Sep 13, 2012

Americans weary of the amount of “God talk” in the presidential campaign had better brace themselves. We may be about to hear a lot more, warns Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

This weekend, Religious Right activists from across the country are gathering in Washington, D.C., to attend the annual “Values Voter Summit” sponsored by the Family Research Council (FRC) and allied groups. The confab is an effort to put the focus on social issues during a time when most voters say the economy is their number one concern.

“The last time I checked, God was not on the November ballot,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “But if the Religious Right has its way, the Almighty will overshadow unemployment, health care and the budget deficit as the campaign enters the home stretch.

“I get really tired,” said Lynn, “of hearing how much candidates love God, instead of their concrete plans for how they are going to get the country back on the right track.”

Lynn, a minister and lawyer who has monitored religion and politics for over 20 years, noted that the campaign has already featured a high degree of religious rhetoric.

GOP standard-bearer Mitt Romney has vowed to keep God in his heart and on American coins, and Barack Obama had to scramble to insert a reference to God in the Democratic platform after being attacked for the omission by TV preacher Pat Robertson’s “news” operation.

In addition, Religious Right groups are pressuring pastors nationwide to politicize their pulpits by endorsing Romney and/or attacking President Barack Obama.

The misplaced focus on religion, Americans United maintains, is a distraction from the issues most Americans care about and a threat to church-state separation.

“Religious Right obsessions over banning all abortions, restricting the rights of gays and teaching religion in public schools are not shared by most Americans,” said Lynn. “Yet these organizations have enough power and money to force their agenda onto the national stage.”

Lynn, who has attended every Values Voter Summit (and many Christian Coalition “Road to Victory” Conferences before that), noted that top leaders of the Republican Party often speak at these gatherings.

This year, attendees will hear from GOP vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, several Republican senators and members of Congress, among others – despite the Summit’s sponsorship by organizations identified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“Candidates have knelt at the altar of the Religious Right much too often,” Lynn observed. “The American people do not want religion brought into partisan politics or politics brought into the sanctuary. Poll after poll reaffirms that point. I’d like to hear candidates make a profession of faith in the Constitution and church-state separation.”

The Summit is sponsored primarily by the FRC. This year’s co-sponsors include American Family Association Action, American Values, the Heritage Foundation, Liberty University and Liberty Counsel.

AU’s Lynn is available to offer media commentary about the Summit and the role of the Religious Right in campaign 2012.