With less than two weeks remaining before the 2004 Presidential Election, numerous “progressive and moderate” Christian organizations and their leaders launched the first ever coordinated national “Get Out the Vote” campaign, on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2004. The official launch, which took place at St. Bartholomew's Church in New York City, set into motion the liberal wheels of the Christian presidential campaign that thus far operated on a largely conservative front.
"The era of the Religious Right's dominance over faith and politics is over," said Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners magazine who attended the launch. "Progressive voices are making themselves heard. We will not allow a conservative partisan minority to tell us how to vote and how to interpret our faith. We will vote on all our values."
The “Vote ALL Your Values” campaign, which is endorsed by National Council of Churches(NCC), the Interfaith Alliance and the Alliance of Baptists, is largely a “response to religious groups who have suggested that Americans should vote based on a few hot button issues,” according to the organizers.
"Vote ALL Your Values is our message to Americans in this time of moral urgency," said Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the NCC. "We can't afford to sacrifice our sacred values of truth, justice and community to a narrow ideological agenda advanced by a few vocal religious groups.”
"At stake in this year's elections is the fate of virtually every issue of social-moral-political significance to religious communities - civil rights, foreign policy, fair housing, taxation, religious liberty, economic justice, education, poverty, health care, and the future for our nation's children. We must not ignore the moral urgency of this moment,” said the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of The Interfaith Alliance.
The conservative counterweight of the “Vote ALL Your Values” drive is the massive “I Vote Values” campaign, which launched earlier this year through the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)’s Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission (ERLC). The “I Vote Values” campaign is endorsed by the 16-million-member SBC as well as the conservative social action groups Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council.
Many of the focal points listed in the ivotevalues surround the hot-button ethical issues of today, such as homosexual marriage, abortion, euthanasia and religious freedom. To date, more than 250,000 voter registration forms have been distributed as part of the initiative.
Late last month, Former President Bill Clinton criticized the iVoteValues campaign, saying that the values debate should not be centered on the issues of abortion and same-sex “marriage.”
"[P]olitics and political involvement dictated by faith is not the exclusive province of the right wing in America," he said during an address at New York City's Riverside Church.
Clinton’s comments were made as part of an effort to help promote Mobilization 2004 – an interfaith coalition created to help promote liberal causes during the election. The Mobilization 2004 campaign is similar to the recently launched “Value ALL Your Values” initiative.
"[Republicans] have claimed the exclusive allegiance of America's real Christians," Clinton said. "I looked at the recent meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention ... and one of their leaders was wearing a button he was giving everybody else that says, 'I'm a values voter' -- implying that those of us that didn't agree with them didn't have any values.
"And to them, values are anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, concentration of wealth and power. But as I said, Jesus didn't have much to say about what they say are the values of Christians today. And yet, these people really do believe they are in possession of the absolute truth."
"I have never met anybody that was pro-abortion, and that's not what pro-choice means. It just means we don't criminalize mothers and the doctors," he said to applause. "I'm not ashamed to believe that gay people shouldn't be discriminated against, and I don't think Jesus ever had much to say about that."
Meanwhile, Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and one of the leaders of the ivotevalues campaign, responded to Clinton’s comments by saying, “I assume that Bill Clinton will vote his values, and we're encouraging every American to vote their values."
Land explained that "the iVoteValues campaign is a campaign that encourages everyone to vote their values, their beliefs and their convictions."
Replying to the suggestion made by Clinton that the conservative rally is “attacking” the democratic convention, Land said, “As for me and my house, we're going to vote our values, and we encourage everyone else to vote theirs. It's amazing to me that when we start encouraging people to vote values, they think they're being attacked. Are they not confident of their values?"
Institutional sponsors of the Vote ALL Your Values campaign include People for the American Way, Progressive Christians United, Let Justice Roll, FaithfulAmerica.org, the Center for American Progress, The Riverside Church and Mobilization 2004, African American Ministers in Action, Pax Christi, Lift Every Voice, the People of Faith Network, Catholics for the Common Good, The National Council of Churches USA, Sojourners, Call to Renewal, The Interfaith Alliance, Network Catholic Social Justice Lobby, The Alliance of Baptists, Res Publica, and Kol Tikvah.
The main goal of the campaign is to register one-million “value” voters. As part of the effort, the organizers raised $1 million to run ads in over 100 newspaper and radio outlets, distributed over 1 million voter guides, held more than 700 major faith gatherings around the city and launched a online registration website to support the campaign.
The “Vote ALL Your Values” campaign can be found online at: http://www.voteallyourvalues.org/home.html
The “iVoteValues” campaign can be found online at: http://www.ivotevalues.com and http://www.ivotevalues.org.