- The Washington Times - Friday, August 13, 2004

Some prominent evangelical Christians say they have not been invited to participate in or attend the Republican National Convention less than three weeks before the event is to begin.

Convention organizers deny they’re marginalizing the religious leaders. Republican strategist Ralph Reed said Wednesday that invitations just started going out to evangelical figures, but he would not release any names.

The Rev. Franklin Graham, who delivered the invocation at President Bush’s inauguration, has had no request to attend so far, said Graham spokesman Mark DeMoss.

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, who offered a prayer at the 2000 convention, said he has not yet been asked to do so this year. He plans to go “quietly in and quietly out” of the New York event, although he insists no one in the Republican campaigns asked him to keep a low profile.

Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition and a one-time Republican presidential candidate, said, “I’ve had no request from anybody to be there.” Unlike Mr. Falwell, Mr. Robertson believes the Republican Party is deliberately keeping him and other evangelicals away.

“In the last convention, the thought was to keep all the conservatives out of sight,” said Mr. Robertson, who has attended every Republican convention since 1988, but said he won’t go this year. “The general thrust will be to entice the so-called independent moderates and I am not sure that there would be much reason for a conservative to be there.”

Mr. Reed, who was once executive director of the Christian Coalition, said Republicans had employed no such strategy and said conservative Christians will have a central role at the convention, which is set to begin Aug. 30.

“There is a specific program under way to invite social conservatives and religious leaders of a very broad or diverse representations and that is even under way as we speak,” Mr. Reed said.

Republicans are doing everything possible to turn out the evangelical vote, because conservative Christians are among Mr. Bush’s core supporters. The president’s chief political strategist, Karl Rove, has estimated that 4 million conservative Christians did not vote in 2000, and the campaign is working hard to prevent that from happening again this Election Day.

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