Clergy Endorsements for President Stack Up Amid Criticism


 Clergy Endorsements for President Stack Up Amid Criticism | EthicsDaily Staff, Elections, Endorsements, Billy Graham

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is making church bulletin inserts and posters available featuring Graham urging Christians to vote for "biblical values" on Nov. 6. (Photo: BillyGraham.org)
"Our nation will hold one of the most critical elections in my lifetime. We are at a crossroads... I strongly urge you to vote for candidates who support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman, protect the sanctity of life and defend our religious freedoms... Please join me in praying for America, that we will turn our hearts back toward God," read Graham's Oct. 21 statement in the Columbus Dispatch.

A similar ad is available, as a PDF for a church bulletin insert or poster, on the front page of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) website. It shows the white-haired Graham holding a Bible.

That resource reads: "I realize this election could be my last. I believe it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel... Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God."

Another feature on the BGEA website is a collection of photographs featuring Romney with Graham.

Responding to criticism of Graham's behavior, Graham spokesman Larry Ross said that Graham "has been careful to remain non-partisan."

Graham's apparent endorsement of Romney came two weeks after another high-profile evangelical pastor told his congregation that he was voting for Romney.

"Some came to hear an endorsement," said Jim Garlow, pastor of Skyline Church in La Mesa, Calif. "My endorsement will be Jesus. I'll tell you whom I'm going to vote for, but I don't think that makes it an endorsement. I'm going to vote for Mitt Romney, but I'm not telling you to."

Indiana pastor Ron Johnson told his congregation that he planned to vote against President Obama, calling his decision "a no-brainer."

Clergy opposition to Obama or support for Romney parallels clergy opposition to Romney or support for Obama.

Two Chicago preachers have endorsed Obama in a letter to black pastors.

Otis Moss III, pastor of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, and Charles Jenkins, pastor of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, wrote: "We are writing to offer our strong and enthusiastic endorsement of President Barack Obama... We must reelect this President."

Reading like a boilerplate campaign pamphlet, their statement focused on programs rather than on moral arguments for Obama.

Moss and Jenkins defend Obama's advocacy for gay marriage, claiming his position would not adversely affect individuals or churches that favored the traditional view of marriage.

Their letter was titled, "The Black Church Must Stand Up for President Obama."

A Washington Post story recorded that African-American pastors met in Chesapeake, Va., to brainstorm about how to motivate their congregations to vote for Obama.

A Baptist pastor, Lin Hill, argued that they should point out how Romney and Obama differed religiously.

"Our president has declared Jesus Christ to be his Lord and savior, while his opponent denies the deity of Christ," Hill said.

Other African-American clergy have also endorsed Obama.

Vashti McKenzie, a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, is identified as a national co-chair for the Obama campaign.

While Christian clergy are playing visible roles endorsing presidential candidates, 87 percent of pastors surveyed by LifeWay Research expressed opposition to endorsing candidates in the pulpit.

Some 52 percent of clergy have avoided endorsing candidates all together.

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