- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2000

What about hockey?

Paul Haluza clicked onto the Vote.com Web site and weighed in on the political question of the day: "Should Congress pass an amendment that would ban burning of the U.S. Flag."

Shortly thereafter he received confirmation that his vote was forwarded to President Clinton, Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, and Sen. Charles S. Robb and Rep. James P. Moran, both Virginia Democrats.

The message to each lawmaker read: "On the question, 'Should an Amendment to Ban Flag-Burning be Added to the Constitution?' I voted YES. Please consider my vote when making your decision on the issue."

Minutes later, Mr. Haluza was surprised to receive the following e-mail from Mr. Moran:

"Thank you for contacting my office. If you are writing to request a flag flown over the Capitol, tickets to tour the White House, passes to either the House or Senate Galleries, or tickets to any other public attractions, please contact my Constituent Services Liaison."

Sgian dubh locks

While senators are encouraged to wear a "bit of tartan" to work next Thursday, the day Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi will receive the prestigious William Wallace Award from the American Scottish Foundation, they are also warned that no "sgian dubh," traditional daggers worn in men's hose with kilts, will be permitted on the U.S. Capitol grounds.

(We're not sure where U.S. Capitol Police officers fear senators might stick their daggers, but considering the political climate of late they're taking no chances.)

Susanne Lorenzini, a Capitol Hill aide helping to organize National Tartan Day 2000, confirms that Mr. Lott, an American of Scottish descent, owns tartan attire. The betting is, therefore, he'll be clad in kilt if nothing else next Thursday.

The award recognizes the majority leader's sponsorship of legislation establishing April 6 of each year the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, a declaration of Scottish independence signed on April 6, 1320 as "Tartan Day" in the United States.

Crossing the Atlantic to congratulate Mr. Lott will be George Reid, deputy presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament, and the Right Rev. John Cairns, the moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. British Ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer will represent the queen.

Fathers Coughlin

As far as we can tell, the Revs. Charles E. Coughlin and Daniel P. Coughlin aren't related.

Yet these two Catholic priests with identical surnames each found themselves albeit generations apart in the midst of congressional debate over bigotry.

After a long and difficult process, Father Daniel Coughlin last week was named House chaplain by Speaker J. Dennis Hastert. The appointment of this first-ever Catholic priest to the post served to silence Democrats who had accused Republicans of being anti-Catholic.

Still, the uncomfortable atmosphere on Capitol Hill has caused Father Coughlin this week to decline "all" requests for interviews, his secretary tells this column.

Ironically enough, it was a Catholic priest, the Rev. Tim O'Brien, who first blamed Republicans over the chaplain selection process, saying recently that he was "convinced that if I were a mainline Protestant minister and not a Catholic priest, I would be the candidate."

Democrats quickly jumped into the priest's pulpit, accusing Republicans of anti-Catholic bias, until Mr. Hastert stormed onto the House floor last week and named Father Daniel Coughlin, of the Chicago archdiocese, to the post.

"I do not easily take in stride carelessly tossed accusations of bigotry," Mr. Hastert added for any Democrats who might have stuck around to listen.

Seventy-five years ago, north of Chicago in Royal Oak. Mich., a young Catholic priest named Charles Coughlin delivered what would be his first of hundreds of sermons into a radio microphone. What he didn't say on the air, he wrote in a publication called Social Justice.

Within a decade he had become one of this nation's first media stars, and by the time 1933 rolled around, Americans had voted him the most influential citizen of the United States.

Yet his sermons would become increasingly controversial. An ardent anti-Communist, he justified the rise of the Nazi regime as "a defense mechanism against Communism." He would openly criticize sitting presidents a full half-century before the Limbaughs and Liddys of today. And the politicians were listening.

The Justice Department and the FBI, with a stamp of approval from Congress (the priest had launched a challenge to both Democrats and Republicans in the 1936 elections) were about to put Father Coughlin on trial for sedition when the Vatican stepped in and silenced him.

His final radio broadcast was in 1940, and his newsletter folded two years later.

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