Believers aim to ‘reclaim’ America

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Third of three parts.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The 5,200-pound slab of granite bearing a replica of the Ten Commandments rests in isolated splendor, set off by red and blue nylon sheets, on a flatbed truck parked on the front lawn of a church.

It’s not just any church, either. Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church is a signature evangelical congregation in southern Florida — its gleaming white, 303-foot steeple visible for miles around.

This same Ten Commandments monument was famously installed by Roy Moore, then chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, in the rotunda of the Judiciary Building in Montgomery in the summer of 2001.

Justice Moore’s monument is something of a piece de resistance in the renewed effort by Christians and others of faith to preserve the place of the Almighty in the public square.

On this February day, the Commandments in granite is a top attraction of the annual “Reclaiming America for Christ” conference that drew 942 faithful to Coral Ridge Presbyterian, also stop No. 130 on the monument’s nationwide tour. During breaks, conferees surround the slab, taking pictures and admiring the Bible verses and patriotic quotes inscribed on all four sides.

They recall the federal court order in 2003 that the monument be removed because it violates the Constitution’s prohibition “against the establishment of religion.” They talk about how fellow justices had to sue to remove the defiant Justice Moore — whom they consider a godly man — from office.

Inside the palm tree-ringed church, Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention, preaches on “A God-Blessed America: How It Could Happen and What It Could Look Like.”

Loosed from its biblical moorings, Mr. Land tells the assembly that “a pagan America” can only become home to a legion of ills: harvests of fetal tissue and eggs from women’s bodies, marriage redefined as any union with a variety of partners, single-parent families as the norm, a low age of consent for child-adult sex, hard-core porn on television.

Change will come when “a certain percentage of American Christians known only to God humble themselves and pray,” Mr. Land says. “He will lean over from heaven and pour out a blessing, not only on Christians, but on non-Christian and Christian alike.”

In such a “God-blessed America,” he says, streets and schools would be safe, divorce and illegitimate children would be rare, and the elderly would live with their families and not in nursing homes.

“In an American society that preaches Judeo-Christian values, rooted in biblical theology, not all will be Christian, but they can at least live according to [shared] values,” Mr. Land concludes.

The conference, designed to energize Christian activists, is the work of the Center for Reclaiming America (CRA), an eight-year-old public-policy group founded by Coral Ridge.

For two days, participants hear the words of rising stars in the politically active arm of American evangelicalism. One is the Rev. Rick Scarborough, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Pearland, Texas, and founder of Vision America, which seeks to involve pastors in public policy debates.

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