July 12, 2004
A Southern Baptist pastor is encouraging the Bush-Cheney campaign to rethink a request asking volunteers to share information from their church directories with the campaign.
Recently the Bush-Cheney camp instructed volunteers to intensify efforts in local churches around the nation. Among the requests from the campaign, volunteers were asked to turn over church directories, hand out voter guides, and encourage pastors to hold voter registration drives.
Kenyn Cureton is pastor of First Baptist Church of Lebanon, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville. Although he supports George W. Bush, Cureton says he feels the actions of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign are inappropriate and put churches in an awkward situation as well.
According to the Washington Post, an official with the campaign said its religious outreach program does not violate any election laws.
Nevertheless, the pastor remains dubious about the list of instructions that he feels is asking Christian volunteers to put their churches in a risky and potentially unlawful position.
"The danger is jeopardizing the 501c3 status of a church," Cureton says, "because if you've got a political party that is actively working a congregation, according to the code, you have to allow the other side the same access. And so it's kind of the fox in the henhouse principle."
The pastor encourages his members to be involved in the political process, but he stops short of suggesting compliance with the requests of the Bush-Cheney voter outreach effort.
Cureton contends it is "overreaching" at this point to try to solicit the church membership rolls for voting purposes. "I just think that's [going] too far," he says.
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