Nashville, TN--"I am appalled," Richard Land stated. Land was referring to reports that the Bush-Cheney campaign was asking volunteers to share names and addresses from their church directories with the campaign. "I'm appalled that the Bush-Cheney campaign would intrude on a local congregation in this way.
"It's one thing for the church to have a voter registration drive, to seek to inform church members on public policy issues, to encourage church members to fulfill their Christian duty to vote, and to encourage them to vote their values, beliefs and convictions," Land said. "It's another thing entirely for a partisan campaign to ask church members to bring in church directories for use as contact lists by the campaign and to seek to come into the church and do a voter registration drive and distribute campaign literature.
"The bottom line is when a church does it, it's nonpartisan and appropriate. When a campaign does it, it's partisan and inappropriate," said Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in an effort to clarify statements made in a July 1 Reuters article, "Bush Seeks to Mobilize Religious Conservatives."
"I suspect that this will rub a lot of pastors' fur the wrong way. Many pastors may consider this a totally inappropriate intrusion by a partisan campaign into the nonpartisan voter education and voter registration ministries of local churches," Land said. "I am fearful that it may provoke a backlash in which pastors will tell their churches that because of this intrusion the church is not going to do any voter registration or voter education. That would be tragic.
"It's one thing for a church member motivated by exhortations to exercise his Christian citizenship to go out and decide to work on the Bush campaign or the Kerry campaign," said Land. "It's another, and totally inappropriate thing for a political campaign to ask workers who may be church members to provide church member information through the use of directories to solicit partisan support."