The religious and political New Right yesterday rallied around the nomination of B. Sam Hart, a controversial black radio evangelist, to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
In a joint statement, leaders of 22 religious and political groups accused opponents of the nomination of "ideological racism" and urged President Reagan to "stand by" Hart.
Civil rights, women's and gay groups as well as Hart's home state senators, John Heinz and Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republicans, protested the nomination last week after the Philadelphia evangelist told a press conference that he opposes the Equal Rights Amendment, busing to integrate public schools and the concept of homosexual rights.
The Rev. Enrique Rueda, director of the Catholic Center of the Free Congress Foundation, yesterday said the nomination has frightened liberals because Hart is a black conservative. "He is not supposed to think the way he thinks," he said. "He is a round peg in a square hole."
Hart's opinions on "abortion, radical feminism and the desirability of special rights for homosexuals are not palatable to the liberal establishment," Rueda told a press conference.
Paul Weyrich, executive director of the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, accused Hart opponents of using "McCarthy tactics" to sabotage the nomination and argued that the evangelist's conservative views would balance the commission.
"We have had a very biased civil rights commission. We have had an unrepresentative one," he said. "This is one of the most radical, far out commissions in the country."
Weyrich maintained that most previous commissioners, who have included law school deans, newspaper editors and southern governors, "represent the liberal establishment."
"That includes Father Hesburgh. He is no more representative of the average Catholic than I am of the black community," added Weyrich, who is white. Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, president of Notre Dame University, is a former civil rights commission chairman.
Religious and political conservatives called yesterday's press conference after they became concerned the White House might drop the nomination.
Peter Gemma, executive director of the National Pro-life Political Action Committee, said Hart had become a "symbolic" figure for conservatives. "Sooner or later we have to draw the line in the sand."
"He Hart holds political and philosophical values similar to those of us on the right," said William Billings, president of National Christian Action Coalition.
Among others signing a joint statement of support for Hart were leaders of the Moral Majority, the Religious Roundtable, Christian Voice, Catholics for a Moral America, the Conservative Caucus, the American Conservative Union and the National Religious Broadcasters.
Hart is president of WYIS, a small radio station in suburban Philadelphia, and founder of the "Grand Gospel Hour," a black evangelical radio program syndicated nationally.
Until his nomination last week, he was unknown to civil rights groups and Republican leaders in his home area.
Heinz last week asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to put a "hold" on the nomination. "Based on available information, it does not appear that Rev. Hart is qualified for the post," he said.