Saturday, February 18, 2006

Pew, That Stinks

From the Washington Post:

The North Carolina Republican Party asked its members this week to send their church directories to the party, drawing furious protests from local and national religious leaders.

“Such a request is completely beyond the pale of what is acceptable,” said the Rev. Richard Land, head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

During the 2004 presidential race, the Bush-Cheney campaign sent a similar request to Republican activists across the country. It asked churchgoers not only to furnish church directories to the campaign, but also to use their churches as a base for political organizing.

The tactic was roundly condemned by religious leaders across the political spectrum, including conservative evangelical Christians. Ten professors of ethics at major seminaries and universities wrote a letter to President Bush in August 2004 asking him to “repudiate the actions of your re-election campaign,” and calling on both parties to “respect the integrity of all houses of worship.”

[…]

Chris Mears, the state party’s political director, made the request in a Feb. 15 memo titled “The pew and the ballot box” that was sent by e-mail to “Registered Republicans in North Carolina.”

Mears said the “Republican National Committee has completed a study on grass-roots activity that reveals that people who regularly attend church usually vote Republican when they vote.”

“In light of this study’s findings, it is imperative that we register, educate and get these potential voters from the pew to the ballot box. To do this we must know who these people are,” the memo continued.

“I am requesting that you collect as many church directories as you can and send them to me in an effort to fully register, educate and energize North Carolina’s congregations to vote in the 2006 elections,” it said.

I marvel at the outright chutzpah and arrogance of the GOP to assume that North Carolina church-goers are Republicans and that they blithely put the churches’ tax-exempt status in jeopardy if the churches willingly comply with the request. I’m not surprised, though.