Church Politicking Increases

Christians Seek GOP Prez Nominee

An ad hoc group of conservative national Christian organizations announced in June it plans to jointly interview Republican contenders for the 2008 presidential nomination, and may even endorse.

Working together will be the Family Research Council, American Values, headed by Gary Bauer, James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation, and Rev. Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association, among others. The groups are openly lobbying to ban abortion and same-sex marriage, and confirm right-wing judges.

Pulpit Politicking Snowballs

The case of Rev. Chan Chandler–who resigned from his North Carolina church in May after publicly forcing out nine parishioners who did not support Bush in the presidential election–reveals the dangers of church politicking.

Under the House of Worship Freedom of Speech Restoration Act, reintroduced this year by U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., IRS regulations would be amended to permit church leaders to endorse candidates from the pulpit and to campaign.

Last year, the IRS investigated 60 nonprofits over campaign violations, about a third of them churches, according to an estimate reported by the San Francisco Chronicle (May 16, 2005).

Chandler, who headed the 100-member East Waynesville Baptist Church, had endorsed Bush from the pulpit and told parishioners if they planned to vote for Sen. John Kerry, they needed to repent or resign.”

Ohio Pols Endorse Prayer

The Franklin County commissioners, Columbus, Ohio, once again endorsed the National Day of Prayer despite objections by one of its three members that Ohio’s yearly observance in May excludes nonChristians.

The leader of the Ohio observance on the statehouse lawn only permits Christians to speak at the event, while proclaiming that “everyone can attend.” The National Day of Prayer Task Force also staged a 90-hour bible reading inside the Franklin County Courthouse.

Opposing the endorsement was Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy.

Catholics Snub Kansas Governor

An independent Catholic college prep school, which had invited Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to speak at this year’s graduation, disinvited her after receiving complaints about her stance on abortion.

The snub by Summit Country Day, in Hyde Park, Ohio, followed a national statement by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urging Catholics not to honor pro-choicers. Sebelius, a graduate of Summit Country Day, is also the daughter of Ohio’s former governor John Gilligan.

Head of School Joseph Devlin divulged he had consulted Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk for advice before disinviting Sebelius.

Archbishop Targets Pro-Choice Pols

Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput in late May reiterated his condemnation of Catholic politicians who “don’t conform their lives to their religious beliefs,” at the second annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, where Pres. Bush also spoke.

Chaput had previously gone after Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., a Catholic who believes abortion should be a choice. Bush urged Catholics to continue to build “a culture of life.”

“God Squad” Intimidates Florida

A cabal of the Florida Catholic Conference, the state Christian Coalition and the Florida Baptist Convention, which has been lobbying the Florida Legislature for about five years, has been dubbed “The God Squad.”

The Times-Unionin Jacksonville recently reported on the religious foothold in state politics, which became very obvious during the Terri Schiavo debacle.

Church Gets Gov to Veto Bill

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican and a Catholic, succumbed to Roman Catholic pressure and vetoed a bill in April that would have required all hospitals to inform rape victims about emergency contraception. No hospital would have been forced to offer the pill, but all would have been required to refer a patient to another source.

“We are trying to prevent for women who are already dealing with the trauma of a rape the additional trauma of having to deal with pregnancy when it can be prevented,” said Rep. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, the bill’s sponsor.

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote editorials against the bill, and met with the governor. Focus on the Family, based in Colorado Springs, also lobbied heavily, as did the Bush Administration.

“This was cooperation with evil we could not tolerate,” said Timothy Dore, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference.

Ohio’s Patriot Pastors Politick

Christian conservatives have mounted the “Ohio Restoration Project,” to win control of local government posts, Republican organizations and the 2006 governor’s race, according to a recent report in The New York Times.

The goal is to mobilize so-called “Patriot Pastors,” among 2,000 evangelical, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic and Baptist leaders. The project goal is to register half a million new voters, train activists, issue voter guides, enlist candidates and endorse conservative causes. The pastors plan to raise $1 million, and may create a PAC for direct donations to favored candidates.

The pastors openly plan to elect Kenneth Blackwell, currently secretary of state, to the governorship. While billing itself as nonpartisan and nonprofit, the Restoration Project is inviting Blackwell to speak at pastoral meetings and to a statewide Ohio for Jesus rally next spring, along with such Christian conservatives as James Dobson, Chuck Colson and Rev. Franklin Graham.

Texas Pastors Follow Suit

In a similar move, a “Texas Restoration Project” has started, involving a network of Christian pastors seeking to enlist 1,000 “Patriot Pastors” and register 300,000 “values voters” in Texas to elect candidates of their choice.

Gov. Rick Perry, according to the Dallas Morning News, is taking “an active role” in its development, and termed it a “spiritual battle.” About 500 ministers met with Perry and top administrators in Austin for a closed-door session in May. The Texas Republican party paid for rooms, meals and conference expenses for the 800 pastors and wives who attended the function at Perry’s invitation.

“If we can talk so openly about the spiritual battle we confront from the Sunday pulpit, why can’t we also talk about it in the public square?” Perry told the religious gathering. Other speakers included David Barton, vice chair of the Texas Republican Party and founder of the ironically-named “WallBuilders,” which seeks to tear down the wall of separation between church and state. The Texas Freedom Network monitoring state/church issues said the gathering had “all the markings of the creation of a reelection machine for Perry.”

Judges Sentence Offenders to Church

Kentucky District Judge Michael Caperton, 50, has offered about 50 drug and alcohol offenders the option of attending worship services in place of jail or rehabilitation.

The devout Christian insisted it is not a state/church violation, “because it’s not mandatory and I say worship services instead of church.”

Circuit Judge Richard Albritton could be disciplined by Florida’s Supreme Court for ordering a defendant to attend church as a condition of probation, and telling a woman to close her legs and stop having babies. The Judicial Qualifications Commission made a report in late May on the case.

The judge has often told women, including attorneys: “Women should be at home with their kids.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation