NASHVILLE, Tenn.—A study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows that nearly two thirds of Americans say their faith has little to do with their voting decisions. In direct contrast, the Ethics & Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention seeks to encourage U.S. citizens to exercise their God-given authority to make their values count, especially in the face of a national presidential election.
To aid Christians in voting their values, ERLC developed a partner website, iVoteValues.com. This unique resource for American voters emphasizes the importance on connecting one’s personal values, beliefs, and convictions with their decisions on which candidates to support.
In addition, the iVoteValues.com initiative stresses that citizens need to be involved in civic affairs by registering to vote, educating themselves on their electoral choices, and then actually voting. The initiative also underscores the need of individuals to share this message of informed voter participation with others.
The iVoteValues campaign was first launched by the ERLC in partnership with Focus on the Family and other like-minded groups in 2004. The Family Research Council has partnered with the ERLC for the 2008 initiative.
This year, ERLC also launched iLiveValues.com, which seeks to enable and support Christians as they daily live out their values in their communities. iLiveValues.com is also the online home for three new podcasts developed by the ERLC, as well as other media resources, including a downloadable prayer guide for a 40-day/40-hour prayer focus for the nation, “40/40 Prayer Vigil,” developed jointly with the North American Mission Board.
“On nearly every news broadcast, you hear discussions about the importance of Evangelicals and so-called ‘values voters,’ but Christians have a very important role to play in their communities every day of the year,” shared Richard Land, ERLC president.
“These same individuals must live out their faith in daily decisions, influencing their society toward righteousness and truth. Our culture is facing too many grave social issues today for the people of faith to sit on the sidelines, only engaging the issues on Election Day.”
ERLC reported a record voter turnout in 2004, including more than 27 million evangelicals, who turned back eleven state initiatives that endorsed same-sex “marriage” and helped to maintain leadership in Congress and at the White House that has embraced traditional values.
“It’s not overstating the 2004 election results, both in the presidential and congressional contests, to say that traditional religious values won the day,” Land reported, emphasizing that the credit went to voters who embraced the message that voting their “values, beliefs and convictions is best for America.”
On Election Day this Nov. 4, voters again have the opportunity to make values-based decisions about the candidates and policies that govern the United States.
To that end, the ERLC encourages Southern Baptists and other Christians to register to vote by obtaining a voter registration forms online at www. ivotevalues.com or by contacting their state government. Voters are urged to pray and to choose candidates whose views most closely match Scripture.
In addition, the iVoteValues.com initiative is an aid to people of faith, helping them understand what their church and church leadership can do and cannot do when it comes to political activity.
Many pastors may be confused about what is and what is not legal given the IRS restrictions on political activity by tax-exempt organizations. According to the ERLC, pastors can be involved in the political process as long as the certain guidelines are observed.
Generally speaking, pastors may preach on moral and social issues and may encourage civic involvement. They may engage in voter registration activities if they avoid promoting any one candidate or a particular political party. They may distribute educational materials to voters (such as voters guides), but only those that do not favor a particular candidate or party and that cover a wide range of issues.
They may invite candidates or elected officials to speak at church services as long as all other candidates are allowed or invited. Churches that allow only one candidate or a single party’s candidate to speak can be seen as favoring that candidate or party. No candidate should be prohibited from addressing a church if others running for the same office have been allowed to speak. Exempt from this are candidates or public figures who may speak at a church, but they must refrain from speaking about their candidacy.
Under no circumstances may a church or pastor endorse or oppose political candidates on behalf of the church nor may they use church funds or services to contribute directly to candidates or political committees. Candidates should not be allowed to solicit funds while speaking at churches.
Simply stated, churches cannot fundraise or campaign for candidates but they can encourage members to participate in the voting process.
“Imagine the impact Americans of faith could have on our nation if we applied biblical principles to our participation in the democratic process,” Land said. “How you vote today impacts tomorrow.”
Visit www.ivotevalues.com or www. erlc.com for more information.
By Shannon Baker
BCM/D National Correspondent