Sunday, November 13, 2005

Scranton's Involvement With CULT Worries Conservatives and Christians -

Yogi could be a bear for Scranton - "Yogi could be a bear for Scranton

By Dimitri Vassilaros
Sunday, November 13, 2005

Is Bill Scranton's campaign as aggressive as it needs to be about his Achilles' heel? A campaign consultant says yes. Influential social conservatives say no. Team Scranton needs damage control for the guru thing.
Scranton's long association with Transcendental Meditation and proponent Maharishi Mahesh Yogi might be why Pennsylvania's former lieutenant governor lost the gubernatorial election to Bob Casey in 1986. Just before the election, Mr. Casey's hatchet man, James Carville, ran a TV spot mocking Scranton as a dope-smoking hippie follower of the TM guru.

Could dabbling with TM, the Maharishi, and the Natural Law Party -- a defunct political party inspired by the Maharishi -- still hurt him?

"The issue has been fully vetted," said Jeff Coleman, a Scranton campaign consultant. "It does not have the kind of legs it had 20 years ago."

It likely would have some effect, said Michael Geer, president of the Pennsylvania Family Institute. "Some would wonder what is behind that and what impact does that have in Scranton's personal life and decision-making."

The guru-thing might win social conservatives away from Scranton, said Matthew J. Brouillette, president of The Commonwealth Foundation. "If his opponents make that message stick, he will have a tough time getting their support. But this is more a meditation practice than religion."

That might be all Don Thomson, chairman of the Westmoreland County Christian Coalition, needs to know.

"All they would have to do is hear he is this or that in his beliefs and some people would say he is a kook," Mr. Thomson said. "It conjures up strange beliefs and aberrations. I don't see how it could have any positive effect. If he's still practicing (TM), I would have even less desire to vote for him."

Is Scranton, an Episcopalian, embarrassed about the guru thing? "Why would I be embarrassed? I still meditate," he told this column.

Internet sites claim Scranton endorsed fellow TM practitioner Dr. John S. Hagelin, the Pittsburgh-born Natural Law Party presidential candidate in 1992, 1996 and 2000. The party disbanded in 2004.

Some reference a liberal blogger who used guilt by association to smear Scranton. But most mention the entry in Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that claimed he supported Dr. Hagelin in '92 and 2000.

Other than donating $1,000 to his friend's campaign in '92, Scranton says he supported only Republicans.

When I e-mailed his answer to Wikipedia, the entry was corrected.

And what does the Natural Law Party say?

"I checked the accuracy of my recollections with Dr. John Hagelin, and Kingsley Brooks, the party chairman," said Bob Roth, former party press secretary who has known Scranton for 30 years.

"Bill Scranton never officially or unofficially, publicly or privately, supported the Natural Law Party."

Scranton did participate in a few nonpartisan roundtable discussions and was inaccurately listed on a Web site as endorsing Hagelin, Roth said. "We invited Bill to take a more public official role in the party. In every case he declined.

"Your inquiry is the first time any of us can recall a reporter actually calling us to ask about the facts concerning Bill Scranton's involvement with the Natural Law Party."

Correcting the sites still using the old Wikipedia entry would be a start in Team Scranton damage control.

Dimitri Vassilaros is a Trib editorial page columnist. His column appears Sundays, Mondays and Fridays. Call him at 412-380-5637. E-mail him at"

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