The GOP is not a church

By Jerry Falwell

The easily irritated folks at Americans United for Separation of Church and State will probably call the Internal Revenue Service on me (again) after reading this column because I’m going to mention President George W. Bush. In fact, I think I could probably be walking down the street and casually say, “Hey, look at that bush,” and the so-called civil libertarians who want to silence evangelical pastors in this nation would run screaming to the IRS, claiming that I illegally endorsed the president. (I actually believe the organization should change its name to Americans United for the Separation of Conservative Churches and State.)

But on to the point.

On Thursday, I appeared on the Fox News Channel’s “Hannity & Colmes” broadcast to discuss the Republican Party’s upcoming convention. Apparently, some media reports have indicated that a few religious conservatives are upset that a preponderance of moderate and liberal members of the party has been assigned the high-profile prime-time speaking slots.

The fact is I have no problem with this. I think the party has picked the most visible and energetic speakers for this important event. I certainly don’t agree with some of the political positions of Rudy Giuliani or George Pataki and a few other high-profile party members, but I join them in their support of President Bush in this critical election. They are important voices of this diverse party.

I’m sure there are a few evangelical pastors who believe the Republican Party should be reflective of a Southern Baptist church, but that would be a big mistake. The party represents a wide range of political viewpoints and the leadership understands this; the GOP is not a church.

Most religious conservatives would agree with me that, as long as the Republican leadership remains chiefly pro-family, pro-life and pro-traditional marriage, we will continue to favor the party. At this time, the Republican platform, while not perfect, reflects respect for unborn life and traditional marriage – key issues for evangelicals.

I’ve often said that I wouldn’t have voted for my own mother if she were an abortion-rights candidate. But in the complex game of politics, we must work with people who have conflicting viewpoints on momentous issues in order to secure the greater good for the nation. While we must never compromise our Bible-based values in our churches, most conservative people of faith realize that we must work with a sense of cooperation in the political realm.

At this moment in time, I would say that conservative people of faith are as energized behind President Bush as we have been behind any president in history. President Bush – like Ronald Reagan – has won our hearts because of his moral clarity, his unswerving integrity and his desire to intrepidly defend our nation against militant terrorists who seek to destroy us. (Fighting a “sensitive” battle against terrorism just doesn’t seem plausible.) As long as men like President Bush are at the forefront of this party, evangelicals can continue to lend our support to it.

The evangelical community understands that President Bush must attempt to relate to the entire party, including those who are not social conservatives, in order to continue representing our nation. It’s certainly an often-thorny proposition, this game of politics. But I believe President Bush and the Republican leadership are handling this situation with savvy and certainty.