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SBC’s Land: Analysis of issues is not endorsement for presidential nominee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The headline was wrong, “SBC leader backing Bush in race for presidency,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

“I do not endorse candidates,” Land said in an Oct. 25 statement issued to Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.

At issue is a headline by a competing news service, Associated Baptist Press, which is not affiliated with the SBC.

ABP revised the headline Oct. 26 to: “Bush stacks up better than Gore on key issues, SBC leader suggests.” The story with the original headline, however, has been circulated on the Internet by opponents to the Southern Baptist Convention’s stances on church-state and cultural/moral issues.

The ABP story reported comments Land made to the Christian Action League of North Carolina Oct. 19 in Raleigh, N.C.

The ABP headline was contradicted even within the ABP story, Land noted, citing the lead paragraph and the last paragraph of the story.

“I do not endorse candidates. I made that clear,” Land said in his statement to Baptist Press.

He acknowledged, “I drew stark contrasts between the two candidates and their parties on several extremely important issues of values, beliefs and convictions.

“I made it clear that people who wanted to support and who agreed with Mr. Gore and Democrat values and beliefs should vote for Mr. Gore. I made it clear that people who wanted to support and who agreed with Mr. Bush and Republican values should vote for Mr. Bush,” Land said.

“If the reporter chooses to draw conclusions based upon my outlining of those contrasts and what he knows of my values, beliefs and convictions, it’s a free country,” Land said. “He should not put words in my mouth, particularly when I expressly stated I was not endorsing, do not endorse candidates and never tell anyone how to vote, except to tell them they should vote their values, beliefs and convictions.”

Land’s statement also addressed several other facets of the ABP story, including:

— A telephone call Gore made to black ministers urging them to sermonize in his behalf.

“The distinction that evidently didn’t dawn on the reporter is that Al Gore is vice president, running for president, and made the inappropriate calls from Air Force Two to African American ministers urging them in their sermons ‘to do the work of the Lord here on earth’ from the pulpits on the following day, which was Sunday. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State joined me in expressing serious concerns about the inappropriate nature of that call.

“In contrast, I am not a government official, not running for office, and I am not encouraging people to support a particular candidate other than one who agrees with their particular beliefs, values and convictions. Nor am I encouraging ministers to do anything other than inform voters and encourage them to vote their values, beliefs and convictions.”

— “The comment I made about the X-rated industry endorsing the vice president stemmed from news reports about the group’s recent convention in New Orleans. It is the pornography industry’s conclusion that they have never had it so good as they have had it under the Clinton-Gore administration. The industry’s counsel said he feared the X-rated industry would face much greater criminal prosecution under a Bush administration.”

— “The comments I made about Ms. [Janet] Reno and the Justice Department were mine, and mine alone. Furthermore, I consider them a mild expression of my disdain for her grotesquely irresponsible tenure as U.S. attorney general.”

— “The views of the two presidential candidates on the decisions in recent Supreme Court cases involving the Boy Scouts, the Santa Fe, Texas, school district, and partial birth abortion provide stark contrasts. I made it very clear that depending how you feel on those issues then you should vote accordingly, regardless of your personal economic issues.”

Land, in his statement, also noted, “I was an invited guest of the Christian Action League of North Carolina; all of my expenses were covered by the Christian Action League.”