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Family groups say Dems are cutting free speech

James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family

James Dobson, founder of the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family organization, has been joined by other prominent pro-family leaders in calling on Christians to tell Democrat leaders in Congress they don’t like proposed new limits on their freedom of speech.

“Clearly, the objective here is to hide what goes on from the public and punish and silence those of us who would talk about what our representatives are doing,” Dobson told his audience of several million listeners in his special program about Senate Bill 1.

That proposal, sponsored by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., is listed as a proposal “To provide greater transparency in the legislative process,” however Dobson was joined by American Family Association Chairman Donald Wildmon, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins and American Values President Gary Bauer in urging listeners to flood Capitol Hill with phone calls demanding those speech limits be removed.

Bauer said the telephone number to call is: 202-224-3121.

The provisions of the plan would require the pro-family groups to provide documentation of their actions to the government any time they try to spark any “grass-roots” action.

Phone calls, personal visits, e-mails, magazines, broadcasts, phone banks, appearances, travel, fundraising and other items all would be subject to government tabulation, verification and audits, Dobson said during the program. “On and on it goes.”

“This legislation is on a fast track,” Dobson said, with a vote expected within a week. “We need about a million people to oppose it while we can still make a statement like this, because it may not be possible in the future.”

Dobson said the bill, made the highest priority in the Senate by Democrats who now control the handling of bills, does contain some good provisions aimed at cleaning up recent lobbying scandals.

But it also has that Section 220, a provision that would “severely limit the ability of Americans to stay abreast of important issues being discussed.”

That also would subject organizations such as Focus to “miles of red tape” that could critically hamper their ability to rally constituents to let Washington know their opinions. Violations could cost those organizations $100,000, he said.

“I’ll tell you I’m just about as irritated as I’m going to get. …” he said. “The Democrats and a few Republicans are trying now very, very quickly to insulate themselves from the public by muzzling people like us.”

The ministries feel their work is needed, because the average American doesn’t have time to research each provision of the many legislative proposals made every day. Groups like Focus do that, and then alert their constituents when they believe there is a problem developing.

That’s the message the Democrats want stifled, Dobson said.

Dobson noted the American people have had success in the past when advocates for family values such as Focus have alerted them to potential problems, and they’ve responded by calling their representatives and senators.

One case was when a California Democrat tried to “squash” homeschooling in the United States with restrictive legislation.

“We and others let the world know about it. That bill was going to pass handily, but it got only one vote. That one vote was George Miller’s. Everybody else ran for the tall grass, because we let people know about it,” he said.

He cited a second time, when there was an attempt to lessen the penalties for child pornography, and “the response from the public was overwhelming. The Justice Department phones were shut down for days. That is a function we and other pro-family organizations have provided, letting people know the things that are done in secret in Washington.”

“It’s called free speech,” he said. “The Democrats now are trying to take away that right and keep people in the dark.”

Bauer said members of Congress clearly have been upset in the past when “they’ve been caught red-handed.” He said this legislation “is motivated by that, they don’t want the average American to be told … what is going on in this city.”

The Christian organization leaders noted that local pastors, under certain circumstances, would be subject to the reporting and auditing requirements of the plan if they would encourage their congregations to call their senators about marriage, life or other issues.

Wildmon said Washington is telling the American public: “We don’t want to hear from you, and this is the way we’re going to handle it.”

However, political groups such as the MoveOn.org, which is set up under a different legal structure and funded by George Soros to defeat President Bush and other conservatives and their agendas, would be exempt, Dobson noted. Soros has pledged that “the central focus of my life” is the defeat of Bush and his ideology, and he contributed millions of dollars to that effort in the most recent presidential election.

Dobson did include a warning to Washington in his plea to listeners for help. He reminded listeners about the campaign conducted by former House Speaker Tom Daschle when he was in power, and “was doing everything he could to keep the president from getting judges appointed.”

When Focus and other organizations asked listeners to comment, officials in Washington simply turned their telephones off. In the next election voters in South Dakota refused to return Daschle to office.

“We know where he’s not, he’s not in the Senate. I think it’s because of people who were informed of the kind of shenanigans he was pulling,” Dobson said.

Bauer said people need to speak up now, “or we may never have another program like this.”

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

The plan was introduced on Jan. 4 and has been laid before the Senate, where several amendments are pending, by unanimous consent, in its most recent action, officials said.

Reid, in introducing what he called “The Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007,” said people all remember the scandals in Washington involving corruption, gifts and special interest influences.

“These stories have a corrosive effect on the great institution in which we serve. We must make sure they are never repeated, by reassuring the American people that legislation can’t be traded…” he said.

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