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The Secret Political Reach Of 'The Family'

Jeff Sharlet is also the author of <em>Killing the Buddha: A Heretic's Bible,</em> a travelogue based on a year he and Peter Manseau spent exploring the margins of faith in America.
Jeff Sharlet is also the author of Killing the Buddha: A Heretic's Bible, a travelogue based on a year he and Peter Manseau spent exploring the margins of faith in America.

You may recognize these names from recent headlines: Sen. John Ensign, Rep. Bart Stupak and Rep. Joe Pitts. Stupak and Pitts have become familiar names through the media's health care overhaul coverage; their abortion funding amendment introduced an 11th-hour twist as the House of Representatives approached a vote on a landmark health care bill.

Ensign was the focus of media attention over his affair with a campaign staffer. Just last night, a Nevada man disclosed that he found out about his wife's affair with the state's junior senator — his best friend — via a text message.

The common factor among these political players is their involvement with the Family, a secretive fellowship of powerful Christian politicians that centers on a Washington, D.C., townhouse. Investigative journalist Jeff Sharlet has written extensively about the influential group in his book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.

Sharlet returns to Fresh Air to talk to host Terry Gross about Ensign, Stupak and Pitts, and about new developments concerning the Family.

Since 2003, Sharlet has been an associate research scholar at New York University's Center for Religion and Media, where he has taught graduate seminars in journalism and the history of American religion. He has also spoken on religion, politics and media at colleges and universities across the country. At NYU, Sharlet created TheRevealer.org, a review of religion and the media.

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