NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)-—As America draws closer to Election Day, some voters may be questioning the $270,000 the government has earmarked for potato storage research in Madison, Wis., or the $50 million approved for an indoor rainforest project in Iowa — both federal entitlements cited by the advocacy group Citizens Against Government Waste in its most recent report.
But many voters aren’t digging quite that deep into public policy issues and will walk into the voting booth unsure of the candidates’ actual stands on key issues.
Helping fill that need is the 2004 issue of the Political Party Platform Comparison resource, the latest element of the iVoteValues.com initiative. The eight-page resource, which includes a side-by-side, straight-up comparison of the two major parties’ platforms on a wide range of topics, is a nonpartisan glimpse at what each party believes.
Published by the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission in cooperation with Baptist Press, the supply of a similar product was exhausted after three printings in 2000. ERLC President Richard Land expects a similar response this year, saying the group has tried to anticipate demand by printing half a million copies. Nearly half of that amount already has been spoken for in pre-orders, he added.
“Voters are desperate for a resource that is not tinged with campaign rhetoric but that clearly presents what the two parties themselves have to say on many critical issues,” Land said.
The voter resource examines each party’s views on some of America’s most important public policy and ethical issues in order to help individuals determine which candidate best represents their values and convictions, he said.
“We are in the midst of a contentious and critically important presidential campaign,” Land explained. “It is difficult at times, even for the most seasoned political observer, to determine what is fact and what is fiction. That is why it is more important than ever that Americans ascertain what their own values and convictions are before they identify which candidates they should support.”
Land said in producing the document, which is also included in the most recent issue of the entity’s For Faith & Family magazine, staffers took great care to ensure the content was balanced between the two parties — a difficult task considering that more than 120 pages of campaign platforms had to be winnowed down to fit in the publication.
In producing the platform comparison piece, the ERLC worked closely with attorneys familiar with the federal tax code to make the product suitable and safe for distribution by 501(c)(3) groups, such as churches, Land said. He made it clear the platform comparison shared little in common with voter guides done by other groups that simply examine voting records or candidates’ statements on certain issues.
“The contents in this resource are pulled straight from the two platforms. If only one party addressed an issue, we didn’t include that issue in the resource,” Land explained, noting every effort was made to be “decidedly objective” in compiling the publication.
“We are confident we captured the essence of each party on the issues by carefully excerpting from the two platforms,” Land said. “The resource is invaluable to voters who are serious about knowing what the candidates represent.”
Issues such as gun ownership, school choice, stem cell research, education, federal spending, job creation and abortion are addressed in the resource, Land said.
As example, he said, on the issue of “homosexuals in the military” the Democratic platform is noted as saying: “We are committed to equal treatment of all service members and believe all patriotic Americans should be allowed to serve our country without discrimination, persecution, or violence,” while an excerpt from the Republican platform on the issue reads, “We affirm traditional military culture, and we affirm that homosexuality is incompatible with military service.”
“Nothing can substitute for voters reading the platforms themselves,” Land said. “This mini-magazine publication is composed by necessity of excerpts from the complete platforms. Nonetheless we are confident it is an accurate reflection of the two parties’ positions.
“We understand that many pastors are hesitant to even mention the fact that the U.S. is holding an election in November,” Land said. He acknowledged that threats from some outside groups are mostly without merit when they warn churches that addressing the moral and ethical issues at stake in an election can trespass into politicking — an activity prohibited by the Internal Revenue Code for certain nonprofit groups which puts a group’s tax-exempt status at risk.
Land noted that the attorneys with whom the ERLC worked closely are experts in this field. The attorneys also developed a list for the iVoteValues.com website, www.ivotevalues.com, of legal “dos” and “don’ts” to aid pastors and churches to stay well within IRS guidelines. “Our goal in compiling this resource, to use a football analogy, was simply not to stay within the sidelines, but inside the hash marks and well within the safe field of play,” he continued. “I guarantee that if you stay within the guidelines posted on our website you will be well within the law no matter what some scare mongers may say.
“Churches and individual Christians can be very involved in the electoral process without coming close to crossing any prohibited line,” Land continued.
“Don’t let those who want to muzzle evangelical Christians frighten you into turning your back on your obligation to speak to the moral and ethical issues facing our culture,” Land insisted. “Christian citizens have the same rights as any other American citizens to join the public policy dialogue,” he added, saying in reality Christians have a biblical mandate to be a part of the electoral process.
“Churches can sponsor voter registration events that are open to all citizens and don’t promote a particular party or candidate. They can distribute educational materials, like the party platform comparison resource. They can speak to moral and cultural issues from a biblical perspective and still be well within the law,” he said, noting that endorsing, promoting or opposing a particular candidate is not allowed. He said the platform comparison resource itself features a page of legal “dos and don’ts” as well as an article addressing the question of “Why Should Christians Vote?” from a scriptural perspective.
While the product addresses the Democratic and Republican platforms, there are other parties voters can consider, Land added, noting the presence of the Constitution Party, the Reform Party and the Green Party as a few of the other political parties that field candidates for office.
“Underneath all the rhetoric that appears native to a presidential campaign there are real issues that impact our families and the future of our country,” Land said. “It is important that voters recognize these issues and determine where the candidates stand on them and then vote their faith-directed values on Election Day.”
Visit www.iVoteValues.com or contact the ERLC at 1-800-475-9127 to order this resource.