Anyone who expects all of America’s evangelical Christians to vote the same way in the 1976 presidential election will probably be surprised when the votes are counted. As the campaign heated up during its last month it was increasingly evident that neither Gerald Ford nor Jimmy Carter could count on the highly touted “evangelical bloc.”

Issues connected with religion kept popping up as election day neared, and they were alternately helping and hurting first one candidate, then the other. Abortion, the hottest religion-related subject in the early days of the presidential race, had to share attention in the final weeks with other concerns. Taxes, foreign policy, and the use of earthy language were among the topics claiming the attention of the campaigners and those who will vote for them.

Shortly after Carter drew a barrage of criticism for his income-tax proposals, attention was directed to a statement he made on curtailing church property-tax exemptions. In an interview in the September–October issue of Liberty, a Seventh-day Adventist magazine on church-state issues, the Democratic candidate said he favored “the taxation of church properties other than the church building itself.” He was interviewed by a Liberty writer during the Ohio primary campaign last June.

After the Carter call for church property taxation appeared, he was attacked by Republican vice-presidential nominee Robert Dole. Declared Dole: “I find it incredible that Mr. Carter wants to impose taxes on church-owned hospitals, schools, senior-citizen homes, and orphanages. Is this really what he favors? Or is this just another case where Governor Carter has said something and may have to apologize later?”

Carter promptly issued a statement saying he never advocated ...

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