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The Rise of the Religious Right in the Republican Party

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Speaker's Bureau

 

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Joan Bokaer, Founder, TheocracyWatch

Joan Bokaer was a nuclear disarmament activist and national speaker in the 1980's. On her many speaking tours, she became aware of the Religious Right as a political force in the Republican Party. From 1985 to 1989 Ms. Bokaer attended numerous fundamentalist, Pentecostal, Charismatic and nondenominational church services. She also participated in a political training seminar organized by the Moral Majority. She joined several political organizations of the Religious Right and spoke extensively with fundamentalists until she felt she understood their way of thinking. She was invited to speak on the subject throughout the country, particularly in mainline churches and theological seminaries.

Ms. Bokaer noticed that she enjoyed attending some of the more spirited church services of groups she was studying. She appreciated how those institutions gave practitioners a sense of community. At the same time she was very alarmed by what the preachers were saying. Sermons were often focused on Satan. Preachers told parishioners that it was their Christian duty to get "godly" i.e. fundamentalist, Pentecostal or Charismatic people elected to office. The highly emotional church services often became vehicles for political manipulation.

It seemed to her that isolation was endemic in this society, and that the churches she visited offered people a feeling of belonging. So she decided to address the dual problem of isolation and destruction of the natural world.

She organized A Global Walk for A Livable World - one hundred people who walked from Los Angeles to New York City in 1990 to raise awareness about environmental issues. Upon her return from the walk she founded EcoVillage at Ithaca, an environmentally sensitive community based on ecological principles of design. She also co-organized the Third International EcoCity Conference in Senegal, West Africa in 1996.

After the 2000 election she realized that few people understood that the religious right had taken working control of the Republican Party, and decided that she needed to dedicate her energies to raising awareness about that subject, so she founded TheocracyWatch. She felt she no longer had the luxury of working on her favorite subject -- ecological cities. She looks forward to the time she can work again with the international EcoCity movement.

Ms. Bokaer wrote a play, the Chapel of Love, in April, 2004, to add fun and humor to what is otherwise a very disturbing subject. The play highlights the absurdity of the religious right in high places in government using real quotes from real people. It is outrageous, funny with lots of audience participation. While it is now outdated, the script is available by email from TheocracyWatch.

Maura Stephens, Vice President, TheocracyWatch Board of Directors

Maura Stephens has been a professional journalist, writer, and actor since 1977. A longtime peace, human rights, and environmental rights activist, she became involved with TheocracyWatch in 2003 after hearing one of Joan Bokaer’s presentations and becoming more knowledgeable about the issues it raised. Currently a freelance writer and full-time editor of IC View magazine, she was a columnist for openDemocracy from 2005 to 2006. She previously spent nearly two decades at Newsweek and Newsweek International magazines in various editorial roles.

She is a member of the Iraq Speakers Bureau as well, having traveled to that country on investigative and humanitarian missions twice during 2003, returning to the region in 2005 to interview Iraqis fleeing their country. Stephens has written on Iraq for many publications and has given scores of presentations on Iraq at universities, organizations, and places of worship across the country. She spends much of her time since the invasion and occupation of Iraq trying to help Iraqis escape their nightmare lives.

She is also working with Burmese exiles who are trying to bring democracy to their country (also known as Myanmar), which is being strangled by a brutal military regime, their democracy leaders, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and U Tin Oo held imprisoned. Stephens is the U.S. spokesperson for the International Campaign for Freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma.

Stephens is also a theater artist who produced and stage managed Joan Bokaer’s Chapel of Love for TheocracyWatch. All of her work is informed by her interest in real democracy and the thwarting of it by corporations and corrupt politicians, many of whom twist the meanings of "faith" to their own self-promotional political purposes.

Stephens is available for TheocracyWatch presentations for groups large or small.

Kathleen Damiani, PhD, President, TheocracyWatch Board of Directors

Ms. Damiani is a published author. She is a teacher who currently works as a grants administrator for the New York State Office of Parks and Recreation and Historic Preservation. She has given numerous presentations for TheocracyWatch as well as television and radio interviews. She played a leading role in the Chapel of Love.

Last updated: May 9, 2004 -2003