The Christian tycoon who wants to ban gay marriage

The Christian tycoon who wants to ban gay marriage
By Andrew Buncombe in Washington - The Independent - 7/7/2006 -original

Philip Anschutz

John Prescott's genial host in Colorado is a billionaire conservative who has used his vast wealth and influence to promote his Christian viewpoint, to rally against gay marriage and fund an organisation that questions the theory of evolution. He has also donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates.

The Deputy Prime Minister claims he spent only two-and-half hours with Philip Anschutz over the entire July weekend he spent at his 35,000-acre ranch, Eagle's Nest, an hour from Denver. Mr Prescott said he went to satisfy an ambition to see a working cattle ranch - stirred by watching Westerns as a boy - and to talk with sugar-beet farmers about the state of their industry.

But if the MP for Hull East had time to dig a little he might have asked Mr Anschutz about Amendment 2, an ultimately failed ballot initiative he funded to overturn state laws that protected gay rights. The measure was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1996.

He might also have asked Mr Anschutz about the Discovery Institute, a "think-tank" he funds in Seattle that criticises Darwin's theory of evolution and argues for the involvement of a "supernatural" actor in the development of living things.

Critics accuse it of offering little more than a new spin on creationism and the institute was recently caught up in a notorious lawsuit about the teaching of creationism in schools. And over dinner at the ranch, complete with its own golf-course and formerly owned by the beer magnate Peter Coors, Mr Prescott could have raised the topic of the Media Research Council, a Washington-based group that attacks the liberal media and which, in 2003, was responsible for half of the complaints received by the Federal Communications Commission about alleged indecency on television.

The wealth of Mr Anschutz, 67, is huge and his interests are vast. Born in Kansas, he inherited his father's land and oil businesses before expanding them.

His empire includes sports teams - he owns the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team; a cinema chain; a film production company that has produced such films as Ray and The Chronicles of Narnia; oil; railroads; telecommunications and newspapers.

Forbes lists him as the 28th richest person in the US with a net worth of $7.2bn (4bn) but, in 2002, Fortune called him the "greediest executive".