By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
For two decades Al Meiklejohn was Mr. Republican in Arvada. His state Senate seat was safe, and Republicans themselves were safe picks for voters looking to speed up business and slow down social change. Meiklejohn is one of those Republicans who ally themselves with chambers of commerce. They used to be called conservatives.
But no Republican is safe anymore, now that the armies of the right have established a beachhead in metro Denver, with a big local church lighting their way. The religious right, through the kind of hard work that even its opponents respect, has seized control of the GOP not only in Colorado Springs, where a top executive of the Focus on the Family religious-broadcasting empire is vice-chair of the county GOP, but also in Jefferson County, the most populous county in the state. Old-line Republicans now derisively refer to their growing city of 100,000 in the northern part of Jeffco as "Arvada Springs." Meiklejohn, who retired from the legislature in 1996--just in time--doesn't even recognize the names of his party's committeemen and committeewomen in his own district.
Waves of evangelical Christians, many of them members of big, non-denominational churches, now do the dirty work of local political organizing. And they've done it well. They control all three legislative seats from Arvada. And Meiklejohn predicts a "sea change" in favor of the religious right in the next legislature, when term limits will drive out a third of the current lawmakers.
"This is a golden opportunity to take over the government," he says. "These people have a view that churches ought to run the government. My view is that churches should flourish and prosper while the government remains neutral. But these people want to impose their views on us by governmental force."
That used to be the warning Republicans issued regarding the left. But now the threat comes from within the party.
"They're held together by some very emotional issues: abortion and state aid to private schools," Meiklejohn says. "Moderate Republicans are, by definition, moderate. They aren't driven emotionally. They are not activists. These citizens who are part of the religious right want to change the world."
Diane Dillingham, president-elect of Colorado Republicans for Choice, writes off Jeffco as already being in the camp of the religious right. Arapahoe County is on the verge, she says. And the Democrats have prospered as a result, she notes: State senators Mike Feeley, Stan Matsunaka and Ed Perlmutter all got their seats by beating religious-right candidates in districts that could have easily gone Republican.
"A lot of moderate Republicans are biding their time," Dillingham says, "waiting to pick up the pieces" after religious-right lawmakers embarrass themselves out of office. And in the meantime, she adds, the party "is right-winging itself into irrelevance."
Pat Miller has a message for moderates such as Dillingham and Meiklejohn: "Quit your whining."
Miller is the political boss of the new GOP in Arvada (her husband is her lieutenant). Like first-term lawmaker Barry Arrington, Miller attends Faith Bible Chapel, the most prominent of the evangelical churches in that area. Less visible is George Morrison, the head pastor at FBC. But he's no less powerful, though he keeps out of overt politicking. The three--Miller, Arrington and Morrison--share strong beliefs about abortion, the issue that is tearing the GOP apart, and they're working hard to fight it. Each feels driven by faith to push a social agenda. It's a supernatural force that, for now, old-line Republicans are powerless to fight.
There's no doubt that 35-year-old Barry Arrington is combative. Coming from what he describes as modest circumstances, he worked his way through law school at the University of Texas, acquired a black belt in the martial arts and developed a reputation for throwing his views right in your face. In the early Nineties he splashed his name on billboards advertising his services to women "injured" by abortion. He helped found the Rocky Mountain Family Council, a political arm of Focus on the Family. While crusading against pornography in the unsuccessful campaign for pro-censorship Amendment 16 in 1994, he denied being a censor but sounded like this century's version of Anthony Comstock: "A woman having oral sex with a dog and persons inserting small rodents into the rectum--don't tell me that's in the same category as Catcher in the Rye." Well-spoken and full of righteous indignation about the state of the world, he utters opinions with the confidence of someone who just knows the truth.
Arrington's zeal strikes his critics as smug self-righteousness, but it's intoxicating to many other evangelical Christians.
Sometimes the pot he stirs bubbles over and he gets burned. One such incident during a bruising 1994 Senate campaign against Perlmutter, he says, is "etched upon" his mind. Arrington's frenzied supporters approached Perlmutter and his family and called him "Perl-murderer" for supporting abortion. Arrington got the blame for the uncouth maneuver, which was widely publicized. His first bid for public office was, in effect, finished.
"I was literally sickened," he recalls. "I knew in my heart of hearts that my campaign was over. You know, that wobbly feeling."
But Arrington's political career wasn't over. All that hard work by Pat Miller's troops in the GOP trenches to capture party posts paid off for him in 1996. Dave Farley, the Republican candidate for House District 27, had to drop out because of a job conflict, and the district's five-person vacancy committee had to pick a replacement. Arrington himself was on the committee, but he resigned to lobby for the candidacy himself. Not that he had to work too hard to get the nod: The chairman of the vacancy committee was Pat Miller's husband, Lynn.
Democrat Sue Windels says she wasn't surprised when Arrington got the nod from the GOP vacancy committee to run against her. "You can't get appointed to anything out here if you're not in the FBC camp," she says. "[The church] is a huge force. They are so organized, and with the new Amendment 15, in which individuals can form PACs, it'll be PACs by pew. If churches are going to be involved in politics, they'd better pay their share of taxes."
Arrington, spared a primary race that probably would have exposed his rigid views on abortion and other social issues, ran a shrewd campaign in the general election--he kept his mouth shut--and squeaked out a win over Windels.
"He was quiet as a church mouse," says Windels. "He didn't come to candidate forums. He learned from the Perlmutter campaign. He just sent out a flier against negative campaigning."
It didn't hurt Arrington that registered Republicans held a 14 percent edge over Democrats in that district. What did hurt was a postcard campaign aimed at Republican voters by Republican moderates Mike Palmer and Steve Burton. With behind-the-scenes financing from Democratic state senator Mike Feeley's campaign, the two sent cards to 9,000 GOP voters, urging them to support the Democratic opponents of three Republicans--Arrington, Representative Mark Paschall of District 29, and Jim Congrove, who was running for Meiklejohn's seat in District 19. The anonymous mailing blasted Congrove for voting "against the interests of Arvada," particularly by withdrawing his support during the 1996 session for funding an Arvada branch of Red Rocks Community College; the card pointed out that Congrove's campaign manager sought the location of the proposed Arvada branch for a charter school instead. Paschall, the guerilla attack by the GOP moderates continued, "has consistently embarrassed himself and the community with his comments"--referring in part to an anti-abortion prayer Paschall had offered on the House floor. But Palmer and Burton saved their harshest words for Arrington, who they said "bullied and physically threatened those who disagreed with him and who causes controversy whenever he speaks."
The thin-skinned Arrington, after winning the election, slapped Palmer and Burton with a lawsuit, asking for a public apology and $10,000 because they'd called him a bully. The suit, which has been inching toward a settlement, had an immediate chilling effect on Arrington's foes.
Palmer, for example, now cautiously refers to the religious-right faction of the GOP as a "very, very well-organized group that works very, very hard," and adds, "It's truly a grassroots effort. They're to be commended on what they have accomplished. Whether or not one agrees with their philosophy is debatable."
Palmer, himself a former candidate whose future with the GOP looks dim now that he has openly supported Democrats, is circumspect even about the notoriously rowdy GOP meetings at which the Miller camp often outshouted its opponents in the past few years. "I wouldn't deem some of the precinct meetings as being polite," he says.
Arrington hasn't made his reputation by being polite. In January he introduced a bill that would ban so-called partial-birth abortions and had it steered to the State Affairs Committee, on which the House's few religious-right lawmakers are clustered. He and Paschall, deciding to turn up the heat on their enemy, abortion doctor Warren Hern of Boulder, made Hern swear "under the living God" that he would tell the truth before he testified against the bill. Those who testify at the legislature are rarely made to utter such an oath; Arrington explains it by saying, "Warren Hern is a liar--that's the reason Mark put him under oath."
Arrington's bill brought out of the woodwork perpetual abortion protester Ken Scott, who has tracked and harassed Hern. But Arrington refuses to take the rap for Scott, who freaked out lawmakers when he got access to their Capitol mailboxes and left them graphic anti-abortion literature.
"I did not know Ken Scott before this," insists Arrington. "I thought he was a nut, and I think he's a menace. He claims to be animated, like me, by his Christian beliefs. That makes me sick."
Although he says he's not fond of Scott, Arrington believes he's called by his beliefs to love even an abortionist.
"I have a deep, deep sense of grief for Warren Hern," he says. "I don't hate him by any means. I feel so sorry for him."
Of course, critics say it's typically sanctimonious of Arrington to say such a thing about a man he detests. Oh, ye of little faith.
"Listen, I'm called to love Warren Hern," says Arrington. "And let me tell you, I don't have warm, fuzzy feelings for him. I think his acts are despicable. But Jesus said love your enemy."
At the same time, Jesus tells Arrington to hate the "sins" of abortion, pornography, homosexuality, divorce and adultery. "My faith informs and animates some of the things I do and say," he says. "What good is a faith that doesn't do that? People think Christianity is something you do a couple of hours on Sunday morning. Christianity is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, 365-days-a-year thing you do."
He insists, though, that it's unrealistic to think that everyone else will come to think his way. "You cannot make someone believe," he says. "Social reform in this country is a bottom-up process, and my role right now is to try my best to stem the flood. But unless there's a spiritual awakening in this country of a wide proportion, what I'm doing won't matter."
Something has to be done about the liberal leanings that are destroying the country, Arrington says. But he also warns against veering too far to the right. "Liberalism leads to licentiousness, down to decadence, to lawlessness," he says. "But morality carried to the extreme is oppression. Both lead to totalitarianism. There has to be a balance. Most people don't think we're in balance right now. Somewhere we lost our way."
Finding that way is why these religious-right politicians value education so much. Only it's not the public-school system they want to help. They work within the system to siphon public money into their own schools. Arrington is a co-founder of Jefferson Academy, a "back-to-basics" charter school that's a glowing success, according to recent publicity and state education statistics. His co-founder was Denise Mund, who gathered money from Denver socialites such as developer Bill Pauls in a vain attempt to pass anti-porn Amendment 16 in 1994. Mund, who attends Faith Bible Chapel, was also Jim Congrove's campaign manager.
Arrington is surrounded by signs of the next generation he's helping to save. He not only has his own school rolling, he also attends church services at FBC's Carr Street Campus, a former athletic club on I-70 that now houses the church's high school, Faith Christian Academy. Perhaps Arrington wants children to avoid his own path: He describes himself as a "terrible hedonist" as a college student and says the "institution of marriage" set him straight. Like many evangelical Christians, he has a grim view of his own basic nature and credits Jesus with turning him in the right direction.
"I'm a filthy center," he says, "saved by an amazing grace."
Not as "filthy," however, as his pastor (and campaign contributor), George Morrison.
Born in 1947 in eastern Pennsylvania coal country as the oldest of six children, George Morrison grew up in comfort. His grandfather owned a box factory in Pottsville, and life should have been pleasant. But as his 1993 "personal testimony" (on an audio tape for sale outside the FBC sanctuary) reveals, he was a rotten kid. He swears that the vivid story, which veers toward cliche, is the unembellished truth.
Typically, in such a tale told by an evangelical preacher, someone else is ultimately responsible for all the bad behavior and a different someone steps in to reform the hapless human. Morrison's saga is no different, spiced with the reminder that "the Devil comes to kill, steal and destroy, literally, our lives."
According to Morrison's story, he drank and fought, and so did his brother Robert, who was a year younger. "We were very, very, very close," says Morrison. George got kicked out of parochial school and wound up in similar trouble at public school. Robert, he says, was even worse, drinking so much that he developed a bleeding ulcer at age fifteen.
"One particular night," Morrison revealed in his testimony, "we came home from a dance where he had unmercifully beat up the bouncer at the dance, in such a way that it bothered me. And I was drunk, and we were both in the kitchen, and I was giving him a hard time about the way he acted that night, and the next thing I know I got hit with a mayonnaise jar. I got six stitches. He threw a knife and stuck it in my leg, and I slid down the wall."
Robert wound up as a drug-using flower child in New York City, and George landed in trade school. Before he could get drafted to serve in Vietnam, George enlisted in the Marines. Robert, meanwhile, moved to Haight-Ashbury and then to Mendocino, where he lived in a tree house.
Just before George was to ship out to Southeast Asia, scraggly Robert visited for a short reunion. "He got hold of some LSD that night," recalled George, "and both of us took LSD, and we ended up howling at the moon for four hours until this lady screamed at us to get out of her yard."
While people his age were streaming to Woodstock and getting heavily into drugs, George was a helicopter door gunner in the jungle, getting heavily into drugs. When he returned to California, he still had eighteen months left with the Marines, so he moved to a place off-base with four ex-Marines and became a drug dealer, selling pot and cocaine. He was eventually joined by another brother, David, long-haired and strung out on drugs.
Robert had moved to a commune in Taos, "living in an adobe underground with sheep and goats." Then one day George got a letter in which Robert said he had "found Jesus Christ."
"I thought this was just another experience for him," Morrison recalled. "The tree, underground, now Jesus."
It turned out Robert had gone to Boulder, where he was converted by a former druggie friend. "I said fine, I feel good for him," Morrison recalled. "I went back to my old lifestyle, and I lived in total paranoia. I was strung out all the time, always afraid that we were going to be busted, never could drive anywhere with any peace."
Then Robert invited George to his wedding in Denver. George sought to combine business with pleasure, cooking up a drug deal with his brother David. "I went down to Mexico, bought suitcases full of marijuana," he said. "We wrapped it up in newspaper and poured wax over it so the dogs wouldn't sniff it and I put my Marine Corps uniform on and I'm headed for Pennsylvania and I'm going to sell it for three times the price." David, meanwhile, would drive George's VW to Denver. After the wedding they'd split the proceeds, return to California and, when George's hitch was finally up, move to Canada.
"Everything went as smooth as possible," said George, "and I flew to Denver. My brother David picks me up at Stapleton Airport, but this guy is completely changed." David, it seems, had been saved by Jesus.
Guess who was next.
It happened at the wedding, which took place in downtown Denver at a little church at Ninth Avenue and Acoma called Faith Bible Chapel. Pastor Bob Hooley took George on a tour of the building, but it didn't take--at least not right away. "I said, 'Listen, this is fine for all you guys, but I don't want anything to do with this church stuff,'" Morrison recalled saying.
The miracle of 1971 happened during the ceremony itself. "I looked up," recalled Morrison, "and I saw this cloud come out of the ceiling, and this cloud began to descend down in front of my eyes and it came down and sat on my brother and his wife and the pastor. And when I saw this cloud, I just began to cry uncontrollably. I didn't know what was happening, whether I was flashing back or tripping out." Church members told him it was the "presence of God," but George thought "they were all crazy."
But as he drove back to California, the transformation was already under way. "I had terrible language, I smoked, I did drugs, I had cocaine in the car," he recalled, "and yet I go to open my mouth, and as I go to speak a cuss word, this voice would tell me, 'You're not going to talk like that anymore.' Weird things were happening inside me. I pulled this cocaine out, and this voice would say, 'I don't want you to do drugs anymore.' I gave the cocaine to this hitchhiker. He was the happiest hitchhiker you've ever seen."
Back in Southern California, George went to a "hippie Jesus rally" led by Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel, a legendary preacher from that era.
"This voice that I told you about? It told me to go on a thirty-day fast, and all I did was read the Bible for seven hours a day," Morrison later told his congregation. "God was taking all that junk out of my mind and replacing it with the word of God."
Morrison was still living with his drug-dealing buddies, but he spent his days selling Christ on the beaches and streets. Then one day, while he was sitting in the house reading the Bible, he answered a knock at the door, and drug agents stormed in.
"I went back to that chair in the living room and I picked up my Bible and I just kept reading my Bible," he recalled. "But going on around me were these narcotic agents, and they had everybody against the wall. I don't know whether it was thirty seconds or thirty minutes or thirty hours--I really don't know--but the next thing I heard was the door just shut, and it was complete silence. And God said, 'I blinded their eyes from seeing you. Now I want you out of here.'"
God also told him to return to Denver, where he hooked up with the little FBC and met his wife, Cheryl. "I started working in the church, working with young people, witnessing on the street and started a construction company," he said. "Never touched a hammer before in my life, but God blessed it for some reason and prospered us."
His company built FBC's main church near 64th Avenue and Ward Road in Arvada in the late Seventies, and Morrison started working as a pastor under Hooley. Then, in October 1984, Hooley resigned and Morrison took his place.
Untrained by any seminary, Morrison is a sunny fellow who preaches an unadorned, upbeat message of believing in Jesus; he urges his flock to tell others to do the same. FBC services are full of amplified music and middle-of-the-road Christian songs. But Morrison's casual style and informal cheeriness mask a burning ambition to grow, grow, grow. Crowds overflow at FBC's main church--Morrison attracts more than 4,000 on a typical Sunday. During the dozen years he's been in charge, FBC also has sprouted half a dozen churches and a TV station (KRMT/ Channel 41), a school system stretching from daycare through Faith Christian Academy high school, a Bible institute and dreams of many more branches and a college. Younger brother Robert, the former hippie Bluejay Morningstar, is pastor of an FBC spinoff.
Morrison is a born networker; he's scheduled to preach on a cruise this summer with former football coach and current PromiseKeeper Bill McCartney. Unlike some preachers, he seeks to unite all evangelicals. He touts other churches, including the mammoth Heritage Christian Center in the southeast metro area and the upscale Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch.
He even networks with Jews. Morrison denounces anti-Semitism and makes a point of acknowledging its roots in Christianity. FBC is fanatically supportive of Israel, professes a love of Jews and even includes some Hebrew words in its services. Every summer the church has an Israel Awareness Day, with speakers who have included orthodox rabbi Stanley Wagner and Israeli embassy officials. FBC sends its "international" singers to Israel along with tour groups and contributes to Israeli food banks.
FBC has openly assured Jewish leaders that its purpose is not to proselytize, but its actions belie that claim. In the ultimate of stealth tactics, FBC members have been known to convert Jews and hide them from their families while the process takes place, all the while whispering "praise the Lord" among themselves for such a "miracle." Told of one such incident, Morrison doesn't deny that it happened.
Sitting in his office, which features a painting of two orthodox Jews and expansive bookshelves lined with religious texts and such oddities as The Unseen Hand, a grand political-conspiracy book by crackpot Ralph Epperson, Morrison explains his church's fascination with Jews as "biblical," based on respect for the people who "preserved our scriptures" and a belief that Israel must be a nation before Jesus comes back to Earth and saves his believers. "We need to understand Judaism to do our own walk," says Morrison.
Obviously, though, as an evangelical Christian committed to getting people to believe his way, he wouldn't mind converting Jews to Christianity. "Some Jews are uncomfortable and think we have a hidden agenda," he says. "But we've been doing Israel Awareness Day for more than twenty years. And on that day, I ban proselytizing. I don't want any hidden agenda that day. Yes, we would like the Jewish people to accept Jesus Christ, but our purpose is to support, comfort and encourage Jews and Israel. I think Jews have the right to think we have a hidden agenda, based on history. But we're not just stepping in and stepping out of this for that purpose. For 22 years we've been doing this--that's our answer."
Morrison is used to fending off questions about hidden agendas. Arvada's old-line Republicans accuse FBC of being a potent political power. "People see the numbers and the bigness," Morrison says. "I think there's a fear with that: 'That big church over there is trying to take over.' Take over what? We're not an organized political force trying to use our numbers to do anything. Absolutely not.
"Speaking as a church, we don't take a stand. By law we don't. Our main purpose is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. I'll preach what the Bible teaches about abortion, but that's it."
Morrison himself has done some GOP grunt work, though Pat Miller says he hasn't been a precinct committeeman for about six years. (Morrison says he can't recall ever being a committeeman.) But regardless of his personal political activity, his preaching reinforces the belief systems of his flock--beliefs that spill over into political action.
"My own personal conviction is that I believe abortion is wrong," says Morrison. "And we need laws about it. And that's the way I'm going to believe. But as far as a designed strategy by Faith Bible Chapel as a corporate entity, no, we don't initiate anything."
Morrison insists that all of FBC's work revolves around people, not politics. "If people have a certain view, they're going to congregate," he says. "If people have a strong position on moral issues and they're conservative or biblical, well, why shouldn't it work that way? It ought to work that way. That's democracy. I don't think it's a conspiracy. The NRA is tied into their people, too."
The political power that emanates from evangelical Christians is a natural consequence of hard political work, he insists, not some cunning strategy of his church. "If anything," Morrison says, "it's a grassroots thing. Pat Miller's a member of our church, and I remember that the last time I went to a Miller campaign function, half the people there were not even from our church."
That means half of them were.
For a two-time loser (to Congressman David Skaggs), Pat Miller is unusually chirpy as she takes a breather at what passes for the Tammany Hall of evangelical Christians: the offices of Citizens for Responsible Government, an anti-abortion lobby that Miller has recently taken over. Behind her, a laser printer churns out copies of a fundraising letter that, true to form, excoriates moderate Republicans. Miller has brought to her new job a mailing list culled from two congressional campaigns and the ability to summon the soldiers for intra-party skirmishes.
Like Morrison, Miller is self-taught. Like Arrington, she gets right in your face. Years ago she ran a beauty shop in Illinois. After moving to Colorado with her husband, Lynn, who worked at Coors, she got a job at a supermarket and later stayed at home with their son. Miller's entry into politics came about a decade ago, when she got upset at one of their son's reading assignments. Although she herself believes in supernatural powers, she was steamed about supernatural tales involving vampires and the like, and she complained to school officials. Some people called her a book-burner; she describes herself as a concerned parent. Eventually she took matters into her own hands, home-schooling the boy for several years.
Her activist appetite whetted, Miller started learning how things were done politically. She wound up serving a term in the Colorado House of Representatives where, drawing on her networking skills, she formed an "advisory committee" of constituents that gave a political baptism to, among others, future legislator Mark Paschall. But Miller lost her bid for re-election.
Then, in 1994, she challenged incumbent Democrat Skaggs. How she got in a position to do so was a textbook case of local political action: Miller's supporters worked hard at a party caucus to vote for as many moderate candidates as they could, while Miller herself got on the primary ballot by petition. In the primary, the three moderates split the pro-abortion Republicans, and Miller won the race with less than 40 percent of the vote.
In the general election, the differences between the two candidates couldn't have been more stark: a liberal, Ivy League lawyer obsessed with "civility" and entrenched in government (so much so that he bounced checks with the House banking account) versus a self-educated, arch-conservative woman who courted anti-government patriots and gun lovers and whose reading material veered toward right-wing nut cases. Their biggest difference, though, was over abortion: Miller was "pro-life" and Skaggs "pro-choice." Thanks to liberal Boulder County, which dominates the Second Congressional District, Skaggs whipped her handily. But Miller had made a breakthrough: She and her Christian soldiers had taken the GOP in northern Jeffco from the splintered moderates.
Miller got the GOP nod to challenge Skaggs again in 1996. This time she toned down her links to the so-called patriots, but Skaggs hammered at her abortion stance and beat her, though by a slimmer margin. "Wayne Allard and Dole both lost in the Second District," she notes, "so that made me feel a little bit better."
And as far as internal GOP politics were concerned, Miller again came out a winner. Her organization had become more entrenched in the party and she had learned to raise money. Her campaigns for Congress taught Miller how important the little things are. "We've been working hard up here in northern Jefferson County, and it is hard work," she says. "You go door to door, you do the mailings, you talk to people and you keep them informed and you keep them active and you tell them what's at stake, and they're willing to take part in that."
Getting Arrington on the ballot in House District 27 was evidence that the work she and her followers had done was worthwhile. The moderates squealed because Arrington himself was on the vacancy panel, but Miller dismisses that as sour grapes.
"Why didn't the moderates come out and become precinct committeemen and carry all the work and become the district captains and then go to the central committee meeting and vote for the vacancy committee?" she says. "Where were the moderates? They could have done all that. We worked very, very hard. It's the first time I can say it paid off."
Miller's critics, however, credit FBC, rather than Miller's party workers, as the real source of her influence. As Al Meiklejohn says, "I don't get my supporters together every Sunday." Miller loves her church ("It's so alive!" she says) but insists it did not put her in power. Certainly FBC did not do so officially, because churches can't openly support candidates without risking their tax-exempt status. And Miller says FBC is particularly skittish when it comes to her--for that very reason.
"They're scared because of appearances," she says. "It would be, 'Oh, they're really promoting Pat Miller, and that's where she's getting her base of support.'" She notes that FBC had other candidates--including Joe Rogers, the First Congressional District GOP nominee--appear on its TV station, but that she was never asked to be on.
"There's this perception that Faith Bible Chapel is so involved in politics, and I've said over and over again that they are not," she says. "They're not promoting it; they downplay it every chance they get. They're scared to death of their IRS standing.
"And besides, I have people come in from all kinds of churches. And I was in a lot of churches. This last election, I went out and talked in a lot of churches. It's legal. A pastor can actually say, 'I can't endorse Pat Miller, but I am going to vote for her' from the pulpit."
She laughs, then adds: "None of them will ever do that, but legally they can. I did a lot of churches because that's my base of support. It really is. I'm their kind of person. And they respect what I stand for, that I haven't slouched away and I certainly haven't yet caused embarrassment to the name of Christ. That's my greatest fear, that I would cause shame to the name of Christ. I will give everything up before I would allow that to happen. But as far as the church as an organization, I didn't see them in my race."
And she's irate that the press, which she heartily distrusts, reports endlessly on the religious right but doesn't seem to care when the Reverend Jesse Jackson speaks on political issues at downtown Denver churches or when liberal preachers get involved in politics. She can't understand why the press writes about the religious right's influence in the GOP when at the same time the Democratic Party, she contends, is dominated by Planned Parenthood and teachers' unions.
The attention to the religious right isn't deserved, she says, because her army hasn't really accomplished anything yet. Most bills introduced by Arrington, Congrove and Paschall have gone nowhere this session, particularly their controversial measures to censor pornography, stop abortions and change Colorado's no-fault divorce law.
They have managed to make their presence known, however. When Representative Ron Tupa, a Boulder Democrat, wanted to name a pair of college scholarships after former lawmakers Meiklejohn and Wayne Knox, Arrington and Colorado Springs conservative Doug Dean successfully killed the proposal. Asked if Meiklejohn's attitude toward religious conservatives had anything to do with it, Arrington told reporters, "I won't ever lie to you, and so I just won't comment."
Like Arrington, Miller has a low flash point, and she can't help but be annoyed at the GOP moderates, the press and anyone else she perceives as a critic.
"There are 65 people in the House, and three of them--three of them--have been put in office by this huge outpouring of religiosity or whatever," she says sarcastically. "The moderates cry and they whine, and I just want to say, 'Baby, baby, baby.' I mean, where's this big conservative takeover? I don't see it."
But she wants to, and like-minded people are now coming to Miller for her help in getting into office. "I know how to run campaigns and I know how to network; I know grassroots work, I know how to raise money now, and I'm going to look for good candidates just like me," she says.
That's why Meiklejohn and other moderates fear a big change in the 1998 legislature.
"Good," says Miller. "I hope they fear it. Because I intend to go out and work very hard. I'm getting tired of losing."
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