A New Divinely Ordained President: The Hand of God or the Silence of the Press?

Imagine a presidential candidate who believed that God wanted him to run for president because American needed him. Picture a secretive group of Washington insiders who meet quietly to mix religion, class and politics and who believe in an elite group of people divinely ordained to run the country and the world. Now envision this group meeting in sex-segregated cells to discuss how God has chosen them to fulfill their roles in public life. And, at the helm of this group, picture a figure described by an admirer as a "guy in the smoky back room" who "sits in the corner, and you see the cigar, and you see the flame, and you hear his voice -- but you never see his face" whose followers have made "a fetish of being invisible." Now imagine that a few of the members of this group outside of the U.S. have included "General Suharto of Indonesia; Honduran general and death squad organizer Gustavo Alvarez Martinez; a Deutsche Bank official disgraced by financial ties to Hitler; and dictator Siad Barre of Somalia, plus a list of other generals and dictators."

For those of you who think you're reading about George W. Bush and his administration, you'd be mistaken, though members of the Bush administration do belong to the sect described. The presidential candidate is Hillary Clinton, and the group is "The Foundation" also known as "The Family." Its leader is Doug Coe, a man described by Clinton as "a unique presence in Washington: a genuinely loving spiritual mentor and guide to anyone, regardless of party or faith, who wants to deepen his or her relationship with God." Yes, it's true, according to Kathryn Joyce and Jeff Sharlet who published an article in Mother Jones magazine in September 2007 about Hillary Clinton's deepening ties to the group.

According to Mother Jones, Clinton has been meeting regularly with The Foundation's women's bible study groups since 1993 and moving up through its ranks. Clinton herself has written in Living History about Coe and her first encounter with him at The Foundation's estate and how deeply he impressed her. According to one of Mother Jones' sources, a Coe supporter, Clinton "has become a regular visitor to Coe's Arlington, Virginia, headquarters, a former convent where Coe provides members of Congress with sex-segregated housing and spiritual guidance." The article goes on to report that "These days, Clinton has graduated from the political wives' group into what may be Coe's most elite cell, the weekly Senate Prayer Breakfast." But, despite the words she has written about Coe and the reports of her deepening involvement with the Fellowship, Clinton has refused requests by the press for interviews about Coe and her membership in The Fellowship. But clearly, she is not as scrupulous about her association with religious figures in her life as she claimed when attacking Barack Obama for remaining in Pastor Jeremiah Wright's congregation.

Others who have been involved with the group have broken the code of silence. Sharlet himself, whose book "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power," based on six years of research and tens of thousands of documents which is due out in May, went to live with one of the cells of The Foundation and describes the inner workings and ideology of the organization in an article that appeared in Harper's magazine in March of 2003. He writes that The Family is "in its own words, an "invisible" association, though its membership has always consisted mostly of public men. Senators Don Nickles (R., Okla.), Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), Pete Domenici (R., N. Mex.), John Ensign (R., Nev.), James Inhofe (R., Okla.), Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), and Conrad Burns (R., Mont.) are referred to as "members," as are Representatives Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), Frank Wolf (R., Va.), Joseph Pitts (R., Pa.), Zach Wamp (R., Tenn.), and Bart Stupak (D., Mich.). Regular prayer groups have met in the Pentagon and at the Department of Defense, and the Family has traditionally fostered strong ties with businessmen in the oil and aerospace industries. The Family maintains a closely guarded database of its associates, but it issues no cards, collects no official dues. Members are asked not to speak about the group or its activities." Is this why Hillary Clinton has refused requests for interviews about her association with The Family?

What happened to the time when the Democratic Party stood its ground and upheld the separation of Church and State enshrined in the Constitution? And why is a candidate who courts the support of feminists following a male-dominated religious group that separates the sexes? Perhaps this affiliation explains her co-sponsorship (with Rick Santorum) of the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, which troubled even some Republicans, because the bill protect those refusing to perform the essence of their jobs, like, for instance, pharmacists who won't fill birth control prescriptions or doctors who won't refer patients to other doctors to obtain legal abortions. Perhaps this affiliation is why the Clinton campaign, which has declared itself to be ready to throw the "kitchen sink" at Barack Obama to win the nomination, has been uncharacteristically quiet during the recent media feeding frenzy surrounding the recording of Obama's pastor's controversial and offensive speech. Clearly, this affiliation is deeply troubling, and is a personal failing on the part of Senator Clinton and raises the question "What happened to Hillary Clinton?"

It also raises the question "What happened to the press?" We have endured almost eight years of an administration, led by a man who has claimed that he was anointed by God to be president, which has stuffed its ranks with graduates of fourth tier religiously-affiliated colleges and law schools, and led the nation into a conflict it seems to view as a holy war. It is therefore truly astonishing that another candidate for president could completely escape scrutiny by the mainstream media for a longstanding relationship with a religious group such as The Fellowship. Google searches reveal little about the Foundation, and almost nothing about Clinton's association with the group. Despite the long-standing relationship and the clear number of witnesses to her presence at these meetings since 1993, the press has not investigated or informed the public about it. Perhaps her recently (if reluctantly) released First Lady schedule could shed some light on the amount of time she has spent meeting with members of this group. Certainly, reporters could find others who could shed some light on Clinton's role within The Foundation. The issue of Hillary Clinton's affiliation with the group should be the jumping-off point for investigative journalism and a vigorous public debate on the topic of the insidious creep of religion extremism into American politics. If Americans are to be informed citizens, they need the press to do their job. And once this issue receives the coverage it deserves, Americans should mobilize to protect the Constitution and prevent the hijacking of American government by any religious group.