Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Family and Lebanon, 2009, unverified

Here's a fascinating comment posted below. The poster was anonymous -- apparently inadvertently. If he reads this, I hope he'll contact me. What he describes, however, sounds like it could be believable -- while Tom Coburn is a relatively high profile associate, Mike Doyle is less well-known and Tim Coe, one of Doug Coe's sons, is generally known only to Family members.

I started searching for information concerning Doug Coe and his Fellowship Foundation about a year ago. I also obtained your book "the Family". I must say that all the allegations that I came across in my research, including those adduced in the book "the Family" fit like a glove.

I happened to be in the thick of things when Douglas Coe dispatched a delegation to travel to Israel, Lebanon and Jordan in April 2009. The mission to Lebanon was, among other things, to provide support to the so called "charitable youths learning centers" in Jordan and Lebanon. The visit was not official and did not take place under the auspices of the US government.

I find it amazing that Senator Tom Coburn along with Rep. Mike Doyle, Tim Coe and other distinguished Americans, appear unannounced in a remote Sunni village in Northern Lebanon to tour a small youths training center called DCL established on the behest and under the guidance of Douglas Coe. The overt purpose of the youths center is to provide English language training to the youths of the little village. The covert purpose is to introduce the principle of Jesus to the youths and thus expand the circle of influence of "the Family". However, the underlying purpose has been uncovered due to a chain of local events in the village. The two local lieutenants of Doug Coe denied insisted that their purpose is merely charitable. The statuesque in the village is a divided community and a brewing problem with unpredictable consequences.

My question is this: How could elected officials be involved in such counterproductive activities on the world stage? I was present in the little village when the US delegation arrived without prior notice in an unofficial visit to a remote village in north Lebanon. I have a number of photos taken with members of the delegation. Later on I was sick to my stomach when the two local Lebanese "lieutenants" of Douglas Coe falsely stated before the US delegation that the center caters mainly to sunni orphans. It became apparent to me later on that the false statement was made in a pitch to raise funds from wealthy "men of Jesus" dispatched to observe the wonderful work of the foundation all over the world to prepare a new generation able to govern the world in accordance with the principles of Jesus. There were a number of US wealthy visitors to this small village in North Lebanon. The sad thing is that only the two local Lebanese front persons have been prospering! They managed to establish a meager center and recruit a few trainees. US wealthy "men of Jesus" donate hefty amounts for land acquisition and building a center in this Sunni remote Lebanese village. What does Douglas Coe want with this tiny village is truly mind boggling.

We would like to see a more productive relationship with the US people. We would like the US people to reach out to us and help our communities and children to be more productive participants within the international community. We don't want people to come and take advantage of our deprived communities.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Family and Uganda's "Anti-Homosexuality Bill," part 2.

Not long ago, I spoke about the Family's connection to Uganda's proposed gay death penalty bill with Terry Gross of NPR's "Fresh Air." To my surprise, the Family man who'd established the Family's relationship with Ugandan dictator Yoweri Museveni demanded the right to respond. I supported him; if the Family wants to go public, I'm all for it.

I went down to Hunter's house, across the street from the Cedars, and spent an afternoon talking with him. Hunter's part of a small liberal faction within the Family. More importantly, he's part of a faction that would like to move toward greater transparency. Most important, he's opposed to the gay death penalty bill, and was willing to break with the Family custom of secrecy to make that known. Below is a link to the entire transcript of "Fresh Air"'s interview with Hunter. But first, I want to highlight what I think are some important points:

1. Hunter acknowledges the Family's secrecy: "We are little too secretive. There are some things have to be secret, you know.

2. He thinks the secrecy should end and reports that there was recently a meeting about doing so (the verdict, for now, is that the secrecy will continue; but Hunter is clearly going in a different direction):
"GROSS: Why now? What was that meeting the reaction to?

Mr. HUNTER: Well, it was part reaction to Sharlet's book and this history, you know, troubles and the inability for anyone to be able to respond because they just don't have a mechanism for responding. And so the media looks for a Web site, I would too. And there is nothing there and so the media goes, well, it must be a secret organization even though Jeff Sharlet found 273 footnotes in his book. So, it isn't totally secret. And so, it's - I think the secrecy will end.

3. Hunter says I acknowledge that nobody in the Family is involved in the bill. In fact, in the short article I wrote about my conversation with Hunter -- which I cleared with Hunter before publishing -- I noted that the three Ugandans most discussed in relation to the bill, MP David Bahati, Ethics Minister Nsaba Buturo, and President Musveni, are all linked to the Family.

4. I did acknowledge that none of the Americans involved with the Family seems to support the bill. But it's just as important to acknowledge that men such as Senator James Inhofe, Senator Chuck Grassley, Rep. Joe Pitts, and Senator Tom Coburn condemned the bill only after a concerted campaign of public and private pressure. None of these men presented any kind of profile in courage. But I'll give Hunter credit: He's gone public in a much more effective way than his better-known brothers in Christ.

Here's the whole transcript.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Family and Uganda's "Anti-Homosexuality Bill"

I spoke to Andrew Harmon of The Advocate, America's oldest LGBT magazine, about the Family and Uganda. Writes Andrew:
With mounting international pressure on Uganda to table the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, even key members of the Family — the secretive evangelical group with extensive links to Capitol Hill that has dominated headlines in recent weeks — has spoken out against the draconian legislation authored by one of its own Ugandan members.

Whether the plea falls on deaf ears is unclear. But passage of the bill could mean death sentences for gays and lesbians in one of Africa’s most homophobic countries — as well as severe restrictions for nongovernmental organizations working to combat HIV/AIDS in the region.

A near-nightly subject of cable news programs led by MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, the Family has cultivated relationships over decades with Ugandan political leaders, ostensibly in order to export its brand of fundamentalism to the developing nation. David Bahati, a Ugandan politician and the author of the bill, is a Family member who organizes the Ugandan equivalent of the U.S. National Prayer Breakfast — the latter being an annual event that’s become a staple of Beltway politics and has been attended by every sitting U.S. president since 1953.

With the bill currently before a Ugandan parliament committee, Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, talks to Advocate.com about why some Family members have spoken out and why President Obama should finally stare down the Christian right by skipping the yearly prayer event that President Dwight D. Eisenhower hoped would never become a tradition for sitting presidents.

You can read the rest of the interview at Advocate.com.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Family and Taiwan

Since I've decided to make this blog a sort of record of "outtakes and bonus materials" to The Family (at least for the time being), I'm keeping my eye out not just for documents from my archives but for news from the world that illuminates the function of the Family. In that regard, I'm recommending this post on the Taipei Prayer Breakfast, by the brilliant religion blogger Richard Bartholomew:

...as with “prayer breakfasts” in other countries, the event was useful to all concerned; the political leader gets a boost, while the church leaders get a national pulpit:

The sermon in Taiwanese was delivered by Rev. Hsiao Shiang-hsiu, who reminded the audience through his sermon that God wanted Taiwan to become a country that loved justice, mercy, and peace. He also lauded President Ma’s moral integrity and urged him to continue leading the country in the way of righteousness.

It should come as no surprise that the Republic of China has a strong relationship with the Family, which has always provided a veneer of piety for U.S. allies on the front lines of any struggle -- in this case with China. A 1942 Fellowship pamphlet titled "Finding the Better Way" explained that God worked not democratically but through powerful individuals, noting, "In China, a single indiviual in a post of authority, Chiang Kai-Shek, has done more to Christianize that heathen country than thousands of equally sincere but obscure fellow worshippers." (This pamphlet can be found in the periodicals section of collection 459 at the Billy Graham Center Archives.) The Fellowship worked to build relationships with Taiwanese politicians over the year, but it wasn't until the 1960s that the effort started paying off. In 1965, the Fellowship's German leader, Gus Gedat -- a prominent writer and public speaker who at the beginning of the Nazi regime had tried to "find a synthesis between the new party and Christianity" -- toured Taiwan on a goodwill tour. It evidently worked. A Fellowship briefing (the term "Family didn't come into usage until the 1970s) for members of congress associated with the movement, by then-Rep. Al Quie (R.-Mn.), dated December 12, 1966, notes that Taiwan -- along with Indonesia and Seoul, two other Cold War allies -- has instituted regular Fellowship prayer meetings for Taiwanese politicians. (folder 2, box 362, collection 459, BGCA)

On October 5, 1967, Fellowship leader Senator Frank Carlson (R.-Ks) writes to Taiwanese contacts that Vice Admiral William E. Gentner, Jr., Commander of the U.S. Taiwan Defense Command, has sent a "report" informing the Fellowship that "you [the Chinese] are perhaps ready for a Presidential Prayer Breakfast with your great leader Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek." Carlson asks that all accommodations be made for the Fellowship's "field associate" for Asia, who will be coming to Taiwan to meet with national leaders. "This service will be deeply appreciated." (Folder 16, Box 365, Collection 459, BGCA).

On October 21, 1968, Fellowship leader Doug Coe requests from Chiang Kai-Shek (along with Ferdinand Marcos, Heilee Selassie, and Napolean Alcerro, an accessory to the Honduran dictatorship) a special congratulatory letter for the new Brazilian dictator General Costa e Silva, who'll be presiding over Brazil's new Fellowship Prayer Breakfast despite the fact that he's Catholic. Coe makes these requests through "key men." In France, for instance, the key man responsible for organizing support for the dictator is Jean Fernand-Laurent, who had distinguished himself before the war by pressing for anti-Semitic Vichy-style reforms before the Vichy government had even taken over. In Taiwan the key man is businessman John K.C. Liu, president of the United Orient Corporation, a member of the "international planning team." Liu doesn't come through -- Chiang Kai-Shek wants to send a proper letter instead of a cable, and it won't make it in time. (I believe this document is located in folder 1, box 183, collection 459, BGCA.)

A tape recorded message to Fellowship members dated January 4, 1971, by Doug Coe and Fellowship field associate Clif Robinson, tells of meetings with the leadership of South Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Taiwan. Reports Robinson: "We went to meet American Ambassador Walter McConaughy, a model of the way a diplomat of responsible trust can also become a part of this message. A unifying force, a catalyst for God. ... then to the head of the head of the state bank of China, comparable to Federal Reeserve, a man who was so completely open to the concept... with John Liu taking responsibility in a personal way... Secretary General of what we would call the Security Council. Full session middle of the day, the generalissimo and all the others were there. Felt awkward walking up that red carpeted stairway, ushered into next room, Secretary-General gave his gavel over to another man to come out and spend time with us. Said 'I think what we’re doing in this room is far more important than what we’re doing in this other room.'"

Robinson, who believed that the Fellowship should fight a sort of spiritual guerrilla warfare in S.E. Asia, got more excited as he spoke of meetings with Cambodians and Vietnamese. "As men go, and BECOME a part of this LIVING outreach of the unknown, of this living God that we know, God that we know but he’s part and parcel of the great God beyond him, not two gods, not three gods, not 1000, One! We know a little bit, we have seen a little bit of him and what we've seen we want to throw our lives away on behalf of... And so as we do this we don’t do it in the POWER of men. We don’t, don't do it because we have a program that WORKS. We don’t do it because ....Who can we send? Who can we have to go to Manila? Who can we have to go to Saigon? Who can we have to go to Jakarta? We’ve only got this man and this man and this man who knows the score. Isn’t that sort of ridiculous. I believe that somehow GOD has got his men who knows the way. ... This is where we come in... WE must pray into being THIS LIVING MESSAGE. The Word become flesh. Maybe the man doesn’t have to go from the United States to Manila. Maybe he needs to go from China [Taiwan] to Manila. Or from Manila to China. Maybe there’s already somebody right there... just waiting for this RELEASE of spiritual ENERGY that in some mysterious way has been committed to OUR keeping. We can unlock it if we will..." (tape 109, collection 459, BGCA)

The March 1971 briefing for Fellowship-linked members of congress, sent by Senator B. Everett Jordan, a North Carolina segregationist Democrat notes advances in the overseas Prayer Breakfast circuit, with the U.S. military producing 1,400 prayer breakfasts, simultaneous with the main event in Washington and "including all units in South East Asia" -- treated to tapes messages from President Nixon and Defense Secretary Melvin Laird, on the "moral and spiritual values which undergird our way of life." These same sentiments, reports Jordan, found foruns in Fellowship prayer breakfasts in South Korea, the Philippines (again, Marcos), and Taiwan, where Vice-President and Premier Dr. CK Yen had begun working with Liu on an event to simultaneously pray for Nixon and Yen. (Folder 2, box 363, collection 459, BGCA)

In late 1980, Doug Coe wrote Liu, then in the National Assembly of the Republic of China, that he would be dispatching Senator Sam Nunn (D.-Ga.) to meet with him. (folder 2, box 411, collection 459, BGCA).

And so the relationship continued. The most recent dispatch from behind-the-scenes came in 2000, when Sara Fritz, an Asian correspondent, reported for the St. Petersburg Times on the Taiwanese connection. I'm pasting in her article, dated April 10, 2000, below in its entirety, a fine example of reporters doing what reporters are supposed to do:

Not even prayer breakfast immune from power game

When voters in Taiwan recently elected a leader of the opposition party as their president, they also may have dealt a blow to a traditional Washington ritual: the annual National Prayer Breakfast.

What, you may ask, do the Taiwanese have to do with the National Prayer Breakfast? The answer is money. In past years, Taiwan's long- ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party has been a major financial backer of the prayer breakfast and many other such events in the United States.

The party contributes to the prayer breakfast as part of an unpublicized, but highly effective effort to maintain Taiwan's influence with Washington politicians. The KMT's strategy was developed after then-President Richard M. Nixon broke off formal diplomatic relations with the tiny island nation in the early 1970s.

In addition to funding the annual prayer breakfast, which is usually attended by the president and hundreds of members of Congress, the Kuomintang also has funded numerous travel junkets for politicians in Taipei and celebrity-political events, such as the annual Danny Thompson Memorial Golf Tournament in Sun Valley, Idaho, and the annual festival of the Very Special Arts organization founded by Jean Kennedy Smith.

For their donations, Taiwanese officials get to participate in these functions, where they can rub elbows with influential U.S. officials who are not easily accessible to a country that does not have formal diplomatic relations with the United States.

After the annual prayer breakfast earlier this year, for example, Hsu Shui-teh, president of the Examination Yuan in Taipei, boasted to reporters that the event allowed him to have a private chat with President Clinton.

These strategic acts of charity by the Taiwanese have been so successful, in fact, that rival Chinese leaders in Beijing have in recent years tried to use a similar strategy to develop friendships with influential people in Washington. Their copy-cat strategy is surprising when you consider that Beijing enjoys full diplomatic relations with the United States.

Most of the people who attend the prayer breakfast apparently don't know about the Taiwanese connection, which I first learned about several years ago while interviewing KMT leaders on an assignment in Taipei.

I was told the Taiwanese ruling party's contribution in 1997 was $10,000. At that time, prayer breakfast organizers refused to confirm it, saying only that prayer breakfast financial records are not available to the public.

When I began to inquire about these matters again recently, I received a telephone call from a man who identified himself as a volunteer press spokesman for this year's prayer breakfast in February. He said he did not know how the prayer breakfast was funded, but he doubted it had received Taiwanese support.

"I can't imagine a foreign political party making a contribution to the National Prayer Breakfast," he said. He promised to check into the matter and get back to me. I never heard from him again.

Nevertheless, Taiwanese support for the prayer breakfast and other charitable activities could come to a screeching halt when President- elect Chen Shui-bian takes office May 20. Chen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) does not have the vast financial resources of the KMT, which is said to control bank accounts containing billions of dollars.

"We are not as rich as the KMT; KMT is the richest party in the world," conceded I-Chung Lai, director of the DPP's office in Washington.

Lai said that while DPP leaders recognize that the KMT's generosity to institutions and causes in the United States has been good for promoting Taiwan's interests, some things may have to be curtailed. He said his party would review all such contributions as part of the transition of power from KMT to DPP.

"We have to reassess how effective and appropriate they are," Lai said.

Of course, winning has been good for the DPP treasury. Many Taiwanese business executives who once supported the KMT have begun making contributions to the DPP, according to Lai. Contributing to the winner is a political tradition in every country - East and West.

My purpose in writing about this matter is not to lament the potentially precarious funding of next year's National Prayer Breakfast, or any of the other causes that receive Taiwanese support. In fact, I assume that if the Taiwanese withdraw their money, other groups will fill the void.

I am interested in the funding of the National Prayer Breakfast primarily because I think it reveals the double-edged nature of virtually everything that happens in the nation's capital. Nothing that goes on here - not even something as worthy and other-worldly as a prayer breakfast - is completely divorced from the influence game.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"Politicians and the Underground Prayer Movement," LA Times, 1974

Defenders of conventional wisdom occasionally respond to The Family by asking, "If this group has so many powerful friends, how come we pundits have never heard of it before?" Perhaps because you weren't paying attention. I'd love to say that I'm the first person to break this story, but I'm not. In 2002, the Los Angeles Times ran a long front page story by Lisa Getter linking the Family to Central American death squads, outing Family associates such as Rep. Bart Stupak, Senator Jim DeMint, and Senator Sam Brownback, and revealing the group's secrecy policy. Not long after that, AP journalist Lara Jakes Jordan reported on the Family's C Street House. Reach back further into the press morgue -- easy enough to do now with Proquest -- and we find coverage of the Family and its secretive ways in Time, the Washington Post, and even Playboy, which in the early 1970s published an exhaustive investigative report focusing on the group's policy of making off-the-books loans to congressmen.

And then, every now and then, there was a positive story, such as this January 1974 column for the L.A. Times Syndicate by Nick Thimmesch. What's remarkable about this piece is that's positive not despite the Family's lack of transparency but because of it.

Below are some excerpts, followed by a few other documents for context. Emphases are mine. The original draft of this article is available in folder 8, box 102, collection 275 -- the papers of Watergate felon and Christian Right leader Charles W. "Chuck" Colson -- in the Billy Graham Center Archives.

Politicians and the Underground Prayer Movement

by Nick Thimmesch

Washington – This city is often cynical, and it can be vicious and merciless, too. But there is an “underground” movement here, spurred by Watergate, which might surprise some of our jaded folks when it shows results in the future. It is the growing inclination among troubled souls here to find serenity and strength through belief in God.

Now this kind of statement can cause even more cynicism, and loud guffawing as well. I know. Particularly when the story broke that Charles W. Colson, the White House’s one-time tough guy and wheeler-dealer, said that “I have found in my own life the relationship with Christ.” Colson might have found God, but it will be a long time before many here will believe it.

It is more believable to learn that two other Watergate figures, Egil (Bud) Krogh, indicted for the break-in of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office, and James McCord, convicted in the Watergate burglary, have both gone through profound spiritual experiences.

Anyway, Colson, Krogh and McCord now regularly counsel and pray with other so-called “big” men in this town who have also gone through trials of the spirit. These are usually highly successful political, government and executive figures who woke up one day in middle age to discover their lives were empty and that, in reality, they had earned little or no respect from their associates, their wives and families.

They meet in each other’s homes, they meet at prayer breakfasts, they converse on the phone. They are a brotherhood in belief; are slow to accept quick “believers”; are secretive and guarded in discussing their experiences or activities. Unlike most public figures here, they genuinely avoid publicity. In fact, they shun it.

It appears Colson’s story broke by accident. Long troubled over the way his life had gone, and the way he had become involved in high-powered dealings here, Colson sounded out a friend who was deep into the prayer movement [According to Colson's memoir, Born Again, it was actually Family man and CEO of defense contractor Raytheon who sounded Colson out.] Soon, Colson was invited into the home of a prominent congressman and met others there, including Sen. Harold Hughes of Iowa, the anti-war liberal, whose story was made public many years ago…

… The men who go through spiritual ordeals often meet at prayer breakfasts, and wish there wouldn’t be so much publicity about the National Prayer Breakfast, which features the President of the United States, foreign dignitaries and other celebrities. It looks like affected holiness under “the big tent.”

“I don’t spend more than five hours’ times in preparing for it,” says Doug Coe of the Fellowship Foundation of Washington, who quietly helps groups form their own prayer breakfast groups.

“It is only one-tenth of one per cent of the iceberg and doesn’t give a true picture of what is going on.”…

Colson, to whom I devote much of a chapter in The Family, went on to serve less than a year for his Watergate felony, at which point he was paroled into the Family's care, which wrote the warden that he was needed for religious work. Senator Harold Hughes was waiting for him. It was a friendship that startled many, since on most issues Hughes was liberal. He was also a sentimental man, mostly oblivious to the details of allegations against his Family friends -- the Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos was another subject of Hughes' spiritual and political patronage -- and a deeply religious one for whom divine law, as he understood it, trumped the law of the land. Another column by Thimmesch, "Why Hughes Shocked Liberals" (by breaking with Democrats and many Republicans to reject a sense of the Senate motion against more Watergate pardons), includes this nugget, which can be found in folder 7, box 102, collection 275 of the Billy Graham Center Archives:

Hughes voted “nay” because he feels that the Senate has no business even implying to any President that he doesn’t have, “in his own wisdom and conscience, the final decision-making process rightfully guaranteed to him by the Constitution, and actually going back in history coming from divine inspiration, or granting mercy to those he may deem proper to receive that mercy.” Amen.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Family, Joe Pitts, and Abortion

This fall, anti-abortion activists cheered for the Stupak-Pitts Amendment -- or, the Pitts-Stupak Amendment, as Rep. Joe Pitts' office called it. The amendment nearly derailed health reform and threatened to roll back abortion rights. In Salon, on NPR's "Fresh Air," MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show," and in other venues I reported on the Family's relationship to the amendment. Representative Bart Stupak has been enjoying subsidized rent at the Family's C Street House since at least 2002. Rep. Pitts' relationship goes back much further, to the late 1970s. Pitts didn't respond, but Stupak has been vocal in denying any connection between the Family, which he characterizes as apolitical, and anti-abortion activism.

The following letter, from Family organizer Fred Heyn to Pitts -- then a state legislator and national anti-abortion activist -- and an associate, Glenn Cunningham, is just one of the many documents contained within the Family's archives that prove Rep. Stupak wrong. It can be found in folder 8, box 386, collection 459 of the Billy Graham Center Archive. It represents the early days of Pitts' anti-abortion activism through the Family.

September 2, 1980

Dear Joe and Glen,

The dinner at the Cedars [The Family's $4 million Arlington mansion] recently with you and your invited guests was a great pleasure. We appreciate the way in which you are working together and, although as a fellowship we do not officially become involved in issues, we're grateful when men like yourselves take the leadership on a national issue as important as the one on which you're working. We pray for you and God's leadership in the days ahead as you work on it.

Also, Doug Coe, Stu and I have visited and we are agreed to help with this work as much as we're able.

Thanks again for being here and for including us...

Yours Sincerely,
Fred Heyn