Republican Rob Scribner says God has called him to the 1986 race for U. S. Congress to oust an incumbent who is "diametrically opposed to nearly everything the Lord's church stands for in this nation."
His statement condemning Rep. Mel Levine (D-Santa Monica) came in a letter to Christian clergymen that said, "I hope you will agree to link arms with us as we literally 'take territory' for our Lord Jesus Christ."
Levine called the assertions "astounding," and some of those who received Scribner's letter, which was dated April 22 but not made public until recently, have rejected his appeal as divisive.
"These guys come along and give Christianity a bad name. . . . He wraps himself in the flag and stands behind the cross," said the Rev. Gordon Dalbey, a former United Church of Christ pastor. Dalbey said he was speaking on behalf of 12 other ministers. The letter went out to at least 200 pastors.
In his letter, Scribner, a lay minister in the Church of the Four-Square Gospel, cited Levine's zero rating as compiled for a "report card on moral values" published by Christian Voice, an evangelical lobby in Washington.
He said in a interview this week that pastors in the 27th District should know the ideological differences between him and his opponent, because he plans to run against Levine again in 1986. The district extends from Santa Monica south to Torrance and east from the coast to Inglewood.
"Obviously, our representative (Levine) would be intolerant of the beliefs I might have, or other Christians might have, because they're different than his," Scribner said. He said that his criticisms were directed not at Levine's religious beliefs--the Congressman is Jewish--but rather at what he sees as his liberal political philosophies.
He summed up the differences by saying that he favors limited government while the incumbent "believes government has the moral responsibility to be involved in all the affairs of the people."
Levine, who was reelected to his second term by 101,922 votes to Scribner's 83,719, said the assertions did not differ much from the tone of the hard-fought campaign last fall.
"I fully respect the right of any person to worship as he or she chooses . . . but I don't accept the fact that a right-wing extremist automatically has Biblical support for every position he takes," Levine said.
Levine's zero rating in the Christian Voice index was based on his votes on 12 issues during the 1984 Congressional session, said Marilyn Bender, a spokeswoman for the group.
She said those issues included abortion, school prayers and capital punishment, among others. A vote for the death penalty was counted as a vote for morality, she said.
"This is not a judgment on their moral life," she said. "We've been criticized because people think we're criticizing their moral life. It's not. It's how they vote."
Scribner's letter did not become public until copies were circulated by the American Jewish Congress, a nationwide group that lists its goals as protecting the rights of Jews and promoting American constitutional and democratic principles.
"Certainly religion has its place in the development of policy, but it does not mean the decisions that are made should be motivated by what the morality or moral system is of a particular religious belief," said Marc Pearl, Washington representative of the congress.
He said Scribner's letter implied that Levine is unfit for his post, and his organization decided to distribute copies to its contacts because "we felt (he) was infusing in an incorrect fashion religion into the political framework."
Scribner said he is seeking a $1-million campaign fund for 1986, when he hopes that the more conservative elements of the historically Democratic district will reverse last year's results.