Conservative Christian radio host James C. Dobson's national organization, Focus on the Family, said yesterday that it will work with affiliated groups in eight battleground states to mobilize evangelical voters in the November elections.
In targeting individual churches the way political organizers traditionally pinpointed certain wards, Focus on the Family is filling a void left by the near-collapse of the Christian Coalition and stepping into an area where recent Republican Party efforts have created resentment among evangelicals. [...]
During the 1990s, the Christian Coalition distributed millions of voter guides through churches and played a major role in mobilizing evangelicals. After the Christian Coalition suffered financial and management problems, the Republican Party directly organized conservative Christian congregations in key states in the 2004 presidential race.
When memos leaked about the Bush-Cheney campaign's effort to collect church membership directories, however, the GOP came under sharp criticism from some evangelical leaders. Neither the Federal Election Commission nor the Internal Revenue Service charged Republican officials with any violation, and the GOP never backed away from the tactic. But political strategists came to view church-based organizing as both effective and controversial. [...]
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of the Washington-based group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, charged that "Dobson's drive to build a church-based political machine will jeopardize the tax exemption of participating congregations."