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Building a mystery

A decade ago, an advocacy group lobbied the Maine Legislature in favor of higher taxes and increased welfare benefits.

A bunch of bleeding hearts from Portland? Nope.

The same organization pushed for tougher environmental laws. Its executive director told the Bangor Daily News that his board was " deeply concerned over . . . humankindís extremely poor stewardship of the earthís resources. "

Maine Audubon? No way.

This crew was also at the heart of the debate over a state gay-rights law. In a 1990 press release, the executive director said, " There is too much violence directed against homosexual men and women. There is too much harassment. There is too much fear. There is too much hatred. And it must end. "

The Maine Lesbian Gay Political Alliance? Not close.

In 1989, the groupís president wrote a piece for the Bangor Daily in which he said, " Economic justice and opportunity, fairness in taxation, a clean environment, help for those disabled and less fortunate, and quality education are all Christian concerns, or at least they should be . . . [I]t would make sense that an organization that claimed to be Christian would have something to say about a wide range of public policy issues . . . Anything less than this is ghetto Christianity. It is not historic Christianity and it is not biblical Christianity. "

Well, itís certainly not the Democratic Party.

The source of this leftist propaganda is none other than that bastion of religious conservatism, the Christian Civic League of Maine.

In the early í90s, under former executive director Jasper Wyman, the league had a brief fling with liberalism. This escapade never had much impact on state politics, but it does stand in sharp contrast to the groupís recent rhetoric.

The league was founded more than 100 years ago to fight the evils of hard liquor and loose morals, which it did for decades without noticeable effect. Through the 1970s and early 1980s, it distinguished itself mostly by supporting white-minority rule in South Africa. By the time Wyman took over in the mid-í80s, hopes of reviving apartheid and Prohibition were fading, and the group was focused on opposing abortion and gay rights.

Wyman was politically ambitious. He ran for the US Senate as a Republican in 1988, but even many conservatives found the leagueís positions too extreme, and he lost by a landslide to Democrat George Mitchell. So Wyman, who planned to run for governor in 1994, became an instant moderate.

He supported hate-crimes legislation that covered homosexuals. He urged the state GOP to respect candidates who favored legal abortions. In a 1992 op-ed piece, he criticized national Republican leaders for " thinly veiled calls for a theocratic state and the caustic invitation to religious war in our own land. "

It didnít help. Wyman lost the í94 GOP gubernatorial primary and was succeeded as league director by his assistant, Michael Heath.

Heath is unlikely to be mistaken for a moderate. Since assuming the top spot, heís ushered a resolution through the leagueís annual convention urging people to vote only for politicians who oppose abortion, eliminated most environmental and social-service issues from the lobbying agenda, and stepped up the anti-gay rhetoric.

In recent weeks, Heath, writing in the leagueís email newsletter, has referred to homosexuality as " this despicable lifestyle " and advocated making sodomy a crime. Heís criticized Congressman Michael Michaud for hiring an openly gay staffer. Heís attacked the National Holocaust Museum in Washington for its " inaccurate inclusion " of gays and lesbians among those persecuted by the Nazis. Heís demanded that diversity-training programs in public schools delete all references to homosexuals. Heís called a domestic-partners bill before the Legislature " evil " and claimed its supporters " are interested in creating a free society that more closely resembles tribal cultures than the civilized and productive one we now enjoy. "

In a March 31 radio commentary, Heath launched a personal attack on a Maine politician (whose name need not be further smeared by being repeated here), saying this woman " used to call herself a co-parent in a lesbian relationship. [She] considered herself to be a parent to the child, even though she had absolutely nothing to do with her [birth]. And now, she REALLY DOES have absolutely nothing to do with her. Her lesbian relationship fell apart. The child has no father. Let me repeat that. You must allow it to sink in. [Her] child has no father . . . on purpose, by design. Do you have a problem here? Iím sure that you do. "

That same day, Heath put out an email in which he wrote, " The folks who promote politically correct homosexuality are soooo nasty. "

If so, they arenít the only ones.

I was never a fan of Wymanís politically motivated moderation. But after Heathís ranting, I felt a twinge of what might be nostalgia for the early í90s.

Or it could be nausea.

Dyspeptic? Settle your stomach by emailing this column at ishmaelia@gwi.net

Issue Date: April 17 - 24, 2003
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