Richard Land, a well-known conservative radio host and political activist, will be the keynote speaker for this year's Capital Baptist Association's ethics and religious liberty seminar Tuesday at the First Baptist Church, 6400 S. Sooner in Del City. Land is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and was named one of the 25 most influential evangelicals by Time Magazine in 2005.
Land will address the CBA's pastor's conference in the morning and speak at a meeting to which the public is invited at 7 p.m. The subject of both sessions will be what Land calls the Christian's moral responsibilities in an election year. Land said the moral responsibilities he will cover are the necessity of praying for leaders and the obligation to vote according to individual values.
"I think it's important to stress that everyone's responsibility, not just Christians', is to vote their values, beliefs and convictions, not their narrow, self-interested economic needs," Land said. "It doesn't matter if you're pro-life or pro-choice, Democrat or Republican, Christian or some other faith, your moral responsibility is to be informed and to vote according to your convictions."
The ERLC maintains two offices, one in Nashville, Tenn., and one in Washington, D.C. Dwayne Hastings, vice-president of editorial and print communications with the ERLC, said the Washington office is primarily concerned with advocating on behalf of evangelical voters for specific legislation and producing educational material for concerned citizens, churches and listeners to any of Land's three syndicated radio shows.
The ERLC also operates three Web sites: erlc.com, IVoteValues.com and ILiveValues.com. IVoteValues.com was launched prior to the 2000 election and is directed toward informing conservative evangelicals about campaign and party platforms. Hastings described ILiveValues.com as a "work in progress" and said the site was concerned with providing visitors information on how to think through and implement ethical and moral decisions.
The message on all three Web sites is about biblical values and is in keeping with the vision of the ERLC: "An American society that affirms and practices Judeo-Christian values rooted in biblical authority." Land contends that the ERLC can pursue this vision without being overtly partisan.
"Part of what I will address in the pastor's conference in Oklahoma City is the issue of pastors endorsing candidates and how to keep their churches within tax codes," Land said. "I believe this as a personal conviction: They have the right as private individuals, not as representatives of their churches, to endorse a candidate, but they should not do that. We want to encourage people to check out the claims of candidates and parties " go to their Web sites, read news analysis, compare what each candidate is saying to what others are saying and make decisions based on those competing claims."
Two of the competing claims Land mentioned were the country's energy policy and abortion.
"McCain wants to build nuclear plants to offset our oil dependence," Land said. "Obama has said he is opposed to building new nuclear power plants. Depending on what you think about nuclear energy, you can make a decision based on those competing claims."
VIEWS ON ABORTION
On the candidates' views on abortion, Land said, "Obama is the most radically pro-choice candidate ever nominated by a major party, more radical than (John) Kerry or Hillary (Clinton). It's not difficult to assess his competing claims against McCain's support for pro-life policies. Again, depending on how you think about these issues, your responsibility is to prioritize your values and vote accordingly."
A great deal of press coverage has been devoted to a discussion of the role evangelicals and the so-called "values" voters will play in the upcoming presidential election. The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States and is considered evangelical by most, but Land is skeptical of what he calls the media discovering a story that was never a story.
"Pew (Forum on Religion & Public Life) polls indicate that Obama has exactly the same percentage of white, evangelical support in July prior to the election as both (Al) Gore and Kerry," Land said. "Evangelicals have never been a univocal group. About 25 percent of white evangelicals have voted for the Democratic candidate in the two previous elections. As of this July, Obama has 25 percent of that demographic."
Land also believes that younger evangelicals will have a hard time voting for Obama. "Recent polls show an increase in opposition to abortion among young evangelicals," he said. Land is referencing a 2007 survey by the Pew Forum that found that 70 percent of younger evangelicals favored making it more difficult to get an abortion as compared to 55 percent of older evangelicals.
"These younger evangelicals are concerned about creation care and justice for the poor," Land said. "However, they will not exchange one party platform for another, especially when that platform includes radical support for abortion."
The ERLC will publish platform summaries after the upcoming Republican and Democratic conventions so that voters can assess where both candidates stand on the issues the ERLC believes are critical. More information about Land's appearance is available on the Capital Baptist Association's Web site. "Greg Horton