A national campaign to counteract the political impact in the United States of the controversial religious "far right" began almost unobtrusively in 30 -second TV commercials on a few channels in several American cities on Oct. 19.
The ads, which ran in New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and los Angeles, are the work of a broad-based committee of 25 leading secular and church figures, who have formed a "nonpartisan" committee called "People For the American Way."
The purpose of the organization is tfo respond to what its member believe is the dangerously widening influence of the religious far right. This rising faction in US politics is headed largely by various TV-oriented, fundamentalist Christian evangelists who derive most of their financial backing from appeals for contributions during their religious programs.
According to a recent Harris poll, these evangelists are reaching 100 million people. Thus, "People For the American Way" believes the response to attempts by the religious right to rate a politician's "morality" on the basis of votes on issues such as abortion, prayer in public schools, the Panama Canal treaties, and the status of Taiwan must be fought on TV as well as through other news media.
So far, the three commercial networks have rejected the committee's initial effort to buy air time because of the "ontroversial" nature of the content. The few commercials that ran last weekend did so on smaller networks and independent stations. The committee plans to pursue wider placement through the courts, if necessary.
Included on the advisory board of the committee are former US Rep. Barbara Jordan; the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, president of Notre Dame University; former US Sen. Harold Hughes; Rabbi Marc Tannenbaum of the American Jewish Committee; the Rev. m. William Howard, president of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA; the Rev. Charles V. Bergstrom, executive director of the Lutheran Council in the USA; and writer-producer Norman Lear.