Writing at Counterpunch.org, the online version of Alexander Cockburn's political newsletter, Robert Boston compiles a list of the Top 10 Power Brokers of the Religious Right. Boston used “publicly available financial data and political prominence” to rank his collection of polyester Savonarolas (Savonaroli?) and multimedia Elmer Gantrys. And coming in at number 10 is local boy and longtime OC Weekly favorite, Reverend Lou Sheldon, founder of the Traditional Values Coalition.
The Reverend Lou may not be playing in the same financial league as those higher up on the list– Focus on the Family, headed by Dr. James Dobson (number 2 on the list), took in $137,848,520 in 2005, while Lou and the TVC were only able to shear the flock for $6,389,448 last year– but when it comes to frothing-at-the-mouth madness and general unwholesomeness, the Reverend Lou ranks second to none. Boston neatly summarizes some of the things that makes the Baby Jesus cry:
Sheldon, 72, claims to represent 43,000 churches, but critics dispute that figure. In the world of the Religious Right, the Presbyterian minister has a reputation as something of a money-grubbing huckster. He has been criticized for acting as a front for gambling interests on at least two occasions. An aide to disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff once called Sheldon “Lucky Louie” in an e-mail when the two worked together on a lobbying project on behalf of the legalized gambling industry.
Sheldon's rhetoric is shrill, even by Religious Right standards, and he makes no efforts to moderate his extreme goals. His daughter is equally florid, once claiming in a 1999 fund-raising letter that she had confronted a “witch” who had sown a “spirit of confusion” over the Senate.
For many years, Sheldon carved out a niche for TVC by engaging in unrelenting gay bashing. When other Religious Right groups began moving in on this turf in the 1990s, Sheldon diversified, ramping up his assaults on church-state separation, public education and the federal judiciary.
None of this has hurt TVC's standing in Washington. After Bush's re-election in 2004, Sheldon held a “Christian” inaugural event that drew White House strategist Karl Rove, Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman and others.
Sheldon Quote: “A dangerous Marxist/Leftist/Homosexual/Islamic coalition has formed — and we'd better be willing to fight it with everything in our power. These people are playing for keeps. Their hero, Mao Tse Tung, is estimated to have murdered upwards of 60 million people during his reign of terror in China. Do we think we can escape such persecution if we refuse to fight for what is right?” (“The War on Christianity,” column, TVC Web site, December 13, 2005)
None of this will be surprising to those who have kept up the adventures of Lou through the pages of the Weekly– except, perhaps, for that quote. If you've ever wondered how the Religious Right can claim that somehow gay rights activists and radical fundamentalists Muslims, who take a lethally dim view of same sex relationships, are allies, now, thanks to Lou, you know: they are united by their shared love of Mao.
It's that kind of insightful thinking that's made Lou Sheldon such an important leader among those who pray loudly in public but still change money in the temple.