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ERLC launches voting initiative in view of ‘critical’ ’04 ballot

NASHVILLE (BP)–The head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s moral concerns and public policy entity believes the 2004 election may be one of the most pivotal elections in U.S. history. Thus, Richard Land told the SBC’s Executive Committee, he is spearheading a voter education and registration drive to encourage Americans to vote their values, not their pocketbook or their political party.

“I believe this election will be one of the most critical elections not just in my lifetime but in the lifetime of our republic,” said Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Feb. 16, adding it might well be the “most critical election since 1860.” The 1860 election saw Abraham Lincoln defeat Stephen Douglas in a race that reflected the nation’s bitter divide over slavery.

In underscoring the importance of the upcoming election, Land announced to the Executive Committee the launch of a far-reaching initiative, iVoteValues.com, to educate voters and register new voters.

The initiative, which seeks to “promote awareness of the immediate and long-term importance of values-based voting,” will encourage people to register to vote and to make sure their friends and family members are registered to vote.

At the heart of the initiative is the push for voters to vote their values, Land said. The effort’s yet-to-be-launched website, www.ivotevalues.com, lists those broad values as life, family and freedom. The Internet site eventually will offer voters a side-by-side comparison of the major presidential candidates’ values, gleaned from their statements on key issues and their political party’s platforms. Among the issues that will be covered are abortion, fetal stem cell research, same-sex “marriage,” the Pledge of Allegiance and the public display of the Ten Commandments.

“We learned in the last presidential election that every vote counts,” Land said, noting that political observers estimated 4-5 million evangelical Christians sat out the 2000 presidential election campaign, perhaps making the race much tighter than it otherwise would have been. The iVoteValues.com effort hopes to see 2 million new voters registered to vote in the 2004 elections.

Prior to Land’s presentation, SBC President Jack Graham referred to the iVoteValues.com effort. In his presidential address to the Executive Committee, Graham expressed his gratitude that “Southern Baptists are going to get involved in initiating voter registration and encouraging people to vote their values.”

Land said his understanding of Romans 13 is that it is incumbent upon Christians to be a part of the political process: “It means that you become an informed voter. We need to help our people understand that; we need to help make certain they’re informed. We need to encourage them to look for candidates who endorse them, who endorse their values, who endorse their beliefs and who endorse their convictions.

“It is absolutely critical that we impress upon [Southern Baptists] the need to be registered, to be informed and to vote their values,” he said.

Christians have not only a right, but an obligation, to be involved in the political process, Land said. “To be uninformed or to not be involved in the process is to be irresponsible and to become part of the problem rather than part of the solution,” he said. The initiative calls on churches to mark Sunday, July 4, and Sunday, Sept. 26, as “National Voter Registration Days.”

“We must make our voices heard. We must never try to tell people how to vote, but we should tell them that the Lord wants to talk to them about how they’re going to vote, and the Lord is going to talk to them someday about how they voted,” Land said.

The iVoteValues.com initiative, which will focus on encouraging churches to have registration rallies, will feature Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice; Tony Perkins, President of Family Research Council; Ed Atsinger, the founder of Salem Communications Network; and others in appearances with Land across the country on behalf of the effort.

The website also will aid church leaders in discerning what type of political activity is and isn’t legal for a church according to the Internal Revenue Service.

Details Direct is creating the iVoteValues.com website. Details Direct, on the Web at www.detailsdirect.net, works with local churches in the development of communications tools to aid in their communities for Christ.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: NEW ERLC WEBSITE and CALLING ALL VOTERS.

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  • Dwayne Hastings