Religious Right GOTV Effort in Minnesota Spurs Backlash


Minnesota’s religious right is pulling out all the stops to bring
social conservatives to the polls on Election Day, but most Minnesotans
won’t see any signs of the push unless they are in church. And the
message is clear: Christians must vote Republican.

Abortion and homosexuality dominate the discussion, as ever, but
typical Republican talking points in 2008 include notes on oil
drilling, immigration and taxes — and a seemingly growing number of
Minnesota pastors find this degree of politicizing of their faith
inappropriate.

Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), the
state’s largest anti-abortion group, is taking its message to the
voters in two ways: direct political action and church meetings.

MCCL has a PAC that has endorsed candidates for office. “There would
be little or no protection for unborn babies, their mothers or other
vulnerable lives if Barack Obama were in power,” said MCCL PAC
spokesman Scott Fischbach. “Minnesota citizens must look beyond his
charm and realize that Obama is an extremist who intends to promote and
expand abortion on demand — and force taxpayers to pay for elective
abortions.”

The group also gives Sen. Norm Coleman an enthusiastic endorsement,
and features quotes of Coleman’s speeches at MCCL’s annual March for
Life. “Sen. Norm Coleman has been a dedicated friend of MCCL and the
pro-life movement for many years. We need his strong pro-life voice in
Washington!” said the group’s endorsement.

MCCL also endorsed Republican Reps. Michele Bachmann and John Kline
and conservative blue-dog Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson. They have
also endorsed 1st Congressional District Republican candidate Brian
Davis.

In addition to directly endorsing candidates, MCCL is hosting
meetings in nearly 50 churches around the state as part of their Fall
Tour 2008. The meetings will include a “presentation about life issues
and the importance of the November election.”

MCCL doesn’t present itself as overtly religious, but nearly all 50 events scheduled from the end of September to Election Day are being held in churches.

The Minnesota Independent reported on a MCCL Fall Tour meeting last year.

The Minnesota Family Institute (MFI), a division of
the Minnesota Family Council, says in its postcards, “When godly people
don’t vote … ungodly candidates get elected.” The group says it is
trying to reach between 500,000 to 600,000 people.

The “Mobilize 2008! Vote Your Values
campaign contains voter guides that reveal a less-than-scriptural
message. Privatizing Social Security, a border fence with Mexico,
offshore drilling, troop withdrawals from Iraq and tax cuts overshadow
“traditional values” issues in the presidential and Senate campaign
scorecards.

The organization’s “Pro-Family Champions,” or those state
legislators with a 100 percent “pro-family voting record,” are all
Republican. Fifty-six legislators earned that distinction, comprising a
large portion of Minnesota’s Republican caucus. That should be no
surprise when homosexuality and abortion are mixed with issues like tax
cuts and immigration.

MFI leaders are openly critical of Sen. Barack Obama. MFI president Tom Prichard recently
wrote: “If Obama is successful on the tax front as well as on the
health care and other social fronts, we’ll see a decidedly leftward
shift in our economic and political culture… [T]he cost is clear. Less
freedom and less prosperity for Americans.”

In early October, MFI rallied pastors in all corners of the state — Marshall, Mankato, Rochester, Bemidji and Duluth — for “Dare We Remain Silent” lunches urging pastors to get their congregations involved in politics.

The premise was to put the fear of God — or rather, Democrats — into
the pastors. The main themes of the pastors’ luncheons: “The next
President is likely to appoint from three to five Supreme Court
Justices. Preaching God’s word could become a hate crime. Christian
ministries and other employers may be forced to hire people whose
lifestyles are contrary to God’s design and their beliefs. God’s design
for marriage may be trampled by the courts and through legislation,
opening the door for homosexual marriage nationwide.”

MFI is urging pastors to preach about the election, provide voter
registration and MFI voter guides in their church, and place MFI fliers
and signs in their church. The group also offers training for pastors
on how to preach politics without running into trouble with the
Internal Revenue Service, using materials from the Alliance Defense
Fund (ADF). (The same ADF made political waves in late September by asking pastors to break the law by endorsing candidates for office.)

“[The] Minnesota Family Council, has been lighting up my phone and
email in the last few weeks encouraging me to preach about the upcoming
election from the pulpit,” says New Prague pastor Jamie Prip,
whose church is an Assemblies of God congregation. “What concerns me is
when Christians have such a hunger for political power (Liberal or
Conservative) that they destroy the true mission of the church.”

Prip isn’t alone in his concerns. Rev. Greg Boyd of Woodland Hills
Church in Maplewood, an evangelical baptist megachurch, has been an
outspoken critic of the type of political involvement MFI is
encouraging pastors to engage in.

“If they want to express their values, that’s fine,” Boyd told the Star Tribune recently. “I just wish they wouldn’t call it Christian, like there’s one Christian way to vote.”

Boyd and MFI met two weeks ago in Rochester during one of MFI’s “Dare We Remain Silent” pastor luncheons.

“I don’t know if it happened by design or by chance, but just before
I got up to speak, several representatives of the Minnesota Family
Council (a conservative Christian political action ministry) shared
with the pastors why they felt America was a Christian nation and why
it was the responsibility of pastors to encourage their church members
to get out and ‘vote their biblical values,’” wrote Boyd.
“These sincere folks then handed out a booklet to inform pastors on
what they could and could not say as they steered their congregants in
the right direction without getting into trouble with the law. They
also handed out ‘voter registration guides’ that would help ‘inform’
Christians where the particular candidates stood on the ‘key’ issues
(e.g. abortion, gay marriage). They finished by encouraging the pastors
to distribute these guides in their churches.”

Boyd said it seemed like an odd notion to ask Christians to vote
their values, since as Christians they already do. “It was a little
awkward, but I basically gave a talk asking the question: ‘When did
Jesus ever do anything like what you just asked to do?’

“I made the case that the church’s one and only job is to look like
Jesus, humbly manifesting God’s love in sacrificial service to all
people at all times, including our enemies,” he said. “By this
criteria, I argued, the church in America is, as a whole, failing
miserably. Christians are known for a lot of things, but humility and
self-sacrificial love, especially for enemies, isn’t among them.
(Folks, it’s not in the top 100!)”

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  • invalid-0

    The tax exempt status of any church that makes outright political statements should be stripped away.
    If they are going to become just another PAC rather than a place of worship it’s only fair.