Religious Right Turns Attention to Georgia Senate Runoffs

Megachurch pastor and Donald Trump supporter Jentezen Franklin (Image from video clip of "Pray, Fast, Vote" sermon)

Jentezen Franklin, an Atlanta-area megachurch pastor and ardent supporter of President Donald Trump, is urging his followers to vote in the two runoff elections for U.S. Senate that will be held on Jan. 5.

At an Evangelicals for Trump event in July—Franklin’s son Drake directed Evangelicals for Trump —Franklin claimed that freedom itself was at stake in the presidential election, saying, “Speak now or forever hold your peace. You won’t have another chance. You won’t have freedom of religion. You won’t have freedom of speech.”

Franklin has struck a similar tone regarding the Senate runoff elections. “This special election will determine control of the US Senate and the future of our nation for the next four years,” he wrote in a “news update” on his website Monday. “Life of the unborn is on the ballot. Religious freedom is on the ballot as are the second amendment, the Supreme Court, socialism, and our unwavering support of Israel.”

Franklin urged people to volunteer, saying it would be “an honor and a privilege to be a part of one of the most strategic elections in recent history!”

Franklin’s post linked to Georgia Faith Votes, a project supported by religious-right groups including Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, the Trump-promoting Intercessors for America, the conservative Christian voter mobilization group My Faith Votes, and Vision America’s Million Voices project.

“Georgia, the future of America is in your hands,” declares the Georgia Faith Votes website. In addition to information about procedures and deadlines for registering and voting, the website includes a “voter guide” to the two Senate races that portrays Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler as aligned with right-wing positions on a range of issues, including abortion and the Supreme Court. The voter guide was produced by Vision America’s Million Voices project, which also amplifies right-wing voices by posting video interviews with people like former Rep. Allen West, pro-Trump “prophet” Lance Wallnau, and academic-turned-culture-warrior Carol Swain.

Vision America, founded and run for years by Rick Scarborough, describes itself as “a movement that gives voters and potential voters the foundation they need to act from a biblical worldview with confidence.” Its CEO John Graves is a “strategic advisory board” member of Turning Point USA, the right-wing youth organization led by Charlie Kirk. According to Vision America, Graves has “used strategic systems and data to produce heat maps of both churches and social conservatives in each state” and developed “a ministry that offers breakthrough technology to help pastors mobilize their congregations.”

Ralph Reed, who built the Christian Coalition into a political force in the 1990s and ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor of Georgia in 2006, now runs the Faith and Freedom Coalition, which works to identify and mobilize conservative Christian voters. It, too, has published voter guides to the Senate runoffs. They report candidate positions on abortion, Trump’s impeachment, the Affordable Care Act, the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, and other issues.

“Faith & Freedom made Georgia one of its top three spending targets in a $50 million get-out-the-vote programs during the general election and plans increased organizing for the runoffs,” Associated Press reported Sunday.

On Tuesday, My Faith Votes CEO Jason Yates and Honorary Chairman Mike Huckabee urged supporters via email to contribute toward a $50,000 matching grant, with Yates saying, “If we’re successful, that will be $100,000 for Christian voter turnout in Georgia on January 5,” which Yates called “our #1 focus.” Yates wrote that volunteers have already committed to write and send nearly 1 million postcards to targeted Georgia voters. “The Georgia Senate runoff elections will impact our churches’ freedom to remain open, protection for the unborn, stopping the spread of socialism, the preservation of the family as God designed it, the protection of Israel, and much more,” Yates said. On Wednesday, My Faith Votes upped its Georgia voter mobilization target to $200,000 after “blowing past” the $100,000 goal.

In addition, Christian-nation “historian” David Barton and other religious-right figures are planning to “barnstorm” Georgia this week to promote “biblical citizenship” and “restoration of biblical values and constitutional principles.” Speakers include Rep. Barry Loudermilk, former Reps. Michele Bachmann, Turning Point USA president and Liberty University Falkirk Center co-founder Charlie Kirk, and actor Kirk Cameron.