? According to the Florida legislature, it's $32.50. That's the discount on a marriage license for couples who agree to take a family-skills class before tying the knot. The four-hour course will cover such skills as listening, talking, and disagreeing constructively. Couples who refuse the class not only pay the full price of $88.50, but also must wait three days before getting hitched. The pro-marriage legislation was developed and pushed by the Christian Coalition, which also lobbied successfully to add a section on marriage skills to existing "life management" classes in public high schools. And if all that education doesn't work? The cost of a divorce in Florida will increase by $32.50 as well, saving happily married couples a total of $65.00. An unhappy marriage can cost much more than that, of course. A private investigator in New York is suing Ivana Trump for $400,000-money he claims she owes him for investigating her husband's affair with Marla Maples, whom Mr. Trump has since divorced. Attorneys promise plenty of lurid details about the couple's marital woes if the case goes to trial this summer.

Nothing Mickey Mouse about it

It was Gay Day at the Disney theme park in Orlando, Fla., last week, and many of the associated events advertised on the gayday.com Web site are unprintable. In the midst of all the site's Romans 1-style vile passions was a greeting from the president of the United States, commending the Gay Day faithful for helping Americans rise above "the voices of hatred and prejudice [that] drown out the harmony in our national life," the voices of those who view homosexual conduct as unbiblical-such as the leadership of Mr. Clinton's own Southern Baptist denomination. Or, perhaps, the Salvation Army, which last week elected to forgo $3.5 million in city contracts to provide services to the poor in San Francisco, rather than abide by the city's domestic partnership law. The law requires organizations doing business with the city to provide benefits to the live-in lovers of employees. "You can't put a price tag on discrimination," city supervisor Leslie Katz told the San Francisco Examiner. And you can't put a price tag on theological commitments, countered Salvation Army spokesman Richard Love: "The ordinance does conflict with our basic theological position." The move ends 11 months of negotiation in which city officials tried to persuade the Army to make the same compromise that kept government homeless money flowing to the local Roman Catholic archdiocese-namely, that the church would provide domestic-partner benefits, but they wouldn't be called domestic-partner benefits; the term "spousal equivalent" was substituted.

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