A group of national Religious Right leaders used a press conference held in Washington the day before The Call – a “non-political” youth prayer rally on the mall – to talk about the event and to denounce Sen. Barack Obama and criticize Christians who are considering voting for him.
Lou Engle, the increasingly visible organizer of similar rallies around the country said the event was designed to mobilize young Christians around ending abortion. Immediately after saying the event was not political, and was not about endorsing a candidate, he launched into an attack on Sen. Obama’s pro-choice record and implicitly questioned the candidate’s faith, describing politicians “who say they’re Christian.” Engle, who is also actively backing anti-gay ballot initiatives on marriage, called pro-choice and pro-equality efforts “false justice movements.”
Bishop Harry Jackson, the most visible African American Religious Right spokesman, wasn’t coy about his political message for the day: if Sen. McCain chooses a pro-abortion vice president he will give the election to Obama. Jackson called it “tantamount to political suicide.” Jackson also returned to his standard denunciation of abortion as “black genocide” and “pandemic extermination.” Jackson said that America needs God’s favor, and that this year’s election – an important “expression of desire” for the people of God – will basically let God know whether we deserve it.
The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins said that it’s right for evangelicals to offer solutions on issues like AIDS, fiscal policy, and racial reconciliation, but that doesn’t mean all issues are equal. He said young evangelicals are more fervently anti-abortion than their parents, and that waning evangelical support for the Republican Party was a reflection of how poorly the party functioned in power, not a sign of reduced commitment.
Asked about Sen. Obama’s outreach to evangelical voters, Jackson said he thought it was good to be considered a swing vote, and hoped that it could push both parties closer to evangelical concerns. Engle was less enthusiastic, denouncing Obama’s record on abortion issues in graphic terms and warning young evangelicals that if they compromised on abortion, history would stand in judgment of them the way it stands in judgment on churches’ silence on slavery.
Former presidential candidate and long-shot VP possibility Mike Huckabee said the purpose of the event was “not political at all.” Huckabee, like Engle, cited Martin Luther King, Jr. as a role model, saying it took “not a politician but a preacher” to remind the country of the evils of racism. During Q&A, Huckabee said he’d support McCain no matter who he chose as VP, but he thought a pro-choice running mate would hurt McCain by draining enthusiasm and intensity from his evangelical supporters.