A new Religious Right voter registration drive is part of a larger scheme to build a church-based political machine, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
At a news conference today at the National Press Club, the Christian Coalition, Priests for Life and the National Pro-Life Religious Council announced plans for a church-based voter registration drive on four Sundays between now and the 2004 elections.
While the groups tried to cast the "National Christian Voter Registration Sundays" project as mere participation in the democratic process, critics said the move is part of a larger game plan.
"All Americans ought to register to vote and participate in the democratic process," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "But clergy and church-goers should be aware of the devious and divisive agenda at work here.
"This voter registration drive is part of a larger scheme to forge a church-based political machine," said Lynn. "It's no secret that Religious Right leaders want to repeal church-state separation and write their religious beliefs into laws that everyone must obey."
Lynn said the voter registration project is only the first step in the process. It will be followed by distribution of biased "voter guides" and other materials that steer voters toward favored Republicans candidates.
In 1997, Americans United made public a secret Pat Robertson speech to top Christian Coalition lieutenants that openly called for the group to emulate Tammany Hall, a corrupt 19th-century New York political machine. (Robertson, a wealthy Virginia-based TV preacher, is the founder of the Coalition, although he stepped down as its president in 2001.)
The Christian Coalition has floundered in recent years. Beset by troubles with the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission and hostility from most Americans, the group's membership has plummeted and its donations are a fraction of what they once were.
Priests for Life, however, has a large budget. Its most recent IRS filing showed annual expenditures of over $6.8 million.
Said AU's Lynn, "The good news is that these groups are unlikely to succeed in their agenda. Most clergy don't want to politicize their churches, and most church-goers reject the Religious Right's extreme viewpoint."
Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.