WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Led by Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, a coalition of religious and pro-life organizations announced a campaign Sept. 23 to defeat any political candidate who supports keeping abortion legal.
"Because abortion is an act of violence that destroys an entire segment of the public, no one who ignores the victims of abortion is worthy to hold public office," the New York archdiocesan priest said at a Washington press conference.
Father Pavone said his organization would dedicate $1 million to "an all-out campaign" in the 30 days before the Nov. 2 election that would be aimed at convincing churchgoing Christians that "abortion is not simply one issue in this election; it is the most fundamental human rights issue of our time."
At the press conference, he was joined by representatives of the Southern Baptist, Church of Christ, Muslim, Jewish, Korean Presbyterian, Methodist Episcopal and Native American faith traditions. Even atheists were represented -- by the pro-life organization Atheists for Life.
Other participants came from a variety of pro-life or pro-family groups, including Democrats for Life, Libertarians for Life, Black Americans for Life, the National Right to Life Committee, Family Research Council and Focus on the Family.
"By gathering a group of people that is very diverse politically, philosophically, ethnically and religiously, we are aiming to destroy the stereotypes under which many labor, namely that opposition to abortion must come only from one's religious or political affiliation," Father Pavone said.
The priest also heads the National Pro-Life Religious Council, from which many of the press conference participants were drawn.
Father Pavone dismissed as "nonsense" the argument that opposition to abortion "flows merely from Catholic faith."
"Opposition to abortion is based on reasons above and beyond any religious, ethnic or political loyalties a person might have," he said. "Rather, it flows from an awareness that, as an act of violence, abortion has no place in a civilized society."
Father Pavone said the monthlong $1 million pre-election educational campaign would focus primarily on churchgoers because they have been shown in polls to be most likely to vote for pro-life candidates.
The main message of the campaign, he said, will be that "any candidate who supports abortion has no right to hold any kind of public office, just as anyone who supports terrorism should not be allowed to hold public office."
"Abortion is morally equal to terrorism," he added. "If you're going to kill the innocent, what difference does it make if you use forceps or commercial airplanes?"
Major elements of the campaign include:
-- A six-part television series titled "Election 2004: The Catholic Vote," airing on Eternal Word Television Network, which reaches approximately 80 million U.S. households. Priests for Life said the series will include interviews with Vatican officials who say "it is morally unacceptable for a Catholic to vote for pro-abortion candidates for public office."
-- A separate political series hosted by Father Pavone and being broadcast to some 20 million households through the predominantly Protestant Sky Angel cable network.
-- Election-related resources for clergy, including sermon samples, pro-life prayer petitions, documents of the U.S. Catholic bishops and special political projects for parishes.
-- Ads in 40 Catholic diocesan newspapers with a total circulation of more than 1 million.
-- Three mass faxes to the 19,000 Catholic parishes in the United States, urging priests to focus on the election in their homilies.
-- Voter registration drives at churches throughout the country and among the 40 percent of Priests for Life members -- or more than 100,000 people -- whose names do not appear on U.S. voter registration lists.
-- Three political TV spots that will air on cable access channels throughout the nation.
-- An "unprecedented series of conference calls" by Father Pavone with more than 1,000 volunteers and more than 100 pro-life leaders "to motivate and train them to engage in particular activities in the final month of the election season."