C-Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy

Jeff Sharlet’s book, C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracyis now available.

The back cover explains: “Jeff Sharlet is the only journalist to have reported from inside the C Street House, the Fellowship residence known simply by its Washington, DC address. The house has lately been the scene of notorious political scandal, but more crucially it is home to efforts to transform the very fabric of American democracy. And now, after laying bare its tenants’ past in The Family, Sharlet reports from deep within fundamentalism in today’s world, revealing that the previous efforts of religious fundamentalists in America pale in comparison with their long-term ambitions.

When Barack Obama entered the White House, headlines declared the age of culture wars over. In C Street, Sharlet shows why these conflicts endure and why they matter now – from the sensationalism of Washington sex scandals to fundamentalism’s long shadow in Africa, where Ugandan culture warriors determined to eradicate homosexuality have set genocide on simmer.

We’ve reached a point where piety and corruption are not at odds but one and the same. Reporting with exclusive sources and explosive documents from C Street, the war on gays in Uganda, and the battle for the soul of America’s armed forces – waged by a 15,000-strong movement of officers intent on “reclaiming territory for Christ in the military” – Sharlet reveals not the last gasp of old-time religion but the new front lines of fundamentalism.”


C Street house target of clergy’s IRS complaint

The owners of a $1.8 million townhouse on Capitol Hill that has been home and refuge to conservative members of Congress are wrongly claiming a federal tax exemption reserved for religious establishments, 13 Ohio clergy members contend in a complaint to the Internal Revenue Service.

The clergy suspect that the C Street Center, which rents living space to lawmakers, is “an exclusive club for powerful officials . . . masquerading as a church,” according to a request for an investigation addressed to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman.

The Ohio clergy, all Protestant members of Clergy Voice, say that the house serves no public interest and has no recognized creed or form of worship.

The 130-year-old brick townhouse at 133 C St. SE. drew unwelcome publicity and the scrutiny of D.C. tax authorities last summer, after South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) said while confessing an extramarital affair on national television that he had sought spiritual advice there. Residents say they share meals and Bible study.

Soon after, it emerged that a resident of the house, Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), was having an affair with the wife of a former aide. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a colleague and fellow resident, said he met the cuckolded husband at the house and worked to end the affair and save Ensign’s marriage.

And former Rep. Charles W. “Chip” Pickering Jr., a Mississippi Republican, entertained his mistress there, according to court papers filed by his estranged wife.

D.C. authorities inspected the house in 2009 and classified it as 66 percent taxable and 34 percent tax-exempt.

Calls directed to the C Street Center, affiliated with the Fellowship Foundation, a Virginia-based group that sponsors the National Prayer Breakfast, were not returned Monday.

“C Street is a completely separate foundation with its own board. It’s separate ownership, and I haven’t been there personally in probably six years,” said Richard Carver, president of the Fellowship Foundation. “We have no direct connection in any way with their status or what goes on at C Street.”
[…more…]

– Source / Full Story: C Street house target of clergy’s IRS complaint, Peter Slevin, Washington Post, Feb. 23, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Group has asked IRS before to make sure that churches stay out of politics

The reverends irreverently call themselves the “Dirty 31,” a reference to a moniker they received in a 2006 letter to the editor of The Dispatch from a local Baptist minister.

Three times now, including a complaint they plan to file today against the secretive C Street Center in Washington, D.C., the activist pastors have challenged the tax-exempt status of religious organizations they believe have improperly dabbled in partisan politics.

Their numbers fluctuate, but their mission is always the same: protect the divide between church and state. They do it with passion.

“What angers me most is when (churches or pastors) interpret the words of Jesus to uphold their own political motives,” said the Rev. Al Debelak, senior minister at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Columbus.
[…]

Today’s complaint against the C Street Center is signed by 13 of the pastors, who have been led by the Rev. Eric Williams, senior minister at North Congregational United Church of Christ in Columbus.

“Whenever I feel the (Christian) church is being maligned or misrepresented, boom! Twin flags of passion go up – one as a child of God, and another as an American citizen,” Williams said.

Although the IRS does not make public its disposition of complaints, seven pastors interviewed at Williams’ church said they have seen evidence that their activism has highlighted and tempered the political involvement of churches.
[…more…]

– Source / Full Story: Pastors take the law into their hands, Joe Halett, The Columbus Dispatch, Feb. 23, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

“The Family” and its hijacking of Evangelicalism

The Family The Washington Fellowship, a Washington, D.C. and suburbs based Christian organization has received much publicity in the past two years. Jeff Sharlet’s new book, THE FAMILY says it reveals “the secret fundamentalism at the heart of American Power.” If only zeal for Jesus were what “The Fellowship” was about, I might not bother writing this article, except perhaps to advocate on its behalf. [Read more...]

Secrets of a powerful Family

From Barack Obama’s incendiary pastor, to Mitt Romney’s Mormonism, to Mike Huckabee’s southern Baptist roots, religion is the constant in America’s choosing of a president. Racism, sexism, health policy, the economy and Iraq have had their moments, but religion renews itself with every fresh controversy.

Even John McCain, relatively secure as presumed Republican candidate, has jettisoned a preacher whose endorsement became politically untenable.

Yet the most influential and enduring religious force in the country – elitist Christian fundamentalism – is mostly unsighted and rarely remarked upon, according to writer Jeff Sharlet.

Overt fundamentalists, the Bible thumping televangelist populists, are the antithesis of the secretive network he has identified and that is known variously as The Fellowship and The Family. [Read more...]