Religious, political videos pulled from city-owned TV after Democrats complain
Raw Story (2006-10-16) Miriam Raftery
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Videos created by David Barton, Vice Chair of the Texas Republican Party and a close colleague of disgraced former House Leader Tom De Lay
, have been removed from a city-owned TV station in El Cajon, California, RAW STORY has learned.
The videos were pulled in response to a written complaint filed by Raymond Lutz
, president of the East County Democratic Club, alleging that the videos promote Christianity and offer a slanted view of history from a Republican perspective. However, the City of El Cajon has denied Lutz's request to provide equal time for alternative views by airing "The Big Buy: Tom Delay's Stolen Congress."
Lutz has since testified before the El Cajon City Council to again request equal time and ask for logs showing how often the videos were aired.
The videos were produced by Wall Builders
, an organization founded by David Barton. Wall Builders
' stated goals include "educating the nation concerned the Godly foundation of our country" and providing information to public officials as they "develop public policies which reflect Biblical values." Wall Builders
describes its videos as "historical" and dedicated to "presenting America's forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on our moral, religious, and constitutional heritage."
"I find it amazing that this City is airing a program to train Pastors and Christians," Ray Lutz, told members of the East County Democratic Club, after discovering a video titled "The role of Pastors and Christians in American History" on the city's public access TV station, Channel 24. "What about other religions? Why should this be paid for by the City?"
Other programming on the city-owned station included Wall Builders
' "American History in Black and White," a video which portrays Democrats as opposing integration in the 1950s while presenting Republicans in a favorable light with respect to African-Americans. "This is an outrage," said Lutz, noting that in more recent times, the Democratic Party has been supportive of minority rights while Republicans have obstructed measures such as integration, affirmative action and voting rights.
The City authorized payment of over $2,500 a year for the videos, which may be purchased online for $19.95 apiece, raising the question of whether taxpayer funds may have inadvertently wound up funding Tom De Lay
or the Republican Party.
Listed by Time magazine among the 25 most influential evangelicals, David Barton has also been employed by the Republican National Committee as a political consultant. A close ally of the Bush administration, he was paid $16,000 by the RNC in election-related spending during the 2004 presidential election cycle, while Wall Builders
itself received more than $24,000 for Barton's travel expenses. Barton also traveled the country telling pastors that they could endorse political candidates from the pulpit, a clear violation of IRS rules.
Barton argued in his book, The Myth of Separation, that America's founding fathers never intended separation of church and state, and he has dedicated his efforts to eliminating that separation. Barton also published a 1996 handbook called Impeachment: Restraining an Overactive Judiciary, which, according to an April 2005 article in The Nation, was timed to boost Tom De Lay
's legislative effort to authorize Congress to impeach judges.
Barton spoke in 2002 at a Worldview Weekend for activists seeking "Christian Dominion" in America, along with De Lay
. According to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a religious liberties watchdog group, Barton "followed De Lay
" and "was responsible for bringing the majority whip to the event."
' founder has also been linked to groups with racist and anti-Semitic views, according to The Nation. Barton has spoken at a retreat sponsored by Scriptures for America, an organization that has been linked to neo-Nazi groups, spread anti-Semitic and racist literature, and distributed a booklet called "Death Penalty for Homosexuals." He has addressed at least two gatherings of Christian Identity, a group that maintains blacks are "mud people" and Jews are the "spawn of Satan."
and Barton did not return phone calls requesting comment for this article. It remains unclear how many other cities or municipalities nationwide may be broadcasting similar content on public airways.
The videos have been airing for approximately four years, according to minutes from El Cajon City Council meetings. The city has failed to produce logs requested by Lutz in letters to city officials. However, the City has agreed to remove the Wall Builder
videos. A request from Lutz for "equal time" to air "The Big Buy," a film about corruption involving Delay, was declined. The City also turned down Lutz's request to broadcast information on Democratic Club meetings, although City policy allows for dissemination of information on non-city sponsored community events.
Asked why the City would allow videos with Christian and political content to be aired five weeks before an election, City Manager Kathi Henry replied, "I did view this as a problem and that's why they are not on there anymore." Those videos apparently violated the City's own policy against airing materials that promote religious beliefs, she acknowledged.
Henry said that Lutz's request to air videos with an alternative political viewpoint were denied "just because they were political in general," and added that she does not see a need to present balance to what has previously aired.
The controversial videos were first proposed for airing on El Cajon's station by Councilman Bob McClellan
in May 2002. McClellan
introduced a motion asking then-City Attorney William Garrett to draft a policy for programming on the City's Government Access Channel.
"My recommendation was for the City Council to 'consider if they wished to air the videos,' It was never my recommendation that they do so," said Garrett, adding that staff had "concerns" about the videos and advised that appropriations would need to be made for the costs. Despite such concerns, Council approved Garrett's draft by unanimous vote.
In November 2003, the Council voted to increase the number of broadcast of the "America's Godly Heritage" videos and appropriate $2,800. Councilman Dick Ramos expressed concerned over religious promotion as a result of airing the videos and spoke on the need for separation of church and state. Ramos opposed the motion, which was passed 4-2, with Mayor Mark Lewis and councilmembers Kendrick, McClellan
and Santos all approving. Mayor Lewis and Kendrick, both still in office, did not return calls for this article.
defended the videos as historical, adding, "We are doing a service for our people to reeducate them on the true history of America."
Asked if he was aware that Wall Builders
was founded by the Vice Chair of the Texas Republican Party, a man who has publicly stated that he is dedicated to tearing down walls separating church and state, McClellan
replied, "I believe that also. It's not in the Constitution. It's not in the Declaration of Independence. It's in a letter Thomas Jefferson wroteвЂ¦His letter stated that Congress would never establish domination in the United States, but Christian principles were free to circulate forever."
Asked if he believes only Christian views should be allowed in government, he added, "I think all religions. In fact one of our early members of Congress was John Randolph from Roanoke, Virginia. He was a Muslim."
David Blaire Loy, who is with the American Civil Liberties Union in San Diego, commended the City of El Cajon for responding to citizen concerns by taking down the videos. But he expressed concerns over McClellan
"We are very concerned with civil liberties and particularly religious freedom," the ACLU spokesman concluded. "To the extent that any member of government is expressing opinions that may endanger protection of religious freedom, as embodied in the establishment clause of the First Amendment, that's troubling to us."
He concluded, "The Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and also freedom of religion. Part of that is protecting religious freedom by keeping government out of the business of religion." While he defended McClellan
's right to express his viewpoint, he voiced concern over the prospect of government promoting one religion over another. "We would be troubled when any branch of government is potentially involved in infringing Constitutional freedoms," he concluded.