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The Republicans' Rabbi-in-Arms
"From my side it was tongue-in-cheek," Lapin says, adding that he never produced the award.
Lapin became popular in conservative Christian circles in 1999, after he published "America's Real War," a polemic along the lines of Pat Buchanan's famous culture wars speech at the 1992 Republican convention.
"We are really two separate nations," he writes, one side supporting and the other opposing "Judeo-Christian morality playing a role in American public life." He then took on every issue dear to the Christian right -- atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair, pornographer Larry Flynt, the gay rights movement -- and added liberal Jews as a target.
To Lapin, the great constitutional debates about religion in public life are beneath consideration.
"I've always thought it was a quaint notion, the separation of religion and politics," he says, echoing a main point of his book. "It's preposterous. Politics is nothing other than the practical application of your most deeply held moral and spiritual values."
Lapin was invited by some senators to teach Bible classes on the Hill. He gave sessions to members of Congress explaining the biblical roots of conservative policies. In one session on "Joseph and Taxation," he explained that in ancient societies taxes never rose above 20 percent.
"They were fascinated by that," he recalls, "to learn that this was not an accident, that the tax rate was designed by the great architect in the sky."
Lapin became a keynote speaker at conferences for the Christian Coalition and the Family Research Council. "It was phenomenal," recalls Eli Piepsz, who traveled with him at the time. "The crowds loved him. People would come up and say, 'It's amazing to finally meet someone of the original faith who is true to his faith.' "
"The '700 Club' is one of my big all-time favorites," Lapin said in beginning an interview last year with Pat Robertson, and then proceeded to call other prominent Jewish leaders, particularly Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, "breathtakingly arrogant" for calling Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" anti-Semitic.
Lapin took that spat one step further in an essay that ran in the Orthodox paper the Jewish Press in January. He complained that Jewish leaders criticized Gibson but ignored Jews such as Howard Stern and the producers of "Meet the Fockers" who were "debasing the culture." He then quoted a section of "Mein Kampf" in which Hitler denounces the "horrible trash" produced by Jewish entertainers in Weimar Germany. Hitler was an "evil megalomaniac," Lapin writes, but what he was saying was "obvious and inescapable."
"With all due respect, the good people don't know the difference between one rabbi and another," Foxman says about the Christian leaders. "They see a beard and they know he's super-kosher, so they think he's mainstream Jewry. But he's so conservative he's off the wall. He's on the fringes of the Jewish community."
Younger brother David stayed out of politics but not away from his connections with Abramoff.