ERLC trustees applaud iVoteValues.com

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Trustees for the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission applauded the reach of the entity's iVoteValues.com initiative during their annual meetings in Nashville, while getting an update on the work of the ERLC.

iVoteValues.com is a "grassroots voter mobilization and education effort" to inform citizens of the importance of registering to vote and making voting decisions based on their biblically based values, explained Richard Land, president of the ERLC.

"People need to be registered, to be informed and to vote their values," Land said. The iVoteValues.com initiative is not about telling people whom to vote for, but about telling them they have an obligation and responsibility to be an informed participant in the electoral process, he said.

He said the ERLC had been "overwhelmed by the response to the iVoteValues.com effort." Over 92,000 people have visited the iVoteValues.com Web site, and over 9,000 Voter Impact Toolkits have been distributed, he said. More than 20,000 people have toured the initiative's Mobile Voter Registration Rig and Information Center as it has traveled the U.S. The iVoteValues.com party platform comparison resource will be published in late September, he added, indicating pre-orders for the unique product are outpacing 2000 when three reprints of the piece were sold out.

It has been an interesting year, Land told the trustees. "One issue rocketed to the fore -- the protection of marriage as it has been defined by God and Western Civilization for several millennia," he explained, noting the ERLC has entered into strategic relationships with like-minded groups, such as Focus on the Family, to make evangelical Christians aware of the battle for marriage.

The institution of marriage has come under "direct attack," Land continued, warning that if marriage is redefined to include the union of two men or two women, that will be only the beginning. "If all marriage is about is individuals in a 'loving, caring relationship,' then who is to say that polygamy, incest, or bestiality should not also be legalized?" he said.

Citing statistics showing a significant majority of Americans believe marriage is only to be between one man and one woman, he noted when citizens of a state vote on a measure relating to same-sex "marriage," they vote against it.

"Yet preachers are reticent to talk about this issue from their pulpits," Land said. "We aren't talking about it like we talk about abortion."

So the question remains -- "Do we have the spiritual calcium in our backbone to speak to this issue and hold the politicians' feet to the fire?" Land said. The future of civilization is at stake, he continued, and it's up to voters in the U.S. to elect the candidates who are committed to protecting the institution of marriage.

"Mere legislation will not suffice," he said. "The courts can strike down whatever Congress passes." He said Defense of Marriage Acts adopted by states and the federal government and designed to preserve traditional marriage run a high risk of being thrown out by the courts.

"We must federally define marriage in the U.S. Constitution or it will be federally defined by six judges in D.C.," Land insisted, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court. He noted the House of Representatives is expected to consider the Marriage Protection Act Sept. 20. A July 14 attempt to bring similar legislation to vote in the Senate failed.

Land noted a live simulcast and Web cast, focusing on the battle to preserve marriage, would be held on the eve of the vote. Joining Land in hosting the international event Sept. 17 will be James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, and Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark., where the broadcast will originate. More information on the simulcast is available by clicking on the WeVoteValues.com link at www.faithandfamily.com.

If marriage is redefined, the costs will be tremendous, Land said. It will destroy the family, be catastrophic for children, collapse the nation's health care system, bankrupt the Social Security system and be a death knell for religious freedom, he said.

In other business, trustees:

* named Don Wildmon, founder and executive director of the American Family Association, as the 2004 recipient of the Richard D. Land Distinguished Service Award. Wildmon is a "great man of God," Land said. A humble and wise man, Wildmon "isn't afraid of anyone, anytime, at any place, except the Lord Jesus Christ," Land said.

* awarded U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Va.) the ERLC's John Leland Religious Liberty Award for 2004. Land said Wolf, a member of the House's powerful Appropriations Committee, has been a "consistent champion of human rights and religious freedom." He brings "his faith to practice in his public policy work," Land added.

* signed off on a $3 million budget for the ERLC's 2004-2005 fiscal year, expressing appreciation for several cost-cutting measures instituted by the ERLC in the past year.

* named Daniel Heimbach, professor of Christian Ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and Jerry Johnson, president of Criswell College in Dallas, as fellows of the ERLC's Research Institute. The research institute serves to advise and assist the ERLC in equipping Southern Baptists and others in the areas of ethics, morality and public policy.

* elected David Willets of Ruston, La., as chairman of the ERLC's Board of Trustees and Jeff Isenhour of Fayetteville, N.C., as vice-chairman. Jean Hughes of Riceland, Wash., was reelected secretary.