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Bush-Cheney Campaign Seeks Church Directories

From Reuters

President Bush, seeking to mobilize religious conservatives for his reelection campaign, has asked church-going volunteers to turn over church membership directories, campaign officials said Thursday.

In a move criticized both by religious leaders and civil libertarians, the Bush-Cheney campaign has issued a guide listing about two dozen “duties” and a series of deadlines for organizing support among conservative church congregations.

A copy of the guide obtained by Reuters directed religious volunteers to send church directories to state campaign committees, identify churches that could be organized by the Bush campaign and talk to clergy about holding voter-registration drives.

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The guide, distributed to campaign coordinators across the country this year, also recommends that volunteers pass out voter guides in church and use Sunday service programs for get-out-the-vote drives.

“We expect this election to be potentially as close as 2000, so every vote counts, and it’s important to reach out to every single supporter of President Bush,” campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel said.

But the Rev. Richard Land, who deals with ethics and religious liberty issues for the Southern Baptist Convention, a key Bush constituency, said he was “appalled.”

“First of all, I would not want my church directories being used that way,” he told Reuters.

The conservative Protestant denomination, whose 16 million members strongly backed Bush in 2000, held regular drives that encouraged church-goers to “vote their values,” Land said.

“But it’s one thing for us to do that. It’s a totally different thing for a partisan campaign to come in and try to organize a church. A lot of pastors are going to say: ‘Wait a minute, bub,’ ” he added.

The latest effort to marshal religious support also drew fire from civil liberties activists concerned about the constitutional separation of church and state.

“Any coordination between the Bush campaign and church leaders would clearly be illegal,” said activist group Americans United for Separation of Church and State.


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