Religious Right Seeks To Muscle Gop During 'values Voter Summit'

Conference Is Designed To Win Submission From Republican Candidates, Says Church-State Watchdog Group

A collection of major Religious Right groups is seeking to flex some muscle this weekend, screening Republican presidential hopefuls and demanding they show fealty to the fundamentalist political agenda.

The so-called “Values Voter Summit” in Washington, D.C., is sponsored by the Family Research Council Action, Focus on the Family Action, the Alliance Defense Fund, American Family Association Action and Gary Bauer’s American Values group. Every major GOP presidential hopeful is slated to appear.

“This may be the biggest collection of theocrats in one room since the Salem Witch Trials,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “Their goal is simple: to consolidate their power within the GOP and elect a president who is in their pocket. They want to ramp up their efforts to run everyone else’s lives according to a narrow and rather hateful definition of Christianity.

"They’re holding out the threat of a third party as their trump card to keep the Republicans in lockstep,” Lynn continued

Lynn said recent media reports have indicated that the Religious Right is divided on which candidate to back, although several leaders have vowed to oppose Rudy Giuliani.

Such divisions, Lynn said, should not be mistaken for weakness. Americans United noted in a recent report that the nation’s top Religious Right groups are bringing in more money than ever. Dobson’s Focus on the Family, for example, took in $142.2 million in 2006, a $4.4 million increase over the previous year, while the Family Research Council collected $10.3 million in 2006, an increase of over $900,000 over the previous year.

"Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council and their ideological allies are determined to use the power of the government to force their theology on all Americans,” Lynn said. “They are looking for the candidate who will best help them achieve that goal. That’s what this weekend is about."

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.