Christian conservative leaders unify behind McCain, adopt statement with common goals
DENVER (BP)--Giving a significant boost to Republican John McCain's goal of attracting the votes of social conservatives, nearly 100 pro-family leaders gathering in Denver July 1 agreed to unify behind the Arizona senator for president.
The leaders also approved a "Declaration of American Values" with 10 common goals, such as protecting the sanctity of life and affirming natural, traditional marriage. (A copy of the document is at the end of this story.)
A complete list of attendees was not released, but representatives who were there confirmed to Baptist Press that Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America and Tim and Beverly LaHaye were among those present. Focus on the Family and the American Family Association also had representatives in attendance. One leading conservative, Paul Weyrich, did not attend because of health reasons but is "fully on board" and sent someone to represent him, Staver said.
Staver, who called the meeting, acknowledged that "there have been some bruises and disagreements" among conservatives during the primary season but said it was time to move on. He said "99.9 percent" of those who were in attendance agreed to get behind McCain. The meeting was first reported by Time.com.
"I felt that it was absolutely critical in order to preserve our shared core Christian and moral values that we have unity among the leadership and that we look at the landscape and focus not on candidates, not on personalities and not on parties but on our values, and then assess who can best advance those values," Staver told BP. "Once we did that, it was pretty obvious that that would be Sen. John McCain, because Sen. Barack Obama would decimate them.
"... We're not suggesting that [McCain] supports 100 percent of the values that we support," Staver continued. "We are, however, saying that he is an individual of integrity and that he would support our values more than Sen. Barack Obama."
Other attendees at the meeting included Dick and Rich Bott of Bott Radio Network, Kelly Shackelford of the Texas-based Free Market Foundation, John Stemberger of the Florida Family Policy Council, Phil Burress of the Ohio-based Citizens for Community Values, Tim Clinton of the American Association of Christian Counselors, David Barton of WallBuilders, William Owens of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, Steve Strang of Charisma Magazine and Don Hodel, former president of Focus on the Family.
James Dobson of Focus on the Family was in California working on a book and did not attend.
The meeting was but the latest good news for McCain regarding support from pro-family leaders. Several days earlier, Burress -- who had previously stated his concerns about McCain -- announced in an e-mail to friends he had had a change of heart after having a private meeting, along with five other pro-family leaders, with McCain in Ohio June 26. Burress said he believes there's a greater difference between McCain and Obama than there was in 2004 between President Bush and Democrat John Kerry.
"It's not even close," he said.
McCain, Burress said, sides with social conservatives on the major issues, particularly abortion and the judiciary. (McCain says he wants to see Roe v. Wade overturned.) Further, Burress also said he takes heart in McCain's pledge to nominate Supreme Court justices like President Bush's two nominees, John Roberts and Samuel Alito. The concerns Burress says he had about McCain are gone, Burress said.
"This is not your typical politician. He doesn't stick his finger in the wind," said Burress, adding he will work in Ohio to educate people about the differences between McCain and Obama.
But Burress also said it's crucial for McCain to choose a pro-life, pro-family running mate. Some conservative leaders, Burress said, will abandon McCain if he does otherwise.
The make-up of the Supreme Court is one issue driving conservatives' sense of urgent need to get behind McCain. The two oldest members of the court -- 88-year-old John Paul Stevens and 75-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- both support Roe v. Wade and, some observers believe, are wanting to retire but waiting for a Democrat to win the White House. Some conservatives believe the court is only one vote away from overturning Roe.
"The judiciary is a huge factor," Staver said. "It's important who sits on the United States Supreme Court bench and who is appointed in the other federal courts ... because those affect our shared core values. Those judges either protect or they undermine our shared core values."
Staver also said the leaders in Denver discussed ways to advances their goals beyond November.
"We want to make sure we have a trans-generational, multi-ethnic, multi-racial coalition of similarly associated individuals who share these values," he said.
The complete text of the Declaration of American Values, adopted at the meeting, follows:
"We the people of the United States of America, at this crucial time in history, do hereby affirm the core consensus values which form the basis of America's greatness, that all men and women from every race and ethnicity are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We adhere to the rule of law embodied in the Constitution of the United States and to the principles of liberty on which America was founded. In order to maintain the blessings of liberty and justice for ourselves and our posterity, and recognizing that personal responsibility is the basis of our self-governing
Nation, we declare our allegiance:
"1. To secure the sanctity of human life by affirming the dignity of and right to life for the disabled, the ill, the aged, the poor, the disadvantaged, and for the unborn from the moment of conception. Every person is made in the image of God, and it is the responsibility and duty of all individuals and communities of faith to extend the hand of loving compassion to care for those in poverty and distress.
"2. To secure our national interest in the institution of marriage and family by embracing the union of one man and one woman as the sole form of legitimate marriage and the proper basis of family.
"3. To secure the fundamental rights of parents to the care, custody, and control of their children regarding their upbringing and education.
"4. To secure the free exercise of religion for all people,
including the freedom to acknowledge God through our public
institutions and other modes of public expression and the freedom of
religious conscience without coercion by penalty or
force of law.
"5. To secure the moral dignity of each person, acknowledging that obscenity, pornography, and indecency debase our
communities, harm our families, and undermine morality and respect. Therefore, we promote enactment and enforcement of laws to protect decency and traditional morality.
"6. To secure the right to own, possess and manage private property without arbitrary interference from government, while acknowledging the necessity of maintaining a proper and balanced care and stewardship of the environment and natural resources for the health and safety of our families.
"7. To secure the individual right to own, possess, and use firearms as central to the preservation of peace and liberty.
"8. To secure a system of checks and balances between the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches within both state and federal governments, so that no one branch -- particularly the judiciary -- usurps the authority of the other two, and to maintain the constitutional principles of federalism which divide power between the state and federal governments.
"9. To secure our national sovereignty and domestic tranquility by maintaining a strong military; establishing and maintaining secure national borders; participating in international and diplomatic affairs without ceding authority to foreign powers that diminish or interfere with our unalienable rights; and being mindful of our history as a nation of immigrants, promoting immigration policies that observe the rule of law and are just, fair, swift, and foster national unity.
"10. To secure a system of fair taxes that are not punitive against the institution of marriage or family and are not progressive in nature, and within a limited government framework, to encourage economic opportunity, free enterprise, and free market competition.
"We hereby pledge our Names, our Lives and our Sacred Honor to this Declaration of American Values."
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.