'values Voter Summit' Supports Gop, Americans United Charges

Dobson, Religious Right Seek To 'Lead Evangelical Flock Into Republican Fold In November,' Says AU's Lynn

A Religious Right-sponsored “Values Voter Summit” this week is nothing but an attempt to drum up evangelical support for Republican candidates before the November elections, charges Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The supposedly non-partisan event, which takes place in Washington Sept. 22-24, is sponsored jointly by political affiliates of Focus on the Family (FOF), the Family Research Council (FRC) and other Religious Right groups. It features a line-up of GOP officeholders and presidential aspirants.

No Democrats appear among the announced speakers, and organizers such as FOF Chairman James Dobson and FRC President Tony Perkins don’t seem to have spent much time getting any to come.

AgapePress, a conservative Christian news service, reported, “Perkins says he cannot help it if only Republicans support the issues that conservative Christians care about. He offers an open invitation, saying ‘if there’s a Democratic candidate who marches to an independent drum beat and will stand on these issues, we’d love to have them.’”

Comments like that are evidence of the meeting’s partisan overtones, said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United.

“Dobson and his friends are desperately trying to lead the evangelical flock into the Republican fold in November,” Lynn said. “They know that their power in Washington depends on maintaining GOP control of Congress.”

Lynn said evidence of the gathering’s partisan purpose continues to mount. He noted activities by Dobson, who has announced that FOF will target evangelical churches in eight battleground states for political organizing this fall. The eight just happen to have hotly contested Senate and/or gubernatorial races.

Dobson has been personally endorsing candidates and engaging in other partisan activities. Most recently, he spoke in Pittsburgh at a “Stand for the Family Rally” that political observers say was designed to boost embattled U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.).

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Issue guides being distributed last night [at the Dobson event] clearly favored Mr. Santorum.”

At the rally, the newspaper reported, Dobson observed, “Whether or not the Republicans deserve the power they were given, the alternatives are downright frightening.”

Prior to the event, Dobson told a radio interviewer, “Pennsylvania is too important for us not to be here…especially in your Senate race. Get to the polls. You know who to vote for. I won’t tell you, because you already know.”

Lynn noted that Santorum is scheduled to speak at the “Values Voter Summit.” Other speakers include Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.), Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.), U.S. Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Newt Gingrich. All have been identified as potential Republican candidates for president in 2008.

“Aside from helping the Republicans retain control of the House and Senate this year, this event also functions as a Religious Right beauty pageant for the 2008 Republican nomination,” Lynn said. “The hopefuls will parade before Dobson, Perkins and their followers, and eventually one will win the crown.”

Continued Lynn, “This summit is a shameless display of partisan politics. I urge religious leaders to keep Dobson, Perkins and their hardball, unabashedly partisan operation at arm’s length.”

Americans United this week announced a special election-year alert to all houses of worship in 11 states, reminding them that intervention in partisan political campaigns is a violation of the Internal Revenue Service Code. The letters, totaling over 117,000, were sent to every house of worship in Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Missouri and Virginia. Churches in those states are being targeted by Dobson and other Religious Right leaders who want to build a church-based political machine on behalf of favored Republican candidates.

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.