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Bush Wants Church Support, Opponents Cry Foul

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Campaign organizers for President Bush have sent a document to churches, asking for supporters to complete specific "duties" on behalf of the campaign. It isn't the campaign's first appeal to churchgoers, but this time, even evangelicals are questioning the tactics.

According to The Washington Post, supporters' duties include:

By July 31, for example, volunteers are to "send your Church Directory to your State Bush-Cheney '04 Headquarters or give [it] to a BC04 Field Rep" and "Talk to your Pastor about holding a Citizenship Sunday and Voter Registration Drive."
By Aug. 15, they are to "talk to your Church's seniors or 20-30 something group about Bush/Cheney '04" and "recruit 5 more people in your church to volunteer for the Bush Cheney campaign."
By Sept. 17, they are to host at least two campaign-related potluck dinners with church members, and in October they are to "finish calling all Pro-Bush members of your church," "finish distributing Voter Guides in your church" and place notices on church bulletin boards or in Sunday programs "about all Christian citizens needing to vote."

The potential alliance is drawing the ire of groups advocating the separation of church and state. According to Reuters, Americans United for Separation of Church and State said, "Any coordination between the Bush campaign and church leaders would clearly be illegal." The Washington Post, who actually contacted the IRS to see if the activities would cause a church to lose its tax-exempt status, wrote that the IRS warned, "a preference for or against a certain candidate or party … becomes a prohibited activity."

This story has been ongoing for some time now. Last month, Oregon pastors asked churchgoers to sign a petition asking for an amendment ...

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Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's managing editor for news and online journalism. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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