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Sex, Lies and the Religious Right 

Inside Track

Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph! Don’t you just hate it when the religious holier-than-thou crowd gets into a seamy public brawl? When the gang that’s always quoting its favorite scripture passage to condemn the behavior of others suddenly starts slinging the sacred mud balls at each other?

Last summer, Jamiel Terry, 21-year-old son of the infamous God Squad activist, Randall Terry, proudly sat before the TV cameras with the leader of Vermont’s political God Squad, Rep. Nancy Sheltra (R-Derby). Sister Nancy announced the formation of her very own political action committee — Standing Together And Reclaiming the State (STARS). The Holy Homophobic Crusade was on!

“I believe the cry of the people of the state of Vermont,” said our favorite Derby divorcee, “is to bring the state back to some sort of moral sanity.”

Sister Nancy was referring to Vermont’s proud step forward on the pathway of human rights — the passage of legislation allowing committed gay couples to form legal civil unions. Sheltra and Terry said they hoped to raise over $50,000 to pay themselves and fund up to 30 House candidates who would pledge to repeal the Devil’s work, impeach all five Vermont Supreme Court justices and make abortion a crime in Vermont. Cool.

Randall Terry, you may recall, moved to Montpelier last year, lobbied lawmakers and ran his anti-gay marriage media campaign out of a State Street storefront. But as soon as the Legislature passed civil unions, Randall blew town in a disgusted cloud of dust.

This week, however, some rather seamy charges surfaced in the paradise of Vermont’s Religious Right. You see, Mrs. Sheltra is no longer on speaking terms with either Jamiel Terry or his old man. And Jamiel has gone public with charges that Sister Nancy not only welshed on their financial deal, but lusted in her heart for his famous father. He claims Sister Nancy boasted to him of her ability to “seduce” the elder Terry “if she had wanted to.”

Six days after the November election, Jamiel Terry filed a complaint with the Vermont Department of Labor and Industry alleging Sheltra had failed to pay him his $1250-a-month salary, plus 25 percent of any money he raised, as they’d agreed. Terry the Younger claimed Sheltra told him he’d been “paid for what he was worth and that since he came from a wealthy family, she didn’t need to pay him.”

Mr. Terry said he had been able to squeeze just $2200 out of Sister Nancy over the six months he worked for STARS. You do the math. When he asked for his promised cut, he said Sheltra accused him and his famous father of being “gold diggers.”

My, oh my. Is that in the Bible? And it gets worse. Better sit down for the rest.

Jamiel Terry claims his problems getting paid were related to Sister Nancy’s strong “romantic interest” in his dad. Papa Terry was going through a well-publicized divorce at the time. Jamiel told the state investigator Nancy sent his father flowers and wrote him poems. Jamiel also told the investigator Sister Nancy “telephoned Randall Terry so often that he eventually asked her to stop calling him.” On one occasion, he said, Rep. Sheltra called his father at 1 a.m. at their Binghamton, New York home, “crying” and claiming she had just heard the star of the anti-abortion movement had “committed adultery.”

“All true,” said a calm and composed Jamiel Terry of his charges in an exclusive Seven Days interview Tuesday. Also true, he said, was the fact he had to eventually contact Sister Nancy’s pastor in Derby to get her to back off from his old man.

Sheltra denies it all. She told Seven Days Terry’s charges “are not true.” Sister Nancy said she had “never been involved” with Randall Terry — only “worked” with him. “There was no romantic involvement between Randall Terry and myself,” said the Derby divorcee. “I’m a Christian woman and I answer to the Bible.” She said Jamiel’s claims were “fabricated.”

Sheltra also shared with Seven Days what she believes to be the motivation for Terry’s attack on her.

Referring to the current marital status of the famous anti-abortion crusader, Sheltra said Jamiel had been “let down by his dad because of the divorce.” She also noted Jamiel is “an adopted child.”

Told of Sheltra’s remarks, Jamiel Terry told Seven Days Nancy “is only hurting herself.” Yes, he said, he is adopted, “but it has nothing to do with this. I’m not a vindictive or revengeful type person,” he said.

According to Terry the Younger, when he and Sheltra got into arguments, the lawmaker from Derby would tell him, “You’re upset with your parents’ divorce.” Some of their “biggest arguments,” he said, “were about my parents’ divorce.” The more time he spent with Sheltra, herself a divorcee, he said, the “more depressed” he got.

Jamiel Terry is currently working in a Binghamton coffee “beanery.” His famous father is planning a June wedding in the Big Apple. But Randall’s righteous Web site is currently down, and he’s lost his syndicated Christian Broadcasting radio show. Asked if he’s going to make a comeback, the elder Terry replied, “I sure am.” When we mentioned the name of “Nancy Sheltra,” Randy Randall quickly shifted gears and broke off the conversation. “Look, I’ve got to go,” he said, “I’m in a meeting.”

In the end, Sister Nancy prevailed. The state denied Jamiel’s wage claim and advised him to seek relief in the courts.

That’s unlikely. Terry told us he just wants to get on with his life.

Rep. Sheltra sluffed it all off. And the high priestess of Vermont’s Statehouse Taliban told us she still expects a House floor vote this session on repealing civil unions even though it’ll go nowhere in the Senate. Get everyone on the record, we figure, so that when the time comes, the religious fanatics will know who to send to the reeducation camps.

In closing, Sister Nancy asked if we minded if she prayed for us?

Aw, shucks, what a sweetheart. Praise the Lord and pass the “God Hates Fags” literature!

Statehouse Secrecy Update — Gov. Howard Dean said House Speaker Walt Freed’s decision to retreat slightly from his autocratic and anti-First Amendment ban on public picture-taking in the House chamber was “a step in the right direction.” Maybe if our favorite Dorset millionaire would meditate a little on the meaning of “open government,” it might help him see the light.

Don’t expect it to happen soon, however. Seven Days has learned that the House GOP caucus is continuing the sleazy practice of holding biweekly, closed-door caucuses outside the Statehouse. Last Wednesday night, House Republicans met at the Hillside Restaurant.

Majority Leader John Labarge told Seven Days “it’s not illegal.” The GOP Caucus, heavily influenced by its new crop of freshman right-wing backlashers, obviously doesn’t want the press and public to hear what they really think.

Perfectly understandable. Given their public performance, what they say in private is something no decent Vermonter would want to hear. Just last week, the Republican Taliban dug in its heels to block a “radical” amendment offered by Rep. Steve Hingtgen (P-Burlington). Hingtgen’s amendment called for withholding state handouts from organizations that discriminate “because of race, creed, color, national origin, religion, marital status or sexual orientation.”

That should tell you the mind set of the current GOP House majority.

Reality Check — Last Friday hundreds of newspapers coast-to-coast carried a Vermont-related “Dear Abby” column that referred directly to our civil unions law. The column contained a letter from Sen. John Campbell (D-Windsor):

DEAR ABBY: I am responding on behalf of the Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee to a recent letter from “Needs to Know,” who plans to “marry” in Vermont.

In Vermont, the institution of marriage is available only to couples of the opposite sex. However, same sex couples may establish a “civil union,” which entitles them to benefits and privileges, as well as the responsibilities, equal to those afforded married couples.

We hope “Needs to Know,” her partner, their families and friends enjoy their stay in Vermont.

And Dear Abby wrote this reply for the whole nation to read:

DEAR SEN. CAMPBELL: Thank you for the clarification. Regardless of what you call it, your landmark civil union is sensible and forward-thinking. I wish other states would follow your lead and allow same-sex couples who wish to be officially committed to each other the privilege of doing so. It poses no threat to “traditional” marriages and promotes responsibility and accountability between the partners.

Thanks, Abigail, for the reality check.

Jeezum Jim in the Spotlight! — What a week it was for U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords. The nation watched as our favorite maverick Republican pulled the rug out from under President George W. Bush and the tax-cut that millionaires dream of.

CNN’s senior political analyst Bill Schneider called Jeezum Jim’s move “The Political Play of the Week.” Vermont’s senior senator, Democrat Patrick J. Leahy, even put out a press release praising Jeezum.

“I commend Sen. Jeffords for putting Vermont’s interests ahead of a political agenda,” stated St. Patrick.

Praise from Congressman Bernie Sanders was a little slower in coming, but we dragged it out of him.

“I am glad that Sen. Jeffords has opposed the $1.6 trillion tax-break, which is totally absurd,” Sanders told Seven Days. Jeezum Jim even resisted the last-minute lobbying of mini-mart chain owner Skip Vallee of South Burlington. Vallee said he was called in by the White House and the RNC to get Jeezum to see the light. Two other Vermont Republicans flew with him to Washington, but Gasoline Vallee declined to identify them.

On Saturday, some on the Republican State Committee wanted to smack Jeffords for betraying Bush. They debated a resolution, said Vice-Chair Anne McClaughry, urging Jeffords to work more closely with the President from now on. McClaughry told Seven Days she supported the resolution. Following debate, however, the anti-Jeezum resolution was tabled.

Funny, how through the years Jim Jeffords’ worst enemies have been fellow Republicans.

Lobbyist Assault Case Update — Judge Paul Hudson has dismissed charges of resisting arrest and simple assault on a police officer brought against Will Adams, a veteran Statehouse business lobbyist. Adams’ attorney had filed a motion for review of probable cause.

According to the judge’s order, there were four cops present at Adams’ Hartford home on the night in question. It reads, “Neither count specifies which police officer was recklessly caused bodily injury by the defendant or which officer or officers were prevented in their attempt to make a lawful arrest.” Both counts were dismissed “with prejudice,” for lack of probable cause.

According to Deputy State’s Attorney Matthew Huntington, “The judge indicated in his order that the state’s information was not specific enough.” Dismissed “with prejudice” means, he indicated, that “the State is free to refile the criminal information and continue prosecution.”

Reporter Caves In? — That’s sure what it looks like in the case of Associated Press scribe David Gram and a major mullah of the Vermont right — John McClaughry, president of the Ethan Allen Institute and hubbie of state GOP Vice-Chair Anne McClaughry.

A couple weeks back, Gram wrote up a story on Congressman Sanders’ trashing W’s proposed tax-cut plan. Gram reported that Bernie cited a study by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal Washington think-tank, that proved the Bush plan a disaster for Vermont.

Vermont’s Johnny Think-Tanker quickly got on the horn to Gram, we’re told, asking for equal coverage for a different view from a right-wing think tank, the Heritage Foundation.

Gram didn’t bite.

McClaughry then took his story of Gram’s rejection to Vermont’s new right-wing online weekly newsletter, The Dwinell-Sternberg Report, available at www.dwinnell-sternberg.com. Libby Sternberg wrote it up. Guess what?

It worked. Mr. Gram put a second Bush tax-cut story on the wire more to the liking of Mr. McClaughry and his right-thinking followers.

Asked about the cave-in, Gram told us he would have “no comment” on the matter.

Interesting, eh?

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About The Author

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne

Bio:
Peter Freyne, 1949-2009, wrote the weekly political column "Inside Track," which originated in the Vanguard Press in the mid 1980s; he brought it to Seven Days in 1995. He retired it shortly before his death in January, 2009. We all miss him.

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