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Land urges moral leadership in comments to congressmen

WASHINGTON (BP) — Southern Baptist ethics agency head Richard Land challenged congressional leaders to provide “moral leadership” during a recent Capitol Hill summit attended by other conservative religious leaders.
“Our constituents want moral leadership,” said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “We want you [Congress] to care as much about moral issues as you do about tax issues.”
Convened by Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R.-Texas, the summit of leaders of conservative religious and pro-family organizations with Republican leadership in the House of Representatives addressed the mounting dissatisfaction over the perceived inaction of Congress on issues related to morality, families and religious freedom.
In February, tensions began to escalate when James Dobson, president of Focus on the Family, threatened to bolt from the GOP if the party continued to ignore its pro-life, pro-family principles and roots. Dobson participated in the May 8 meeting at the Library of Congress.
House leadership participating in the private, three-and-a-half-hour meeting included DeLay, House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas and Appropriations Committee chairman Robert Livingston of Louisiana.
Following the meeting, DeLay announced the commitment of the House leadership to accomplish during the remainder of this congressional session three objectives upon which all participants agreed: Reduce or abolish the “marriage penalty” in the tax code; override President Clinton’s veto of the partial-birth abortion ban; and abolish funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.
According to The Washington Times, DeLay said, “We unequivocally gave these organizations our commitment to work on a long-term basis until these issues are won. Either with a new Congress, or a new president, whatever we have to do, we are going to win these issues.”
Action was also promised on a ban on human cloning, as well as a floor vote on the Religious Freedom Amendment.
To monitor progress on legislation, a Conservative Values Action Team, comprised of eight to 10 congressmen and headed by Rep. Joseph Pitts, R.- Pa., will be enlisted. The work group will meet weekly.
In the news conference after the session, Land explained the involvement and expectations he and others brought to the summit. “We are here at the invitation of the House leadership,” he said. “We are not here as partisans. The Republican leadership invited us to talk about our concerns about the moral issues facing the country. If the Democrat leadership invites us to come, we’ll be glad to meet with them as well. This is the politics of principle, not the politics of party.”
He emphasized to the GOP leaders that no one can deliver the support of the evangelical Christian community but the parties and candidates themselves, Land reported afterward. “They must stand for and articulate the right principles and values because evangelical Christians are looking for parties and candidates that endorse their own values,” he said.
Christians need to be involved in the political process and influence the selection of candidates in both political parties, Land said.
“If enough Christians do this,” he said, “at some point issues like abortion will no longer be partisan in nature because both parties will agree in principle, and the differences will be over the best way to achieve the goal of protecting life from conception onward. That has already happened on the race issue. Both parties are committed to racial reconciliation and oppose racial prejudice. The disagreements come over how best to achieve those goals, not whether they should be the nation’s goals.”
In addition to Land and Dobson, other organization leaders participating in the summit included Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council, Don Hodel and Randy Tate of the Christian Coalition, Michael Farris of the Home School Legal Defense Association, Lou Sheldon of the Traditional,Values Coalition, Carmen Pate of Concerned Women for America, Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association and Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum.
The other GOP lawmakers attending the meeting were Reps. David McIntosh and Mark Souder of Indiana, Sue Myrick of North Carolina, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Dave Weldon of Florida and Ron Lewis of Kentucky.

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