Jeanne Herrick-Stare and Jayd Hendricks could scarcely be more different in their politics, but they’re alike in one way: they are Washington lobbyists who see issues from the perspective of their religious and moral convictions.
Herrick-Stare lobbies members of Congress on behalf of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), which speaks for America’s 90,000 Quakers. Hendricks works Capitol Hill for the Family Research Council, a Christian conservative group that opposes same-sex marriage and abortion. FRC has an email list of 100,000.
The two are not the hard-boiled ideologues you’d hear on talk radio. What is impressive about both is their serene and determined appeal to reason.
The Quakers have a long history of advocating peaceful conflict resolution and downsizing of the U.S. military.
Convert to Quakerism
How does one get to be a Quaker lobbyist? For Herrick-Stare, it started during the Vietnam War when she converted from Presbyterianism to Quakerism. “When I first visited a Friends meeting I felt like I had just come home,” she said.
A lawyer, Herrick-Stare worked as counsel to the clerk at the federal appeals court on Denver until 2003.
After “the court intervention in the Florida elections occurred, and 9/11 occurred, I just could not remain silent,” she explained.
She wanted to get involved in advocacy, so she took a three-month leave of absence from her court job to work as a volunteer for the Friends in Washington. That led to her lobbying job.
She and her husband, Randy, also a lawyer, sold their house in Denver and moved to Washington in 2003. Their daughter works as a junior high school science teacher in Colorado and their son is a nurse in the intensive care unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
“My faith drives my work, my faith energizes my work” Herrick-Stare said.
Although one might think that Sept. 11 would have made a Quaker lobbyist’s task more difficult, Herrick-Stare dissents. “The opposite of fear is not security; the opposite of fear is hope.” She said fear “has been intentionally grown by the (Bush) administration in order to further its policies.”
Herrick-Stare’s portfolio includes urging Congress to:
- Not extend expiring provisions in the USA Patriot Act;
- Investigate alleged torture of detainees at Guantanamo;
- Halt the Bush administration’s practice of “rendition” of al Qaida suspects to foreign countries where they might be tortured.
No 'hocus pocus'
“As we educate our constituents, they can say to their senators, ‘we believe, as your constituents, that you should do this for these logical reasons.’ It is fact based, it is policy based. It is not ‘because God wills it’ or some kind of hocus pocus stuff.”
Focusing on middle-of-the road senators and their staffs, Herrick-Stare has to write off some on the Right. “It’s tough to spend a lot of time with the people that are absolutely dead set against you,” she said.
But the Left/Right stereotypes don’t always apply, she pointed out, praising Sen. John Cornyn, R- Texas for sponsoring a bill to require greater public access to government documents under the Freedom of Information Act.
“Sen. Cornyn tends to be very, very conservative. He has not voted the way our policy would indicate on a number of issues, but he is a standard bearer for freedom of information and open government.”
Herrick-Stare said reform of the USA Patriot Act and privacy issues are fertile ground for unorthodox alliances between Quakers and people on the Right.
Opposing Alberto Gonzales
In the past, the Society of Friends almost never supported or opposed presidential nominations, but in recent months FCNL has made an exception to that tradition by urging the Senate to reject President Bush’s nomination of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general.
Such opposition is awkward for Quakers, because, Herrick-Stare said, “It’s very difficult to oppose a candidate without opposing the individual person, and FCNL absolutely will not engage in ad hominem attacks.”
Nonetheless FCNL decided to oppose Gonzales because of its concern over reports of torture. The nominee was “evasive” in responding to Senate Judiciary Committee questions on these matters, Herrick-Stare said.
Looking over the “values issues” landscape today in American politics, Herrick-Stare said, “There are a couple of very hot-button issues that separate Americans from one another, and those issues are abortion and homosexuality. The exploitation of those two issues is at the heart of a lot of the ‘faith politics’ business.”
Herrick-Stare’s counterpart, FRC’s Henricks spends much of his time working on that “very hot button issue” of abortion.
He came to lobbying after several years in Catholic seminaries preparing for the priesthood, but never was ordained. Henricks is careful to note that in order to lobby Congress to restrict abortion, one need not be religious.
Not faith, but natural law
“I’m committed to this philosophically, this isn’t a matter of faith,” he said Tuesday.
“My faith is certainly the most important thing in my life,” but, he explained, “these are principles that speak to dignity of man, that don’t need faith, they are a matter of natural law. Of course, the Family Research Council is not shy about uniting faith and political action, but I don’t go into a congressional office and speak about matters of faith. I don’t lobby from a faith perspective.”
Henricks grew up “in a very liberal community,” Saratoga, south of San Francisco, and two of his sisters are, he said, “very active in abortion rights.”
While attending Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, he had “an intellectual conversion and a faith conversion.”
Before the seminary he worked for conservative Rep. Bob Dornan, R- Calif. Henricks has worked as a lobbyist for FRC since 2002.
When Congress is in session, Henricks is in the Capitol every day, making his case to staffers and to members.
He has lobbied Congress on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which Bush signed into law last year. The measure says that if that an assailant harms a pregnant woman while violating an existing federal law, he’ll be charged not only for her injury or death, but also for any harm done to the fetus.
In recent days he has lobbied members of Congress to pass the legislation to authorize federal court intervention in the Schiavo case.
One FRC priority: the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback, R- Kansas, which would require a doctor, before performing an abortion of a fetus 20 weeks old or older, to tell the pregnant woman that there is substantial evidence that the abortion will cause the fetus pain.
Battle ahead over judges
Last year, Henricks lobbied the Senate to approve judicial nominee Leon Holmes for a district court vacancy in Arkansas. And he will be in the thick of the imminent battle over Democrats’ use of the filibuster to block several of Bush’s judicial nominees.
“It will become our number one priority when it happens and all our resources will be made available,” he said.
Where there’s an undecided House member or senator on an issue, Henricks said, the conservative groups meet around a table and figure out which of them has a good rapport with that member’s staff. “A lot of this is based on relationships, who knows somebody and who can speak to them so they are receptive,” he said. “We don’t like to hit them over the head with four or five groups coming at them.”
Henricks sounds optimistic. Pointing to passage of three major anti-abortion measures since 2002, he said, “This is basically a pro-life Congress and in this last election the values voter held center stage in the political arena. That’s huge. Even six years ago that would have been unheard of.”