Renewing Bush administration ties to the Religious Right, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in late April addressed the Council for National Policy (CNP), a secretive group of wealthy far-right activists.
American news media did not bother to cover the goings-on at the CNP, which shuns publicity. But a Canadian newspaper, the Edmonton Journal, reported that Mark Norris, economic development minister for the province of Alberta, attended the three-day CNP meeting at an undisclosed location in Washington's northern Virginia suburbs.
Norris went to the event to promote Alberta's oil fields to influential U.S. policymakers. He told the paper that Rumsfeld addressed the CNP as keynote speaker. (The Journal also indicated that Vice President Dick Cheney was scheduled to speak to the group at the same meeting.)
In 1999, President George W. Bush appeared before the CNP and assured them of his conservative credentials. Although the session was taped, no information about the event was ever made public. Since then, claims have surfaced that at the meeting, Bush promised the CNP broad compliance with the Religious Right agenda, including the appointment of only anti-abortion judges to the federal courts.
Founded in 1981, the CNP has included some of the nation's most influential far-right activists, including TV preacher Pat Robertson, Phyllis Schlafly, religious broadcaster James Dobson, GOP strategist Grover Norquist, the Rev. Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association and many other Religious Right leaders. The organization's executive director is former California state Rep. Steve Baldwin, an official best known for his use of "stealth" campaigns to elect far-right candidates.
One of the CNP's cofounders, the Rev. Tim LaHaye, is a longtime Religious Right crusader and author of the best-selling "Left Behind" series.
Last October, LaHaye appeared on National Public Radio's "Fresh Air" to promote his books. During the interview with host Terry Gross, LaHaye reiterated his belief that there will be a mass conversion of Jews to fundamentalist Christianity during the "end times."
"Anyone can become a believer from any religion, any ethnic group, and the Jews are no exception," LaHaye said. "About a third of them, according to Zechariah, will become believers.... A massive number of them will receive Christ as their Messiah."
Asked by Gross if those who choose not to covert will be forced to go through the tribulation and eventually end up in hell, LaHaye replied, "That's a good summary of what's going to happen. Just because you're a Jew does not mean that you don't have to make the same decision that everyone else does."
Elsewhere in the interview, LaHaye recalled the time he tried to convert the Dalai Lama. LaHaye said he was in "the Holy Land" when he spotted the Dalai Lama and an entourage walking toward him in a hotel corridor.
"I just stuck out my hand and shook hands with him and said, 'Sir, has anyone ever explained to you who Jesus Christ really is? If they haven't, I'd be glad to spend an hour with you and just share with you the truth about him.'"
LaHaye said an aide brushed him off but added that the Dalai Lama, while "probably very sincere," does not "know the truth of the way to God, and I think we Christians have to be ready at any moment to share that truth with them."