Year One: Evangelicals Still Not Sure about Bush

Despite White House efforts to court them, evangelicals remain uneasy with the Bush administration.
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As George Bush marks his first year in office, many in the evangelical community, 80 percent of whom supported him in 1988 (according to exit polls of white evangelicals), still feel unsure about where they fit in his administration. For conservative evangelicals, two issues raise particularly thorny questions: appointments to government positions and abortion.

Many are concerned that more evangelicals have not been nominated for the 4,000 administration-appointed jobs to be filled by the Bush team. Tensions boiled over last summer when the administration failed to name Indianapolis attorney John Price to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Top Religious Right groups pushed Price, while opposing Albert Sikes, who was eventually approved as chairman. (Contrary to the fears of his critics, under Sikes’s leadership the FCC has taken action against indecent broadcasting. Recently several fines were handed down to radio stations.)

On abortion, most evangelicals have been pleased the President is holding firm, and they were grateful last year for his vetoes of congressional bills that would have increased federal funds for abortion. Yet they are also uneasy about Bush’s awkwardness in publicly discussing abortion and disturbed by reports that White House staff advisers favor backpedaling on the issue.

Mending Fences

In an apparent move to mend fences, the White House held a special briefing for evangelical leaders late last fall. Nearly 100 evangelical leaders heard a speech by Bush and had an unprecedented opportunity for give-and-take exchanges with Vice President Dan Quayle, chief of staff John Sununu, personnel director Chase Untermeyer, Republican National Committee chairman Lee Atwater, and other administration ...

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