July 03, 2004
"Totally inappropriate"

This is the response of Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, to the story that the Bush/Cheney campaign is asking volunteers to share names and addresses from their church directories with the campaign.

"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," Richard 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 ... 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."

To understand the full impact of this quote, you need to understand who Richard Land is:

Well, there's no question this is the most receptive White House to our concerns and to our perspective of any White House that I've dealt with, and I've dealt with every White House from Reagan on.

In the Reagan administration, they would usually return our phone calls. In the Bush 41 administration, they often would return our phone calls, but not quite as quickly, and sometimes not quite as receptively. In the Clinton administration, they quit accepting our phone calls after a while.

In this administration, they call us, and they say, "What is your take on this? How does your group feel about this?" I don't know if there's any question that this administration understands that Southern Baptists and other evangelicals are a very significant part of their coalition. By some estimates, 40 percent of their raw vote came from evangelicals. Mr. Bush carried every state in which there was a significant Southern Baptist presence.

This president is very popular with Southern Baptists, much more popular than he was in 2000. I think that he carried some baggage from his father's administration. The conservative evangelical groups and people never had quite the same trust level of his father that they had of Reagan. They did have the feeling that there were people in the Bush administration below the president who were not at all sympathetic to where they were coming from; much less so than the Reagan administration.

This administration, everywhere I go -- and I'm in a different Southern Baptist church almost every week, maybe two or three in a week -- they say "Please, tell the president and Mrs. Bush that we're praying for them, and how much we support them and how much we're praying for their safety and for his wisdom and guidance." I've never seen an outpouring quite like it.

Keep an eye on this one. Mark Schmitt can chalk it up as another example of the strange doings of the BC04 team.

UPDATE: Julia is on this one, too.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 03, 2004 to The making of the President | TrackBack