Republican Rep. Peter King of New York says he wants to hold investigations into the “radicalization” of American Muslims in his new position as chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, but Rep. Keith Ellison said on Monday that targeting one community would hamper homeland security efforts.
Generation Joshua aims to boost religious right successes at ballot box
Later this month, Rep. Michele Bachmann is set to headline a political training for conservative Christian homeschoolers called Generation Joshua. “GenJ” trains homeschooled Christian teens to get involved with political campaigns through door-knocking, phone-banking and other activities in order to “help America return to her Judeo-Christian foundations.” Bachmann has used these teams to win her own campaigns for Congress.
Founded in 2003, Generation Joshua “is designed for Christian youth between the ages of 11 and 19 who want to become a force in the civic and political arenas.” GenJ sprung out of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), an association that lobbies for conservative Christian home school causes. GenJ Student Action Teams (SAT) are set up in a number of states and often do campaign work for candidates endorsed by the HSLDA.
“Quite frankly with the hymn ‘Soldiers of Christ, Arise’ running through my head, I want to inspire young Christians to fight for what is right,” said Ned Ryun, co-founder of GenJ, at the time of the organization’s founding. “There are many issues facing us today that will impact America for generations, same-sex marriage being a key one.”
Bachmann spoke at the GenJ training, called iGovern, in 2009. This year’s event will also feature Tom Minnery, senior vice president of Government and Public Policy for Focus on the Family; Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America (CWA); and Republican Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana.
Bachmann was endorsed by HSLDA in 2006 and benefited from the homeschool teams in that election.
In 2008, Bachmann praised the efforts of the GenJ students who made up 64 young Christian outreach teams working on behalf of her campaign. They made 6,000 calls and knocked on some 60,000 doors in the course of the campaign.
Bachmann isn’t the only politician to benefit from GenJ’s outreach teams. Last fall the group campaigned on behalf of Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman in New York’s special election. (Bachmann endorsed Hoffman over GOP-endorsed candidate Dede Scozzafava in October.) GenJ says it impacted 17 races in 2008, contacting over 500,000 voters.
Republican Rep. Tom McClintock, credits GenJ with his winning a speaker in California in 2008. “Generation Joshua fielded over 100 volunteers who walked precincts in a driving rain, and made thousands of phone calls throughout the weekend to every targeted voter in the district,” McClintock told Robert Kunzman last week. “I can confidently say that those 2,000 votes were Generation Joshua votes.”
The Minnesota Independent asked GenJ director William Estrada if the group had plans to organize again in Minnesota this year for Bachmann or other candidates. He declined to give specifics on this year’s plans, but replied with a statement: “Many Minnesotan Generation Joshua students have volunteered with the Congresswoman’s campaigns and we are very proud of these students’ successful efforts.”
Organizations that keep tabs on religious right groups say that although GenJ may have an extreme agenda, it’s proof that the democratic system is set up to provide outlet to many views.
“Obviously, they have every right to participate in the electoral process to push their ultra-right wing agenda in the marketplace of ideas; that is the very nature of our democratic system,” said Kyle Mantyla, senior fellow with People For the American Way. “That said, we certainly don’t agree with their agenda, goals, or values.”
Mantyla added that the GenJ movement seems to be picking up important support among religious right heavy hitters. “It is surprising to see them bringing in groups like Focus and CWA — that is proof that they not only have ties to establishment religious right groups but are also taken seriously by the establishment,” he said. “Minnery and Wright are highly influential religious right leaders and their participation in this training can only help to increase the influence of Generation Joshua and its activists within the movement.”
GenJ has produced several videos about the program and their successes.
GenJ video overview of the program:
William Estrada talks about the electoral successes of GenJ: