On the eve of election day, leaders of conservative Christian organizations have accused a liberal religious group of "hypocrisy" for trying to intimidate pastors, squelch debate and discourage voter participation in the political process.
Meanwhile, candidates worked the pews for votes yesterday, and Roman Catholic parishes across Connecticut passed out a petition this weekend opposing legal recognition of gay unions.
According to "The Washington Times," the Interfaith Alliance, founded to "counter the religious right," has been targeting "voter education" guides produced by six conservative organizations, including the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family, American Renewal and the Campaign for Working Families. "We warn religious leaders and houses of worship against offering even an implicit religious endorsement for the partisanship self-evident in these voter guides," said the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, executive director of the alliance. The group has sent that message in 35,000 letters to churches nationwide, but in particular to the states with close contests, which include Colorado and Iowa.
However, American Values president Gary Bauer blasted the alliance's effort, saying the group's "intimidation campaign" this year extends beyond churches. "The letter we received yesterday was sent to a soup kitchen run by a Christian ministry," Bauer said in an e-mail to supporters last Friday. "The 'religious left' in America is attempting to disenfranchise even the poorest Americans.
"They are threatening the tax-exempt status of soup kitchens if they dare provide voter information to the folks who desperately need their services," Bauer continued. "What hypocrisy!...While the Interfaith Alliance and other groups...try to appear 'non-partisan,' the pastors who received this letter were asked to reject voter guides only from conservative organizations."
In a similar e-mail to supporters, Family Research Council president Ken Connor added: "This is not the first time a leftist organization has attempted to mislead or intimidate churches into abandoning efforts to educate their members about where the candidates stand on issues vital to the family. The alliance and other self-appointed watchdogs rarely express concerns about the often blatant political partisanship of some liberal churches."
Meanwhile, more than two dozen candidates from both parties, including Republican Senate hopeful John Cornyn and Democratic lieutenant governor candidate John Sharp sought divine intervention and inspiration yesterday at San Antonio's Cornerstone Church, "The Dallas Morning News" reported.
Dubbed "God and Country," the service was attended by 7,000 other congregants, who were urged to vote and to remember that God is neither a Republican nor a Democrat. "As citizens, as people of faith...there's a responsibility that comes along with the freedoms we enjoy, and that is to vote," Cornyn said, the "News" reported.
Cornerstone pastor John Hagee thanked the candidates for withstanding the rigors of running for public office, and he preached against the separation of church and state, welfare, the American Civil Liberties Union, satanism, abortion and gay rights in a sermon titled "In God We Trust."
Elsewhere, during the Sunday service in the predominantly African American West Angeles Church of God in Christ, California Gov. Gray Davis "made a game effort to rise above his wooden personal style, swaying slightly and clapping uncertainly to the beat of the gospel-style hymns belted out by a 78-voice choir," "The Los Angeles Times" observed.
Davis has maintained a lead over his Republican opponent and Christian, Bill Simon Jr., throughout the race. The Los Angeles congregation responded with warm applause when Davis strode to the pulpit to sum up the accomplishments of his first term, the "Times" reported. A staunch supporter of abortion rights, Davis prefaced his comments by noting that his wife, Sharon, "brought me back to the Lord about 15 years ago."