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The Sacramento Bee reports on a curious development within the GOP voting block. Evangelicals aren't getting the attention they're use to from right wing politicians.
Some pundits believe the war - and shifting priorities since 9/11 - has taken attention away from religious conservative worries like abortion and marriage equality.
But high-profile evangelist dinosaurs like Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell are becoming ineffective compared to new preachers such as Joel Osteen and Rick Warren, who ignore partisan politics or are willing to embrace Democrats.
As a matter of fact, Warren hosted a fundraiser for Democratic candidate Barack Obama at his California church. He cites AIDS, poverty and illiteracy as top issues. Not gay marriage or abortion.
All of the top Republican candidates skipped a values forum in Florida organized by some of the country's top social conservatives, including Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation, Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum and Don Wildmon of the American Family Association.
The Christian Coalition was once a powerful force within the GOP but now it's budget has dwindled from $26 million in 1996 to about $1 million today. Its new director wants to expand to issues beyond abortion and marriage. And state chapters in Alabama, Georgia, Iowa and Ohio have parted ways with the group because they believe it's now too liberal.
The candidates have revealed their positions on gay issues. They all are against ending the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military and against same-sex marriage. Romney and Huckabee would amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage; Giuliani, McCain and Thompson would not. Romney, Giuliani and Thompson are in favor of allowing domestic partnerships. But Thompson would amend the Constitution to allow states to ignore gay marriages that took place in other states - to block judges from imposing marriage equality without state legislative approval. McCain, Thompson and Huckabee are against protecting lesbians and gays with federal hate-crimes law. And they and Romney oppose passage of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
One staunch conservative is even considering switching teams because of the murky waters.
Richard Land, a Tennessee evangelist and the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said,
"If the Republicans are foolish enough to nominate a pro-choice candidate, they give the Democrats a license to go hunting evangelical votes."
On the other hand, threatened that the Republican party might choose Giuliani as its presidential nominee, a coalition of influential Christian conservatives is threatening to back a third-party candidate in an attempt to stop him.
The group making the threat includes Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and dozens of other politically-oriented conservative Christians. Almost everyone present expressed support for a written resolution that says “if the Republican Party nominates a pro-abortion candidate we will consider running a third party candidate.”
A third-party run would be a long shot, requiring millions of dollars and challenges to ballot access. Such a bid could prove disastrous for the GOP by splitting the vote.