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Religious wingnuts working to control Ohio politics

Rod Parsley: “We’re calling people to act, not just wring their hands in the pews.” Colin Hanna (r) of Let Freedom Ring trains pastors in conservative political activism; Secretary of State Ken Blackwell plans to profit from the support of the fundamentalists in his race for governor of Ohio. NC embarrassment Rep. Walter Jones is pushing H.R. 235, which would allow pastors to endorse candidates without jeopardizing church tax exemption. (Blackwell photo: Greg Sailor for The New York Times).

This is a clear example of why the Democrats cannot be complacent about the religious black vote. The Right is mobilizing, organizing and training its religious leaders to help get conservatives elected at all levels of government by politicking over the sheeple. I’ve been posting on this for quite some time (here, here, here, and here for starters), primarily watching the trickle and later the flood of black pastors to Bush’s faith-based trough. It’s like the Dems are in caught in quicksand over the party’s relationship to the faith community, as the sink even deeper into intransigence over whether to deal with it. Keep waiting and watching, because the GOP has no fear of the issue.

Even more outrageous is the effort by NC Representative Walter Jones, who has submitted H.R. 235, which would allow political endorsements from the pulpit. After they obliterate this line, the goal is to get a federal marriage amendment “through the back door” by electing a flood of zealots into Congress, as well as a full adoption of the AmTaliban agenda. Jones has been courting black ministers — because many believe they should be allowed to discuss political matters without jeopardizing the tax-exempt status of their churches — as a cover for this effort. The folks in Ohio clearly have support at all levels of the government. (NYT):

In a manifesto circulated among church leaders and on the Internet, the group, called the Ohio Restoration Project, is planning to mobilize 2,000 evangelical, Baptist, Pentecostal and Roman Catholic leaders to register half a million new voters, enlist activists, train candidates and endorse conservative causes in the next year.

The initial goal is to elect Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a conservative Republican, as governor in 2006. The group hopes to build grass-roots organizations in Ohio’s 88 counties and take control of local Republican organizations.

“The establishment of the Ohio Republican Party is out of touch with its base,” said Russell Johnson, the pastor of the Fairfield Christian Church and the principal organizer of the project. “It acts as if it lives in Boston.” Johnson’s challenge to the party establishment could have far-reaching consequences in a state dominated by Republican elected officials but still considered a bellwether in presidential politics. Conservatives in other swing states are watching closely.

“In Ohio, the church is awakening to its historic role as the moral voice in the community,” said Colin A. Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring, a conservative group based in Pennsylvania that trains ministers in political activism. “Ohio is in the vanguard of that nationally. I very much want Pennsylvania to be with them.”

The church leaders say they will try to harness the energy of religious conservatives who were vital not only to President Bush’s narrow victory in Ohio but also to the passage of an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage. The amendment, known as Issue 1, was credited with drawing large numbers of rural and suburban conservatives to the polls and increasing Bush’s support among urban blacks.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding