Giuliani, Evangelical Rift Grows Over Abortion

WASHINGTON – Conservative evangelical leaders have long openly expressed dismay over the prospect of being forced to choose between two pro-choice presidential candidates. But now, a coalition of evangelicals has gone as far as to threaten to pull their support for the Republican Party if such a candidate is selected for the last stretch of the White House race.

Dr. James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family – who recently emerged from a controversy over a private email he sent criticizing Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson – says he and others in the social conservative coalition will not support Rudy Giuliani or any pro-choice candidate that the Republican Party picks for its presidential nominee.

"Polls don't measure right and wrong; voting according to the possibility of winning or losing can lead directly to the compromise of one's principles," Dobson wrote in an Op-Ed in The New York Times on Thursday.

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"In the present political climate, it could result in the abandonment of cherished beliefs that conservative Christians have promoted and defended for decades."

Dobson said a candidate should support the "the sanctity of human life, the institution of marriage, and other inviolable pro-family principles."

Giuliani, on the other hand, supports abortion and gay rights.

Some Roman Catholic leaders have also opposed Giuliani's stance on abortion. An archbishop from St. Louis this week said he would withhold communion from Giuliani, a Roman Catholic.

Giuliani's personal life is also another red flag for some conservative Christians. The former New York mayor has been through three marriages, two divorces and is estranged from his two children.

Yet despite these moral obstacles, Giuliani is said to have reached out, with some positive response, to more than a dozen pastors of large evangelical churches and Christian leaders including Jonathan Falwell, the son of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson, according to the New York Times.

A recent Gallup Poll also found that the former New York City mayor had an overall favorable rating from churchgoing Protestants. Among the top tier Republican candidates, Giuliani rates third after Fred Thompson and John McCain among religious Protestants.

As the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination, Giuliani has repeatedly stated he can beat Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton – an appealing statement for those who see Clinton as a larger threat.

But to Dobson and others in the coalition, "Winning the presidential election is vitally important, but not at the expense of what we hold most dear."

The coalition met Saturday in Salt Lake City after a larger meeting of the Council for National Policy – an exclusive conservative networking group. The smaller group included Dobson, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, and dozens of other politically concerned conservative Christians.

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