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Since Hillary Clinton has launched a frontal attack on her opponent's church and pastor, it's worth noting that she has some odd religious ties of her own. When I was profiling her two years ago, I learned about her involvement with a secretive Christian organization called The Fellowship that has operated in the Washington shadows since the 1930s. I found the story of Clinton and The Fellowship so bizarre that I made it the lede to my piece. In light of recent events, it's worth revisiting.
Clinton's prayer group was part of the Fellowship (or "the Family"), a network of sex-segregated cells of political, business, and military leaders dedicated to "spiritual war" on behalf of Christ, many of them recruited at the Fellowship's only public event, the annual National Prayer Breakfast. (Aside from the breakfast, the group has "made a fetish of being invisible," former Republican Senator William Armstrong has said.) The Fellowship believes that the elite win power by the will of God, who uses them for his purposes. Its mission is to help the powerful understand their role in God's plan.
Clinton declined our requests for an interview about her faith, but in Living History, she describes her first encounter with Fellowship leader Doug Coe at a 1993 lunch with her prayer cell at the Cedars, the Fellowship's majestic estate on the Potomac. Coe, she writes, "is 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."
In November 2003, after consultation with the board of the Fellowship Foundation, the Archives placed the following restriction on the use of this collection:
All folders with paper records less than twenty-five years old are closed to users until January 1st of the year following the 25th anniversary of the creation of the youngest document in that file, except to those users with the written permission of the President of the Fellowship Foundation. This restriction applies to everyone, including Foundation staff and associates.
Example: A folder containing material dated no later 1977 would be open January 1, 2003.
The United States has experienced religious and cult hucksters throughout its history, from Cotton Mather and his Salem witch burners to Billy Sunday, Father Charles Coughlin, Charles Manson, Jim Jones, David Koresh, Marshall Applewhite, and others.
But none have ever achieved the kind of power now possessed by a powerful and secretive group of conservative politicians and wealthy businessmen in the United States and abroad who are known among their adherents and friends as The Fellowship or The Family.
The Fellowship and its predecessor organizations have used Jesus in the same way that McDonald’s uses golden arches and Coca Cola uses its stylized script lettering.
Jesus is a logo and a slogan for the Fellowship. Jesus is used to justify the Fellowship’s access to the highest levels of government and business in the same way Santa Claus entices children into department stores and malls during the Christmas shopping season.
One of the more interesting affiliates of the Fellowship is Senator and former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY). A former “Goldwater Girl” in the 1964 presidential campaign, Mrs. Clinton seemed to have partially recovered some of her earlier conservative underpinnings. According to her autobiography, Living History, after her husband became president, Clinton paid a visit to a women’s meeting at the Cedars on February 24, 1993. Present were Susan Baker (wife of the first Bush’s Secretary of State, James Baker III), Grace Nelson (wife of Florida’s Bill Nelson), Joanne Kemp (wife of former HUD Secretary Jack Kemp), Linda LeSourd Lader (wife of Clinton ambassador to Britain and founder of the Renaissance Weekend Phil Lader – the Renaissance Weekend in Charleston, South Carolina is billed by Lader as a “spiritual” event), and Holly Leachman of the Falls Church Episcopal Church (one of the churches taken over by the Fellowship). Leachman and her husband Jerry had been involved in 1997 with a Cleveland, Ohio Fellowship adjunct called the Family Forum. The Leachmans were interviewed by ABC’s Nightline on February 25, 2004. They extolled the virtues of Mel Gibson’s controversial film, The Passion of the Christ, along with other evangelicals, including some Jewish converts to Christianity.
Senator Clinton admits to having a continuing close relationship with Susan Baker, through Baker’s visits to Capitol Hill and the letters she and other Fellowship wives wrote her during the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton. Even Bill Clinton seemed to have been taken in by the Fellowship. In his autobiography, My Life, Clinton brags that he never missed a National Prayer Breakfast. In his autobiography, Bill Clinton erroneously writes that it was not until 2000 that Coe invited the first Jew, Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), to speak at the breakfast. However, New York Mayor Ed Koch spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1981 Senator Jacob Javits in 1984, and Arthur Burns in 1986.
Ironically, it was Susan Baker’s husband who served as the political fix-it man for Clinton’s Vice President Al Gore in delivering Florida’s 25 electoral votes to George W. Bush in 2000, costing Gore the White House. In fact, Senator Clinton wrote that all of her relationships with the Fellowship began with the luncheon she attended in 1993. In her biography, Senator Clinton writes of Douglas Coe, “[he] is a genuinely loving spiritual mentor . . . Doug Coe became a source of strength and friendship.” Of course, Clinton is referring to the period of time when her husband was being harassed by conservative Republicans out for blood – the Whitewater investigation and impeachment hearings brought about by what she called the “vast right-wing conspiracy” against her husband. It is amazing that Mrs. Clinton would have established such a trusting relationship with people who were the “vast right-wing conspiracy” that she complained about so vociferously.
Nevertheless, Mrs. Clinton remained close to Coe, who she invited to accompany her as a member of the U.S. delegation that attended Mother Theresa’s state funeral in Calcutta in 1997. Mother Theresa had spoken at Coe’s National Prayer Breakfast meeting in Washington in 1994. From that platform, Mother Theresa launched a verbal broadside against President Clinton’s pro-abortion policy. For Coe, being at Mother Theresa’s state funeral was a strange juxtaposition from his reported attendance at Bohemian Grove meetings of San Francisco’s elite Bohemian Club – festivities that are replete with pagan rites. But as one senior Pentagon official said, “the Fellowship has nothing to do with God or Jesus, it is a capitalist cult.” One of the major members of the Bohemian Club is former NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe, who is also close to conservative Christian Representative Tom Feeney (R-FL), the former Lieutenant Governor running mate of Jeb Bush in the 1994 Florida gubernatorial election, a major political operative in 2000’s fixed presidential election when he was Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, attorney and registered lobbyist for Yang Enterprises – the NASA contractor accused of creating rigged election software and spying for China, and the politician accused of helping to launder large sums of money through the Florida Department of Transportation – the agency that controls one of Florida’s biggest cash cows – the toll turnpikes.