A Bad Sign? : Some Protestants Chagrined Over Reagan Astrology Story

From Times Wire and Staff Reports

Reports that Nancy Reagan has relied on advice from astrologers to influence the timing of President Reagan's speeches and travel have disappointed some Protestant supporters of the President.

The allegations are made in a just-published book by former White House Chief of Staff Donald T. Regan, who asserted that "virtually every move and decision the Reagans made during my time as White House chief of staff was cleared in advance by a woman in San Francisco who drew up horoscopes to make certain that the planets were in a favorable alignment for the enterprise."

Joan Quigley of San Francisco later confirmed that she has provided information for Mrs. Reagan for years.

'Very, Very Disappointed'

Ed McAteer, the Memphis businessman whose Religious Round-table organization helped garner evangelical and fundamentalist support for the Reagan campaign in 1980, said he was "very, very disappointed" in the reports. He described it as "a serious matter" and said he did not believe the President "has a good grasp of biblical truth."

The timing of the revelations could not have been more unfortunate for many evangelicals. Reagan had extolled the power of prayer in a videotaped message to the Washington for Jesus rally in the capital on April 29--a few days before the first news accounts of Regan's book appeared. By May 5, when the President signed into law a bill making the first Thursday of each May the National Day of Prayer, the White House had confirmed the reports.

Asked about them after the Oval Office bill-signing ceremony, several religious figures who had attended said they "laughed off" the possibility that Reagan was guided by astrology. Pat Boone, co-chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, observed that most people read astrological forecasts as they would comic strips, but he acknowledged that the Bible characterizes astrology as "counterfeit" and as an "abomination" to God.

'Like a Ton of Bricks'

In Los Angeles, the reaction of the Rev. Doug Moore, pastor of the city's First Evangelical Free Church, may have typified the shock of many evangelicals. "To hear this on the news hit me like a ton of bricks," he said, in light of Reagan's close identification over the years with theologically conservative religion.

The Rev. Paige Patterson of Dallas, a prominent Southern Baptist conservative, noted that several Bible passages condemn astrology. He specifically cited Isaiah 47:13, which criticizes the Israelites for listening to "stargazers," "astrologers" and "prognosticators."

John White, vice president of Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pa., and president of the National Assn. of Evangelicals, said, "The evangelical position is that it would be contrary to the clear revelation of God's will that we get in the Scriptures and therefore would be wrong to seek any direction from astrological signs."

Similarly, the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, the Lutheran theologian who directs the Rockford Institute Center on Religion and Society in New York, told the Washington Post that "astrology, if taken seriously, is a deviation from biblical authority. If not taken seriously, it is a dangerous dabbling in things that ought to be taken seriously."

Draw Distinction

Some evangelicals tried to make a distinction between President Reagan and his wife in the astrology flap. The Rev. Lon Solomon, pastor of the McLean Bible Church in Virginia, said that "most of us cherish the notion that Reagan trusts Jesus Christ. It has never been confirmed that she does."

The Rev. Donn Moomaw of Bel Air Presbyterian Church, the Reagans' pastor in his pre-White House days, said through a spokeswoman that he was unaware of the Reagans' interest in astrology.

And at least one prominent "religious right" organization that has supported Reagan from the start appeared unshaken by the controversy. Jerry Nims, president of Moral Majority, said that his constituency would become worried only if it was "absolutely documented" that the President had consulted with astrologers in making political decisions.

Finds Columns Humorous

Nims said there were probably members of the Moral Majority who "might believe in astrology to a degree." He said he himself does not believe in astrology "but I'll read those columns occasionally because I find them humorous and interesting."

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, the founder of Moral Majority, said he was not unduly concerned over the controversy. He said in a statement that Donald Regan's revelations "smack of profiteering."

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