"Christian Conservatives," "Religious Moderates" vs. IRS

In Monday's "I.R.S. Eyes Religious Groups as More Enter Election Fray," religion reporter Laurie Goodstein finds plenty ofno-doubt-about-it "Christian conservatives," but feels the need to soften her labeling of the religious left by throwing the "moderate" label into the mix.

"With midterm elections less than two months away, Christian conservatives are enlisting churches in eight battleground states to register voters, gather crowds for rallies and distribute voters' guides comparing the candidates' stands on issues that conservatives consider 'family values.'"

Goodstein fails to recognize the liberalism of Americans United, and although she does notice liberal religious groups, she softens the label in two instances. "This election year, however, the religious conservatives are facing resistance from newly invigorated religious liberals and moderates who are creating their own voters' guides and are organizing events designed to challenge the conservatives' definition of 'values.'"

Here's a curious part that should have gotten a lot more attention: "Capitalizing on the crackdown, the advocacy group Americans United for Separation of Church and State plans to begin mailing letters today to 117,000 clergy members in 11 states warning them to avoid 'any activity designed to influence the outcome of a partisan election,' by either supporting or opposing a particular candidate."

If a conservative group was doing that, the Times would no doubt consider it a crude attempt at voter intimidation.

"'The stakes for these churches are higher than ever before because of the I.R.S.'s new enforcement efforts,' said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. 'The I.R.S. is taking this very seriously, and I think it's because the situation was spinning out of control.'"

Goodstein lets the liberal secularist Lynn spout: "Mr. Lynn said that conservative churches in 2004 had constructed a political machine he likened to 'a church-based Tammany Hall.' He said he expected their voters' guides to be skewed to favor Republican candidates. 'It's absolutely illegal, it's wrong and it divides churches,' he said.

"But a leader of Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian organization whose affiliates are distributing voters' guides in eight states, said its guides would be nonpartisan and comply with I.R.S. rules."

Goodstein againthrows in the word "moderate": "Many of the most visible groups representing religious moderates and liberals are distributing materials that do not mention the candidates.

"The voters' guides distributed by two such groups - Sojourners, a predominantly evangelical organization founded by Jim Wallis, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good - will enumerate principles that they say religious voters should use to evaluate candidates....Among the principles are a commitment to reducing poverty and preserving the environment and caring for immigrants: in short, the left's version of 'family values.'"

Check the websites of those two groups and try and puzzle out what exactly is "moderate" about their views.