AFA's Effort to Mobilize Christian Voters Criticized as 'Immoral'

American Family Association founder Don Wildmon sent an email Thursday expressing his appreciation to those who registered for The Response, the day-long prayer rally that featured Texas Governor Rick Perry and drew thousands to Reliant Stadium in Houston. However, some groups have called the email "immoral" and "unethical."

“Today I want to introduce you to Champion the Vote (CTV), a friend of AFA whose mission is to mobilize 5 million unregistered conservative Christians to register and vote according to the biblical worldview in 2012,” Wildmon wrote in the email.

“CTV’s research has shown that it takes only 5 million voters to influence the outcome of an election. This is a doable goal…We can make a difference, one by one, multiplied across the nation,” he continued.

Mobilizing voters has been and remains an issue of great importance for such groups as unions, business organizations, teachers and even religious groups.

Champion the Vote is an initiative of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization based in San Martin, Calif. that describes itself as promoting the “traditional values of our founding fathers.”

Deborah Layman, a spokesperson with United in Purpose, says the goal of the organization is to encourage Christians who have previously not voted to register and participate in the election process.

“About 45 million Christians don’t vote and out of that number, about 30 million aren’t registered,” Layman said.

“If Christians will vote our country can be changed. We believe that if our nation returns to the Christian principles on which it was founded, and we elect candidates of any party that feel the same way, then our nation will be better off. We don’t endorse candidates or parties. We just stand up for Christian values and endorse a Biblical worldview.”

In the weeks leading up to The Response event, Gov. Perry held a conference call with pastors. “This event is not about supporting some organization…It’s going to be very simple…It’s about a time to call out to God and that’s it and lift Jesus’ name up on high,” Perry said on the call.

Jim Garlow, a California pastor involved in the event, went a step further.

“This is not an issue of who’s going to be our president…it absolutely has nothing to do with that at all. It’s about making Jesus king,” Garlow emphasized.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation was unsuccessful in its efforts to block Perry from participating in or promoting the event in his role as governor.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of Freedom From Religion Foundation, has strong opinions about the event.

“I see it as just another way to fly under the radar,” said Gaylor. “What they [AFA] are doing is not illegal, but it is immoral and unethical. Anyone can organize a voter drive but I think it’s a little too cozy of a relationship and hope that savvy voters will see through what is happening here.”

Ed Bearse, who was a spokesperson for The Response, told The Associated Press that the event was not political.

“The Perry campaign hasn’t used any of the data from the event for any type of political purpose,” said Bearse. “The AFA sending out an email to register people – if that is political, then I guess so is the activity of the secretary of states’ in all 50 states.”

Organizers estimate around 30,000 people attended the rally and thousands more watched it on television or online.

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