Buchanan, Perot factions open rival conventions, head for court

LONG BEACH, Calif. - Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan pledged Thursday to make ''America a godly nation again'' by cracking down on abortion and ''rampant homosexuality'' if he makes it to the White House.

The conservative former Republican issued his personal manifesto as his adopted party opened its convention by fracturing into two separate meetings - Buchanan backers and those of party founder Ross Perot.

''While the Reform Party platform is silent on what have come to be called the social, cultural and moral issues, I do not believe presidential candidates can remain silent,'' Buchanan wrote.

His ''Statement of Personal Belief'' stands in sharp contrast to the third party's platform, which calls for campaign finance and other government reforms. Instead, Buchanan pins the foundation of his campaign on social issues, pledging to eradicate late-term and taxpayer-funded abortions and to bar homosexuals from military service.

''I will put moral authority of the office behind the causes of life, faith and country, and support a rule of law based on a moral order that is rooted in Biblical truth and the laws written by God on the human heart,'' Buchanan said in the statement.

''High among the purposes of this campaign is to build a party that will set about making America a godly nation again.''

Buchanan listed six pledges, if elected:

- Appoint only anti-abortion conservatives to the Supreme Court and impose term limits on federal judges.

- Eliminate taxpayer-funded abortions and fetal tissue research. He also pledged to outlaw late-term abortions, comparing the procedure to Nazi torture. ''When one reflects that German doctors were executed after World War II for having participated in Hitler's euthanasia program, what does that say about us as a nation?''

- Require a ''family impact statement'' for proposed changes in U.S. social policy and tax reforms.

- Refuse to give homosexuals extra protection under civil rights laws. ''Rampant homosexuality (is) a sign of cultural decadence and moral decline from Rome to Weimar,'' he said, calling it ''a lifestyle ruinous to body and soul alike.'' Buchanan also said persecuting homosexuals is wrong.

- Exempt women from the military service except as volunteers.

- Put ''the moral authority'' of the presidency behind every decision.

The statement confirmed the fears of Buchanan's opponents, led by party officials who helped found the organization in its headier days when Perot captured 19 percent of the vote in 1992. The party has taken a hands-off approach to social issues, believing government should have no role in such personal matters.

''I don't think it's going to serve any purpose, saying things like that, which are just inflammatory,'' said Stanley Spink, a delegate from North Kingstown, R.I., who opposes Buchanan.

''You can be sure that's among the reasons people (in the party) have split,'' said his wife, delegate June Spink.

The battle for control of the party is aimed partly at gaining $12.5 million in federal funds that go with the Reform Party nomination.

Allies of Perot, who has stayed silent, have rallied around little-known candidate John Hagelin as the only alternative to Buchanan.

Hagelin appeared to respond to Buchanan in his own speech to more than 1,000 people in the breakaway convention next door.

The path to victory is ''not through a message of exclusivity and intolerance, not through embroiling ourselves in divisive social issues,'' he said. ''But by putting forth an inclusive message, a broad-based platform of commonsense reforms, that the overwhelming majority of people support.''

Added former party chairman Russell Verney, a Hagelin backer: ''If you have hate in your heart, get out the door, we don't want you.''

While Buchanan focused on America's ''moral crisis,'' Hagelin offered proposals on a litany of issues, including campaign-finance reform, preventive health care, clean energy, teachers' salaries and foreign policy.

He predicted the party would rise from the disarray, declaring: ''The reports of the demise of the Reform Party are exaggerated.''

On Friday, the dueling conventions both plan to convene, which could mean two presidential candidates will be nominated.

Perot and Hagelin supporters on Thursday filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission seeking to keep Buchanan from receiving the campaign money, and the matter could end up in court.

The complaint charged Buchanan with election fraud. He denies the charge, counting 70 percent of some 600 delegates and party Chairman Gerry Moan, who controls the party's finances, on his side.

''I'm depressed about the whole situation,'' said Wendall Kinney, a delegate from Maine who said he is neutral and helped found the party. ''The country needs a third party, other voices, to survive.''

Thursday morning, Perot supporters had stormed the Buchanan convention hall and were peacefully turned away before opening their own proceedings at a performing arts center down the block.

''We Shall Overcome,'' Perot supporters sang as they marched away.

''This reminds me of the old civil rights days of the 60s,'' Mississippi delegate Lee Dillsworth yelled into a bullhorn.


EDITOR'S NOTE: AP Political Writer Ron Fournier and reporter Scott Lindlaw contributed to this report.


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