| Monday, June 05, 2006
Posted by The Dean of Cincinnati
It is almost impossible to use a phrase like “grand right-winged conspiracy” without sounding like some kind of freak. The moderate mind of the masses disallows such discomfort. But what if evidence actually demonstrated that something of the sort might be going on? What if proof—despite sounding off the wall and seeming totally strange—could be provided to substantiate the notion of just such a right-winged conspiracy? What if I told you that local Republican Phil Heimlich is involved in bizarre political goings-on? What if the circuit of these twisted connections reached all the way to the White House? I know, it sounds crazy! Nevertheless, I believe the claim to be true. This revelation comes after months upon months of researching the backstory on Phil Heimlich. If some have wondered why I seem “infatuated” with him, it’s because the Heimlich stories reach their arms into so many places as to border on unbelievability. I have refrained, until now, from attempting to write about these connections on a larger political scale.
Let’s start with the picture below, from the Home School Legal Defense Association Jan/Feb 1999 issue of Home School Court Report:
That’s our president, George W. Bush, standing next to a guy named Jim Leininger. Who is this Leininger character, and what does he have to do with Phil Heimlich? The answer is a simple Google search away.
Jim Leininger sits on the Board of Directors of the Institute in Basic Life Principals—the secular front for the Bill Gothard evangelical ministries that many experts liken to a cult. Gothard sits on the same Board with Leininger.
Gothard and his followers have always been big into homeschooling. But their homeschooling program is not what you might expect. Check out this excerpt (source):
To enroll in Gothard’s ATI home schooling program, parents and enrolling children are required to complete the Basic and Advanced IBLP Seminars (and pay the yearly $675 per family tuition fee). Families must agree to many guidelines in order to be accepted into the school and continue in it. At the yearly ATI conference, the dress code is nearly a uniform consisting of a white shirt and navy blue pants or skirt. They must follow a dress code while they are homeschooling, and the curriculum itself describes in detail what is required for proper and modest dress and grooming. Beards are not allowed, but an exception is granted to those who have one because of religious conviction. Once in ATI, a family is sent the curriculum on a regular basis. The curriculum consists of 52 Wisdom Booklets, which provide nearly all that is required to complete the education. These booklets make a stack just over a foot high. When a family has completed all the booklets, they start again from the beginning. The curriculum is intended to be used for all ages simultaneously—K-12.
Gothard claims that “As students explore information, it passes (consciously or unconsciously) through a grid of presuppositions in their minds. After the information is evaluated by this ‘grid,’ it is acted upon.” (Emphasis added.) One of the goals of the training is “To identify each son and daughter’s purpose in life and establish direction for their training.” One of the “Tools” to accomplish this is a “Life Purpose Appraisal,” which sounds much like personality testing! (Source: IBLP Internet web site, 8/97.)
This Gothardite fundamentalism has not only infiltrated homeschooling circles: the Character First! curriculum has infiltrated charter schools and public schools—nowhere as effectively as in Florida under the supervision of none other than Jeb Bush, the president’s brother. Check out this excerpt (source):
The plan has the full support of Gov. Jeb Bush, brother of Texas Gov. George Bush.
Efforts to pass vouchers in Florida supplement not only the push for charter schools, but another program that put a “values” curriculum in public schools which is known as “Character First!” It also shows the synchronicity between vouchers and extremist religious organizations which have established a thriving network of sectarian schools and so-called “Christian academies.” In many cases, the curriculum in these schools teaches youngsters that evolution is a false doctrine, and implements a stern religious behavior code.
A bill to fund the program to the tune of up to seven million dollars in tax money passed unanimously last year in the state legislature, and will likely be on the governor’s desk for signing in 1999. The Character First! program is published by the Character Training Institute (CTI), and offshoot of the Chicago-based Institute of Basic Life principles. According to the New Times paper of Palm Beach, IBLP “is the brainchild of a 64-year old evangelical Christian guru named Bill Gothard, who boasts some 2.5 million “alumni” of his Bible-based seminars, and he promises to give the world a ‘new approach to life.’”
Along with the Florida voucher proposals cheered on by Gov. Jeb Bush, bills to institute Gothard’s “Character First!” regiment in public schools—supposedly sans over religious references to Jesus Christ and religion—have been introduced by State Rep. Tracy Stafford and Sen. Howard Forman, Democrats from Broward County.
This Character First! nonsense has been reviewed extensively, here at The Beacon and elsewhere. For just a sampling, review the following:
*Faith Under Fire, a WISH-TV I-Team investigation in Indianapolis, exposing gross forms of child abuse under the watch of these Gothardites.
*”Cult of Character,” an In These Times article by Silja Talvi exposing some of the groups beliefs. This article also mentions Phil Heimlich, the keynote speaker for this organization last September.
*The Rick A. Ross Institute’s Gothard Page, collecting tons of resources acting as a watchdog to this group.
*Phil Heimlich’s Gothard Connections Say Citizens Are “Fools,” one of our very own stories about when these Gothardites came to train the Cincinnati Police Department.
As stated above, Phil Heimlich was the keynote speaker at one of these Gothardite events last year. See for yourself; Phil has the event listed on his web page (at least as of this publication):
International Association of Character Cities Annual Meeting [closed to the public]
Location: Oklahoma City, OK
Commissioner Heimlich will give the keynote address.
At this same event, local businessman Michael Daly also gave a speech. (The speeches are all available for purchase from the Character First! web page as a DVD box set.) In Daly’s speech, he seems to tell the story of a quid pro quo—how, after giving a campaign contribution to Phil Heimlich, he was invited to lunch where Heimlich asked Daly, “What’s on your heart?” After this meeting, the duo decided to implement the Character Council of Greater Cincinnati —the local arm of the secular Gothard front. Sounds to me like Heimlich is willing to push cultish evangelism if the price is right. (Transcripts of Daly’s speech will be made available soon.)
By signing up with the “Character” programs, cities are offering up a pool of potential converts that the Gothardites might never otherwise get access to. And what better way to move into control of government, then through true believer government employees? They don’t need a lot of converts from each event to call it a success. Look at Phil. Here’s one guy who appears to have handed over hundreds of Cincinnati public employees as potential converts. Take a look at this nationwide list and do the math.
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Who’s not in favor of punctuality or honesty? Those are “good character” qualities that everyone agrees on. But what about the “Character Cities” convention in OK City where women are forced to dress in floor-length skirts and wait on the men? What “character” traits is this promoting? Then there’s Sheriff Ray Nash who did the Cincinnati Police training seminars. According to his hometown paper he fired a deputy because the officer was living with his girlfriend out of wedlock. So Nash’s definition of “good character” includes a Victorian attitude towards personal relationships and a sense of entitlement to demand that his employees live according to his beliefs.
The most insidious thing is that the burden of protest falls on the individual. If you are an audience member in one of these seminars and you object to their value system or their thinly-veiled religious agenda, you have to assert yourself in front of the group and register your objections. Most people won’t stand up and complain, especially in front of co-workers and the boss. You know what happens—you get tagged as a complainer, troublemaker, or a misfit. During the height of the Iraq war mania, churches were encouraging employees to go to work on Friday and wear Republican red to “support the troops” and some companies were “suggesting” that employees wear yellow lapel ribbons. You can easily imagine how coercive this is. If an individual objects to the war, is a Democrat, or simply doesn’t want to discuss politics or religion at work, they’re put on the defensive by group think.
Finally, the idea that people will develop “character” by being forced to sit through a Sesame Street-level seminar is idiotic. Ethics and character are developed over a lifetime, starting in very early childhood. What these programs do, especially in an office, is to create a climate of conformity—rather like the Cultural Revolution in 1970s China. People were forced to mouth platitudes and behave in lockstep. Is this good character? No, this is social control enforced by fear of ostracism or reprisal by authority. Obviously, that’s an extreme comparison, but the mechanism of social control is similar. The fact that this appears to be going on in a number of government offices, from County Commissioner Phil Heimlich to President George W. Bush, raises obvious concerns.
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