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Groups urge churches not to distribute Christian Coalition voter guides

By The Associated Press


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Pat Robertson of Christian Coalition reads from coalition Voter Guide at Cornerstone Chapel in Medina, Ohio, on Oct. 17.

CHESTERFIELD, Mo. — Christian Coalition of America president Pat Robertson said detractors of his group's voter guides are being "disingenuous."

"That's a nice way of saying they're lying," Robertson said at a news conference Oct. 21 before speaking to supporters at a luncheon in the suburbs of St. Louis.

At the center of what Robertson calls "the furor" is a little, two-sided paper brochure titled "2000 Christian Coalition Voter Guide." Mug shots of Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore are positioned above a list of issues important to the coalition, such as:

"Emphasizing Free Enterprise Solutions to Social Problems." Bush: Supports. Gore: Opposes.

"Control of Public Education by Powerful Unions." Bush: Opposes. Gore: Supports.

About 70 million of these pieces of paper are being distributed to churches in the United States, with as many as 2 million shipped throughout Missouri.

Robertson and the coalition he founded in 1989 say the guides are nonpartisan educational tools to help "people of faith" get politically involved.

Critics say the guides are propaganda designed to help elect Republicans, and that church distribution of the pamphlets violates the law that exempts them from paying taxes.

Section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code prohibits churches from partisan political activity if they want to maintain tax-exempt status.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Interfaith Alliance are two groups that have opposed distribution of the voter guides. Both groups have mailed letters to church leaders asking them not to pass them out.

Americans United, which refers to itself as a "leading opponent of the Religious Right," says the guides are obviously stacked to favor Republicans.

"The coalition's guides don't belong in church bulletins or in the lobbies of our houses of worship," said Americans United director Barry Lynn. "They belong at the local recycling center or landfill."

Robertson said the guide's critics are censors aligned with the Democratic Party.

"Those are front organizations and I don't pay much attention to them," Robertson said. "I think this is a noble endeavor."


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