The Religious Right’s Odd Definition of “Endorsement”

For some reason during this election cycle, we seem to be seeing at lot of Religious Right leaders taking clear stances in favor of Republican candiates yet insisting that they are not “endorsing” anyone. 

It started back during the primary, when Richard Land could barely contain his excitement over Fred Thompson’s campaign and was among his most vocal supporters but whenever the issue came up, Land insisted that he didn’t endrose candidates. 

James Dobson did the same thing when he announced that, with John McCain’s decision to name Sarah Palin as his running mate, he would now “pull the lever for John McCain.” Yet, simultaneously, Dobson was also insisting that he was “not endorsing John McCain … I just don’t endorse presidential candidates and I don’t see myself doing that this time.” Apparently announcing on a national radio program heard by millions of people that he will vote for McCain is somehow different than “endorsing” him.  

And now we have Jerry Falwell Jr. pulling the same rhetorical trick.  After refusing to allow those attending a Barack Obama rally in Lynchburg to use a parking lot owned by Liberty University citing tax restrictions, Falwell turned around a few weeks later and hosted an McCain campaing event on campus. On top of that, he recently unveiled a massive voter registration drive in an effort to help deliver the state of Virginia for McCain in November with hopes that Liberty will “go down in history as the college that elected a president.”

And yet here he is pretending that he is not actively backing McCain:

The Rev. Jonathan Falwell said he will concentrate on preaching the Gospel at Thomas Road Baptist Church, where his father once left no doubt about his support for Republican candidates. Jerry Falwell gained national attention for backing politicians, starting with Ronald Reagan.

“I don’t intend to endorse anyone,” Jonathan Falwell said. “I don’t think it’s my role to be telling anyone who to vote for.”

It is even more unbelievable considering that, in the same article, The News & Advance reports this:

In a video posted in early August by France 24, an international news and current affairs television channel, Falwell indicated a preference for John McCain a month before the Republican National Convention.

“He is a person I can get behind and support and look at and see where he can really do some good things for our country,” Falwell said of McCain, “and so while he may not be the 100 percent perfect person, you know, none of us are and we just have to work with what God gave us,” Falwell said.

If there is a logical difference between right-wing leaders publicly declaring their support of McCain and “endorsing” them, we’d love to hear it.