Pastor Of Church Hosting Alito Rally Received Financial Support From Bush Administration

Church-State Watchdog Group Notes That 'Justice Sunday III' Pastor Has Received $1 Million In 'Faith-Based' Funds

Pastor Herb Lusk, the Philadelphia preacher hosting the Religious Right-led “Justice Sunday III” rally this weekend, has a long history of partisan activity on behalf of Republicans and has been awarded more than $1 million in “faith-based” grants by the Bush administration, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The event at Greater Exodus Baptist Church, which will be broadcast nationwide, is intended to rally support for the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito Jr., President George W. Bush’s choice to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

“I’m not at all surprised that Pastor Lusk would turn his pulpit over to the Religious Right for partisan purposes,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Lusk long ago decided to play ball with the Bush administration in exchange for government grants.”

Lynn noted that Lusk endorsed Bush from his church by video hookup during the Republican Convention in July of 2000. Speaking on behalf of his congregation, Lusk said, “We are supporting Gov. Bush, and we are supporting him because we know that he understands that we must give faith a chance.” After Bush was elected, his administration began funneling tax money to Lusk’s church.

According to media accounts, Lusk’s ministry has received more than $1 million in “faith-based” grants. Lusk is now allowing his church to be used by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and other far-right figures who want to help Bush stack the courts with judges like Alito, who oppose church-state separation.

“Lusk’s case highlights one of the often overlooked dangers of the faith-based initiative,” Lynn said. “Government funding too often sucks churches into partisan politics. After all, if church leaders want to keep the pipeline to tax funding open, they had better back administration policies.”

“Justice Sunday III” is sponsored by the Family Research Council, a Washington-based Religious Right group headed by Tony Perkins. The event, scheduled for Jan. 8 from 7-8:30 p.m., is the third in a series designed to pressure Congress to stack the federal courts with judges hostile to church-state separation and to promote Republican political hopefuls.

The event this weekend has been timed to coincide with the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings of Alito, which get under way Jan. 9. Speakers include Lusk, Falwell, Perkins and U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). (Santorum faces re-election this year and is locked in a tight race.)

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.

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.