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Clergy Group to Counter Conservatives

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  • howardisrael2003
    New York Times November 17, 2003 Clergy Group to Counter Conservatives By Lynette Clemetson WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 — In an effort to counter the influence of
    Message 1 of 3 , Nov 17, 2003
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      New York Times
      November 17, 2003

      Clergy Group to Counter Conservatives
      By Lynette Clemetson

      WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 — In an effort to counter the influence of
      conservative Christian organizations, a coalition of moderate and
      liberal religious leaders is starting a political advocacy
      organization to mobilize voters in opposition to Bush administration
      policies.

      The nonprofit organization, the Clergy Leadership Network, plans to
      formally announce its formation on Friday and will operate from an
      expressly religious, expressly partisan point of view. The group
      cannot, under Internal Revenue Service guidelines, endorse political
      candidates, and it will have no official ties to the Democratic
      Party.

      But the driving purpose of the organization, according to its mission
      statement, is to bring about "sweeping changes — changes in our
      nation's political leadership and changes in failing public policies."

      The Rev. Albert M. Pennybacker, of Lexington, Ky., chief executive
      officer for the organization and the chairman of its national
      committee, said: "The Christian Right has been very articulate, but
      they have been exclusive and very judgmental of anyone who doesn't
      agree with them. People may want to label us the Christian Left. But
      what we really are about is mainstream issues and truth, and if that
      makes us left then that shines even more light on the need for a
      shift in our society."

      The organization seeks to counter groups like the Christian Coalition
      of America and newly influential groups like the Family Research
      Council and the Traditional Values Coalition.

      There are other liberal religious-based advocacy groups in
      Washington, like the Interfaith Alliance, a nonprofit group that
      lobbies Congress on policy issues. But the Clergy Leadership Council
      will be the first national liberal religious group, its organizers
      say, whose primary focus is electoral politics and partisan political
      organizing.

      Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana state representative who is
      president of the Family Research Council, said such an approach could
      be counterproductive when dealing with churches.

      "Trying to take a purely political message into church communities
      has not been very successful for either ideological side," said Mr.
      Perkins, a Republican whose group usually supports Republican
      initiatives. "We've learned that if you come with a party message you
      may prevent some people, people who agree with you on some issues,
      from hearing your message."

      The new group's roughly 25-member committee is predominantly composed
      of Protestant Christians. It includes prominent figures like the Rev.
      William Sloane Coffin, who was a leader in the Civil Rights movement
      and the anti-Vietnam War movement, and the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell,
      former general secretary of the National Council of Churches. The
      founding group also includes Catholic and Jewish members, and
      organizers said they hoped to draw Muslim members as well.

      "Clergy have to be careful not to rush in with solutions to big
      problems, but when they see gross injustice they have an obligation
      not to be silent," Mr. Coffin said. "The arrogance and self-
      righteousness of the present administration are very dangerous. And
      silence by members of the clergy, in the face of such arrogance, is
      tantamount to betrayal of the Gospel or the Torah or the Koran."

      Several of the political group's founders are from Midwestern and
      Southern states, including Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West
      Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia, which Mr. Pennybacker
      called "battleground areas" in which moderate and progressive
      Christians have been losing their "political voice" to Christian
      conservatives.

      Like many other religious organizations with political agendas, the
      group is legally bound to focus on issues, not candidates. The
      group's tax status as a Section 527 political organization exempts it
      from rules that affect many other nonprofit religious organizations
      and political action committees. It can raise unlimited money from an
      unrestricted pool of donors, provided it discloses its expenditures
      and income to the Internal Revenue Service.

      While it cannot donate money to candidates, it hopes to raise money
      for advertisements.

      The group's list of issues includes the economy, health care and
      civil liberties, as well as foreign policy issues, and using faith,
      as stated in its organizational guidelines, as "the lens through
      which public life is viewed and consequently engaged." Many of the
      group's members were active in opposing the war in Iraq.

      The group also hopes to have a voice in Washington during policy
      debates.

      In the recent nearly 40-hour debate in the Senate over four of
      President Bush's judicial nominees, religious-based conservative
      groups offered running commentary to the news media, suggesting that
      the nominees were being blocked because of their religious faith. The
      Clergy Leadership Network, said the Rev. Brenda Bartella Peterson,
      the group's executive director, will seek to provide alternative
      opinions in such debates.

      Jenny Backus, a Democratic consultant working with the new group,
      said: "There's been a concerted effort by Christian conservatives to
      question the faith of people who disagree with their positions in the
      same way that they question their patriotism. The Clergy Leadership
      Network will now be the amen corner for people of faith who express
      disagreement with the administration and the Christian Right."

      The group's issue list includes no mention of hot-button topics like
      abortion and gay marriage, which have been crucial issues for
      conservative groups. "Our key issues are people without jobs, people
      who are hungry, people burying children killed in Iraq." Mr.
      Pennybacker said. "These are real issues that override flashy talk
      about sexual orientation."

      John Green, a political scientist and director of the Bliss
      Institute, a research center for the study of grass-roots politics
      based at the University of Akron, said there were more practical
      reasons for an organization like the Clergy Leadership Network to
      avoid divisive issues.

      "In many people's minds the words `conservative' and `liberal' are
      firmly linked with positions on lifestyle issues," Mr. Green
      said. "Within such a diverse coalition, these clergy undoubtedly have
      congregations with different views on gay rights and abortion. But
      they may be able to find common ground on issues like war and peace,
      social welfare and the need for jobs."

      Ms. Peterson is the sole representative of the group working out of
      its newly leased office space near the Capitol, across from the
      Democratic National Committee building. The group's organizers
      acknowledge that they may have an uphill battle in gaining the kind
      of prominence in Washington that some conservative Christian groups
      now enjoy.

      "We know it won't be easy," Ms. Peterson said. "But there is an
      imperative that we be heard."

      Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
    • howardisrael2003
      New York Times November 17, 2003 Clergy Group to Counter Conservatives By Lynette Clemetson WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 — In an effort to counter the influence of
      Message 2 of 3 , Nov 17, 2003
      • 0 Attachment
        New York Times
        November 17, 2003

        Clergy Group to Counter Conservatives
        By Lynette Clemetson

        WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 — In an effort to counter the influence of
        conservative Christian organizations, a coalition of moderate and
        liberal religious leaders is starting a political advocacy
        organization to mobilize voters in opposition to Bush administration
        policies.

        The nonprofit organization, the Clergy Leadership Network, plans to
        formally announce its formation on Friday and will operate from an
        expressly religious, expressly partisan point of view. The group
        cannot, under Internal Revenue Service guidelines, endorse political
        candidates, and it will have no official ties to the Democratic
        Party.

        But the driving purpose of the organization, according to its mission
        statement, is to bring about "sweeping changes — changes in our
        nation's political leadership and changes in failing public policies."

        The Rev. Albert M. Pennybacker, of Lexington, Ky., chief executive
        officer for the organization and the chairman of its national
        committee, said: "The Christian Right has been very articulate, but
        they have been exclusive and very judgmental of anyone who doesn't
        agree with them. People may want to label us the Christian Left. But
        what we really are about is mainstream issues and truth, and if that
        makes us left then that shines even more light on the need for a
        shift in our society."

        The organization seeks to counter groups like the Christian Coalition
        of America and newly influential groups like the Family Research
        Council and the Traditional Values Coalition.

        There are other liberal religious-based advocacy groups in
        Washington, like the Interfaith Alliance, a nonprofit group that
        lobbies Congress on policy issues. But the Clergy Leadership Council
        will be the first national liberal religious group, its organizers
        say, whose primary focus is electoral politics and partisan political
        organizing.

        Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana state representative who is
        president of the Family Research Council, said such an approach could
        be counterproductive when dealing with churches.

        "Trying to take a purely political message into church communities
        has not been very successful for either ideological side," said Mr.
        Perkins, a Republican whose group usually supports Republican
        initiatives. "We've learned that if you come with a party message you
        may prevent some people, people who agree with you on some issues,
        from hearing your message."

        The new group's roughly 25-member committee is predominantly composed
        of Protestant Christians. It includes prominent figures like the Rev.
        William Sloane Coffin, who was a leader in the Civil Rights movement
        and the anti-Vietnam War movement, and the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell,
        former general secretary of the National Council of Churches. The
        founding group also includes Catholic and Jewish members, and
        organizers said they hoped to draw Muslim members as well.

        "Clergy have to be careful not to rush in with solutions to big
        problems, but when they see gross injustice they have an obligation
        not to be silent," Mr. Coffin said. "The arrogance and self-
        righteousness of the present administration are very dangerous. And
        silence by members of the clergy, in the face of such arrogance, is
        tantamount to betrayal of the Gospel or the Torah or the Koran."

        Several of the political group's founders are from Midwestern and
        Southern states, including Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West
        Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia, which Mr. Pennybacker
        called "battleground areas" in which moderate and progressive
        Christians have been losing their "political voice" to Christian
        conservatives.

        Like many other religious organizations with political agendas, the
        group is legally bound to focus on issues, not candidates. The
        group's tax status as a Section 527 political organization exempts it
        from rules that affect many other nonprofit religious organizations
        and political action committees. It can raise unlimited money from an
        unrestricted pool of donors, provided it discloses its expenditures
        and income to the Internal Revenue Service.

        While it cannot donate money to candidates, it hopes to raise money
        for advertisements.

        The group's list of issues includes the economy, health care and
        civil liberties, as well as foreign policy issues, and using faith,
        as stated in its organizational guidelines, as "the lens through
        which public life is viewed and consequently engaged." Many of the
        group's members were active in opposing the war in Iraq.

        The group also hopes to have a voice in Washington during policy
        debates.

        In the recent nearly 40-hour debate in the Senate over four of
        President Bush's judicial nominees, religious-based conservative
        groups offered running commentary to the news media, suggesting that
        the nominees were being blocked because of their religious faith. The
        Clergy Leadership Network, said the Rev. Brenda Bartella Peterson,
        the group's executive director, will seek to provide alternative
        opinions in such debates.

        Jenny Backus, a Democratic consultant working with the new group,
        said: "There's been a concerted effort by Christian conservatives to
        question the faith of people who disagree with their positions in the
        same way that they question their patriotism. The Clergy Leadership
        Network will now be the amen corner for people of faith who express
        disagreement with the administration and the Christian Right."

        The group's issue list includes no mention of hot-button topics like
        abortion and gay marriage, which have been crucial issues for
        conservative groups. "Our key issues are people without jobs, people
        who are hungry, people burying children killed in Iraq." Mr.
        Pennybacker said. "These are real issues that override flashy talk
        about sexual orientation."

        John Green, a political scientist and director of the Bliss
        Institute, a research center for the study of grass-roots politics
        based at the University of Akron, said there were more practical
        reasons for an organization like the Clergy Leadership Network to
        avoid divisive issues.

        "In many people's minds the words `conservative' and `liberal' are
        firmly linked with positions on lifestyle issues," Mr. Green
        said. "Within such a diverse coalition, these clergy undoubtedly have
        congregations with different views on gay rights and abortion. But
        they may be able to find common ground on issues like war and peace,
        social welfare and the need for jobs."

        Ms. Peterson is the sole representative of the group working out of
        its newly leased office space near the Capitol, across from the
        Democratic National Committee building. The group's organizers
        acknowledge that they may have an uphill battle in gaining the kind
        of prominence in Washington that some conservative Christian groups
        now enjoy.

        "We know it won't be easy," Ms. Peterson said. "But there is an
        imperative that we be heard."

        Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
      • Howard Israel
        New York Times November 17, 2003 Clergy Group to Counter Conservatives By Lynette Clemetson WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 — In an effort to counter the influence of
        Message 3 of 3 , Nov 17, 2003
        • 0 Attachment
          New York Times
          November 17, 2003

          Clergy Group to Counter Conservatives
          By Lynette Clemetson

          WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 — In an effort to counter the influence of conservative
          Christian organizations, a coalition of moderate and liberal religious
          leaders is starting a political advocacy organization to mobilize voters in
          opposition to Bush administration policies.

          The nonprofit organization, the Clergy Leadership Network, plans to formally
          announce its formation on Friday and will operate from an expressly
          religious, expressly partisan point of view. The group cannot, under
          Internal Revenue Service guidelines, endorse political candidates, and it
          will have no official ties to the Democratic Party.

          But the driving purpose of the organization, according to its mission
          statement, is to bring about "sweeping changes — changes in our nation's
          political leadership and changes in failing public policies."

          The Rev. Albert M. Pennybacker, of Lexington, Ky., chief executive officer
          for the organization and the chairman of its national committee, said: "The
          Christian Right has been very articulate, but they have been exclusive and
          very judgmental of anyone who doesn't agree with them. People may want to
          label us the Christian Left. But what we really are about is mainstream
          issues and truth, and if that makes us left then that shines even more light
          on the need for a shift in our society."

          The organization seeks to counter groups like the Christian Coalition of
          America and newly influential groups like the Family Research Council and
          the Traditional Values Coalition.

          There are other liberal religious-based advocacy groups in Washington, like
          the Interfaith Alliance, a nonprofit group that lobbies Congress on policy
          issues. But the Clergy Leadership Council will be the first national liberal
          religious group, its organizers say, whose primary focus is electoral
          politics and partisan political organizing.

          Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana state representative who is president of
          the Family Research Council, said such an approach could be
          counterproductive when dealing with churches.

          "Trying to take a purely political message into church communities has not
          been very successful for either ideological side," said Mr. Perkins, a
          Republican whose group usually supports Republican initiatives. "We've
          learned that if you come with a party message you may prevent some people,
          people who agree with you on some issues, from hearing your message."

          The new group's roughly 25-member committee is predominantly composed of
          Protestant Christians. It includes prominent figures like the Rev. William
          Sloane Coffin, who was a leader in the Civil Rights movement and the
          anti-Vietnam War movement, and the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, former general
          secretary of the National Council of Churches. The founding group also
          includes Catholic and Jewish members, and organizers said they hoped to draw
          Muslim members as well.

          "Clergy have to be careful not to rush in with solutions to big problems,
          but when they see gross injustice they have an obligation not to be silent,"
          Mr. Coffin said. "The arrogance and self-righteousness of the present
          administration are very dangerous. And silence by members of the clergy, in
          the face of such arrogance, is tantamount to betrayal of the Gospel or the
          Torah or the Koran."

          Several of the political group's founders are from Midwestern and Southern
          states, including Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North
          Carolina and Georgia, which Mr. Pennybacker called "battleground areas" in
          which moderate and progressive Christians have been losing their "political
          voice" to Christian conservatives.

          Like many other religious organizations with political agendas, the group is
          legally bound to focus on issues, not candidates. The group's tax status as
          a Section 527 political organization exempts it from rules that affect many
          other nonprofit religious organizations and political action committees. It
          can raise unlimited money from an unrestricted pool of donors, provided it
          discloses its expenditures and income to the Internal Revenue Service.

          While it cannot donate money to candidates, it hopes to raise money for
          advertisements.

          The group's list of issues includes the economy, health care and civil
          liberties, as well as foreign policy issues, and using faith, as stated in
          its organizational guidelines, as "the lens through which public life is
          viewed and consequently engaged." Many of the group's members were active in
          opposing the war in Iraq.

          The group also hopes to have a voice in Washington during policy debates.

          In the recent nearly 40-hour debate in the Senate over four of President
          Bush's judicial nominees, religious-based conservative groups offered
          running commentary to the news media, suggesting that the nominees were
          being blocked because of their religious faith. The Clergy Leadership
          Network, said the Rev. Brenda Bartella Peterson, the group's executive
          director, will seek to provide alternative opinions in such debates.

          Jenny Backus, a Democratic consultant working with the new group, said:
          "There's been a concerted effort by Christian conservatives to question the
          faith of people who disagree with their positions in the same way that they
          question their patriotism. The Clergy Leadership Network will now be the
          amen corner for people of faith who express disagreement with the
          administration and the Christian Right."

          The group's issue list includes no mention of hot-button topics like
          abortion and gay marriage, which have been crucial issues for conservative
          groups. "Our key issues are people without jobs, people who are hungry,
          people burying children killed in Iraq." Mr. Pennybacker said. "These are
          real issues that override flashy talk about sexual orientation."

          John Green, a political scientist and director of the Bliss Institute, a
          research center for the study of grass-roots politics based at the
          University of Akron, said there were more practical reasons for an
          organization like the Clergy Leadership Network to avoid divisive issues.

          "In many people's minds the words `conservative' and `liberal' are firmly
          linked with positions on lifestyle issues," Mr. Green said. "Within such a
          diverse coalition, these clergy undoubtedly have congregations with
          different views on gay rights and abortion. But they may be able to find
          common ground on issues like war and peace, social welfare and the need for
          jobs."

          Ms. Peterson is the sole representative of the group working out of its
          newly leased office space near the Capitol, across from the Democratic
          National Committee building. The group's organizers acknowledge that they
          may have an uphill battle in gaining the kind of prominence in Washington
          that some conservative Christian groups now enjoy.

          "We know it won't be easy," Ms. Peterson said. "But there is an imperative
          that we be heard."

          Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
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