WASHINGTON, July 18 (AP)-- A national group of Roman Catholic priests, saying they want to expose Christian politicians who support abortion rights as false prophets, announced an advertising campaign Tuesday aimed at making opposition to abortion the top issue for voters. Priests for Life is beginning its effort with a full-page ad in Wednesday's editions of The New York Times. They will air television ads in selected markets next month. "Voters are free to elect whom they choose. But to be free, one has to be informed of the implications of one's choice, including the moral and spiritual implications," said the Rev. Father Frank Pavone, the national director of the New York-based group. "It is our mission, as spiritual leaders, to instruct them on the moral principles that should inform their decisions." The ads will not mention specific candidates or make any endorsements. The ad running in the Times tells Christian politicians who support abortion rights to "stop being a scandal to the Gospel of Jesus Christ." Pavone said he would like the TV ads to show images of an abortion, but acknowledged that may not happen since stations have balked at similar attempts by other anti-abortion groups. The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said his group would monitor the ads closely. If the ads target specific races or candidates, it could compromise Priests for Life's tax-exempt status.
"The campaign is designed to target specific individuals who do not change their position on abortion. That type of political campaign runs afoul of the tax laws of the country," Lynn said. Pavone said the group plans to spend between $250,000 and $1 million on the ad campaign. Priests for Life has not determined where the ads will run, but will target markets where local Catholic politicians have voted for abortion rights, he said. Pavone declined to say whether the group will place ads in Pennsylvania, where the Republican National Convention will be held in two weeks and home to Gov. Tom Ridge, a Catholic abortion rights supporter GOP presidential hopeful George W. Bush is considering as a running mate. The Catholic Church condemns all forms of killing and Pavone was asked why the ads make no mention of capital punishment. He said the Church has placed a higher priority on ending abortion, which he said always involves an innocent life and is "the ultimate human rights issue."

Priests for Life, founded nine years ago, has about 6,000 member priests. It is not affiliated with the National Conference of Catholic Bishops or the Vatican but Pavone said both groups support their efforts.

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