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Pastors launch challenge of IRS rules on endorsements

WASHINGTON -- Pastor Gus Booth remembers when he used to simply encourage his congregation of 150 in Warroad, Minn., to vote each Election Day. Now, he thinks it's important to tell them which candidate should get their vote.

On Sunday (Sept. 28), as part of the "Pulpit Initiative" organized by an Arizona-based conservative Christian legal group, Booth is set to join dozens of clergy nationwide in challenging Internal Revenue Service rules that prohibit churches from politicking by supporting or opposing candidates.

"If we can tell you what to do in the bedroom, we can certainly tell you what to do in the voting booth," said the Minnesota minister, an evangelical leader of a nondenominational church, who expects to endorse Republican John McCain during his "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" sermon.

"The voting booth is not some sort of sacred cow that you can't talk about. You're supposed to bring the gospel into every area of life."

Obama victory could rewrite painful U.S. race saga


News Analysis
Somewhere beneath the turmoil about presidential campaign lipstick remarks and the latest stage of market meltdown, the unspeakable “r” word (race) continues to buzz quietly.

It can be detected, for example, in new laws requiring photo IDs in order to vote; it’s heard among the purging of voter roles on the basis of a single returned letter or an address on a new property foreclosure list.

Those who have long tracked racial issues charge that the sometimes systematic culling of ineligible voters targets mostly poor urban voters, who also happen to be mostly black.

Only a scant few might suggest that racism ended when laws forced the “whites only” signs to come down in places like Alabama and Mississippi, just as hardly a soul would say that racism in the political world ended with the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Bishops' election document goes high tech

WASHINGTON -- Ask Catholic teenagers if they've read a recent document by the U.S. bishops and you might get a blank look.

But ask if they've heard of the bishops' statement "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility," either through a podcast, a video quiz on YouTube or its page on the social networking site Facebook, and you might get a nod of recognition.

That's what the U.S. bishops are hoping anyway.

"Faithful Citizenship," the document that urges Catholic voters to form their consciences around a variety of social concerns based on Catholic social teaching, is not something new. The bishops initially published the document in 1975 and produce a new version of it about every four years to coincide with the national elections.

The document for the 2008 election was approved by the bishops in November 2007.

But this time the document looks a lot younger. For starters, its Web site,, has resources for youths and those who work with them.

Four in 10 Americans think clergy should endorse candidates

WASHINGTON -- Four in 10 Americans believe that religious leaders should be permitted to endorse political candidates from the pulpit without risking their organization's tax-exempt status, a new survey by the First Amendment Center shows.

Twenty-two percent of respondents "strongly" agreed and 18 percent "mildly" agreed that religious leaders should be able to make such endorsements, which are currently prohibited by IRS regulations.

In comparison, 39 percent strongly disagreed, 15 percent mildly disagreed and 6 percent didn't know or refused to answer.

The finding was based on a new question in the Washington-based center's annual "State of the First Amendment" national survey.

When asked to name specific rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, just 15 percent mentioned religion, the lowest percentage to recall that topic since 2000.

Asked if Americans have too much or too little religious freedom, 6 percent said they had too much, 28 percent said they had too little and 62 percent said they had about the right amount.

We are not party bosses, archbishop says


Archbishop John C. Favalora of Miami in a Sept. 12 statement informed his flock of an attempt by the Alliance Defense Fund, a consortium of conservative Christian ministries, to encourage pastors "to join their Pulpit Freedom Initiative by preaching a sermon ‘that addresses the candidates for government office in light of the truth of Scripture.' " The statement is titled titled Why we don’t take sides on candidates.

Debunking the ëeliteí a tried and true strategy


News Analysis

The conservative populism Republican strategists are drawing upon to extol the “ordinary” virtues of Sarah Palin while casting doubts on the “elitist” education of Barack Obama date back nearly two centuries in U.S. history, and have been exploited by generations of politicians.

This is the view of several U.S. historians interviewed this week by NCR who easily tie the current presidential campaigns with a populism common during the presidency of Andrew Jackson.

This conservative populism, repeatedly manipulated for political purposes over the years, distrusts the college educated of the East Coast. It manifested itself in the form of an explicit anti-intellectualism during the 1950s, when political strategists painted the articulate presidential candidate, Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson, as an “egghead,” and out of touch with the ordinary voter.

Leafleters arrested at Baltimore basilica


BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Two demonstrators were arrested for trespassing at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore Sept. 14.

After two men affiliated with Operation Rescue, a national anti-abortion group, refused to comply with repeated requests that they cease distributing political literature on church grounds, they were taken into custody by Baltimore City police.

The literature included an image of Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic Party nominee for president, and read, "Is it immoral to vote for Obama for president?"

"Their literature was patently partisan, focusing on individual candidates, rather than issues," said Father Jeffrey Dauses, pastor of the basilica. "At no time were they inside the basilica, but they were on the patio in front of church. After repeated requests to leave church property, from security, a sacristan and myself, two of the four complied. The other two refused and were arrested."

Father Dauses said the protesters began distributing literature before the 9 a.m. Mass. The arrest report notes that the police responded at 10 a.m., as Father Dauses prepared to celebrate the 10:45 a.m. Mass.

Election '08 Special Report: Two Excited Bases


Passions flow on right and left as voters get ready

Palin's social conservative voice changes political terrain
If you get it, you get it. And conservative women get Palin. Her pro-life stance, her earthy and intelligent talk, her smiling tenacity -- all qualities that connect with them. Read More

African Americans feel their time has finally come
"Just a few short years ago in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, many people of color could not even register to vote," says Congressman John Lewis. "Now, these people are voting for an African American." Read More

Evangelical publishers issue Palin books

In this high season for political books, two evangelical publishers are leading the race to capitalize on fascination with Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Tyndale House Publishers of Carol Stream, Ill., has begun distributing a paperback edition of Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned the Alaska Political Establishment Upside Down, by Alaska freelance writer Kaylene Johnson. Best known as publishers of the bestselling "Left Behind" series, Tyndale is printing a whopping 250,000 copies of the book, which first came out in April from Epicenter Press.

Next month (Oct. 10), Zondervan of Grand Rapids, Mich., will release Joe Hilley's Sarah Palin: A New Kind of Leader. According to a statement from Zondervan, the author makes a case for Palin's leadership by touting her "maverick integrity, electrifying communication style, career agility, and perpetual education."

Both biographies highlight Palin's Christian faith as a formative force. "Sarah" examines her family life and the role religion played in her childhood. The Zondervan book explores how faith influences her leadership style.

After 30 years, bishops, politicians, voters vexed by abortion


News Analysis
The U.S. bishops' administrative committee announced Sept. 10 the bishops’ conference will take up the enduring and vexing issue of politics and abortion in America when it meets in Baltimore next November.

The meeting, which will come one week after the national elections, will take place with an urgency generated by a series of critical statements bishops have made in recent days of major Democratic Party political figures.

The announcement came as the committee, headed by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, added its weight to statements made by Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia and Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., chairmen of the U.S. bishops' pro-life and doctrine committees. The bishops took on Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Party vice-presidential candidate, Senator Joseph Biden, for remarks they have made about abortion.



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