The seven-faith Interreligious Council of Southern California has adopted a fair campaign practices code that urges that political candidates "refrain from claiming that their quest for public office has divine support" and that they not "demean another candidate's religion, racial or ethnic identity by claiming special qualifications for their own."
Rabbi Paul Dubin, the council's president and executive vice president of the Southern California Board of Rabbis, said he plans to mail copies of the code to all major candidates in the area seeking election this fall.
The Los Angeles-based council, founded in 1969, is composed of representatives from Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Bahai organizations who discuss interfaith concerns and attempt to promote understanding among the member faiths.
Dubin said that although the council respects "the right of the voter to be informed of the morality and ethical values a candidate possesses, (the council) cautions that concern for humanity, love of family, respect for life, honesty and other virtues are universally taught beliefs. They actually pre-date the establishment of the Christian church."
Dubin, in an interview, said the council has a general concern with how a more politically active Christian Right might express its goals. But he cited only one example of the kind of religious appeal to which the council objects, a controversy that developed one year ago.
A letter from Rob Scribner, a Republican preparing a second try to defeat Rep. Mel Levine (D-Santa Monica) for the 27th District congressional seat, asked about 200 Christian clergymen in 1984 to defeat an incumbent who is "diametrically opposed to nearly everything the Lord's church stands for in this nation."
Levine was reelected to his second term by 101,922 votes to Scribner's 83,719 in the traditionally Democratic district. They are opponents again this November.
The letter, dated April 22, 1984, but not made public until mid-summer of last year, also said, "I hope you will agree to link arms with us as we literally 'take territory' for our Lord Jesus Christ." It cited Levine's zero rating on a voting report card compiled by Christian Voice, a Christian Right lobby in Washington.
Scribner, a lay minister in the Church of the Foursquare Gospel, told a Times reporter last August that his criticisms were directed not at Levine's religious beliefs but rather at what he saw as Levine's liberal political philosophies. He told the reporter that he was using language in the letter that ministers would understand.
"Obviously, our representative (Levine) would be intolerant of the beliefs I might have, or other Christians might have, because they're different than his," Scribner said.
Levine said that he respects the rights of people to worship as they choose, "but I don't accept the fact that a right-wing extremist automatically has biblical support for every position he takes."
The council said it offered the code "in the spirit of protecting religious and political liberty" and on the belief that "our country is based on religious pluralism."
Its members are: Bahai Communities of the Greater Los Angeles area, Board of Rabbis of Southern California, Buddhist Sangha Council of Southern California, Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, Greek Orthodox Church of Los Angeles, Islamic Center of Southern California, Los Angeles (Japanese) Buddhist Church Federation, Los Angeles Council of Churches, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Southern California Ecumenical Council, Sikh Dharma of Southern California and Vedanta Society of Southern California.
A state commission pondering whether to narrow the blanket protection given to religious organizations from all employment discrimination complaints has given little indication of what it will do when it votes on the matter this month.
Christiann Klein, legal counsel for the state Fair Employment and Housing Commission, said that she "would not hazard a guess" what the commission might decide at its meeting July 24-25 in San Francisco. The commission held two public hearings and accepted written comment through last Monday.
Religious groups, nearly all of whom opposed any change, and civil rights organizations, who favored a change, could not suggest a way to allow complaints in jobs unrelated to religious teaching (such as in a thrift shop, hospital or technical classes) while protecting traditional exemptions.
The Rev. Glen Holman of Sacramento, director of the ecumenical California Church Council, told a June 13 hearing in Oakland that his board, which normally takes liberal stances on social justice issues, considered the matter three times before deciding to recommend against any change. The members "support very much the work you are doing, but we felt another principle, religious liberty, was the overriding one," Holman said.