By SAM HANANEL
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Three conservative religious organizations have teamed up
for a massive church-based voter registration drive leading to the 2004
presidential and congressional elections.
The Christian Coalition, the National Pro-Life Religious Council and the
anti-abortion Catholic group Priests for Life will target millions of Christians
on four ``National Christian Voter Registration Sundays'' between now and next
year's election, the groups announced Monday.
``There are so many Christians sitting in the church that are not registered
to vote,'' said Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition. ``It is not
just a civic responsibility, but also a basic Christian responsibility to
register to vote and be informed about issues that candidates stand for that
could ultimately shape our lives.''
The 2 million-member coalition - long a force in Republican politics - also
registered thousands of voters prior to the 2000 presidential election and
distributed 70 million voter guides that identified candidates' positions on
critical issues, such as abortion.
This time, Combs said, the groups will place a greater emphasis on getting
registered voters to the polls. Of the approximately 50 million registered
voters who describe themselves as born again, evangelical or Bible-believing
Christians, Combs said only 15 million voted in the 2000 election - the vast
majority for President Bush.
But a religious liberty watchdog group criticized the move as an effort to
build a church-based political machine.
``This is step one down a path toward turning every church into a cog in a
political machine,'' said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans
United for Separation of Church and State.
Lynn said the coalition's 2000 voter guides ``make every Republican look like
a saint and every Democrat look like a killer in a wax museum.''
The groups say the registration drives are nonpartisan and seek to get
Christians who are not politically active to play a larger role in shaping
Combs declined to provide details on how much the groups would spend on their