The Gamaliel Foundation: Alinsky-Inspired Group Uses Stealth Tactics to Manipulate Church Congregations
By David Hogberg (Foundation Watch, July 2010 PDF here)
Summary: The radical left-wing Gamaliel Foundation worms its way into church congregations and uses the “in-your-face” tactics espoused by community organizing guru Saul Alinsky to incite church members to agitate for socialism. Worse, Gamaliel indoctrinates its own community organizers in creepy cult-like teachings and deceives church congregations about its real motives.
Gregory Galluzzo, executive director of the Chicago-based Gamaliel Foundation, writes on the foundation’s website about his encounter in the early 1980s with a young man who “would work to found a new independent project in the South side of Chicago” called the Developing Communities Project. Galluzzo met this young man on “a regular basis as he incorporated the Developing Communities Project, as he moved the organization into action and as he developed the leadership structure for the organization. He would write beautiful and brilliant weekly reports about his work and the people he was engaging.”
When the young man “was leaving [to attend law school] he made sure that Gamaliel was the formal consultant to the organization that he had created and to the staff that he had hired.” In subsequent years, he would support Gamaliel “by conducting training both at the National Leadership Training events and at the African American Leadership Commission.”
The young man Galluzzo describes is Barack Obama. It seems that Obama learned many of his community organizer skills from the Gamaliel Foundation.
The Gamaliel Foundation describes itself as “a community of people living out our faith and values to collectively transform our society and bring about justice locally, nationally and globally. Gamaliel exists to form organizations that empower ordinary people to effectively participate in the political, environmental, social and economic decisions affecting their lives.”
Gamaliel targets local churches in inner cities, organizing their congregations to fight political battles in their communities. Many of the “community organizations” it helps to create become effective local powerbrokers that win battles to increase local and state spending for health, transportation and welfare entitlements. Guided by a belief that the ends justify the means, Gamaliel is willing to practice deception to win the confidence of local church pastors for purposes they would not approve.
“The Gamaliel Foundation is not representative of every group that does community organizing in the country,” said Rey Lopez- Calderon, a critic of Gamaliel who worked for it in the late 1990s. “I am very much a proponent of community organizing. When it’s done well, it’s done well. When it’s done badly, it’s done badly. There are some people out there that are doing the really shady tactics.”
Helping the poor is part of the mission of inner-city churches. But the mission of the Gamaliel Foundation is to advance a far-left political agenda that provides little benefit to the poor. Churches openly proclaim their mission. But Gamaliel operates by using stealth tactics. It’s likely that when Barack Obama acquired his community organizing skills at Gamaliel, he did not learn practical problem-solving motivated by religious faith. He learned how to disguise his intense political convictions by portraying them as practical problem-solving motivated by religious faith.
History and Organization
In the Bible (Acts 5:39), the Pharisee Gamaliel is a defender of Christ’s followers. He speaks on their behalf before the Sanhedrin, a council of judges in Israel, warning it against persecuting Christ’s apostles, saying “refrain from these men, for if this work be of men, it will come to naught, but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.”
According to its website, Gamaliel’s executive director, Gregory Galluzzo, began his community organizing career by running the Pilsen Neighbors Community Council, now a Gamaliel affiliate, from 1971 to 1975. Pilsen, once an old Slavic neighborhood, became predominantly Mexican in the 1960s, housing large numbers of legal and illegal Hispanic immigrants. After leaving Chicago for community organizing work in Washington state, Galluzzo returned to the city to work with his now-wife, Mary Gonzales, in setting up the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) from 1979 to 1986.
Gamaliel was founded in 1968 as the Contract Buyers League. It was dedicated to fighting for African-American homeowners on Chicago’s West side who believed banks and other lenders were discriminating against them. Then in 1986 Galluzzo and Gonzales re-organized the League and renamed it for the savvy lawyer who defended the first Christians. The Gamaliel Foundation was set up to “insure the promise of community organizing.” The Foundation aims to “mentor organizers” who will establish and maintain so-called community organizations in low-income neighborhoods. Galluzzo became and remains Gamaliel’s first and only executive director.
In 2008, the most recent year for which financial information is available, the Gamaliel Foundation had revenue of just under $3.4 million, expenses of $3.2 million, and net assets of more than $1.7 million.
In 2008, Gamaliel made grants of just under $340,000 to its various affiliates. Included in the $340,000 figure were $126,500 Gamaliel gave to Atlantans Building Leadership for Empowerment (ABLE) in Atlanta, Ga., and $11,500 it gave to A Regional Initiative Supporting Empowerment (ARISE) in Albany, N.Y.
Gamaliel doesn’t always make direct grants. Sometimes it runs training programs so that communities can develop organizations that eventually will become Gamaliel affiliates. In 2006 and 2007 it spent $1.9 million and $2.1 million, respectively, on these activities.
Gamaliel’s funding comes from left-leaning foundation grantmakers. Since 2000, Gamaliel has received $3.4 million from the Ford Foundation, over $1.5 million from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, $525,000 from the Marguerite Casey Foundation, about $195,000 from George Soros’s Open Society Institute, $186,000 from the Tides Foundation, and $150,000 from the Bauman Family Foundation.
Gamaliel claims to have 60 affiliates in 21 U.S. states and in five of South Africa’s nine provinces. The U.S. affiliates are divided into five territories, each of which has a director who supervises that territory’s affiliates. Galluzzo’s wife, Mary, is director of the Western Territory.
Gamaliel also has a “National Clergy Caucus.” The website claims that its purpose is “to act within the Gamaliel Foundation network in ways that faithfully witness to the God of love, power, justice and community. The [Caucus] will serve as the shaper and bearer of the comprehensive vision of congregation-based organizing for Gamaliel Foundation affiliates through each affiliate’s clergy caucus.” Its responsibilities include developing a network of clergy caucuses as well as a body of theological material “relevant to the principles of community organizing.” Clergy from many Gamaliel affiliates serve on the Caucus board.
L i b e r a l o r F a r L e f t ?
It is not always easy to discern just how politically radical Gamaliel is. For example, it advocates universal health care, immigration reform, affordable housing, more public transportation, and economic development— a public policy agenda that is certainly liberal. However, look more closely at the group’s website and you can begin to see how Gamaliel disguises its far left politics.
The website’s vision statement reads, “We claim the value of a sacred community over isolating individualism. We further claim that each person has the right and responsibility to make the sacred community a reality.”
What is the “sacred community” and what is “isolating individualism”? Is sacred community a pseudo-theological term for socialism and isolating individualism a denigration of individual liberty? You won’t find out by looking at the Gamaliel website. But you will learn who Gamaliel looks to for guidance::
“This type of community organizing began in Chicago in 1938. Saul Alinsky created the ‘Back of the Yards Community Council’. The organization operated in the shadow of Chicago’s stock yards.”
This passage is typical of Gamaliel’s tactics. There is no further information about Alinsky’s radical background or the disreputable tactics he promoted in his 1971 book Rules For Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals.
It was Alinsky who counseled community organizers to combine hope with fear to create an effective mass organization. The tactic is found in Gamaliel’s “vision statement”: “We claim the value of unrelenting hope over numbing fear. We hold that all people are part of a sacred community,” it reads. But resentment stirs underneath: “A great disparity of wealth and poverty exists in the world today. The ‘haves’ in our global society enjoy enormous advantages and the capacity to continuously protect and expand their interests, while the ‘have nots’ are often powerless and victimized.” Gamaliel then fans the flames of racial division: “We live in a society where geographic place confers privilege through spatial racism, classism and segregation of opportunity.”
Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing (Fortress Press, 2001), a book written by Dennis A. Jacobsen, the director of Gamaliel’s National Clergy Caucus, offers insight into the character of Gamaliel’s radical vision. A rambling treatise that tries to fuse Christianity to the philosophy of the atheist Alinsky, Doing Justice begins with a description of the world as hopelessly corrupt.
“The world, as it is, is the enemy of God. The world, as it is, is the enemy of the people of God … It is so because the world, as it is, is driven by abusive power, consuming greed, relentless violence, and narcissistic pride. The world, as it is, employs nationalism, propaganda, racism, civil religion, and class enmity to bolster entrenched systems, corporations, and institutions.”
Jacobsen admits he is a “radical Christian,” and that he has “deep prejudices…against wealthy people.” His book has many of the hallmarks of extreme left-wing politics.
Jacobsen writes that those who disagree with him are plagued by what Marxists call “false consciousness.” For example, Christians who think that the United States is a just society “can only do so because they have buffered themselves from the brutal conditions of poverty, blinded themselves to the realities of racism, and deluded themselves into imagining that the vast military force of this country is the agent of justice.”
Jacobsen hedges his bets in promoting moral equivalence: “Although the Holocaust cannot honestly be compared to the suffering of those living in poverty in this country, the church by and large in our society is no different from the church in Nazi Germany. The accommodation and silence of the church in this country amidst Nazi atrocities is paralleled by the accommodation and silence of the church in this country amidst a calculated war against the poor.”
Still, when pastor Billy Graham visited the White House shortly before President George W. Bush launched the war on Iraq, Jacobsen writes, “In essence, it was no different from Islamic clerics offering their assent to Saddam Hussein’s claim that this action was a jihad, a holy war.”
Alinsky had dismissed the question of whether the “ends justify the means,” arguing that the important question is, “Does this particular end justify this particular means?” Although Jacobsen is a Lutheran pastor, he worships at the altar of Alinsky. Alinsky, he writes, “laid the groundwork for a new way of creating true democracy in America. His methodology has had a major impact on hundreds of communities throughout this country.” The Gamaliel Foundation “applies Alinsky’s principles to faith-based organizing.”
Former Gamaliel community organizer Rey Lopez-Calderon recalls that he had “never seen such a strange and warped culture.” Writing in the online journal Blogcritics, Lopez-Calderone notes that Galluzzo and Gonzalez would pit Gamaliel staff against each other. “Galluzzo told me that he wanted organizers to be tough bastards who could build power like the Conquistadors.”
In an interview with Foundation Watch, Lopez-Calderon said that in 2000 Galluzzo gave organizers a seminar called “The Courage to Create.” One part of the seminar was called “Walking the Edge of Immorality.”
“In this particular part it was more about willing to be ruthless—they actually used the word ‘ruthless’,” said Lopez-Calderon. “It talked about how, if people are getting in the way of what you want to achieve as an organizer, you should be willing to push those people out of your way.
“The idea was that’s how power works. It’s dirty. You have to get your hands dirty. But at the end, when you have enough power, you’ll be able to do the right thing.”
At a point in the seminar, Galluzzo would say, “the ends justify the means. And he’s actually walking around and doing 1-2-3 with his fingers saying, ‘the ends justify the means,’” said Lopez-Calderon.
“And Galluzzo would talk about the Conquistadors and how they were willing to take risks and not worry about what other people thought of them in order to build power. The idea was to get people to make shady decisions in order to build power.”
Gamaliel’s Mind Control Tactics
According to Dennis Jacobsen, the “greatest source of power for congregation-based community organizations rests in the large numbers of people that can be organized around the issues that meet their self-interest.” Jacobsen then interprets self-interest in a peculiar way.
“Self-interest honors both the ‘self’ and the ‘other’ in the relationship,” he writes, degenerating into post-modern jargon. “The discovery, identification, and projection of one’s self-interest is [sic] an act of courage.”
For “relationship building and for discerning self-interest,” writes Jacobsen, the “oneon- one interview” is crucial. An organizer trains leaders in the skill of one-on-one interviewing, and conducts interviews with church and neighborhood members to create a congregation-based community organization. The leader does not judge or counsel during the interview. Rather, he listens patiently to the person to uncover that person’s self-interest.
After relationship building comes “agitation,” an odd term that refers to challenging new members of the community organization to “act out of their own power and self-interest, out of their own vision of life.” Jacobsen recounts an early training session in which Galluzzo angrily accused him of not knowing his own self-interest, which was “all mushy and fuzzy.” Jacobsen protested that he’d just raised $50,000 for one of Gamaliel’s local affiliates. He couldn’t understand what Galluzzo wanted from him.
“What do I want from you? $50,000 is peanuts!” Galluzzo exclaimed. “I want you to get $50 million, $75 million from the banks for the inner city of Milwaukee … Look, if you want to leave the parish ministry…and go off somewhere and paint icons, do it. There’s nothing wrong with that. That would be beautiful. Just make up your mind.”
Galluzzo was messing with Jacobsen’s mind. By humiliating him before the group and making him feel uncommitted to the cause, Galluzzo was able to extract from Jacobsen an even stronger commitment to work for the Gamaliel Foundation.
Jacobsen’s chapter on “Agitation” is an exercise in self-delusion worthy of any cult follower. Jacobsen calls agitation “an act of love … Agitation is not a way of getting someone to do what I want them to do. Greg [Galluzzo] was clear about what he wanted from me in terms of inner-city bank practices, but what he really wanted was for me to discern my self-interest, my vision for my life, and for me to act on the basis of such discernment.”
Of course. Galluzzo was trying to get Jacobsen in touch with his true self—and getting $50 million to $75 million for the Gamaliel Foundation was just a side benefit.
The Key is Deception
In a 2008 book, Organizing Urban America: Secular and Faith-based Progressive Movements, author Heidi Swarts writes that community organizers must avoid using leftist jargon such as “oppression,” “racism,” “classism,” “homophobia,” and the like when speaking to members of church congregations. The Gamaliel website deplores the “evils of racism, poverty, violence, and intolerance,” but it follows Swarts advice in discouraging such language in front of working class people. Gamaliel organizers are careful to wear conventional clothing and present their ideas as pragmatic and levelheaded. In front of church congregations, they speak about “common sense solutions for working families.”
Rey Lopez-Calderon noticed the deception. “Galluzzo sent out a weekly report with a reflection that we organizers needed to promote a noble myth to our churches that our work was about justice, God, and peace even though we really knew it was about power,” he wrote at Blogcritics. For Lopez-Calderon, that was the last straw, prompting him to leave Gamaliel.
According to Swarts, “Though often hidden from view, [Gamaliel] leaders have intentionally and strategically organized these movements that appear to well up and erupt from below.” A key tactic is to avoid media notice. A Lexis-Nexis search of “Gamaliel Foundation” turned up only 387 citations since 1991, less than 20 a year. Thus, when Gamaliel organizers arrive to help an inner city church group, local reporters are apt to be friendly, having little knowledge of Gamaliel’s background and little reason to suspect its motives. For instance, when the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN) was created in 1999, an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette didn’t even mention Gamaliel’s involvement with local clergy.
In 1995, when Galluzzo met with Buffalo church leaders, the Buffalo News took at face value his comments that Gamaliel was “not going to do any specific thing in Buffalo. We have no agenda other than to create a vehicle for people to participate in decisions that affect their lives.”
Consider the glowing coverage the Post- Standard of Syracuse, N.Y., gave Gamaliel organizer Andres Kwon in April of this year. A photo shows Kwon, dressed in a white button-down shirt and tie, with his arm around local resident Mabel Wilson in front of a community garden. In 2006 Gamaliel dispatched Kwon to Syracuse to head up the Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse (ACTS). The article notes that under Kwon ACTS had identified child healthcare needs and tried to stop illegal dumping on the city’s west side. Kwon claims Gamaliel taught him an important lesson: “It ain’t about me.” “In other words, his mission was to mobilize the community, then get out of the way,” the article said.
In fact, because of Kwon ACTS grew into a much larger organization, boosting its membership from seven churches to nearly 45. His success was surely based on helping people identify their self-interest through those one-on-one interview techniques. “Once we begin to make relationships, we realize that ‘our’ concerns and ‘their’ concerns are very much the same,” said Rev. Bill Redfield, head of Trinity Episcopal Church, who brought his congregation into ACTS during Kwon’s tenure.
Nowhere does the article mention Gamaliel’s larger agenda, its connection with President Obama, or its embrace of Alinsky’s organizing principles. Also left out is any leftist jargon about “sexism” or “corporate oppressors” or the extremist rhetoric found in Jacobsen’s book.
Gamaliel’s affiliates carefully choose non-threatening names that form biblical acronyms. Michigan has the Interfaith Strategy for Advocacy & Action in the Community (ISAAC), Wisconsin has Joining Our Neighbors, Advancing Hope (JONAH) and a new York affiliate is named Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope (NOAH). There is also Community Actively United for Social Equality (CAUSE) in New Hampshire, and Baltimore Regional Initiative Developing Genuine Equality (BRIDGE) in Baltimore.
How Gamaliel Enlists Churches to Pressure Politicians
Once an affiliate is established, Gamaliel organizers and local clergy work to convince additional churches and community groups to join it. As the affiliate’s numbers grow, they meet with political and corporate leaders, pressuring them to support the affiliate’s goals. Often that means advocating for more taxpayer money for inner city projects.
-In 1997, about 150 members of the Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH) conducted a “pray-in” in the Milwaukee County courthouse to protest a county decision to cut a program that provided drug addicts with treatment vouchers. Organized in part by Dennis Jacobsen, the pray-in lasted all evening. No arrests were made. The next morning county supervisors met with MICAH and assured them that the program would not be cut.
-In 2003, PIIN persuaded Allegheny county officials to provide $150,000 to clean up abandoned homes and expand a school-based African-centered academy following a meeting between Pittsburgh police, the mayor’s office and PIIN members.
-Both Empower Hampton Roads in Virginia and BRIDGE succeeded in passing laws that require more affluent areas to set aside more housing for low-income people.
-United Action in Connecticut got the state government to increase the Medicaid budget by $460 million.
-PIIN got Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell’s commitment to work toward dedicating $649 million to mass transit systems.
-ISAIAH, a Minneapolis Gamaliel affiliate, pushed for a constitutional amendment in Wisconsin that devoted part of the state motor vehicle sales tax to mass transit. The amount should reach $120 million annually.
-Metropolitan Congregations United for St. Louis (Missouri) persuaded the county government to require that 15% of the work hours on any public works project be reserved for women, the poor, and minorities. The state department of transportation likewise agreed that 30% of the work hours on the Interstate 64 project be reserved for women, low income people, and minorities.
-Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity in Kansas City won an agreement with the Missouri Department of Transportation that $1.25 million of the money spent on Paseo Bridge Project go to job training.
-In 2006 WISDOM, a Wisconsin affiliate, called for the Wisconsin department of transportation to give driver’s licenses to 150 “undocumented people” before a new, stricter state ID law took effect.
-ISAIAH won ordinances in Minneapolis and St. Paul that “effectively separate the city functions from federal immigration enforcement and prohibit city officials, including police officers, from inquiring about a person’s immigration status unless required by state or Federal law.”
Does Gamaliel help the poor? Gamaliel says it wants reform in healthcare, immigration, “opportunity housing,” transportation, and jobs and economic development. Its policies embrace universal health coverage, “comprehensive” immigration reform that legalizes the current “undocumented” population, “affordable” (i.e. subsidized taxpayer-provided) public housing and transportation, and jobs that pay a government-guaranteed minimum “living wage.”
These have been standard issue liberal proposals for decades. They promise to lift people out of poverty by increasing taxes for some and welfare entitlements for others. In fact, the evidence suggests that government spending mainly benefits public employees and the private and nonprofit contractors that are supposed to provide services to the poor.
Public spending is “trickle-down” spending for the poor.
Christians Say ‘Stop!’
If Gamaliel’s public policy agenda seems more like a strategy for keeping the poor in poverty, its tactics are essentially exercises in deception that conceal its far-left politics. Pastor Jacobsen argues, “God’s work is done through human beings. There is no purity in this work, just as there is no purity in human beings. If the church awaits pure action, it will never act.”
But Jacobsen sets up a false dilemma to justify Gamaliel’s drive for power: “Those who exercise power through congregation-based community organizing do well to always recognize the ultimate source of power … power belongs to God and comes from God. We are not protected from misuse and abuse of power by making such a … claim. But if we do not, we are more than likely to abuse the power that has been entrusted to God.”
Fortunately, not all Christians accept the Gospel according to Alinsky—and they are calling Gamaliel to account. In March 2010 David Ricken, the Roman Catholic bishop of Green Bay, wrote a letter to two Wisconsin groups claiming to be Catholic. They are Equality, Solidarity, Truth, Hope, Empowerment, Reform (ESTHER) and Justice Organization Sharing Hope and United for Action (JOSHUA), and they had joined Gamaliel in supporting the coalition Health Care for America Now. That coalition supported abortion rights in the health care bill before Congress, which got the bishop’s attention.
Bishop Ricken wrote a letter to ESTHER and JOSHUA: “After prayer, study, and reflection, it is clear to me that principles of the Gamaliel Foundation are inconsistent with the tenets of our Catholic Social Teaching. It is not fitting for a Catholic entity to enter into a formal association with another organization when there is such a conflict of principles.” He further stated that if the groups did not sever ties with Gamaliel, the diocese would seek “alternative avenues, apart from JOSHUA and ESTHER, to collaborate with our non-Catholic brothers and sisters in the work of justice that we share in common.”
The bishop did not identify which principles were in conflict with the Catholic Church, but vicar general and chancellor Fr. John Doerfler of Northeast Wisconsin gave a strong hint when he told the media, “The end does not justify the means.”
Alas, later in March, Bishop Ricken held back from asking Catholics to end their association with ESTHER and JOSHUA. Instead he called for more reflection and appointed a task force to study the groups’ association with Gamaliel.
Here’s hoping Bishop Ricken finds the courage to sever Catholic ties with any groups affiliated with Gamaliel, and that other churches will follow suit.
David Hogberg is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist. He is also a former executive director of Capital Research Center’s Green- Watch project.