Magazine article The Christian Century

Evangelicals Decry Bush Use of Churches

Magazine article The Christian Century

Evangelicals Decry Bush Use of Churches

Article excerpt

A LAUNDRY LIST of duties sent to conservative Christian volunteers by the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign is causing alarm among evangelical leaders who are concerned that the use of congregations as political organizing bases will endanger churches' tax-exempt status.

The circular, which specifically directs volunteers to send church directories to state campaign officials, dismayed Republican-friendly figures such as Southern Baptist church-state specialist Richard Land. "I'm appalled that the Bush-Cheney campaign would intrude on a local congregation in this way," Land said.

If he were a pastor, Land said to Baptist Press, he would say from the pulpit that for members to hand over directories to win votes is a "violation of the trust of your fellow church members and of the body collectively, just as it would be inappropriate to share it with a marketing group."

Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, expressed a similar concern to the New York Times. "Theologically speaking, churches are really in a position to speak truth to power," Mouw said. "But this smacks of too close an alliance of church and Caesar."

To Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals the strategy sounded as if an overzealous campaign worker "stepped over the line of appropriate behavior." Added Cizik, NAE vice president of governmental affairs: "When party officials, whether Republican or Democrat, do that, it's simply the obligation of church members to determine what is appropriate, ethical and legal and to say No."

Spokespersons for the Bush-Cheney campaign, responding to inquries from news media after they learned in early July of the effort, defended the instruction sheet as legally permissible. "We strongly believe that our religious outreach program is well within the framework of the law," spokesman Terry Holt told the Washington Post.

The sheet lists a total of 22 duties to be performed by certain dates. By July 31, volunteers are to "send your Church Directory to your State Bush-Cheney '04 Headquarters or give [it] to a BC04 Field Rep" as well as "talk to your pastor about holding a Citizenship Sunday and Voter Registration Drive."

By August 15, volunteers are to "talk to your church's seniors or 20-30 something group about Bush/Cheney '04" and "recruit 5 more people in your church to volunteer" for the campaign. …

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