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Religious conservatives are ‘energized,’ but he seeks more to vote, Falwell says

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–America’s religious conservatives are the “most energized” they have been “since Ronald Reagan,” and he hopes to motivate even more of them to vote, Jerry Falwell said in a June 12 interview at the site of the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting.

“The American people, I think, sense something right now — that we are about to lose America,” Falwell said. “Ronald Reagan would not have been president unless Bible-believing Christians in 1979 and 1980 by the millions said, ‘We’ve had enough,’ and threw Jimmy Carter out and put Ronald Reagan in, to put it bluntly.

“If we don’t do the same thing Nov. 7 with Mr. Gore … and get somebody in there to rebuild the moral values and fabric of this nation, we’re going to be in the same mess or worse than we were in 1980.”

Vice President Al Gore is expected to be the Democratic candidate in this year’s presidential election.

Falwell made his comments during a taping of “For Faith & Family,” the radio program of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. ERLC President Richard Land interviewed Falwell at the agency’s booth in the SBC exhibit hall at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.

His comments on the presidential election were personal and not those of the ERLC, Falwell said more than once during the interview.

He has begun a seven-month campaign he hopes will result in 10 million new registered voters and “scores of millions more” motivated to participate in the November elections, Falwell said.

The effort, named People of Faith 2000, is using two avenues — contacts with 200,000 evangelical churches and letters to 28 million “faith-based families,” he said.

Pastoral registration packets will be sent to the churches, Falwell said. While he is not asking pastors to promote candidates or parties, he is asking them to take advantage of the motor voter registration law.

In this campaign, participating pastors would take time in a Sunday morning service to lead members to fill out voter registration forms. The church would collect the forms and deliver them to the appropriate registrar, Falwell said.

It will require about 3-4 million more voters than took part in the 1996 elections “to almost guarantee pro-life, conservative, pro-family persons elected to the Congress, to the state legislatures and to the White House,” he said.

Falwell was asked by a member of the audience for his reaction if Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush, the governor of Texas, were to select a pro-choice running mate. Both Falwell and Land said they do not believe Bush will select someone with such a position on abortion.

“I’ve told the governor that could cost him the election,” Falwell said. “The best way to de-energize our people is to bring a pro-choice vice presidential candidate onto the ticket.”

Falwell is pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, a Lynchburg, Va., congregation that through nearly all of its 44 years was independent before becoming affiliated with the SBC in recent years. He was a prime motivator in many conservative Christians becoming involved in the political and public-policy processes in the late 1970s and early 1980s.