Immigration, Faith-Based Initiatives Impede GOP Outreach to Minorities

A Republican effort to woo Hispanic and black voters, directed at minority religious leaders, “is in danger of collapse,” reports the Los Angeles Times. Even stalwart Latino Republicans are having second thoughts after this year’s contentious immigration debate:

The Rev. Danny de Leon of Templo Calvario in Santa Ana, considered the biggest Latino bilingual church in the U.S., said that he was so frustrated with his party’s response to immigration that he was likely to stay home rather than vote for Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — and that he might also sit out the 2008 election.

“A lot of people are saying, ‘Forget being a Republican. I want to go to the Democratic Party,’ ” said De Leon. “It’s a shame that one issue has divided many of us that have been in the Republican Party for a long time and has brought us to ask the question: Do I or do I not want to belong to this party?”

Pastor Luciano Padilla Jr. of the Bay Ridge Christian Center in Brooklyn said he had backed Republicans because of their views on such issues as gay marriage and abortion. But in the midst of the immigration debate, he said, “We will have to look at where we put our allegiance in the future.”

Other minority clergy recruited by the White House cite the failure of the administration to follow through with funding faith-based social service programs in their communities:

Complaints among black pastors who had been courted by the White House — while less pronounced than those of Latino leaders — have been fueled by a tell-all book by former White House aide David Kuo. The new book says that Bush, referring to pastors from one major African American denomination, once griped: “Money. All these guys care about is money. They want money.”

A White House spokeswoman said Friday that nobody there recalled hearing such a comment from the president.

The Rev. Eugene Rivers, a Boston Pentecostal minister and one of about two dozen black clergy invited to a series of White House meetings with Bush, said Friday that black leaders had been wooed with assurances that their social service groups would receive money from the president’s faith-based initiative. But, Rivers said, the bulk of the money had gone to white organizations, leaving black churches on the sidelines.

Both Rev. de Leon and Bishop Harry Jackson, who recently recounted another story of the White House insulting evangelicals, were brought into press conferences and events in the past year supporting Bush’s extreme judicial nominees and decrying supposed anti-Christian bias.