Chuck Colson needs no defense from me, but I feel compelled to speak up for him in light of a vicious attack on him by Sandhya Bathijia of American United for Separation of Church and State. Her bile was provoked by a New York Times magazine profile in which the Prison Fellowship founder was quoted as saying:

Misconception About Christians: That we are intolerant. Christianity has deep convictions about what is true, but I don’t think Christians should impose themselves on people. My greatest concern is theocracy.

Personally, I don’t think Colson actually meant “theocracy” there, but meant to say that Christians shouldn’t force their convictions on to other people through evangelism. But I could be wrong. In any case, Bathija uses this statement as a jump-off for what follows:

Colson is a well-known Religious Right author and theoretician who converted to evangelical Christianity while doing time for his illegal activities in Nixon Watergate scandal. After he got out in 1975, he founded Prison Fellowship, an evangelical ministry intended to help inmates find God by following Colson’s roadmap.

Actually, that would be God’s road map, using the directions that He provides in Scripture. But AU is pretty out-front that its hostility to evangelicalism extends way beyond public policy or legal differences to disdain for its theology. I guess that’s what happens when an organization whose reason for being supposedly centers on issues of constitutional law is led by a liberal clergyman (though I should also point out that Barry Lynn is also a lawyer).

Most recently, Colson followed in James Dobson’s footsteps in urging Americans to boycott the Girl Scouts for their allegedly too-liberal agenda. In a widely distributed March 26 “Breakpoint” commentary, Colson blasted the Scouts for an alleged relationship with Planned Parenthood.

Alleged? That would come as a surprise to Kathy Cloninger, the CEO of Girl Scouts of America, who said on the “Today” show recently that ““We partner with many organizations. We have relationships with our church communities, with YWCAs, and with Planned Parenthood organizations across the country, to bring information-based sex education programs to girls.” But she’s only the CEO. What would she know?

But Colson’s attack shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, he’s the same guy who once criticized evangelical Christians for “worship[ing] at the altar of the bitch goddess of tolerance.”

An expression that was used in the context of an article decrying the failure of evangelicals to be a “community of memory, uphold and passing down to each generation the uniquely salvific nature of Christian faith. Bathija even links to it, but doesn’t seem to have read it, or didn’t understand it.

In June of last year, he was the featured speaker at an Atlanta conference for the Association of Classical and Christian Schools, a group whose founder celebrates theocracy, defends slavery as biblical and expresses regret that the Confederacy lost the Civil War.

Can you say “McCarthyism”? Near as I can tell from the ACCS web site, there is nothing there that reflects these extreme views attributed to Douglas Wilson, the founder. Implying that Colson’s speaking at an ACCS conference constitutes an endorsement of Wilson’s views on slavery or the Confederacy is like claiming that Barack Obama endorsed the Communist approach to college education when he spoke at a Chinese university last year.

Then in November, Colson joined nearly two dozen Roman Catholic, evangelical and Orthodox leaders who together released a document called the “Manhattan Declaration,” which essentially urged Americans to defer to conservative religious leaders to make all decisions for the United States.

This is ridiculous, but typical of the over-the-top hysteria and plain prevarication regarding the Manhattan Declaration that AU and its allies on the religious left put out when it was first published, and which I examined here, here, and here.

You get the point. I’m sure that Chuck Colson doesn’t lie awake at night worrying about what people like Bathija or her AU colleagues think of him. But that doesn’t mean that their vitriol shouldn’t be countered.