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Republican Candidates Appeal to Religious Conservatives

US Representative Michele Bachmann arrives to speak at the Faith & Freedom Conference and Strategy Briefing in Washington, DC, June 3, 2011
US Representative Michele Bachmann arrives to speak at the Faith & Freedom Conference and Strategy Briefing in Washington, DC, June 3, 2011

Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates on Friday appealed to the religious right to help them defeat President Barack Obama in the 2012 election. They spoke at a meeting of an organization that was formed to restore the influence that conservative Christian voters once had in choosing presidents.

"Lord, we thank you for this land, we thank you for a nation that was founded for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith," said Georgia Pastor Benny Tate.

After the invocation by Tate, Republican lawmakers filed up to the podium of the Faith & Freedom Conference.

Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota urged religious conservatives to help eject Obama from the White House in the next election.

“Because if we have anything to say about it, Obama will be a one term president,” she said.

Bachmann is a favorite of the Tea Party movement that helped Republicans win big in last year's mid-term congressional election. She also is rumored to be considering a run for the presidency.

Although the Tea Party began as an anti-tax revolt, Bachmann touted her conservative stances on social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. Then she said a prayer that was an oblique attack on the Obama administration's policies.

"Lord we know there are things that we have done in our nation that have not been pleasing in your sight. Lord we ask your forgiveness for that," said Bachmann.

The Faith & Freedom Coalition was founded two years ago by Ralph Reed. In in the early 1990s, he was head of the Christian Coalition and a major figure of the religious right. But his reputation suffered after he was linked to a key figure in a Washington lobbying scandal.

Reed told the conference that he decided to become active again after 17 million Evangelical Christians who were eligible to vote failed to show up at the polls in the last presidential election.

“And I vowed that as long as I had breath in me that that was never going to happen again as long as I live,” he said.

The boyish-faced lobbyist was able to pull together a list of speakers that included virtually every declared or presumptive candidate for the 2012 Republican nomination.

Aside from Bachmann, they included former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman and Georgia businessman Herman Cain.

Grover Norquist is a Republican anti-tax activist. He said Reed's organization stands out among groups on the religious right.

“Faith and Freedom is probably the most important one because what it does is it turns out votes,” he said.

Norquist said the Republican party includes many economic conservatives who are decidedly secular.

But Reed himself said that if the president's voter mobilization efforts are as effective as they were in 2008, Republicans will need God's help in 2012.

Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

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