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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Christianity on steroids -- THE FAMILY FELLOWSHIP

Do your remember The Fellowship of the Ring?

The Family (or the Fellowship as it is also known), is a shadowy organisation founded in the United States in the 1930s to promote a gospel of theocratic capitalist power and American empire. Like a Protestant version of Opus Dei, the Family is best known for founding the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC in the 1950s, and its invisible network has not only penetrated the highest levels of political power in the United States but wherever in the world America has political or economic interests.


This transcript was typed from a recording of the program. The ABC cannot guarantee its complete accuracy because of the possibility of mishearing and occasional difficulty in identifying speakers.

Stephen Crittenden: Welcome to the program.

Pastor Eli : We have a sinner with us here who wishes for salvation. Daniel, are you a sinner?

Daniel: Yes.

Pastor Eli : The Lord can't hear you, Daniel. Say it to him. Go ahead, and speak to him, it's all right.

Daniel: Yes.

Pastor Eli : Down on your knees, and say it.

Daniel: What do you want me to say?

Pastor Eli : Daniel, you've come here and you've brought good and wealth, but you have also brought your bad habits as a backslider. You've lusted after women and you have abandoned your child. Your child that you raised, you've abandoned all because he was sick and you have sinned. So say it now. 'I am a sinner'.

Daniel: I am a sinner.

Pastor Eli : Say it louder, 'I am a sinner'.

Daniel: I'm a sinner.

Pastor Eli : Louder, Daniel, 'I am a sinner'.

Daniel: I am a sinner.

Stephen Crittenden: A dramatic moment from the movie 'There will be Blood' based on a novel by Upton Sinclair, which won an Oscar last year for the glowering Daniel Day Lewis.

If you've seen the movie you'll know it's an allegory depicting the clash between two very different sides of American society, the religious and the capitalist. If they seem to mix all too comfortably together these days, 'There Will Be Blood' is a reminder that it wasn't always so.

Today's program is really the story of how those two sides came together. It's the story of a shadowy religious organisation known as The Fellowship, or The Family, founded in the 1930s by a Norwegian immigrant to the United States named Abraham Vereide. He believed that the best way to change the world was to minister to business and political leaders, powerful men like Henry Ford, who weren't much interested in the churches.

A bit like Protestant version of Opus Dei, the Fellowship is basically theocratic in impulse and deeply hostile to democracy, and over decades it has managed to penetrate to the very centre of American political power by preaching a gospel of American power. In the 1950s the Fellowship established the National Prayer Breakfast, and now every week in Washington, business leaders and politicians from all sides sit down to read the Bible and pray together.

The current leader of the Family is the reclusive Doug Coe. Described by Hillary Clinton as 'A genuinely loving spiritual mentor and guide to anyone, regardless of party or faith, who wants to deepen his or her relationship with God', as we'll hear, he's also an admirer of Hitler, Lenin and Mao.

Jeff Sharlet is a contributing editor for Harper's and Rolling Stone, an association research scholar in the Centre for Religion and Media at New York University, and he's the author of an new book about the Fellowship entitled 'The Family: Politics, Power and Fundamentalism's Shadow Elite'. It's based on research he did on documents kept at the Billy Graham Centre Archives, and it's one of the most absorbing books I've read all year.

Jeff Sharlet says that when we think of American Christian fundamentalism, we tend to think of the populist, Bible-thumping TV evangelists. But the Fellowship is about a different kind of fundamentalism, elite fundamentalism. More upper class, more sophisticated, it doesn't need the media, doing its work behind the scenes.

Jeff Sharlet: Elite fundamentalism and especially the elite fundamentals in The Family, is not so much interested in holding mass rallies, or saving everybody's souls, rather it grows out of this belief that took hold in the 1930s that God works through a few specially chosen individuals. They call them key men, the sort of anointed. And there's the real concerns, well, not social issues but economic, something that they came to call 'Biblical capitalism', a sort of laissez-fair capitalism, and especially foreign affairs, and I think that comes as a surprise to a lot of folks here in the United States, but also overseas, but they're the kind of Christian fundamentalism in America that has always taken as its main concern the role of American power in the world, and the expansion of that kind of power.

Stephen Crittenden: Now the book is basically about a shadowy organisation called The Family, or The Fellowship that was founded by a guy called Abraham Vereide, a Norwegian immigrant to the United States in the 1930s. Tell us about him and the foundation of this organisation.

Jeff Sharlet: Vereide is a fascinating character. This guy who comes to America from Norway, because he sees America's the land of the Bible unchained. Even from a boy he's given to what he thinks are prophetic visions. He believes that God comes to him and talks to him in very literal words. He comes to America and he makes quite a name for himself, becomes a preacher and starts preaching to guys like Henry Ford and titans of the steel industry and so on, and then has this Epiphany, this realisation in the middle of our Great Depression in the 1930s. He decides that the Great Depression is actually a punishment from God for disobeying God's law, and how are we disobeying God's law? Well it's because we are trying to regulate the economy, we are trying to take matters into our own hands. Well we just have to completely trust God, and those he chooses, men like Henry Ford and the CEO of US Steel and so on.

Stephen Crittenden: Yes, it's a muscular Christianity. You'd almost say he had a ministry to bring that industrial class back into religion.

Jeff Sharlet: Absolutely. This must be a Christianity on steroids. They were building on this tradition of this kind of macho Christ, and taking it to these businessmen who didn't really care about church or the Bible or anything like that. What they cared about was organised labour, and in fact particularly in Australia, men and Harry Bridges was a major, major labour leader here in the United States. And they just saw him the Devil Incarnate, and began to organise against him. And that's what this group has become - and are to this day. They still see God's interests as those of the absolutely unregulated free markets - a very sort of macho, muscular Christianity that tends to serve the interests of those involved.

Stephen Crittenden: As I was reading the book, I was constantly reminded of the Catholic elite fundamentalist organisation, Opus Dei, which was founded just a couple of years before The Family, and clearly had a political program. There seem to be very interesting similarities between them.

Jeff Sharlet: There are really striking similarities between Opus Dei and The Family, they were actually both founded at this moment, when conservative Catholics in the case of Opus Dei, and conservative Protestants in the case of The Family, conclude that democracy is done, that it's spent, that it can't compete with these incredibly vigorous forces of communism and fascism. And there's a mistaken idea that the Opus Dei, and also The Family, wanted to be just fascist. No, they didn't want to be fascist, they saw a lot to admire in fascism, but they wanted to create their own religious way, where fascism sort of idolised the character like Hitler and Mussolini, they said No, we want that same kind of cult of personality, that same kind of muscular politics and religion, but we want it to be centred around Jesus. Well of course who's Jesus? And that's when you run into the real religious horror story of this book, which is that they read the same Bible that most of the rest of us do, but they take a very different message, one that's not about mercy or justice or love or forgiveness, but rather is about power. And very literally, when I look through The Family's papers, 600 boxes of documents, that's what they saw in the New Testament as the bottom line, was this message of power, and it's striking I think, and unsettling to even most conservative Christians.

Stephen Crittenden: So much to talk about in what you've just said to unpack. Let's talk about the theological question about Jesus first. You speak about a theology which you say is totally malleable, and you talk about a theology of Jesus plus nothing. It's almost like a home-grown American religion that purports to be about Jesus, purports to be Christian, but it's had all the content drained out of it.

Jeff Sharlet: Yes, that's really exactly it. I begin the book, and I begin the story with a month I spent living in one of The Family's houses where they sort of groom younger men for leadership by signing you up for mentoring with a Congressman and so on. And I remember being struck at the time when a US Senate Aide was telling us about former Vice-President, Dan Quayle, who had volunteered to lead a Bible Study for political men, for The Family, but he needed some help, he needed someone to come over and give him just a quick crash course, 'Because', he said, 'well, he hadn't actually ever read the Bible.' So he was quite certain he knew what the Bible said, he was quite certain it supported his political program. He felt confident in scolding others for not living up to the Bible, but he had never actually read the Bible. And that's what you really see when you look at this elite fundamentalism. It's a religion of the status quo, it's a religion of things as they are. It's not the sort of science fiction vision of what the world will look like when the fundamentalists have taken over. These guys are very content with the world as it is, and they top up the Bible as something that is supporting themselves and power. Doug Coe, the leader of the group says 'We work with power where we can, build new power where we can't.' And that's a very status quo religion.

Stephen Crittenden: The next big question is to unpack where the religious program ends and the political program begins.

Jeff Sharlet: You know, I like to think of it as sort of a mobia Strip, you know, that popular optical illusion of a ribbon that's sort of twisting, and you can never figure out which side you're on. There is no clear line where the religion ends and the politics begin. They don't draw the distinction. I'll give you an example of the project they did recently, something called The Silk Road Act. These is a piece of American legislation passed in 1999 by our Senator Sam Brownback in a Congressman Joe Pitts, both members of The Family. The Silk Road Act directed US funds to the dictatorships of the Central Asian region, and as Senator Brownback explained to me, his role was to essentially buy these countries off, to open them up to free markets by giving them a lot of money, a sort of an odd concept of free markets. And the reason he wanted to do that is Well we have free markets where capitalism goes the gospel follows. And so there you have economics, you have politics, and you have religion, and they're all caught in this loop.

Stephen Crittenden: Jeff, let's go back to the early history of The Family and look in more detail at its political program during the 1930s and '40s which seems to focus primarily on destroying trade unionism in the United States, and in that, they completely succeeded.

Jeff Sharlet: Yes, they really did. I mean I think that again takes me back to this question, people always ask what the fundamentalists want to do? I think the more relevant question is what have fundamentalists done. And you look in the United States and say Why do we alone in the developed world, not have a serious organised labour movement? Our organised labour movement is nowhere near as powerful and influential as yours in Australia. I think we really have to look to groups like The Family and elite fundamentalism. They came into being to opposed organised labour, worked steadily at that, and counted as one of their first big victories a law that was passed here in 1947 which essentially rolled back many of the rights to organise and to form unions, that had been won under Franklin Roosevelt. They counted that as their first victory, and then they just sort of went forward from there and played this role of driving the centre to the right, they were very involved in the Cold War, very involved in the economics of globalisation. These are their projects, but they see them as religious ends.

Stephen Crittenden: You mention that in these years The Family was attracted by Fascist and even Nazi ideas, and you say that in the immediate aftermath of World War II, they were involved in rehabilitating key Nazi industrialists and bankers, helping them out or even bringing them to the United States.

Jeff Sharlet: That was their first big step overseas. That's when they became international during World War II. Abraham Vereide, the founder, actually travelled to the allied prisons in Germany where we were holding the prisoners of war, with a mandate from the United States State Department to go among these Nazis and sort of interview them and decide which ones could be used for rebuilding Germany. And brought in quite a few scary characters, perhaps the most notable of whom was Hermann Josef Abs who after Vereide and The Family had vouched for him, rose to become the chief financial wizard behind West Germany's rise, enjoyed a very successful career into the 1970s until the Simon Wiesenthal Centre discovered that before he had been known as Germany's banker, he'd been known as Hitler's banker, that he had helped spirit uncounted sums of money off to the Nazis who escaped to Latin America. He was a bad guy, he was driven out of politics. But that was the role that The Family was playing, was whitewashing these guys and getting these guys back into power because they wanted them for the Cold War.

Stephen Crittenden: Jeff, I guess the most public face of The Family, or The Fellowship, in the last 30, 40, 50 years, has been the fact that it created the National Prayer Breakfast, and you tell the story of how President Eisenhower really officiates at the first National Prayer Breakfast a bit reluctantly. He's a bit like a John McCain figure, not very comfortable with overt displays of religion.

Jeff Sharlet: Yes, exactly. 1953 they inaugurated the National Prayer Breakfast which has been held in Washington ever since. The United States President always attends, Congress attends, and they set these up around the world. You even have one there in Australia. And they've been sort of very deliberately banal events, very bland, but they refer to within the group and in their documents as recruiting devices to identify and bring people into closer involvement. And The Family had wanted to do this for many years but the previous US Presidents wouldn't do it. Eisenhower didn't want to do it, he said it's 'a violation of separation of Church and State which is a fundamental part of our constitution here'. But Billy Graham and a Senator who was involved in The Family, Frank Carlson, had organised an evangelical Christian vote for him, and they wanted payback, so Eisenhower went, concerned that this was going to become a tradition, and indeed it did, and now it doesn't matter who's elected, here in November, whether it's McCain or Obama come February they're going to the National Prayer Breakfast, and what that does is it gives The Family that kind of power and that draw. It doesn't mean that every President signs off on their beliefs, but they're able to go around and say 'Look at this, we're able to bring the President of the United States to one of our events, don't you want to be associated with that?'

Stephen Crittenden: And is the National Prayer Breakfast then the key instrument of The Family's power?

Jeff Sharlet: I think the key instrument is this really incredible network of politicians that they built up over the years. I mean you look back across American history and you find guys like Chief Justice William Renquist who's one of the most influential conservative Chief Justices of our Supreme Court. The old legendary Dixie-crat named Strom Thurman, was a long-time right-winger. Even now I can give you a long list of American politicians and there have been Australian politicians involved as well, and folks around the world, they're able to build this network so that if you want to get something done, it's helpful to work through The Family.

Stephen Crittenden: You've got to tell us who the Australians are.

Jeff Sharlet: Well the Australians are going back in history. The first guy to get involved was man named Norman Makin who was actually not considered a right-winger, he was a long-time Ambassador to the United States, but was an early Cold warrior and saw The Family as a useful vehicle for working with the Conservative side of American politics during the Cold War. More recently, I would just bump into - in the documents -minor Australian politicians, Bruce Baird, a fellow named Ross Cameron, and I suppose Peter Costello has been involved, and I don't know how involved and I just, that's not something I followed up on.

Woman: Who is Doug Coe? Here he is on videotapes obtained exclusively by NBC News, with his account of atrocities under Chairman Mao.

Doug Coe: I've seen pictures of the young men in the Red Guard, they would bring in this young man's mother, he would take an axe and cut her head off. They have to put the purposes of the Red Guard ahead of their father, mother, brother, sister, and their own life. That was a covenant, a pledge. That's what Jesus said.

Woman: In his preaching he repeatedly urges a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, a commitment Coe compares to the blind devotion Hitler demanded.

Stephen Crittenden: NBC News reporting on the reclusive leader of The Family, Pastor Doug Coe. Jeff, you say that The Family has penetrated American politics so thoroughly that even someone like Hillary Clinton has to be part of these prayer breakfasts. It doesn't really matter what side of politics you're on, The Family isn't interested in that.

Jeff Sharlet: Yes, I write in the book about Hillary Clinton's involvement which is actually fairly long-standing. She's upfront about it in her autobiography, 'Living History'. She writes in 1993 of coming to Washington and having a segregated women's prayer group organised for her of the wives of very conservative political brokers, and this was not just prayer business. Clearly politics. NBC one of our network news stations here did a little segment on that aspect of the book and they noted that both John McCain and Barak Obama had also attended the weekly Senate prayer breakfasts, there's the Annual National Breakfast and then there's a weekly breakfast also run by The Family. And what that really shows is not that John McCain or Barak Obama are part of it. It shows that it's become this almost necessary piety pit stop, that to run for national office in the United States, you have to show your religiosity, which is forbidden by our Constitution. We say there's no religious test, anyone's allowed to run. But it's become this de facto test, and what that does is it also opens the door for a kind of conservative politics that people don't notice. Here we have something called faith-based initiatives, introduced by President Bush, and what this amounted to was a massive privatisation of government resources, turning over social welfare to religious organizations; changing the law so those religious organisations are free to discriminate against who they want, and one of the most dismaying things I think about our campaign right now is that both John McCain and Barak Obama have pledged to not just continue this program, but to expand it. And the reason is, they have to do that because The Family, populist fundamentalism, and elite fundamentalism working together have so set the terms of religiosity in American life, that we don't have a whole lot of room for genuine religious discussions, genuine discussion of religious ideas, which are always welcome. We have only room for these kinds of public proclamations of piety.

Stephen Crittenden: You mentioned the Reverend Billy Graham earlier. He's a very interesting character in this story, he only appears once or twice, but he's obviously pivotal at the beginning of setting up the National Prayer Breakfast, as you mentioned. He shoehorns President Eisenhower into sort of turning up and playing along. What is Billy Graham's role in all of this? He always strikes me as a much more complex and ambiguous character than he sometimes seems on the surface.

Jeff Sharlet: He really is. He really is a complicated character, which is interesting, because he was not a complicated man, but I'm sorry, 'was not', put it in the past tense. Still alive, still with us, but mostly his public career is over. He was a simple man who found himself at the nexus of a lot of power, and was a little bit proud of that. You know, I mean I was able to put together the account of his role in the National Prayer Breakfast, not just through these documents which are in the archives, but through his own biography in which he really comes right out and boasts about bullying President Eisenhower into this role. He was a guy who came from a very right-wing fundamentalist place, a very anti-Semitic place which he never really quite overcome, and moved into the mainstream of American life and was instrumental for instance, in giving religious cover to President Nixon. And also played this very important role for The Family.

Stephen Crittenden: And how knowingly did he do that? I mean in your view, was he aware, clearly aware of the agenda of The Family and was he in fact supporting, part of, that agenda?

Jeff Sharlet: Oh, certainly, yes. I mean The Family and the Billy Graham Crusade worked together very closely, and one of the things that Billy Graham Crusade could do for The Family and The Family could do for them, was that they could help them win access to foreign governments. Here's two groups that are very interested in going around the world and talking to elite and powerful people around the world, and they each have their networks. And throughout the documents, (the documents are stored at the Billy Graham Centre Archives, I mean that gives you sort of a sense of the intimacy of these two movements) you find examples of Billy Graham helping The Family out with introductions to this leader, and the Family helping the Billy Graham Crusade out with introductions to leaders, say, in South East Asia where they were very strong. So they're working together not as one, but on parallel tracks. No-one ever looks at Billy Graham's economics. One of the things I found in the archives is an early film that he made called 'Oil Town USA', in which Billy Graham comes right out and says, 'Look, the interest of the oil companies are the exact same as the interests of America, and those are God's interests.' He couldn't put it any plainer than that.

Stephen Crittenden: That's a fairly succinct statement of The Family's actual theology isn't it?

Jeff Sharlet: It really is. You know, you see for instance the relationship to Indonesia which is something I write a lot about in the book, and Soeharto who they very early on identified as a great man of God. They were sending delegations of Congressmen over to meet him early on in his dictatorship, they were instrumental, those politicians were instrumental on arranging for massive American military aid which they kept right up to the invasion of East Timor and all the killing in Indonesia. And they were also sending delegations of oil executives. I found one letter from a prominent American oil executive who came back and wrote up a memo for the Senators who had sent him, saying how he had met Soeharto and he had talked to him about Jesus, and it was the most spiritual hour he'd ever had.

Stephen Crittenden: Now this is interesting. You mention a number of dictators stretching back over the past 50 years, Papa Doc Duvalier, General Park of Korea, a number of Brazilian dictators, The Family latches on to these characters and signs them up for Bible Study groups. One of the most recent is President Museveni of Uganda, who's their man in Africa.

Jeff Sharlet: Yes, exactly, and in fact they latched on to Museveni after Siad Barre the former dictator of Somalia died, and that was a relationship they'd forged through Senator Chuck Grassley, the conservative Republican from Iowa and still in office in the United States, and he went to see Siad Barre who was Muslim, and he said, 'Look, I want to talk to you', Barre had been a Soviet client and now he was looking to switch sides. He said, 'I want to talk to you, I can arrange meetings for you with the Pentagon, but first we need to talk about Jesus, we need to pray.' And these dictators were no dummies, they understood that the price was being exacted, which was an ideological one, a theological one, and guys like Soeharto, of course Muslim as well, were more than happy to pray to Jesus in exchange for this massive military aid. Museveni is really only the latest of these characters, who, it's pretty transparent the relationship. I write in the book about Museveni makes friends with a major family businessman, a guy named Dennis Bakke, who was at the time the CEO of AES, one of the largest energy corporations in the world, at a mid-'90s National Prayer Breakfast, and then gives Bakke a new big contract for a $500-million hydroelectric dam, which Uganda doesn't need. Well everybody's making money, they all think they're doing God's work, and they're being supported effectively by the American government, which is sort of subsidizing this kind of thing.

Stephen Crittenden: Just going back to Uganda, one public policy outcome of this connection with President Museveni is that through him, they were able to export a Christian fundamentalist abstinence program into Uganda's policy about how to deal with AIDS. In the 1990s Uganda was being held up for its ABC policy, Abstinence, Be faithful, use a Condom. Ten years later, the results are very poor.

Jeff Sharlet: It's one of the most dismaying tragedies in the fight against AIDS. Uganda was a country that had really turned around. It had a high AIDS rate, and through using this program had turned it around, had actually successfully rolled back the AIDS rate. But because it became so enmeshed with the American Christian Right, and the American Christian Right is part of President Bush's AIDS program, was able to put pressure on these countries to drop the 'C' from the ABC. So they still want Abstinence, they believe in abstinence, but they don't want Condoms. And indeed Uganda backed very sharply away from condoms, and as predictably as any scientist could have told you, the AIDS rate skyrocketed, and people are dying again. And the most horrifying part about that, for some of these people, that's not a problem. I spoke to Senator Sam Brownback about this, who has worked actually with Senator Clinton to change the laws governing US foreign aid to make it so that we can't give money to any organisation that works with prostitutes. The example Brownback's Chief Legislative Director gave me, he said he would rather a Thai prostitute die of AIDS than have her soul imperilled by using a condom. And it's just an absolutely horrifying vision of what the Gospel says.

Stephen Crittenden: To what extent is The Family a structured, self-conscious organisation with a leadership, membership and rules? And to what extent has it just become this sort of amorphous, sticky cloud that just saturates everything, and almost no longer has a structure?

Jeff Sharlet: Yes. I mean it's one of these sort of interesting things where The Family is somewhat amorphous but never quite as amorphous as they would like you to believe. Doug Coe, the leader of the group, says in one of his sermons, 'The Family functions invisibly like the Mafia' (I'm quoting him here; this is a sermon you can actually hear online). 'They keep their organisation invisible. Everything visible is transitory, everything invisible is permanent and last forever. The more you can make your organisation invisible, the more influence it will have.' And that explains a lot of The Family's view of secrecy, and why it doesn't seem to have an organisation in one. The Los Angeles Times here in the United States, or NBC News went to them and said, 'You know, is there an organisation here?' And they said in both cases, 'No, it's just a group of friends, just a group of friends hanging out.' But the tax documents tell another tale; not too many groups of friends have corporate structures through which millions of dollars are moving every year, and not too many groups of friends have dumped 600 boxes of documents in the Billy Graham Centre Archives, which I think they assume nobody would ever look at, and when you did, discovered they'd been keeping very close membership rolls for decades, there's a very structured hierarchical organisation, again they're not going to come out and thump their Bibles and pound the pulpits, they're not even going to identify themselves as an organisation, but it's there, it's there in the documents, it's there in their tax records.

You know, I always say that actually I had no problem with the populist fundamentalists in the United States who go out in the public and they get involved in campaigns and they make their case in public. Then you can agree with it or disagree with it. That's democracy at work. What these guys do is the opposite of democracy and deliberately so. From the very beginning they've opposed democracy, they call it 'the din of the vox populii', 'the racket of the voice of the people', and they say they want to get away from it, they want to transcend democracy.

Stephen Crittenden: Jeff, an amazing conversation. Thank you very much for being on the program.

Jeff Sharlet: Thank you, Stephen, thanks for having me.

Stephen Crittenden: Jeff Sharlet, and his book 'The Family', is published in Australia by University of Queensland Press.

Well that's all this week. Before we go a brief follow-up to last week's story on the conflict at St Mary's Catholic parish, South Brisbane. Late last week the parish priest wrote to Archbishop Battersby, indicating that priests celebrating mass on Sunday would vest for mass and recite the Eucharistic prayers alone. The Archbishop thanked him for that, and that appears to be what happened. So some improvement there in relations with the Archdiocese.

Goodbye now from Stephen Crittenden on ABC Radio National.

A secretive group known as The Fellowship, or “The Family,” is one of the most powerful Christian fundamentalist movements in the United States. The Family’s devoted membership includes congressmen, corporate leaders, generals and foreign heads of state. Author Jeff Sharlet profiles the group in his book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.

Senator John Ensign of Nevada, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and former Mississippi Congressmember Chip Pickering–what do they all have in common? Yes, all three are Republican and all three have been embroiled in recent sex scandals.

Ensign, a member of a male evangelical group that promotes marital fidelity, recently admitted to having an affair with a campaign staffer. He later disclosed that his parents gave almost $100,000 dollars to the staffer and her family. Sanford’s wife recently moved out of the governor’s mansion, weeks after Sanford admitted to visiting a lover in Argentina and committing infidelities with several other women. And last month, Pickering’s estranged wife filed suit against his alleged mistress, claiming the woman had ruined their marriage.

But these Republicans’ ties extend beyond their marital woes: All three have, at one time, lived in a former convent on Capitol Hill known as the C Street house, and all three are connected to a secretive group known as The Fellowship or The Family. It’s probably an organization you’ve never heard of, but it’s one of the most powerful Christian fundamentalist movements in this country.

The Family’s devoted membership includes congressmen, corporate leaders, generals and foreign heads of state. The long-time leader, Doug Coe, was included in Time magazine’s 2004 list of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America.


Jeff Sharlet is the author of the bestseller, “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.” In 2002, he joined The Family’s home for young men at an estate in Virginia becoming a member of The Family’s so-called “new chosen.” After years of research he published the book. Jeff Sharlet joins me today in the firehouse studio. He is a contributing editor for Harper’s and Rolling Stone and a visiting research scholar at the New York University Center for Religion and Media.

Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. He is a contributing editor for Harper’s and Rolling Stone and a visiting research scholar at the New York University Center for Religion and Media.

C Street / The Family / The Fellowship

The Family is a secretive network founded in 1935 and since known by several names, including The Fellowship, The Fellowship Foundation, National Fellowship Council, Fellowship House, The International Foundation, National Committee for Christian Leadership, International Christian Leadership, and the National Leadership Council.

It is an international movement that claims to be centered on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ as the common ground across all religious and political divisions.[1]

The Family is led by Doug Coe and most widely known for organizing the National Prayer Breakfast, at which every President of the United States since President Dwight D. Eisenhower, including President Barack Obama in 2009, has spoken.[2][3][4]

The Family believes that the elite win power by the will of God, who uses them for his purposes. Its mission is to help the powerful understand their role in God’s plan. The Family represents "Jesus plus nothing," as its leader, Doug Coe, puts it, the "totalitarianism of God," in the words of an early Family leader, a vision that encompasses not just social issues but also the kind of free-market fundamentalism that is the real object of devotion for core members and insiders.

At the heart of the Family’s spiritual advice for its proxies in Congress is the conviction that the market’s invisible hand represents the guidance of God, and that God wants his "new chosen" to look out for one another.

The Fellowship is associated with many influential American leaders, including many current and former Senators and members of the United States Congress, executive branch officials, military officers, including several Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the heads of humanitarian aid organizations, as well as foreign leaders and ambassadors.

According to David Kuo, former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush and Deputy Director of the White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives, "The Fellowship’s reach into governments around the world is almost impossible to overstate or even grasp."[5] Core members and associates of the Fellowship deny that the Fellowship exists.[6]

The Fellowship has been the subject of controversy for its secrecy, involvement in sex scandals, ties to third-world dictators and oppressive regimes, and approving references to Adolf Hitler, terrorist and 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, Cambodian despot Pol Pot, and the Mafia. It reportedly is built on the "Hitler Concept," which is a covenant amongst a leadership cadre comprised of members of a political avant garde.

The Fellowship’s prayer group movement was founded in the United States in 1935 by Abraham Vereide, a Norwegian immigrant and traveling preacher who had been working with the city’s poor in Seattle.

Vereide and others opposed President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and was worried that socialist politicians were about to take over Seattle’s municipal government.
Prominent members of Seattle’s business community recognized his success with those who were "down and out" and asked him to give spiritual direction to their group who were "up and out." He organized prayer breakfasts for politicians and businessmen that included anti-communism and anti-union discussions. Vereide was subsequently invited to set up similar meetings among political and business leaders in San Francisco and Chicago.

Vereide’s principal collaborator in France was Edmond Michelet, five-time minister under President Charles de Gaulle.

In 1942, Vereide began to hold small and discreet prayer breakfasts for the U.S. House of Representatives. The next year, the Senate began holding prayer breakfast meetings. The Prayer Breakfast Movement was formally incorporated as the National Committee for Christian Leadership (NCCL).

In 1944, NCCL changed its name to International Christian Leadership (ICL). Vereide also made plans to move his headquarters to Washington, DC. In 1944, his first ICL Fellowship House was established in a private home at 6523 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.

In 1945, Vereide held his first joint Senate-House prayer breakfast meeting. Following the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Vereide convened a prayer breakfast attended by Senators H. Alexander Smith (R-NJ) and Lister Hill (D-AL), and World Report publisher David Lawrence.

In January, 1947, Vereide sponsored the first Washington meeting of ICCL. Representatives from the United States, Canada, Britain, Norway, Hungary, Egypt and China. In 1949, Vereide sent Wallace Haines to represent ICL at a meeting of German Christians held at Castle Mainau in Switzerland. Haines would become Vereide’s personal emissary to Europe.

In 1952, Haines was replaced by anti-Communist Karl Leyasmeyer.

In 1953, Vereide made his first entrée into the White House when President Dwight D. Eisenhower agreed to attend the first Presidential Prayer Breakfast. By that time, Vereide’s congressional core members grew to include such senators as Republicans Frank Carlson (R-KS) and Karl Mundt (R-SD). Both were virulent anti-Communists who established close ties with Vereide and his worldwide anti-Communist movement. Vereide also became very close to Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina (R-SC), the man who led the Dixiecrat revolt in 1948.

In 1955, Pentagon officials secretly met at Fellowship House in Washington, D.C. to plan a worldwide anti-communism propaganda campaign endorsed by the CIA. Among other things, the Fellowship financed a film called "Militant Liberty" that was used abroad by the Department of Defense

The corresponding Militant Liberty theology was designed by evangelist John C. Broger, who was brought to the Pentagon by Admiral Arthur W. Radford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as part of a program of "personal evangelism in the political rather than the religious field."[8]

The program compared democracy’s "sensitive individual conscience" to communism’s "annihilated individual conscience" for third world nations and provided a "political religion," according to its proponents, for revitalizing America’s national character.

Broger had been instrumental in establishing the Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC) in 1945 as an Asian radio ministry that would bring the Gospel to China and other countries.[9] Broger would go on to become President of the Biblical Counseling Foundation (BCF). Sig Mickelson, the former director of Radio Free Europe (RFE), has confirmed that RFE and FEBC were funded by the CIA.

By 1957, ICL had established 125 groups in 100 cities, with 16 groups in Washington, D.C. alone. Around the world, it had set up another 125 groups in Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Northern Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Ethiopia (where Emperor Haile Selassie gave ICL property in Addis Ababa to build its African headquarters), India, South Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Guatemala, Cuba, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Bermuda.

ICL’s international activities coincided with activities in countries where the CIA was particularly active - an obvious by-product of the close cooperation between Vereide and the CIA’s Allen Dulles and James Jesus Angleton. Angleton and his close associate, Miles Axe Copeland, Jr. (father of Miles Copeland of The Police), favored using private businessmen to conduct operations that the CIA was barred from conducting statutorily. The ICL fit the bill very nicely.

In 1971, the District of Columbia Department of Finance and Revenue granted tax-exempt status to International Christian Leadership, Inc. for its property, known as Fellowship House, located at 2817 Woodland Dr., N.W. in Washington, D.C.

In the request for tax-exempt status, Douglas Coe listed some of the activities that took place at Fellowship House, such as a Tuesday morning bi-monthly prayer meeting for Foreign Service wives; a Thursday morning "Mattie Vereide Bible Study" (Mattie was Abraham’s wife); "training and orientation activities," including "regular sessions with associates from around the world"; "how to run small groups;" "how to set up prayer breakfasts"; "regular dinners involving the leadership of the world"; and "meetings to which students, blacks and other groups are invited by business and government leaders to discuss the importance of a strong spiritual foundation in our country."


The Fellowship’s prayer group movement in the United States is incorporated in the State of Illinois as a 501(c)(3) organization operating under the name "the Fellowship Foundation, Inc." Its mission statement is:

"To develop and maintain an informal association of people banded together, to go out as ‘ambassadors of reconciliation,’ modeling the principles of Jesus, based on loving God and loving others. To work with the leaders of other nations, and as their hearts are touched, the poor, the oppressed, the widows and the youth of their country will be impacted in a positive manner. It is said that youth groups will be developed under the thoughts of Jesus, including loving others as you want to be loved."

While it conducts no public fundraising, the Fellowship Foundation has reported significant anonymous donations that are made each year:

- 2001: over $10.3 million
- 2002: over $10.8 million
- 2003: over $11.4 million
- 2004: over $12.1 million
- 2005: over $14.7 million
- 2006: over $13.4 million

The Fellowship also has reported plus membership fees of at least $1.1 million in 2002, 2003 and 2004.

Prayer Breakfast Movement

The primary activity of the Fellowship is to develop small support groups for politicians, including Senators and Members of Congress, Executive Branch officials, military officers, foreign leaders and dignitaries, businesspersons, and certain other influential individuals interested in the teachings of Jesus and the code of silence which protects what is said during Fellowship meeting. Prayer groups have met in the Pentagon and at the Department of Defense.[10]

National Prayer Breakfast

The Fellowship is best known for organizing the National Prayer Breakfast, held each year on the first Thursday of February in Washington, D.C.

First held in 1953, the event is now attended by over 3,400 guests including dignitaries from many nations. The President of the United States typically makes an address at the breakfast. The event is officially hosted by members of Congress. Democrats and Republicans serve on the organizing committee, and leadership alternates each year between the House and the Senate.

- In 2006, the event was co-chaired by former Senator Norm Coleman, R-MN, and Senator Mark Pryor, D-AR. Speakers included King Abdullah II of Jordan and celebrity humanitarian/musician Paul Hewson (Bono).[11]

- In 2007, Members of Congress Emanuel Cleaver II (D. Missouri) and Jo Ann Davis (R. Virginia) co-chaired the National Prayer Breakfast. Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the Human Genome Project, gave the message.

- In 2008, Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-WYO, co-chaired the event. Ward Brehm, who chairs the United States African Development Foundation, delivered the keynote speech.[12]

- In 2009, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave the keynote address.[13]

Camp David Middle East Accords and Other International Conflicts

The Fellowship was a behind-the-scenes player at the Camp David Middle East accords in 1978, working with Jimmy Carter to issue a worldwide call to prayer with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.[6]

President Carter hosted former Senator Harold E. Hughes, the President of the Fellowship Foundation, and Doug Coe, for a luncheon at the White House on September 26, 1978.[14] Six weeks later, President Carter and the First Lady traveled by Marine helicopter to Cedar Point Farm, Hughes’ home on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where he placed a telephone call to Menachim Begin

Members of the Fellowship prayer have been active in reconciliation efforts between the warring leaders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, and many other similar conflicts around the world. In 2001, the Fellowship helped arrange a secret meeting at The Cedars between Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila and Rwandan President Paul Kagame - one of the first of a series of discreet meetings between the two African leaders that eventually led to the signing of a peace accord in July 2002.[6]

The Fellowship has been criticized, however, for associating with dictators and human rights abusers such as Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova of El Salvador, Artur da Costa e Silva of Brazil, School of Americas alumnus Gustavo Alvarez Martinez of Honduras, and President Suharto of Indonesia.[16]

Core Members, Associates and Close Friends of the Fellowship

Douglas Coe and Family

As a sophomore enrolled at Willamette University in Oregon, the Fellowship’s eventual leader, Douglas Coe approached then-political science professor and dean of students Mark Hatfield, in order to ask for permission to start a chapter of an evangelical student association

Coe has become a spiritual advisor for many world leaders who have participated in one of the Fellowship’s many prayer breakfast "cells," including Hillary Clinton.[17][18] When asked about Doug Coe’s influence on Hillary Clinton, however, people close to her told NBC News in 2008 that she does not consider him one of her leading spiritual advisors and that Senator Clinton has never contributed to Coe’s group, is not a member of the Fellowship, had never heard of any of the controversial sermons obtained by NBC News, and does not consider Doug Coe to be her minister.[19] President George H.W. Bush referred to Coe as "an ambassador of faith."[6]

Douglas Coe’s sons, David Coe and Timothy Coe, also are employees of the organization and receive salaries of $110,000, as well as the related Wilberforce Foundation.

David Coe, who is considered to be the heir to the Fellowship leadership, has suggested that members of the Family "are here to learn how to rule the world."[16]

Associates and Close Friends

A large number of United States Senators and Members of Congress, primarily Republican, as well as high-ranking military leaders, are known as either "associates" or "close friends" of the Fellowship. Many have resided at properties owned by the Fellowship or an affiliated entity such as Youth with a Mission (YWAM) where they pay below-market rents. The low level of rent, tax-free status of the Fellowship, and secrecy of its members which includes not disclosing the scandals of its politician members, among others, has raised concerns.

Boarders at the C Street Center currently include Senators Tom Coburn, R-OK; John Ensign, R-Nev.; and Jim DeMint, R-SC; and Representatives Zach Wamp, R-TN; Bart Stupak, D-Mich.; Heath Shuler, D-N.C.; and Mike Doyle, D-Pa.[20][21][22] (It has been reported that Joseph Pitts, R-PA, was a resident; this is in question.)

Other members, some of whom have lived at C Street Center or the Cedars, include Senators Sam Brownback, R-KS; Mark Pryor, D-AR; Charles Grassley, R-IA; James Inhofe, R-OK; Susan Collins, R-ME, and Bill Nelson, D-FL; Representatives Ben Nelson, D-NE; Frank Wolf, R-VA; Todd Tiahrt, R-KS; Mike McIntyre, D-NC; John R. Carter, R-TX and Ander Crenshaw, R-FL; as well as former Senators Pete Domenici, R-NM; Don Nickles, R-OK; George Allen, R-VA; Conrad Burns, R-MT; and Mark O. Hatfield, R-OR; and former Representatives Steve Largent, R-OK; Mark Sanford, R-SC; Chip Pickering, R-MS, Ed Bryant, R-TN, John E. Baldacci, R-ME, and J.C. Watts, R-OK.[16]

Senators Ensign, Inhofe, Brownback (a former C Street resident), and Susan Collins, R-ME, and former Senators George Allen and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have attended the Wednesday morning Senate Prayer Breakfast at the C Street Center. Former Attorney General Ed Meese under Ronald Reagan regularly presided over other prayer breakfasts

Two former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Gen. David Jones and General Richard Myers, are members as are former Marine Corps Commandant and NATO commander General James L. Jones, Iran-contra figure Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, and Army Lt. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin, the military head of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s intelligence branch.[23]

In 2003, Boykin, in a speech to the First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Florida, referred to the United States as a "Christian nation" and, that in reference to a Somali warlord, he stated, "I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."[6] [See also: "Christian Chaplains Proselytizing Muslims: ‘Growing’ Controversy?," Lavender Newswire, June 22, 2009]

Watergate cover-up conspirator Charles Colson, is a member of the Fellowship. Colson later went on to found Prison Ministries International, was introduced to Doug Coe and the Fellowship, by Tom Phillips, the CEO of Raytheon, where Colson once worked as Raytheon’s general counsel before joining the Nixon administration.

David J. Gribbin III, a trained minister and insider at the Cedars, is a high school friend of former Vice President Dick Cheney and long-time assistant. Gribbin served as Chief of Staff for Congressman Cheney, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs under Cheney during the Administration of George H. W. Bush, Vice President for Government Relations of Halliburton Co. when Cheney was CEO (1995-2000); and director of relations to Congress for the Bush-Cheney transition team (2000-2001).[24][25] Gribbon, who became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, led Capitol Hill prayer services while working for Cheney in the House of Representatives.[26]

Lt. Gen. Claude Kicklighter, the Inspector General for the Department of Defense in 2007 and 2008, is identified as the Secretary of the Fellowship Foundation on the IRS Form 990 for 1999.

Richard McElheny, Assistant Secretary for Trade Development, Department of Commerce, under the Reagan Administration, is identified as the Vice President of the Fellowship Foundation in its 2000 Form 990.[27]

David Laux, who formerly worked in the Office of Political Affairs of the National Security Council under President Ronald Reagan in 1992, and later in the NSC Asian and Pacific Affairs Office, East Asian Directorate (1983-1987), former Director of the American Institute of Taiwan, a non-profit corporation that serves is the representative office of the United States in Taiwan (Directors of AIT are of the same rank as ambassador and receive diplomatic privileges in that capacity), and Chairman of the Taiwan-USA Economic Council, has been identified as a longtime director of the Fellowship Foundation.[28]

Affiliated Organizations

Three Swallows Foundation

Between 1998 and 2007, the "International Foundation" located at 133 C Street, SE in Washington, D.C., received grants totaling $1,777,650 from billionaire Paul N. Temple’s Three Swallows Foundation, including $203,500 in 2006,[29] and $145,000 in 2007.[30] Temple, a graduate of Harvard Law School, is a former executive of Esso (Exxon) and the founder of the Three Swallows Foundation and the Institute of Noetic Sciences.

Wilberforce Foundation

According to IRS Form 990 filings, the Fellowship Foundation is related to and shares common management with the Wilberforce Foundation (a.k.a. Wilberforce Project and Wilberforce Forum), which is part of the Charles W. Colson Center for Biblical Worldview

The Wilberforce Foundation (which has received funding from the John Templeton Foundation, one-million-dollar donor to California’s anti-marriage equality initiative, Proposition 8) is a conservative Christian political and social think tank and action group particularly active in the promotion of "intelligent design" in education and in biotechnology and bioethics issues, such as human cloning and stem cell research that is closely allied with the Discovery Institute, center of the intelligent design movement, with the two sharing a number of fellows and advisors. It describes itself as the "Christian worldview thinking, teaching, and advocacy arm of Charles Colson’s Prison Fellowship."[32]

The address of the Wilberforce Foundation has been listed as 204 Mount Oak Place, Annapolis, Maryland,[33]which was the residence of Timothy Coe, the Vice President of the Wilberforce Foundation. In 2007, Wilberforce Foundation purchased 204 Mount Oak Place for $1,100,000 to be used as a residence for young men.[31]

David Coe also is identified as the Treasurer and employee of the Wilberforce Foundation,[31] resides in a nearby home on Mt. Oak Place, as does salaried Wilberforce Foundation employee and Fellowship member and director, Marty Sherman.

International Center for Religion and Diplomacy

Dr. Douglas M. Johnston is a board member of the Fellowship Foundation and the founder and President of the International Center for Religion & Diplomacy, Inc. (ICRD) in Washington, D.C.[6] The mission statement of the ICRD is to "address identity-based conflicts that exceed the reach of traditional diplomacy by incorporating religion as part of the solution." Dr. Johnson is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and the former Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Office of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).[34]

Dr. Johnson also served as a planning officer in the President’s Office of Emergency Preparedness, Director of Policy Planning and Management in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy.[35]

In academia, Dr. Johnson taught international affairs and security at Harvard University and was the founder and first director of the Kennedy School’s Executive Program in National and International Security.[36]

William Aramony, the disgraced former head of the United Way, who has been linked to the Fellowship, serves on the Advisory Council of the ICRD,[37] as does Ron Nikkel, the President of Charles Colson’s Prison Fellowship International.

Canadian Fellowship Foundation

The Canadian Fellowship Foundation (CFF) is a federally chartered charitable foundation in Canada that funds the activities of the Canadian National Prayer Breakfast held annually on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.[38][39] The CFF is headed by Jack Murta, an 18-year member of the Canadian Parliament, which including two Cabinet Minister Posts.[40]

Christians in Parliament

Christians in Parliament (CiP) is the sponsor of the annual prayer breakfast at the Palace of Westminster which houses the Parliament of the United Kingdom in London. CiP is open to Members of Parliament, Peers, and staff in the Palace of Westminster, and exists as an umbrella for the expression of the Christian faith in Parliament.[41]

It activities include informal prayer and Bible study groups, and formal services in the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft. According to its website, Christians In Parliament receives assistance from World Vision/World Vision UK, a sister organization of the Fellowship.

Jerusalem Summit

Fellowship core member Marty Sherman, serves as Academic Director of the International Advisory Board of Jerusalem Summit. Gary Bauer, President of American Values, is the Chairman. Bauer served as Ronald Reagan’s Undersecretary of Education from 1982 to 1987, and as an advisor on domestic policy from 1987 to 1988. While serving under Reagan, he was named Chairman of President Reagan’s Special Working Group on the Family. Bauer also serves on the Executive Board of Christians United for Israel, a lobby group headed by John Hagee, Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, and President and CEO of John Hagee Ministries, which telecasts his national radio and television ministry.

Trees for the Future

Trees for the Future is listed as a sister organization in the Fellowship Foundation’s IRS Form 990 for 1999.[42]

National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise

National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise is listed as a sister organization in the Fellowship Foundation’s IRS Form 990 for 1999.[42]

Cornerstone Development Ltd.

Cornerstone Development Ltd. is identified as a sister organization in the Fellowship Foundation’s IRS Form 990 for 1999.[42]

Cornerstone Leadership Academy was established in Uganda in 1988 to help in the rebuilding and development of the nation.[43] In recent years, it has also begun work in Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi and Southern Sudan. Michael Timmis, the Chairman of Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship International, John Riordan, and Tim Kreutter worked together for seven years during the start-up phase.

World Concern

World Concern is identified as a sister organization in the Fellowship Foundation’s IRS Form 990 for 1999.[42]

Project Mercy

Project Mercy is identified as a sister ministry in the Fellowship Foundation’s IRS Form 990 for 1999.[42] Project Mercy is an International Emergency Relief and Community Development Ministry established shortly after Marta Gabre-Tsadick, Executive Director, her husband, Demeke Tekle-Wold, and family escaped to the United States from the Communist regime in Ethiopia in the early 1970’s.[44] The mission began in 1977 with the assistance of Pastor Charles and Fran Dickinson.

Timothy Trust

Timothy Trust is identified as a sister organization in the Fellowship Foundation’s IRS Form 990 for 1999.[42] Timothy Trust is affiliated with Open Door Fellowship, a church founded by Bill Thrall, and his organization known as Leadership Catalyst (LCI)

Associacion Desarrollo en Democracia

Associacion Dessarrollo en Democracia is identified as a sister organization in the Fellowship Foundation’s IRS Form 990 for 1999.[42]

Southeast DC Partners
[45] Its headquarters is located at the "Southeast White House," located at 2909 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, which is owned by the Fellowship Foundation.[46] Kairos, an organization of young adults at who participate in the Outreach Ministry of The Falls Church, conducts the ministry of Southeast DC Partners.[47]

World Vision

World Vision is identified as a sister organization in the Fellowship Foundation’s IRS Form 990 for 2001.[45]

Trinity Forum and Academy

The Fellowship also has ties to Trinity Forum, Inc., an organization founded by Paul Klaasen, the Chairman and CEO of Sunrise Senior Living, whose mission is to encourage and assist national leaders in order to deepen, integrate, and apply their faith in the private and public lives.

Ed Meese, who hosted Fellowship breakfast prayer meetings at the Cedars in Arlington, Virginia, is a trustee of Trinity Forum.[48]

Trinity Forum Academy operates from the farm house located at the site of Osprey Point Retreat & Conference Center, formerly known as a Cedar Point Farm, which was the home of former Senator and Fellowship president Harold E. Hughes.

Osprey Point is located in Royal Oak on the Tred Avon River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, approximately 90 minutes from Washington, D.C.[49][50], near riverfront estates that are owned by former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Youth with a Mission

Loren Cunningham, President and founder of Youth with a Mission International Inc., an affiliate of which owns the C Street Center (and formerly owned the property known as Potomac Point in Arlington, Virginia) has described a vision of achieving world domination by taking over key sectors of society which include government.[51]

In a 2008 promotional video, "Reclaiming 7 Mountains of Culture", YWAM Founder Loren Cunningham describes a vision he shared along with the late Campus Crusade For Christ founder Bill Bright and late Christian theologian Francis Schaeffer, in which Christian fundamentalists could achieve world domination by taking over key sectors of society such as government, along with business, media, and education

Richard Dennee, a missionary from The Falls Church, serves the youth of Northern Ireland through the YWAM ministry.[52]

The Youth With A Mission Virginia website mentions a "permanent ministry center at 133 C St. in Washington."

Prison Fellowship International

As discussed below, Charles (Chuck) Colson, the founder and President of Prison Fellowship International, was a member of a Fellowship prayer group with Senator Harold Hughes, who later became the President of the Fellowship Foundation, Senator Mark Hatfield, and Congressman Albert Quie. Colson also met with Douglas Coe after being indicted for his role in the Watergate coverup. Colson has boasted of the Family as a "veritable underground of Christ’s men all through government."

CS Lewis Institute

According to the Fellowship Foundation IRS Form 990 for 1999, the Fellowship rented a property located at 1904 N. Adams Street in Arlington, Virginia to the CS Lewis Institute.[42] The Form 990 lists the address of the Fellowship at 1910 N. Adams Street.

Christian Embassy

Christian Embassy International, an affiliate of Campus Crusade for Christ, organizes small groups that are "safe, inviting places where people get together on a weekly basis to talk, laugh and learn from one another about how to live out personal beliefs in the workplace."[54] Christian Embassy has 12 separate small groups for Members of Congress and congressional staffers. Sam McCullough of McLean Bible Church runs the Capitol Hill mission.[55]

McLean Bible Church

McLean Bible Church has close ties with the Fellowship and conducts services at several locations, including Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship Ministries Building in Lansdowne, Virginia. McLean Bible Church is led by Senior Pastor Lon Solomon who is a director of Jews for Jesus. Kenneth Starr [see also: "Yes, They’re Going to Try to Nullify Our Marriages…," Lavender Newswire, December 19, 2008] is a member of McLean Bible Church, as are Dan Coats, Senator Don Nickles, Don Evans, Senator John Thune, former Senator Elizabeth Dole, R-NC; and Bush White House staffers.[56] "It’s really because of Lon Solomon that I go," according to Senator Jim Inhofe, D-OK.

The Falls Church

The Fellowship has ties to The Falls Church, whose members include Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard magazine, and Michael Gerson, former chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush and a Washington Post columnist. The Falls Church periodically has received grants as a supportive ministry from the Fellowship Foundation.[42]

Falls Church Anglican split from the Episcopal Church in December 2006.

Officers’ Christian Fellowship

The Officers’ Christian Fellowship, was headed by Marine Lt. Col. Tom Hemmingway, Oliver North’s commanding officer in Vietnam, and who recruited North to the Fellowship.

The Fellowship Property Holdings

C Street Center

The Fellowship operates the 1890 rowhouse located at 133 C Street SE as the C Street Center or "Prayer House."[57] In addition to hosting the weekly Senate Prayer Breakfast, the C Street Center rents rooms to many United States Senators and Members of Congress have lived at the C Street Center as resident members of the Fellowship, reportedly paying $600 a month in room and board.

The C Street Center hosts the weekly Wednesday morning prayer breakfast for United States Senators, which has been attended by, among others, Senators Sam Brownback, Tom Coburn, James Inhofe, John Ensign and Susan Collins, and a Tuesday night dinner for Members of Congress and other Fellowship associates.

The Fellowship hosted Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister of Australia, at the C Street Center on March 25, 2009.

The C Street Center also hosts an annual Ambassador Luncheon.[58] In 2006, Ambassadors from Turkey, Pakistan, Jordan, Algeria, Armenia, Egypt, Belarus, Mongolia, Latvia, and Moldova were in attendance.

According to the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue, the C Street Center has 12 bedrooms, nine bathrooms, five living rooms, four dining rooms, three offices, a kitchen, and a small "chapel".[6] It was formerly used as a convent for nearby St. Peter’s Catholic Church.

The C Street Center property has been exempted from real property taxes because it is classified as a "special purpose" use. District of Columbia law exempts from taxation "buildings belonging to religious corporations or societies primarily and regularly used for religious worship, study, training, and missionary activities" and "buildings belonging to organizations which are charged with the administration, coordination, or unification of activities, locally or otherwise, of institutions or organizations entitled to exemption."

Until 1994, the Fellowship operated from the "Fellowship House", a large estate located at 2817 Woodland Drive in Washington, D.C., which was sold to the Ourisman family for more than $2.5 million.

In 1980, Youth with a Mission, Washington, D.C., Inc. (also known as Youth with a Mission National Christian Center, Inc.) purchased a three-story, brick rowhouse 7,914-square-foot (735.2 m2) located at 133 C Street SE, behind the Madison Annex of the Library of Congress and near the United States Capitol. YWAM took a note from Alexandro Palau in the principal amount of $448,873.33 to purchase the property. A modification of the note recorded in 1981 was signed by Fellowship member Ron Boehme in his capacity as President of YWAM, Washington, D.C. and witnessed by Michael Davidson as its secretary.

When asked about YWAM, Richard Carver, a retired Air Force General and the President of the Fellowship Foundation, told the Washington Post that his Fellowship group is affiliated with the house, but that he has never heard of Youth With a Mission of Washington DC and that he did not have a phone number for it. Carver later said that he had spoken with someone who "at one time was involved with the house" and had "heard secondhand" that the organization that runs the house is "subscribing to the no-comment."[59]

The C Street Center is immediately behind 132 D Street SE, the "safe house" used by former Representative and Republican Majority Leader Tom Delay, R-TX, and several associates.[60] The "house with a red door" had been purchased by the U.S. Family Network, an organization founded by Ed Buckham, a former Delay advisor, in 1999, and housed the offices of Buckham’s Alexander Strategy Group and Delay’s political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC).

After the District of Columbia Zoning Administrator intervened, the rowhouse was sold to former Representative Jim Ryun, R-KS, in 2000.

133 C Street was the headquarters of Ralph Nader’s Congress Watch in the 1970s.[61]

The Woodmont enclave and other properties

The Fellowship owns a number of properties, including the estate known as the Cedars (Doubleday Mansion) located at 2145 24th Street North in the Woodmont neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia.

This property, which was purchased by the Fellowship in 1978, includes two additional residences known as the "well house" and "carriage house," the latter of which is used by Doug Coe.

The Cedars does not appear on Google Street View.

The Cedars was determined to be a "place of worship" by the Zoning Administrator in 1976.[62]

Coe has described Cedars as a place "committed to the care of the underprivileged, even though it looks very wealthy." He noted that people might say, "Why don’t you sell a chandelier and help poor people?" Answering his own question, Coe said, "The people who come here have tremendous influence over kids."

Private Fellowship documents indicate that Cedars was purchased so that "people throughout the world who carry heavy responsibilities could meet in Washington to think together, plan together and pray together about personal and public problems and opportunities."[6]

The Cedars hosts a prayer breakfast for foreign ambassadors on Tuesday morning.

According to a 1996, Washington Post review of Bad Boy: The Life and Politics of Lee Atwater, Atwater was introduced to Douglas Coe through Patty Presock, Secretary to President Ronald Reagan on Friday, March 16, after a White House breakfast.[63]

Eleven days later, Atwater arrived at the Cedars to meet Doug Coe. "I’ve been in this city for many years now, and I never heard of you," he said. "Who are you, anyhow?"[63] Coe replied, "Well, we have many mutual friends all over the city. …"[63] Atwater was baptized as a Catholic the following day.[63]

In 1990, YWAM (which also owns the C Street Center) purchased a nearby property located at 2200 24th Street North, known as Potomac Point, for use as a women’s dormitory. Ownership of Potomac Point was transferred to the C Street Center in 1992 and transferred again to the Fellowship Foundation in 2002.

A second property, known as Ivanwald, located at 2224 24th Street North and assessed at $916.000, is used as a men’s dormitory by the Fellowship. This property was purchased by Jerome A. Lewis and Co. in 1986, and sold to the Wilberforce Foundation in 1987. In 2007, the Wilberforce Foundation transferred Ivanwald to the Fellowship Foundation for $1 million. Jerome A. Lewis is a trustee emeritus of the Trinity Forum and the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Petro-Lewis Corporation (now part of Sunoco).[64]

The residence located at 2244 24th North Street, and assessed at $1,458,800, is owed by Merle Morgan, whose wife, Edita, is a director of the Fellowship.[65] The address is identified as the offices of the Fellowship Foundation, and (as well as 2214 North 24th Street) of Morgan Bros. Corp., d/b/a Capitol Publishing, a.k.a.

Fellow Fellowship director and member Fred Heyn and his wife own 2206 24th Street North.

Cedar Point Farm

According to White House records dating from 1978, President Jimmy Carter traveled to Cedar Point Farm by Marine helicopter on November 12, 1978, to attend a Fellowship prayer and discussion group.[15] President Carter placed a call to Menachim Begin while at Cedar Point Farm.[15] The White House records reflect that Cedar Point Farm was owned by former Senator Harold Hughes, President of the Fellowship Foundation.[15]

Cedar Point Farm was later used by the Wilberforce Foundation.

Other Properties

The Fellowship Foundation, Inc. owns the "Southeast White House", located at 2909 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, which is used by various community-based organizations.[66] This property is assessed at $736,310 for 2009 tax year.[67]

It also owns a two-story, brick apartment building located at 859 19th Street NE, in the Trinidad neighborhood of Washington, D.C., which is assessed at $358,250 for the 2009 tax year.[68]

The Fellowship Foundation Inc. also owns 1701 Baltimore Annapolis Boulevard located near Annapolis, Maryland, and three properties formerly owned by David and Timothy Coe located on Mount Oak Place.



Although a goal of the Family is to influence politics and a large number of Senators and Representatives live in or are members of the institution, the Family has long been a secretive organization that is not widely understood.[69][70]

Concerned about growing publicity, Fellowship Founder Abraham Vereide wrote a letter in 1966 declaring it time to "submerge the institutional image of [the Family]."[16]

Former Republican Senator William Armstrong has said the group has "made a fetish of being invisible."

On July 10, 2009, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported that Representative and C Street resident Zach Wamp said in an interview that he and his fellow residents at C Street have agreed not to publicly discuss their living arrangements.[20] When Rachel Maddow repeated the story on her show, Wamp complained, but the Knoxville News Sentinel stated that Wamp did not call them to correct his comment.[71] Maddow responded to Wamp’s complaints on air.


No sign explains the prim and proper red brick house on C Street SE.

Nothing hints at its secrets.

It blends into the streetscape, tucked behind the Library of Congress, a few steps from the Cannon House Office Building, a few more steps to the Capitol. This is just the way its residents want it to be.

- Manuel Roig-Franzia
The Political Enclave That
Dare Not Speak Its Name
Washington Post
June 26, 2009


When asked if he takes part in "fellowship" activities at the C Street Center, fellow resident Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) says he just rents a room, but doesn’t know what goes on there. Stupak refuses to "discuss what goes on there, because I’m not there. … Are there other activities going on there? Yes. But what goes on and things like that, I don’t know. I have my room there."

Pressed again about whether he’s "involved" in any "activities" at the house, Stupak responded, "I have a room there. And I participate in a Tuesday night dinner once in a while there. … So there is no regimen. There is no group stuff I have to do. … You guys… are grasping at straws that’s not there. I rent a room there… I do not belong to any such group. I don’t know what you are talking about…. I have no affiliation," he said.[73]

Pete Hoekstra, another Congressman who attended the Tuesday night dinners mentioned by Stupak, described them to The Detroit News: "We’d fellowship, we’d pray, we’d talk about Jesus, and we’d eat." Hoekstra continued, "In the headiness of Washington, D.C., it’s trying to make sure you keep your head screwed on straight."[73]

Reverend Rob Schenck, who leads a Bible study on the Hill inspired by C Street, wrote in 2009 that "all ministries in Washington need to protect the confidence of those we minister to, and I’m sure that’s a primary motive for C Street’s low profile."

But he said, "I think the Fellowship has been just a tad bit too clandestine."

President Ford, the Watergate, Charles Colson, and the Fellowship

On August 8, 1974, the day before then Vice President Gerald Ford was sworn in as President of the United States, two members of the Fellowship, Representatives Albert Quie and John J. Rhodes (R-Arizona), met with the Vice-President at a special "prayer meeting" on Capitol Hill. The previous day, Congressman Rhodes had accompanied two other Republican congressional leaders to the White House to tell Nixon to speak with him about resignation.

After Nixon resigned, some Fellowship members, including Charles Colson, made attempts to try to get Nixon to join their group as a way to salvage his legacy. Nixon would have nothing to do with them.

On August 26, 1974, Time magazine published an article entitled "The God Network in Washington,"[74] relating to President Gerald Ford’s involvement in the prayer network known as the Fellowship, and his long-time prayer group "cell," which included House Minority Leader John Rhodes, Congressman Albert Quie, and former Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird
The article notes that Quie was in a prayer group with Senator Harold Hughes, who later became the President of the Fellowship Foundation, Senator Mark Hatfield, and Charles Colson, who by then had been convicted for obstruction of justice.

Colson, who had been meeting with Douglas Coe, believed that he should plead guilty to on the charges for which the Watergate grand jury indicted him. On June 21, 1974, he was sentenced to one to three years and on July 8 began his service at Fort Holabird prison in Maryland.[75]

James W. McCord, Jr., another Watergate conspirator, also claims that sermons in suburban Washington’s Fourth Presbyterian Church, which has close ties to the Fellowship, influenced his decision not to plead guilty and remain silent. At the time, the Fourth Presbyterian Church was led by another Fellowship member, Senior Pastor Dr. Richard C. Halverson. Reverend Halverson served as the Chaplain to the U.S. Senate from February 2, 1981 until December 31, 1994, and was identified as the "leader of the prayer breakfast movement" by Senator Chris Dodd in official remarks on December 12, 1995.[76] In fact, Coe, Hatfield, Laird and Rhodes attended Fourth Presbyterian Church, where they met weekly to set policy.

Jeb Stuart Magruder joined one of the small "covenant" prayer groups started by Rev. Louis Evans Jr. of Washington’s National Presbyterian Church to feed the "spiritual hunger" in Washington. Magruders’ wife, Gail, joined another such group also attended by Mark Hatfield’s wife Antoinette.

Senator Mark O. Hatfield

In 1991, Fellowship member Mark O. Hatfield came under a Senate ethics investigation and a Federal grand jury probe after he made $300,000 from real estate deals involving the sale and purchase of properties from Paul N. Temple. Among the transactions involved were the 1981 sale of a house in Accokeek, Maryland to Paul N. Temple, which Mr. Temple resold four years later at a $90,000 loss.[77] According to the New York Times, another transaction involved Hatfield’s purchase of a cooperative apartment in Washington from Mr. Temple in 1981 that he sold the later that year for a profit of as much as $100,000

Extra-marital affairs and other unethical conduct of Fellowship associates and close friends

So far, three prominent Republicans associated with the Fellowship have been reported to have engaged in extra-marital affairs. Two, Senator Ensign and Governor Sanford, were considering running for President in 2012.

The affairs of Senator Ensign and then-Congressman Pickering, which were allegedly known to the Family several months before becoming public, took place while they were living at the C Street Center.

Ensign, Sanford and Pickering all voted to impeach Bill Clinton, and Ensign and Sanford are on record as calling for Clinton to resign over his affair with Monica Lewinsky.[79][80]

Senator John Ensign

Senator John Ensign, a Fellowship member and longtime resident of the C Street Center, admitted he had an extra-marital affair with a staffer. The announcement by Ensign of his extramarital affair brought additional public scrutiny of the Fellowship and the C Street Center, as Mr. Ensign lived there alongside other high ranking politicians such as Senator Tom Coburn

Senator Coburn, together with Timothy Coe and David Coe, attempted to intervene to end Ensign’s affair in February 2008, prior to the affair becoming public, including by meeting with the husband of Ensign’s mistress and encouraging Ensign to write a letter to his mistress breaking off the affair.[1][82][83] Senator Ensign was driven to Federal Express from C Street Center to post the letter, shortly after which Ensign called to tell his mistress to ignore it.

Senator Coburn refuses to speak about his involvement in Ensign’s affair on the grounds of "privilege" because he is a licensed physician in the State of Oklahoma (OB/GYN) and an ordained deacon.

Governor Mark Sanford

In June 2009, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, a Fellowship member and former Congressman from 1995 to 2001, admitted to having an extramarital affair and said that months prior he had sought counseling at the C Street Center.[20] While attempting to refuse federal funds to benefit the citizens of South Carolina on what he claimed to be principled grounds, Governor Sanford was using state funds to fly first class to visit his lover in Argentina.[87]

During his last secret trip to visit his lover in Argentina in June 2009 when he told his staff that he was hiking on the Appalachian trial, Governor Sanford disappeared for four days and did not answer 15 calls from his chief of staff, Scott English or let his family know where he was on Father’s Day.[88] It is unclear whether the Family knew or suspected the whereabouts of Governor Sanford during his disappearance because Governor Sanford has admitted that he sought the counsel of the Family at least several months prior.

Prior to be elected Governor of South Carolina, Sanford was a frequent visitor to C Street when he served in Congress.[89] Sanford reportedly turned down his Congressional living allowance while serving in Washington, choosing instead to sleep in his office.[90]

Chip Pickering

Former Representative Chip Pickering

The wife of Chip Pickering, R-Miss. (1998-2008), filed a lawsuit against her husband’s alleged mistress, making the former six-term Republican Congressman from Mississippi the third politician associated with the Capitol Hill "Christian Fellowship" home to be embroiled in a sex scandal.[89][91]

The lawsuit alleges Pickering restarted a relationship with Elizabeth Creekmore Byrd, his college sweetheart, while he was "a United States congressman prior to and while living in the well-known C Street Complex in Washington, D.C."[89][91]

Senator David Durenberger

In 1986, former Senator David Durenberger retreated to the Cedars when he began having marital problems.[6]

William Aramony

Former Chairman of the United Way, William Aramony, was seen at Cedars the night he learned he was facing criminal charges for embezzling money from his organization.[6]

References to Hitler and the Mafia

As reported by Andrea Mitchell and Jim Popkin for NBC News, Fellowship leader Doug Coe repeatedly urges a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that he compares to the blind devotion that Adolf Hitler demanded from his followers.

Coe has stated "Hitler, Goebbels and Himmler were three men. Think of the immense power these three men had, these nobodies from nowhere," and later in the same sermon: "Jesus said, ‘You have to put me before other people. And you have to put me before yourself.’ Hitler, that was the demand to be in the Nazi party. You have to put the Nazi party and its objectives ahead of your own life and ahead of other people."[19]

Doug Coe also refers to the Fellowship as the "Christian Mafia" and is on record saying that he tries to make the group act like the Mafia because the more invisible you can make your organization, the more influence it will have.[92]

Affiliations with Dictators and Oppressive Regimes

The Family has encouraged the U.S. government to establish closer ties with:

- During the 1960s, anti-communist (and dictatorial) elements within Africa’s postcolonial leadership including Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and elements in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya;

- Brazilian dictator General Artur da Costa e Silva who, with Family support, was overseeing regular fellowship groups for Latin American leaders;

- Indonesian General Suharto;

- Salvadoran General Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, convicted by a Florida jury of the torture of thousands; and

- Honduran General Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, himself an evangelical minister, who was linked to both the Central Intelligence Agency and death squads before he was assasinated.[6][16]

- Vides Casanova was invited to the 1984 National Prayer Breakfast, along with Gen. Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, then the head of the Honduran armed forces.

"We work with power where we can," the Family’s leader, Doug Coe, says, "build new power where we can’t."[
Attack on Separation of Church and State

In its numerous attempts to influence government policies, its secrecy and involvement in political scandals, its tax free status as a Church, its extensive links to America’s leading politicians, its links to an organization in YWAM whose founder has stated as a goal exerting a dominating influence over the US government, and the favors the Family regularly doles out to politicians including below market living accommodations in Washington, D.C., the operation of the Family raises questions regarding the separation of church and state.

At least one Family member, Senator Pryor, stated that through the Family he had learned that the separation of church and state was a sort of secular exaggeration and that "Jesus did not come to bring peace. Jesus came to take over."


Jeff Sharlet lived with the Family for a month, and wrote a book and articles regarding its secretive nature, connection to disreputable regimes, and dedication to power.[4][93]

Rachel Maddow has run a multi-story expose on the organization’s influence on American politics.[94][72] In addition to Chip Pickering, John Ensign, and Mark Sanford, on July 18, 2009, she identified Congressman Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) as a member and interviewed Jeff Sharlet about a "spiritual counseling" session he witnessed between Tiahrt and Coe, in which Tiahrt expressed concerns that abortion should be banned in order to better compete with the Muslim birthrate, and Coe told Tiahrt that he was thinking on too small a scale.

Coe told Tiahrt to work for "Jesus Plus Nothing… the totalitarianism of Christ." According to Sharlet, Coe then gave Tiahrt his usual roster of examples of totalitarians who had great power: Hitler, Pol Pot, Osama bin Laden, etc

Oxford Group

The Oxford Group was a Christian movement that had a following in Europe and America in the 1920s and 30s. It was initiated by an American Lutheran pastor Dr. Frank Buchman, who was of Swiss descent. In 1908 he claimed a conversion experience in a chapel in Keswick, England and later he initiated a movement called A First Century Christian Fellowship in 1921, and by 1931 this had grown into a movement which at one time attracted thousands of adherents, many well to do, and became known as the Oxford Group.[1]

The group was unlike other forms of evangelism in that it targeted and directed its efforts to the "up and outers" the elites and wealthy of society, it made use of publicity regarding their prominent converts, and was caricatured as a "Salvation Army for snobs." Buchman's message did not challenge the status quo and thus aided the Group's popularity among the well to do.[2] Buchman made the cover of Time Magazine as "Cultist Frank Buchman -God is a Millionaire" in 1936.[3] For a U.S. headquarters, it built a multimillion-dollar establishment on Michigan's Mackinac Island, with room for 1,000 visitors. From Caux to London's Berkeley Square to New York's Westchester County layouts, Buchman and his followers had the best and in response to criticism, Frank Buchman had an answer. "Isn't God a millionaire?" he would ask.[4]

The Oxford Group achieved popularity for a time but it was a minority voice in America and left little permanent mark on society. The Oxford Group movement was in reaction to the mainstream Christian churches; the mainstream churches were concerned with social systematic problems and their gospels emphasized liberal and social issues. The Oxford Group focus was on personal concerns and placed the entire problem of human existence on personal sinfulness, that individual sin was the key problem and the entire solution was in the individual's conviction, confession, and surrender to God. The Group revived an older 19th century approach where the focus was on sin and conversion, it practiced a form of ethical and religious perfectionism that was reduced to a call for a renewed morality[5]

Buchman, who had little intellectual interest or interest in theology, believed all change happens from the individual outward, and stressed simplicity. He summed up the Group's philosophy in a few sentences: all people are sinners , all sinners can be changed, confession is a prerequisite to change, the change can access god directly, miracles are again possible, the change must change others.[6]

By the 1930s the Group had fallen into public disfavor, the public associated it with revivalist Protestantism which many mainstream Protestants and most Roman Catholics rejected. It began to be ridiculed in popular plays and books.[7]

In 1938, a time of military re-armament, Buchman proclaimed a need for "moral and spiritual re-armament" and that phrase - shortened to Moral Re-Armament - became the movement's name. Protest grew towards the group grew after it underwent the name change and its style became less religious and more political. It fell from favor and lost respect. Many of its critics believed it influenced appeasement policies at the beginning of the Second World War. The group later became identified with anti communism stance before and during the Cold War.[8][9]

The Oxfords Group's influence can be found in Alcoholics Anonymous. Both Bill Wilson and Bob Smith the two founders of Alcoholics Anonymous were members of the Oxford Group. Though early AA sought to distance itself from the Oxford Groups, Wilson later acknowledged: "The early AA got its ideas of self-examination, acknowledgment of character defects, restitution for harm done, and working with others straight from the Oxford Group and directly from Sam Shoemaker, their former leader in America, and from nowhere else."

In various speeches given by Frank Buchman the Group's purpose were outlined.

* The secret is God control. The only sane people in an insane world are those controlled by God. God-controlled personalities make God-controlled nationalities. This is the aim of the Oxford Group. The true patriot gives his life to bring his nation under God's control. Those people who oppose that control are public enemies.... World peace will only come through nations which have achieved God-control. And everybody can listen to God. You can. I can. Everybody can have a part.[11]

* There are those who feel that internationalism is not enough. Nationalism can unite a nation. Supernationalism can unite a world. God-controlled supernationalism seems to be the only sure foundation for world peace!"[12]

* I challenge Denmark to be a miracle among the nations, her national policy dictated by God, her national defense the respect and gratitude of her neighbors, her national armament an army of life-changers. Denmark can demonstrate to the nations that spiritual power is the first force in the world. The true patriot gives his life to bring about his country's resurrection."[13]

* The international problems are, at bottom, personal problems of selfishness and fear. Lives must be changed if problems are to be solved. Peace in the world can only spring from peace in the hearts of men. A dynamic experience of God’s free spirit is the answer to regional antagonism, economic depression, racial conflict and international strife.[11]

[edit] The name

The name "Oxford Group" originated in South Africa in 1929, as a result of a railway porter writing the name on the windows of those compartments reserved by a traveling team of Frank Buchman followers. They were from Oxford and in South Africa to promote the movement. The South African press picked up on the name and it stuck,[14] in part because many of the campaigns of the Oxford Group were undergirded by Oxford University students and staff. Moreover, every year between 1930 and 1937 house-parties were held at the University. In the summer of 1933, for instance, 5,000 guests turned up for some part of an event which filled six colleges and lasted seventeen days. Almost 1,000 of these were clergy, including twelve bishops.[15]

Even though in 1938 Buchman chose to rename the Group and call it Moral Re-Armament, in June 1939, he applied to the Board of Trade in London to incorporate the name Oxford Group. The Oxford Group was considered legally non-existent in an earlier court ruling, and Buchman could not collect a £500 inheritance left to the group by a member. The use of the name Oxford by Buchman brought opposition from Oxford University. The application was eventually approved, although the proposal had been debated both in Oxford and in the House of Commons as opponents claimed Buchman was trying to capitalize on the name of Oxford; 232 Members of Parliament signed a petition supporting the incorporation, while 50 signed a motion opposing it. In June 1939 the Board of Trade decided in the Group’s favour. [16][17][18]

[edit] Unrelated to the Oxford Movement

The Oxford Group is unrelated to the Oxford Movement. The Oxford Movement was an effort that began in the 19th century Anglican Church to encourage High Church practice and demonstrate the Church's apostolic heritage.

Though both had an association with members and students of the University of Oxford at different times, the Oxford Group and the Oxford Movement are not to be confused.

[edit] Controversy with the Church of England and the Vatican

The group lack of interest in theology made it easy for persons of different beliefs to work together. The group did not oppose specific doctrines of the Church, the group's anti-intellectual stance allowed "Groupers" to simply consider theology a waste of time for the changed person..[19]

By the 1950s the Group was banned by the Catholic Church . Ildefonso Cardinal Schuster, Archbishop of Milan, stated that the Moral Rearmament Movement endangered both Catholics and non-Catholics, He called the movement dangerous for non-Catholics because it presents a "form of religion cut in half and suggestive, morality without dogma, without the principle of authority, without a supremely revealed faith -in a word, an arbitrary religion, and therefore, one full of errors." The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano stated that secular and regular clergy were forbidden to attend any meeting of Moral Re-Armament and that lay Catholics were forbidden to serve it in any responsible capacity.[20]."[21]

In a report concerning MRA by the Social and Industrial Council of the Church of England criticized M.R.A. on three counts: theology, psychology and social thinking. Theology it finds woefully wanting in M.R.A. "A certain blindness to the duty of thinking is a characteristic . . . We have at times been haunted by a picture of the movement, with its hectic heartiness, its mass gaiety and its reiterated slogans, as a colossal drive of escapism from responsible living."[22]."[23] It did receive some support from members of the churches, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Lang, in summing up a discussion of the Oxford Groups with his Diocesan Bishops, said 'there is a gift here of which the church is manifestly in need'.[24] Two years later William Temple, Archbishop of York, paid tribute to the Oxford Groups which 'are being used to demonstrate the power of God to change lives and give to personal witness its place in true discipleship.'[25]

[edit] International Expansion

The Oxford Group conducted campaigns in many European countries. In 1934 a team of 30 visited Norway at the invitation of Carl Hambro, President of the Norwegian Parliament. Nearly fourteen thousand people attended the three meetings in Oslo Norway. At the end of that year the Oslo daily Tidens Tegn commented in its Christmas number, 'A handful of foreigners who neither knew our language, nor understood our ways and customs, came to the country. A few days later the whole country was talking about God, and two months after the thirty foreigners arrived, the mental outlook of the whole country has definitely changed.'[26] On 22 April 1945 Bishop Fjellbu, Bishop of Trondheim, preached in the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London. 'I wish to state publicly,' he said, 'that the foundations of the united resistance of Norwegian Churchmen to Nazism were laid by the Oxford Group's work.'[27]

In 1935 a team of 250 people were welcomed to Switzerland by the President, Rudolf Minger. 'A vast number of meetings took place. On one night in Geneva, Calvin's cathedral and one of the city's largest hall both overflowed. 'For many, these meetings were a turning point in their lives,' According to professor Theophil Spoerri, of the Zurich University. 'It was almost as if something new was penetrating between the chink of the shutters. A businessman, alone in his office, would feel a faint sense of unease if he was planning to cheat his fellow citizens. The public conscience became more sensitive. The Director of Finance in one canton reported that after the national day of thanksgiving and repentance, 6,000 tax payments were recorded, something which had never occurred before.'[28]

While in Geneva Prime Minister Eduard Beneš of Czechoslovakia invited Buchman and his colleagues to address a luncheon at the League of Nations, attended by 32 of the League's Ministers Plenipotentiary. They listened to Hambro's account of the Oxford Group's impact in Norway. 'No man who has been in touch with the Group will go back to his international work in the same spirit as before,' he told them. 'It has been made impossible for him to be ruled by hate or prejudice.'[29]

Similar stories can be told of campaigns in Denmark, where the Bishop Fuglsang-Damgaard, Bishop of Copenhagen, said that the Oxford Group 'has opened my eyes to that gift of God which is called Christian fellowship, and which I have experienced in this Group to which I now belong.'[30] When the Nazis invaded Denmark, Bishop Fuglsang-Damgaard was sent to a concentration camp. Before imprisonment he smuggled a message to Buchman saying that through the Oxford Group he had found a spirit which the Nazis could not break and that he went without fear.[31]

In 1937 Buchman visited the Netherlands. 100,000 people attended gatherings in Utrecht over Whitsun that year. 'The greatest surprise was the appearance of Dr J Patijn, our Ambassador in Brussels,' reported the Socialist paper 'Het Volk'. 'Only those who know him as Burgomaster of The Hague, a sound but unapproachable man and averse to any public show, will be able to appreciate fully what it must have cost him to speak about his inmost self before many thousands. "It is not for everyone," he said, "to speak in public about his faith, and it is not easy for me to do so. Every man, however, must have the courage of his convictions.. Through the Oxford Group I have learnt to see my fellow men, the world and my whole life in a new perspective".'

[edit] Nazi leaders

At the beginning of the 1930s, Buchman kept in close touch with Germans active in the Oxford Group. Hitler had, at first, presented himself as a defender of Christianity, declaring in 1928: 'We shall not tolerate in our ranks anyone who hurts Christian ideas.'

Buchman was convinced that without a change in the heart of the National Socialist regime a world-war would become inevitable. He also believed that any person, including the German leaders, could find a living Christian faith with a commitment to Christ's moral values.[15]

Moni von Crammon, a German member of Oxford Group, was the invited guest of Heinrich Himmler for the Nuremberg Rally and she in turn invited Frank Buchman. Moni and Frank sat beside Heinrich Himmler at an informal luncheon, where they discussed religion and politics. Frank Buchman due to his family background spoke German fluently. Buchman and Von Crammon attended two of the Nazi Party rallies, one in 1934 and the other in 1935. Von Crammon later claimed after the war, her association with Himmler came as a result of her seeking him out in the matter of her possible arrest due to a piece of literature found in her possession by a maid, a piece of literature that was construed as anti-Nazi. [32]

In August 1936, Frank Buchman was Heinrich Himmler's guest at the Berlin Olympics. Buchman offered to introduce British Member of Parliament Kenneth Lindsay to Himmler, Buchman referred to Himmler as "a great lad".[33] Buchman added that Hitler himself was being most helpful to the Group: 'He lets us have house-parties whenever we like.' He did not seem to think much of England or of Canada: England was in a terrible state - 'seething with Communism'; and so was Canada. Lindsay disagreed: he thought that such an assessment showed that Buchman really knew very little about England or Canada. [34] Oxford group member, Garth Lean, writes in his book, that according to Buchman's young followers who went with him , Himmler came in with his henchmen, gave a propagandist account of Nazism and left, without giving Buchman a chance to speak.[35] Lean also cites a Danish reporter, Jacob Kronika, who in Januray 1962 gave an account in a small newspaper he edited, the Flensborg Avis, of a meeting in Berlin with Frank Buchman:

Frank Buchman when Buchman stayed at the Hotel Esplanade in Berlin. One day we ate lunch together. In the afternoon he was to have a conversation with SS Chief Himmler, who had invited Dr Buchman to come and see him. The conversation, of course, became a complete fiasco. Himmler could not, as he intended, exploit the 'absolute obedience' of the MRA people towards God for the benefit of the obedient slaves of the SS and the Nazis."

The British Foreign Office had a different report, In a confidential minute dated 16 January 1939, Makins records impressions Dr Burckhardt had gained from his recent talks in Berlin. Asked whether he thought Himmler should be included among the extremists or the moderates of the Nazis, Dr Burckhardt said Himmler had been very much disgusted by the anti-Semitic outrages. He said Himmler was ‘a very curious character’ and that both he and his wife were members of the Oxford Group.[36]

Frank Buchman expressed concerns stating: 'Germany has come under the dominion of a terrible demoniac force. A counter-action is urgent. We must ask God for guidance and strength to start an anti-demoniac counter-action under the sign of the Cross of Christ in the democratic countries bordering on Germany, especially in the small neighboring countries." [37]

In 1936 Buchman had hope that Germany could be diverted from its course. When he returned from the Berlin Olmpics he gave an interview to the New York World-Telegram.

I thank Heaven for a man like Adolf Hitler, who built a front line of defense against the anti-Christ of Communism, " he said today in his book-lined office in the annex of Calvary Church, Fourth Ave and 21st St. "My barber in London told me Hitler Nazis do Anti-Semitism? Bad, naturally. I suppose Hitler sees a Karl Marx in every Jew. But think what it would mean to the world if Hitler surrendered to the control of God. Or Mussolini. Or any dictator Through such a man God could control a nation overnight and solve every last, bewildering problem." The world won't listen to God but God has a plan for every person, for every nation. Through such a man God could control a nation overnight and solve every last, bewildering problem." The world needs the dictatorship of the living spirit of God. I like to put it this way. God is a perpetual broadcasting station and all you need to do is tune in. What we need is a supernatural network of live wires across the world to every last man, in every last place, in every last situation... "The world won't listen to God but God has a plan for every person, for every nation. Human ingenuity is not enough. That is why the isms are pitted against each other and blood falls. "Spain has taught us what godless Communism will bring. Who would have dreamed that nuns would be running naked in the streets? Human problems aren't economic. They're moral and they can't be solved by immoral measures. They could be solved within a God-controlled democracy, or perhaps I should say a theocracy, and they could be solved through a God-controlled Fascist dictatorship." [38][39]

The Rev. Garrett Stearly, one of Buchman's colleagues from Princeton University, said statements were taken out of context. When Buchman was asked about Germany, he said that Germany needed a new Christian spirit, yet one had to face the fact that Hitler had been a bulwark against Communism there - and you could at least thank heaven for that.[40]

The Oxford Group held a rally in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where the Marchers in the parade carried the flags of 48 States and 18 nations, including Germany's swastika. A negative comment on this drew the response that " the Oxford Group bring nations together". [41]

Of the thousands of Gestapo documents made available after the war [42] Oxford Group member Garth Lean found only three that concerned the Oxford Group, one suggests The Group as 'a new and dangerous opponent of National Socialism', another states It preaches revolution against the national state and has quite evidently become its Christian opponent. The third, from 1942 says "No other Christian movement has underlined so strongly the character of Christianity as being supernational and independent of all racial barriers... It tries fanatically to make all men into brothers. Leans claims the information source is a file called Die Oxford- oder Gruppenbewegung, Herausgegeben vom Sicherheitshauptamt, November 1936", Geheim, Nummeriertes Exemplar Nr. 1" .[43]

In 1938, after another Nuremberg rally and the Anschluss, Oxford Group members telephoned both Diana Mosley and her sister Unity Mitford, who were in Munich at the time attending the celebrations. The Oxford members requested an invitation and introduction to Adolf Hitler, for the purpose of "changing" him. The request was refused by both Unity and Diana. Later that same evening Oxford Group members phoned Unity's father Lord Redesdale who was also visiting Munich, making the same request. His reply was "no damn it, I like the feller the way he is."[44] Travel writer and journalist , Robert Byron, who had persuaded Hitler's English admirer Unity (Bobo) Mitford, to include him in her party, entered in his diary: 'Himmler apparently dotes on the Oxford Group and writes to its English members discussing their troubles with them.[45]

According to Oxford group member, Garth Lean, during the war, the Oxford Group in Germany divided into three parts. Some submitted to Himmler's demand that they cut all links with Buchman and the Oxford Group abroad. The largest group continued the work of bringing Christian change to people under a different name, Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Seelsorge (Working team for the Care of Souls), without being involved in politics and always subject to surveillance. A third group joined the active opposition. Moni von Crammons son in law was one of those executed along with [46]Adam von Trott zu Solz [47],were executed under Hitler's orders after the July 20 plot.

Buchman's attempts to convert the Nazi leadership was condemned by Dietrich Bonhoeffer who wrote: "The Oxford Group has been naïve enough to try to convert Hitler - a ridiculous failure to understand what is going on - it is we who are to be converted, not Hitler."[48]

A report from the Social and Industrial Council of the Church of England also condemned Buchman's approach in dealing with the Nazi regime, It stated: "It was surely this that led Dr. Buchman, so it is alleged, to believe that through 'change' induced in Hitler there could come a 'God-controlled fascist dictatorship.' His error was not so much that his appraisal of Hitler was so naive . . . but that he failed to see ... that dictatorship is not bad just because it has a bad man as dictator."[49]

[edit] Not a religion

The Oxford Group literature defines the group as not being a religion, for it had "no hierarchy, no temples, no endowments, its workers no salaries, no plans but God's plan." Their chief aim was "A new world order for Christ, the King."[50] In fact one could not belong to the Oxford group for it had no membership list, badges, or definite location. It was simply a group of people from all walks of life who have surrendered their life to God. Their endeavor was to lead a spiritual life under God's Guidance and their purpose was to carry their message so others could do the same.

The group was more like a religious revolution, unhampered by institutional ties, it combined social activities with religion, it had no organized board of officers. The Group declared itself to be not an "organization" but an "organism". Though Frank Buchman was the group's founder and leader, group members believed their true leader to be the Holy spirit and relied on God Control, meaning guidance received from God by those people who had fully "surrendered" to God's will.[51] By working within all the churches, regardless of denomination, they drew new members.[52] A newspaper account in 1933 described it as "personal evangelism -- one man talking to another or one woman discussing her problems with another woman was the order of the day". [53] In 1936, Good Housekeeping described the Group having no membership, no dues, no paid leaders, no new theological creed, nor regular meetings, it is simply a fellowship of people who desire to follow a way of life, a determination not a denomination.[54]

[edit] The Four Absolutes

Moral standards of absolute honesty, absolute purity, absolute unselfishness, and absolute love, though recognized as impossible to attain, were guidelines to help determine whether a course of action was directed by God. In Oxford terms sin: "anything that kept one from God or one another", "as contagious as any bodily disease". "The soul needs cleaning "... We all know ‘nice’ sinless sinners who need that surgical spiritual operation as keenly as the most miserable sinner of us all.[55]. Buchman obtained use of the four absolutes through his teacher Robert E Speer and his book "the Principles of Jesus".

[edit] Spiritual practices

To be spiritually reborn, the Oxford Group advocated four practices:[56] 1. The sharing of our sins and temptations with another Christian life given to God. 2. Surrender our life past, present and future, into God's keeping and direction. 3. Restitution to all whom we have wronged directly or indirectly. 4. Listening for God's guidance, and carrying it out.


In 1999, Brownback … teamed up with two Fellowship associates - former Sen. Don Nickles and the late Sen. Strom Thurmond - to demand a criminal investigation of a liberal group called Americans United for Separation of Church and State. [In 2000, Rep. Joe Pitts, a Fellowship brother, and Sen. Tom Coburn] joined Brownback in stumping for the Houses of Worship Act to allow tax-free churches to endorse candidates.

- Jeff Sharlet
God’s Senator
Rolling Stone
January 25, 2006

I have shared the brothers’ meals and their work and their games. I have been numbered among them and have been given a part in their ministry. I have wrestled with them and showered with them and listened to their stories: I know which man resents his father’s fortune and which man succumbed to the flesh of a woman not once but twice and which man dances so well he is afraid of being taken for a fag. I know what it means to be a "brother," which is to say that I know what it means to be a soldier in the army of God.

- Jeff Sharlet
Jesus plus nothing: Undercover among America’s secret theocrats
Harper’s, March, 2003

SHARLET: They are really interested in the biblical concept that whether you are good or bad it doesn’t matter, what matters is whether you are chosen. That’s part of the Hitler Concept. It doesn’t matter whether Hitler was good or bad, Hitler was chosen for leadership. That was part of God’s plan. Nothing happens that isn’t part of God’s plan.

- Anthony Lappé
Meet ‘The Family’
Guerrilla News Network
June 13, 2003

What gets lost in the disgusting details of Ensign’s adulterous affair, Mark Sanford’s (an associate member of the Family) lust for an Argentine, and former Congressman Chip Pickering’s adulterous bonking on-site at the C Street "Christian fellowship house" is something that Maddow has repeatedly come back to: these men don’t believe they are responsible to moral or governmental laws. If they deviate from the "righteous path," God is only testing their strength, because they are the ones divinely chosen to lead - and it is weakness to succumb to remorse about one’s "misbehavior."

- American Atheists
Lawmakers Part of Secret "Christian Mafia" in Washington?
Opposing Views, July 28, 2009

"King David," David Coe went on, "liked to do really, really bad things." He chuckled. "Here’s this guy who slept with another man’s wife - Bathsheba, right? - and then basically murders her husband. And this guy is one of our heroes." David shook his head. "I mean, Jiminy Christmas, God likes this guy! What," he said, "is that all about?"

The answer, we discovered, was that King David had been "chosen."

- Jeff Sharlet
Jesus plus nothing: Undercover among America’s secret theocrats
Harper’s, March, 2003

[David Coe, Doug Coe’s son and heir apparent] asked a young man who’d put himself, body and soul, under the Family’s authority, "Let’s say I hear you raped three little girls. What would I think of you?" The man guessed that Coe would probably think that he was a monster. "No," answered Coe, "I wouldn’t." Why? Because, as a member of the Family, he’s among what Family leaders refer to as the "new chosen." If you’re chosen, the normal rules don’t apply.

- Jeff Sharlet
Sex and power inside
"the C Street House", July 21, 2009

This particular house, of course, draws such attention because of the morality preached by its inhabitants. It’s not just what these guys did - and by the way, what were they thinking? - it’s what they said about other guys who did the same things that makes them world-class hypocrites as well as womanizers. And to have such a spate of sex stories all at the same time really can’t help but get our attention.

- Cokie and Steve Roberts
Must guys be guys at now-infamous C Street House?
State Journal-Register
July 28, 2009

In a document entitled "Our Common Agreement as a Core Group," members of the Family are instructed to form a "core group," or a "cell," which is defined as "a publicly invisible but privately identifiable group of companions." A document called "Thoughts on a Core Group" explains that "Communists use cells as their basic structure. The mafia operates like this, and the basic unit of the Marine Corps is the four man squad. Hitler, Lenin, and many others understood the power of a small core of people."

- Jeff Sharlet
Jesus plus nothing: Undercover among America’s secret theocrats
Harper’s, March, 2003

Christian right leader - and Watergate felon - Chuck Colson, converted through the efforts of the Family, has boasted of it as a "veritable underground of Christ’s men all through government."

- Jeff Sharlet
Sex and power inside
"the C Street House", July 21, 2009

July 21, 2009 | I can't say I was impressed when I met Sen. John Ensign at the C Street House, the secretive religious enclave on Capitol Hill thrust into the news by its links to three political sex scandals, those of Gov. Mark Sanford; former Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., who allegedly rendezvoused at the C Street House with his mistress, an executive in the industry for which he then became a lobbyist; and Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev. Although Sanford declared today that his scandal will actually turn out to be good for the people of South Carolina because he's now more firmly in God's control, the once-favored GOP presidential prospect will finish out his term and fade away. And Ensign's residence at the C Street House during his own extramarital affair now threatens to end a career that he and other Republicans hoped would lead him to the White House.

When I met Ensign, he was just back from a run, sweaty and bouncing in place, boasting about the time he'd clocked and teasing a young woman from his office. She seemed annoyed that the senator wouldn't get himself into a shower and back on the job. When I wrote about Sen. Ensign in my book about the evangelical political organization that runs the C Street House, "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power," I described him as a "conservative casino heir elected to the Senate from Nevada, a brightly tanned, hapless figure who uses his Family connections to graft holiness to his gambling-fortune name."

Now, of course, I know I was wrong: John Ensign is a brightly tanned, hapless figure who used his Family connections to cover up the fruits of his flirtations, to make moral decisions for him, and to do his dirty work when his secret romance sputtered. Doug Hampton, the friend and former aide whom Ensign cuckolded, tells us that it was Family leader David Coe, along with Coe's brother Tim and Family "brother" Sen. Tom Coburn, who delivered the pink slip when it was time to put Cynthia Hampton out of Ensign's reach.

If sexual license was all the Family offered the C Street men, however, that would merely be seedy and self-serving. But Family men are more than hypocritical. They're followers of a political religion that embraces elitism, disdains democracy, and pursues power for its members the better to "advance the Kingdom." They say they're working for Jesus, but their Christ is a power-hungry, inside-the-Beltway savior not many churchgoers would recognize. Sexual peccadilloes aside, the Family acts today like the most powerful lobby in America that isn't registered as a lobby -- and is thus immune from the scrutiny attending the other powerful organizations like Big Pharma and Big Insurance that exert pressure on public policy.

The Family likes to call itself a "Christian Mafia," but it began 74 years ago as an anti-New Deal coalition of businessmen convinced that organized labor was under the sway of Satan. The Great Depression, they believed, was a punishment from God for what they viewed as FDR's socialism. The Family's goal was the "consecration" of America to God, first through the repeal of New Deal reforms, then through the aggressive expansion of American power during the Cold War. They called this a "Worldwide Spiritual Offensive," but in Washington, it amounted to the nation's first fundamentalist lobby. Early participants included Southern Sens. Strom Thurmond, Herman Talmadge and Absalom Willis Robertson -- Pat Robertson's father. Membership lists stored in the Family's archive at the Billy Graham Center at evangelical Wheaton College in Illinois show active participation at any given time over the years by dozens of congressmen.

Today's roll call is just as impressive: Men under the Family's religio-political counsel include, in addition to Ensign, Coburn and Pickering, Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham, both R-S.C.; James Inhofe, R-Okla., John Thune, R-S.D., and recent senators and high officials such as John Ashcroft, Ed Meese, Pete Domenici and Don Nickles. Over in the House there's Joe Pitts, R-Penn., Frank Wolf, R-Va., Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., and John R. Carter, R-Texas. Historically, the Family has been strongly Republican, but it includes Democrats, too. There's Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, for instance, a vocal defender of putting the Ten Commandments in public places, and Sen. Mark Pryor, the pro-war Arkansas Democrat responsible for scuttling Obama's labor agenda. Sen. Pryor explained to me the meaning of bipartisanship he'd learned through the Family: "Jesus didn't come to take sides. He came to take over." And by Jesus, the Family means the Family.

Family leaders consider their political network to be Christ's avant garde, an elite that transcends not just conventional morality but also earthly laws regulating lobbying. In the Family's early days, they debated registering as "a lobby for God's Kingdom." Instead, founder Abraham Vereide decided that the group could be more effective by working personally with politicians. "The more invisible you can make your organization," Vereide's successor, current leader Doug Coe preaches, "the more influence you can have." That's true -- which is why we have laws requiring lobbyists to identify themselves as such.

But David Coe, Doug Coe's son and heir apparent, calls himself simply a friend to men such as John Ensign, whom he guided through the coverup of his affair. I met the younger Coe when I lived for several weeks as a member of the Family. He's a surprising source of counsel, spiritual or otherwise. Attempting to explain what it means to be chosen for leadership like King David was -- or Mark Sanford, according to his own estimate -- he asked a young man who'd put himself, body and soul, under the Family's authority, "Let's say I hear you raped three little girls. What would I think of you?" The man guessed that Coe would probably think that he was a monster. "No," answered Coe, "I wouldn't." Why? Because, as a member of the Family, he's among what Family leaders refer to as the "new chosen." If you're chosen, the normal rules don't apply.

Next page: Doug Coe offered Pol Pot and Osama bin Laden as men whose commitment to their causes is to be emulated

So it is for Ensign. Sen. Jim DeMint, one of Ensign's C Street roommates, insists that the prayer groups that meet there -- "invisible believing groups," in the Family's words, designed to facilitate private prayer between partners of equally high status -- are all about accountability. That is, the kind that takes place behind closed doors. We now know that the Family was aware of Sen. Ensign's affair long before Doug Hampton's wounded pride forced it into the public. What's more, if Hampton is to be believed, their concern with the payoffs made by Ensign and his parents to his mistress's family was that they were too small; operating in a medical and spiritual capacity, Sen. Coburn counseled $1.2 million, according to Hampton. Coburn is no hypocrite -- he's a true believer in the faith of the Family, the idea that the chosen need to look out for one another. Christian right leader -- and Watergate felon -- Chuck Colson, converted through the efforts of the Family, has boasted of it as a "veritable underground of Christ's men all through government."

What do they do? Rep. Zach Wamp, one of Ensign's fellow C Streeters who's been in the news for defending the Family's secrecy, has teamed up with Family-linked Reps. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., and John R. Carter, R-Texas, on an obscure appropriations committee to help greenlight tens of millions in federal funds for new megachurch-style chapels on military bases around the country. Former Rep. Chip Pickering was not only sleeping on the sly with a representative of the telecom industry, he was living with one -- former Oklahoma Republican Rep. Steve Largent, a C Streeter who in his post-Congress capacity as the head of a telecom association paid for travel by Pickering and John Ensign. Some might call that "crony capitalism"; Family members call it "biblical capitalism."

A review of Ensign's and Sen. Coburn's travel records, undertaken with researcher Chris Rodda of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, reveals an even more disturbing overlap of the pious and the political. On at least three occasions in recent years, Sen. Ensign traveled to Asia and the Middle East on what he described as official policy trips, paid for entirely by the International Foundation, one of the network of little-known nonprofits that make up the Family. Sen. Coburn, meanwhile, traveled to Beirut in 2005 on the Family's dime, with the explicit mission of setting up Lebanese political prayer groups, just like the one that covered for Ensign. The following year, Coburn humbled himself in prayer at a special Family event in the British Virgin Islands, a Christian mission of earthly rewards also undertaken, at Family expense, by fellow C Streeter Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Penn., who also sacrificed himself for God with a Family-paid trip to Aruba.

To be fair, most of the trips sponsored by the Family aren't pleasure junkets. They're missionary work. Only the Family missionaries aren't representing the United States. They're representing "Jesus plus nothing," as Doug Coe puts it, the "totalitarianism of God," in the words of an early Family leader, a vision that encompasses not just social issues but also the kind of free-market fundamentalism that is the real object of devotion for Ensign, Coburn, Pickering, Wamp and Sanford, along with Family insiders such as Sens. DeMint, Sam Brownback and Chuck Grassley. At the heart of the Family's spiritual advice for its proxies in Congress is the conviction that the market's invisible hand represents the guidance of God, and that God wants his "new chosen" to look out for one another.

When they arrive in other countries, on trips paid for by the Family, at the behest of the Family, they are still traveling under official government auspices, on official business, with the pomp and circumstance -- and access -- of their taxpayer-funded, elected positions. Here's how a former National Security Council official who traveled with Family leader Doug Coe on a tour of Pacific nations described the Family effect in small nations where a visitor like John Ensign is a major event: "It reminded me of the story in World War II, where the British sent an OSS type into Borneo ... And this guy parachuted out of the sky and they had never seen anything like this so they looked on him as -- he had blonde hair and white skin and he was a white god who had come out of the sky to mobilize them. Obviously his side was going to win so they had no trouble aligning themselves."

One needn't be a Marxist to find fault with the Family's mash-up of New Testament and unfettered capitalism -- Adam Smith himself would have recognized that theology as a disingenuous form of self-interest by proxy. Such interests have led the Family into some strange alliances over the years. Seduced by the Indonesian dictator Suharto's militant anti-communism, they described the murder of hundreds of thousands that brought him to power as a "spiritual revolution," and sent delegations of congressmen and oil executives to pray to Jesus with the Muslim leader. In Africa, they anointed the Somali killer Siad Barre as God's man and sent Sen. Grassley and a defense contractor as emissaries. Barre described himself as a "Koranic Marxist," but he agreed to pray to Grassley's American Christ in return for American military aid, which he then used to wreak a biblical terror on his nation. It has not yet recovered. More recently, the Family has paid for congressional Christian junkets to bastions of democracy such as Serbia, Sudan, Belarus, Albania, Macedonia and Musharraf's Pakistan.

If the Family men who stood over John Ensign as he wrote a baldly insincere breakup letter to his mistress were naive about hearts that want what they want, they don't claim ignorance about the strongmen with whom they build bonds of prayer and foreign aid. They admire them. Counseling Rep. Tiahrt, Doug Coe offered Pol Pot and Osama bin Laden as men whose commitment to their causes is to be emulated. Preaching on the meaning of Christ's words, he says, "You know Jesus said 'You got to put Him before mother-father-brother sister? Hitler, Lenin, Mao, that's what they taught the kids. Mao even had the kids killing their own mother and father. But it wasn't murder. It was for building the new nation. The new kingdom."

Sen. Ensign, facing calls for an investigation of what may have been felony abuses of campaign funds in his attempt to cover up his affair, might not get there. Then again, the Family's preview of a "new kingdom" -- a private club of men protecting one another's secrets -- doesn't sound so different from the old kingdom. That's the awful secret behind the closed doors of the C Street House, the Family's authoritarian rhetoric, and even the Family's real mission: business as usual, fortified by faith in more power for the powerful and privilege itself a form of piety.


Admiral Arthur W. Radford, Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, proposed that the first article of the [the 1955 Code of Conduct for Members of the Armed Forces of the United States] be a guiding precept for all Americans. The admiral explained to a convention of evangelicals that, "…when you pledge: I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. These words are the key to the part played by the mind and the spirit in our national security."

Admiral Radford used his position on the [Joint Chiefs of Staff] to turn that agency into the chief advocate of the Code of Conduct and its companion program, Militant Liberty, for both an international and domestic audience.

John C. Broger, an evangelist before Radford brought him into the DOD, designed Militant Liberty as a program of "personal evangelism in the political rather than the religious field."

The controversial program compared democracy’s "sensitive individual conscience" to communism’s "annihilated individual conscience" for third world nations and provided a "political religion," according to its proponents, for revitalizing America’s national character.

After the JCS hired a public relations firm and marketed Militant Liberty across the nation, its officials even traveled to Hollywood in 1955 to urge John Wayne and John Ford to incorporate Militant Liberty themes into motion pictures. In January of the next year the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, following the DOD’s direction, held a national forum on how to disseminate the Code of Conduct and Broger’s special brand of evangelical democracy to the nation’s homes, schools, and churches.

The Religious Education Association of America recommended that its members include "lessons on responsibility to God and Country into Church curriculum." Even a "Code of an American Mother" was presented which proclaimed, "I am an American mother, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to impart to my child the principles which made my country free. Together we will trust in our God."

While the armed forces embraced the Code of Conduct, they quickly rejected Militant Liberty because of its strident civil religious message. To Radford’s dismay, military academies refused to incorporate Militant Liberty into their curriculum. The Marine Corps spoke for a number of critics when it argued that the concept was inappropriate for service personnel as it was based on a fear approach and far too much like political indoctrination.

But when links between political extremists and Militant Liberty (as well as connections between some members of the military and the radical right in the notorious cold war seminars of the early 1960s) caught the attention of investigative reporters it became extremely difficult for evangelicals in the military (whether religious or political) to pursue their civilian efforts further.

- Lori Lyn Bogle

Evangelicals in the Military and the Code of Conduct


Q&A: The writer, who went undercover among America's secret theocrats, describes three bizarre weeks of 'man to man' interaction with the power elite.

It sounded like a reality show on the PAX network: Six conservative politicians living in a DC townhouse owned by a fundamentalist Christian organization. What happens when you stop being polite and start finding Jesus? In April, the AP broke the story that six U.S. congressmen were paying the bargain rate of $600 a month each to live together in a swanky DC townhouse owned by a secretive fundamentalist Christian group known as the Fellowship or the Foundation. Many, understandably, were curious. Who is this organization, and what is its agenda? The group, the AP reported, is best known for holding the annual National Prayer Breakfast at the White House, which offers scores of national and international heavy hitters the opportunity to praise God in close proximity to the President. In the article, the congressmen boarding at the house denied owing any allegiance to the group, and several professed ignorance of even the most basic facts about the organization. Little else was reported about the group's history, motives or backers. There is a reason for that. The Fellowship is one of the most secretive, and most powerful, religious organizations in the country. Its connections reach to the highest levels of the U.S. government and include ties to the CIA and numerous current and past dictators around the world. Last month, Harper's magazine published a rather extraordinary article by Jeffrey Sharlet, editor of the irreverent web site and co-author of the upcoming "Killing the Buddha: A Heretic's Bible" (Free Press). The piece chronicled Sharlet's three-week semi-undercover stay at Ivanwald, the Fellowship's mansion:

Ivanwald, which sits at the end of Twenty-fourth Street North in Arlington, Virginia, is known only to its residents and to the members and friends of the organization that sponsors it, a group of believers who refer to themselves as "the Family." The Family is, in its own words, an "invisible" association, though its membership has always consisted mostly of public men. Senators Don Nickles (R., Okla.), Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), Pete Domenici (R., N.Mex.), John Ensign (R., Nev.), James Inhofe (R., Okla.), Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), and Conrad Burns (R., Mont.) are referred to as "members," as are Representatives Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), Frank Wolf (R., Va.), Joseph Pitts (R., Pa.), Zach Wamp (R., Tenn.), and Bart Stupak (D., Mich.). Regular prayer groups have met in the Pentagon and at the Department of Defense, and the Family has traditionally fostered strong ties with businessmen in the oil and aerospace industries. The Family maintains a closely guarded database of its associates, but it issues no cards and collects no official dues. Members are asked not to speak about the group or its activities. The organization has operated under many guises, some active, some defunct: National Committee for Christian Leadership, International Christian Leadership, the National Leadership Council, Fellowship House, the Fellowship Foundation, the National Fellowship Council, the International Foundation. These groups are intended to draw attention away from the Family, and to prevent it from becoming, in the words of one of the Family's leaders, "a target for misunderstanding." The Family's only publicized gathering is the National Prayer Breakfast, which it established in 1953 and which, with congressional sponsorship, it continues to organize every February in Washington, D.C. Each year 3,000 dignitaries, representing scores of nations, pay $425 each to attend. Steadfastly ecumenical, too bland most years to merit much press, the breakfast is regarded by the Family as merely a tool in a larger purpose: to recruit the powerful attendees into smaller, more frequent prayer meetings, where they can "meet Jesus man to man."

If this all sounds like something out of a conspiracy theorist's wet dream (or paranoid nightmare), you're right. Sharlet's account of his three weeks of "man to man" interaction can only be described as disturbing and downright bizarre. In fact, it was so creepy many accused him of making the whole thing up. So what did Sharlet find?

GNN: You went undercover into this house. Who were you posing as and what were you trying to find?
SHARLET: Actually, I was posing as myself. I write about religion. A friend said go check it out, it's an interesting place. I went not knowing the politics. Within a few days I began to see things were not at all what I expected. This was connected to a pretty vast political network. Still it was quite a pleasant place to live. These people had a different approach than I did, but I was interested in learning. As time went on I started hearing more and more disturbing talk. That's when I started keeping my ears open. I didn't go in undercover, but I suppose I left undercover. But I told them who I was, I never told a lie.

GNN: Some people have called your story a hoax.
SHARLET: I've got lots of letters from people saying this has got to be a hoax, or please tell me it's a hoax or curiously from people who know a little too much to be saying the things they were saying.

GNN: What are some this group's core ideas and what level of secrecy is involved here?
SHARLET: The goal is an "invisible" world organization led by Christ -- that's what they aspire to. They are very explicit about this if you look in their documents, and I spent a lot of time researching in their archives. Their goal is a worldwide invisible organization. That's their word, and that's important because it sounds so crazy. What they mean when they say "a world organization led by Christ" is that literally you just sit there and let Christ tell you what to do. More often than not that leads them to a sort of paternalistic benign fascism. There are a lot of places that they've done good things, and that's important to acknowledge. But that also means they might be involved with General Suharto in Indonesia and if that means that God leads him to kill half a million of his own citizens then, well, it would prideful to question God leading them.

GNN: Who are these guys, and how many are there?
SHARLET: The only estimate was made by Charles Colson, Nixon's chief dirty tricks guy who went on to become the head of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Right before he went to prison the founder [of the Fellowship] Doug Coe turned him on to Christ. Colson said there are about 20,000 people involved in the U.S. But you aren't really supposed to talk about it. I always say to interviewers, "This is not a conspiracy." There's no secret badge or anything. It's much looser. This is how the vast right-wing conspiracy works, by being associates, friends.

GNN: But they speak of themselves as operating in terrorist-like cells.
SHARLET: Yes, they do. Inside your cell, you might know six or eight guys. Let me give you a real quick history. In 1935, Abraham Vereide starts it. By the 1940s he has about a third of Congress attending a weekly prayer meeting. In the mid-50s, he gets Eisenhower's support. [According to a 2002 Los Angeles Times article, during the 1950's Vereide played a major role in the U.S. government's anti-communist activities: "Pentagon officials secretly met at the group's Washington Fellowship House in 1955 to plan a worldwide anti-communism propaganda campaign endorsed by the CIA, documents from the Fellowship archives and the Eisenhower Presidential Library show. Then known as International Christian Leadership, the group financed a film called 'Militant Liberty' that was used by the Pentagon abroad." Showing Faith in Discretion, Lisa Getter, The Los Angeles Times, Sep 27, 2002] It's sort of stabilized now. By the mid-60's, they sort of realized they didn't want too many people. Too many people dilute the organization. One scene I saw was Congressman Todd Tiahrt, Republican from Kansas, who seemed as if he was interviewing to be in the organization. He was very nervous. The leader of the organization was asking him questions, sort of leaning back and testing him. I think he wanted into this network, and he would fumble a little by talking about abortion. They don't really care about abortion. They are against it but they aren't really concerned about it.

GNN: What are their core issues then?
SHARLET: The core issue is capitalism and power. The core issue they would say, is love. There are a lot of different things love means. They will always work with both sides of the issue. I saw some correspondence with Chinese officials before Deng Xiao Ping was in power. They had some very clandestine associations with senior Chinese officials, and were told Deng was a guy they could do business with. So that was fine with them.

GNN: When you say 'do business,' was it all about actual business deals?
SHARLET: I wouldn't say it was all about business deals. But if you happened to be praying with someone and you were done praying and said, "Hey, I have some F-16s to sell..." They would deny there is any connection. They are pretty careful about those kinds of things. They will never say, "We are out here to help set you up in business." They will always help out their friends. "Let me introduce you to someone. The Prime Minister of Malaysia is coming."

GNN: It sounds to me like some sort of extended Skull and Bones, an Old Boys Network crafted onto a religious context.
SHARLET: The religious context is real. The Old Boys Network is about business. This is about more than business. This is about maintaining a certain kind of power, a certain view of how power should be distributed. The Episcopalian Old Boys Network was a lot more easygoing than this. This is a lot more militaristic. Really at its fundamental core, almost monarchist. We would be told time and time again, "Christ's kingdom is not a democracy" This is their model for leadership. They would often say, "Everything you need to know about government is right there in the cross - it's vertical not horizontal."

GNN: In that vein, reading your article I got the impression they are praising guys like Adolph Hitler and Ghengis Khan -- a lot. Is that a fair assessment of your intention?
SHARLET: In fact, Harpers made me cut back on that stuff. [They said] 'We know it's true, but this is already so much to absorb.' That's why I included that line at the end of the story. The leader of the group is having dinner with the younger members of that group and is talking about the bond, the covenant. And he says, "Can anyone think of someone who had a covenant?" And the answer, of course, and everyone knows it, is "Hitler." This goes back to the 1960's, Vereide was instructing young men by having them read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich -- "Look at what those guys did." But they will say, "We are not trying to kill Jews." What we are talking about is imagine if you took the "Hitler Concept," and they'll use that phrase, the Hitler Concept, to work for Christ, or the Mao Concept. We're not right wingers, they'll say. You can use the Mao Concept.

GNN: Define what they mean by Hitler Concept.
SHARLET: A loyal leadership cadre, which is interesting because guys like Hitler and Stalin were famous for purging, but they seem to focus on a couple of guys. "If two or three agree" is a phrase they use a lot. If you can get together and focus you can accomplish anything. You don't need to sway the electorate. You don't need to convert everyone to Christ. Everyone doesn't have to believe in Christ, and that's where they differ from other fundamentalists. Some fundamentalists really distrust them for that. [They say] "We need to convert everyone, the high and the low." The Family says, "No we don't need the high." All these guys Hitler, Lenin, Pol Pot and Osama bin Laden is another guy they cite a lot, are guys who understood the power of a political avant garde. That's what they mean by the Hitler Concept. Also keeping your message simple, and repeating it again and again because there is only one message and it is "Jesus Loves." You can express lots of different things with that term. I always try to play the devil's advocate. They are not the traditional right wing bad guys. They have been able to do what they do for so long because no one has been looking for this kind of thing. A lot of this is already in the culture, take [the book] "Ghengis Khan Business Secrets," for instance, the admiration authoritarian leaders.

GNN: Here's where I'm confused. To me they sound like Nietzsche. They don't sound like Jesus Christ. They sound like they are creating the Nietzschean superman above the moral universe the rest of us slaves live in.
SHARLET: I don't think I mention Nietzsche in the article, do I?

GNN: I don't think so.
SHARLET: That's really perceptive of you. Many of them love Nietzsche. They think he's fascinating.

GNN: But he hated Christianity. He was the ultimate amoralist.
SHARLET: I know it's weird. There is one really wacky fundamentalist group that thinks Doug Coe could be the Anti-Christ. They're not sure yet, they might need to shave his head and see if he has the mark of the beast. They have gotten into trouble with a lot of evangelical groups. They invited Yasser Arafat to the National Prayer Breakfast. They've boasted, and I don't know if it's true, that they had special permission from the State Department to bring anyone they wanted to the Cedars, that they'd brought some Sudanese on the terrorist list to their mansion headquarters and they'd love to get Osama bin Laden down there.

GNN: But where does Christ fit into all of this? This seems like a lot of Old Testament stuff, not the new [Testament], meek-shall-inherit-the-earth Jesus part.
SHARLET: That's an interesting point. For them, Jesus is just a regular guy, a buddy, a guide, the standard evangelical stuff, no sex. It's sort of a weird hipster puritanical view. If you met them you wouldn't think they were uptight.

GNN: Actually, they sound like complete homophobes to me.
SHARLET: They definitely think homosexuality is a sin.

GNN: But they seem like they can't stand women.
SHARLET: They're just not that interested. It's a very gendered point of view. Jesus is everywhere. Jesus is right there with you on the basketball court. But at the upper levels there is this weird emphasis on the Old Testament. It's in the story, they talk about King David, who in some ways was a really bad guy. They are really interested in the biblical concept that whether you are good or bad it doesn't matter, what matters is whether you are chosen. That's part of the Hitler Concept. It doesn't matter whether Hitler was good or bad, Hitler was chosen for leadership. That was part of God's plan. Nothing happens that isn't part of God's plan.

GNN: Let's cut to this house where these six congressmen are living on C Street in DC. What is the connection, if any, to the Bush Administration? The White House seems to have its own relationship to religion and people who are influencing them on religious issues. Is there a relationship here?
SHARLET: Yes, though I will say it is not exclusively Democrat or Republican. They say there are six guys at the C Street house, there were eight when I was there. They say there is one for members of Parliament in England, and I think there are similar ones in other capitals. The house is constantly rotating. Steve Largent used to live there. John Elias Baldacci, a conservative Democrat who is now the governor of Maine. As for the Bush connection, there is Ashcroft. I discovered in their archives a correspondence between Ashcroft and Coe that began in 1981. Al Gore at one time referred to Doug Coe as his personal hero, which is easy to believe. Doug Coe is an incredibly charming man. The Bushes have visited the Cedars many times, but all presidents have. Bush Sr. when he was Vice President was hosting dinners for Middle Eastern ambassadors there. There are going to be people at all levels.

GNN: When you say someone "is a part of it" what does that mean? Are you in or out, or is it a loose thing?
SHARLET: It's a loose thing. But there are levels of participation.

GNN: Are they codified like the Masons or something?
SHARLET: There is an inner core group that is codified in their documents, called the Core. I don't know who is in it other than Doug Coe. The documents I saw only went up to the late 80's with senators, congressmen, and a lot of military men. Before he died, Senator Harold Huges was Core. Former Senator Mark Hatfield used to be Core, and may still be. In the AP article, there is an Air Force officer who I hadn't known about. Then there are associates, usually about 150 associates and they are the key individuals in their areas, and then there are the people who are in a cell with an associate and they are very close. And then there are close friends. Senator James Inhofe, Republican from Oklahoma, is frequently, for instance, referred to as a close friend. President Museveni of Uganda is a close friend. There is no membership card. In all of their letters there is a paragraph that says this is a private, confidential relationship and we don't talk about it when they are recruiting a new person into the group.

GNN: Are there formal events and meetings, other than this national prayer breakfast?
SHARLET: There are literally thousands of governors', mayors', prayer breakfasts around the country. Some of those probably launched forty, fifty years ago and have long since lost their connection to the mothership, as it were. But that's the idea. They're part of the movement. The system is in place, that we should turn to God to make all our decisions. Up until the 1970's, they had Core meetings around the world, but that's as far as I saw in the documents.

GNN: So how scared are you of this group? Are they a force for fascism or some sort of cult-like group with big connections that comes and goes?
SHARLET: I think they are definitely a force for fascism. I think a lot of the way the world looks is a result of their work. They were instrumental in getting U.S. government support for General Suharto, for the generals' juntas in Brazil. Just take those two countries alone, they are two of the biggest countries on Earth. Those countries might have been progressive democracies a long time ago had it not been for U.S. support for those regimes ...

GNN: But don't you think the CIA and the U.S. government's own agenda had a lot to do with those decisions?
SHARLET: Yeah, but they made those connections.

GNN: What are the connections between the CIA and the Fellowship?
SHARLET: A lot of their key men in a country would be the intelligence officers in the American embassy. Throughout their correspondence, that's the kind of guy they would like to have involved. They always had a lot of Army intelligence guys involved, Pentagon guys. Doug Coe in the early 70's was touring the frontlines in Vietnam with intelligence officers and South Vietnamese generals. That's the level of connections they are talking about, like the Salvadoran general Carlos Eugenios Vides Casanova [convicted by a Florida jury for the torture of thousands] and Honduran general Gustavo Alvarez Martinez [a minister also linked to the CIA and death squads]. They are the people who brought those people in. They said you need to meet this person. That's how it works. Their diplomacy can affect some good things, like the truce in Rwanda. They had a lot of connections with the South African [apartheid] regime, where they were generally a moderate, even a progressive force. But it's kinda hard to name a nasty regime around the world that doesn't have really well-documented connections to them. Franco was a hold-out. So they started winning over a bunch of ministers in the Franco regime and then they went to Franco and said this is a good group, we can do business with them.

GNN: Why hasn't there been more mainstream press on this?
SHARLET: Lisa Getter of The Los Angeles Times, a Pulitzer prize winning investigative reporter, did a piece on it, but there was no follow-up. I got a little press out of it when my article came out. There is a big reason there hasn't been a lot of press about it and that's the war. On the other hand, and this isn't a conspiracy theory, if they can't see it then it's not there. I mean if you read that your local congressman is sitting there saying Hitler is a leadership model, the local paper should at the very least call up and say, "Congressman Tiahrt do you believe Hitler is a good leadership model?" If he had said, "Noam Chomsky is a great philosopher" then there'd be an investigation in a minute. Why they are not following up on it? I don't know. Partly because it's so crazy, and partly because there is this idea that religion and politics are separate and religion is a personal thing. The media has always been pretty dumb when it comes to religion. In the New Yorker profile of John Ashcroft they talk about his weekly prayer breakfast, Steve Largent, [former congressman from Oklahoma] in The New York Times, same deal. I think they interviewed him while he was living at the house. The reporter never asked, "Hey, how did you get involved in this? Is this something that existed before you?" The reporter sort of implied it was Largent's idea for the weekly prayer breakfasts. It hasn't been that secret. The New Republic did an expos? in the late 60's, early 70's, and no one really followed up. Robert Scheer did a piece on it in Playboy in the 1970's.

GNN: Any fallout from the members?
SHARLET: I've talked to several who swear we are still friends. One guy did say, I'm paraphrasing, 'You're a traitor and you'll be dealt with as a traitor.' Anthony Lappé is Excutive Editor of He has written for The New York Times, New York, Details, and Salon, among many others.

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