Politics First, Prayer Second

Pat Robertson's Parochial Priorities

Every activist at the Christian Coalition's "Road to Victory" rally sported a button that read, "I Will Pray & Vote --Election 2000."

That line, however, reflects misplaced priorities -- at least, according to Coalition founder and President Pat Robertson.

In a closed-door speech to pastors Sept. 30, Robertson complained that too many Americans let their religious devotion get in the way of their political agenda. He recounted an incident from Nevada in which a Republican state committeewoman aligned with the Religious Right lost her position by only a few votes. The TV preacher said the defeat occurred because several conservative Christians went to a prayer meeting instead of the GOP caucus.

"I mean, man, I'm all for prayers," blustered Robertson, "but for heaven's sake, put the woman in office and then go pray, you know."

The Robertson rant speaks volumes about the priorities of the Christian Coalition. Although the group has tried to portray itself as a religiously based, nonpartisan organization devoted to representing the Christian point of view in the public square, it is, in fact, nothing of the sort. The Coalition is a Tammany Hall-style political machine dedicated to one primary goal: electing conservative Republican candidates to public office.

This year, that goal remains the same. The line-up of dignitaries at the "Road to Victory" Conference was a who's who of GOP luminaries, ranging from Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott to House Speaker Dennis Hastert. (Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush was beamed in via videotape.)

Some tried to cloak their partisan agenda in religious rhetoric. House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, for example, suggested that this year's election offered a choice between a "biblical worldview" and the worldviews of "humanism, materialism, sexism, naturalism, post-modernism or any of the other -isms." But most speakers simply made naked appeals for help in placing Bush in the White House and preserving the GOP majorities in the House and Senate.

None of this is a surprise, of course. This kind of partisanship has been a hallmark of the Christian Coalition since its founding.

What's our complaint? First of all, there's nothing wrong with involvement in politics. All Americans of all religious persuasions (and none) should go to the polls and vote. Indeed, they should participate in the workings of our democracy to the maximum extent possible.

We at Americans United are completely nonpartisan and are careful never to endorse any candidate or political party. But we do condemn in the strongest terms the kind of deceptive politicking used by the Christian Coalition.

This group presents itself as a nonpartisan religious organization when every bit of evidence demonstrates it is a GOP front. It also concocts "objective" voter guides that are actually thinly veiled campaign fliers for favored candidates. And worst of all, the Coalition tries to snooker churches into participating in its Machiavellian schemes.

Pat Robertson, have you no shame?

Churches and church leaders should not only reject the Coalition's nefarious voter guides, but also speak against religiously based political deception. It's un-American and it's un-Christian.