Evangelical Christian leaders of TheCall DC, a large youth prayer rally slated for Saturday on the Mall, criticized presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama on Friday for his liberal votes on abortion.
“We’re not endorsing a candidate,” lead organizer Lou Engle said. “We’re challenging politicians who say they’re Christian but have voted 100 percent for late-term abortions and partial-birth abortions.”
He added, “I don’t want to be courted by his Christianity or his charisma, but by his voting record.”
Their Friday news conference, billed as a walk-up to Saturday’s gathering, quickly turned into a discussion of what kind of presidential candidate America’s evangelicals would rally behind and on presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain considering a pro-choice running mate.
Depending on the survey and the precise wording, estimates of the number of evangelicals in the U.S. range from 40 million to 70 million.
“We are calling the nation back to faith and confidence in God,” said Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, as he held up a Bible.
“If Senator McCain chooses a pro-abortion vice president, he’ll give the election to Obama,” Mr. Jackson said. “He will have muddied the water, and it’d be tantamount to political suicide.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the ideal running mate must be “someone who connects with [pro-life] issues and is not afraid to talk about them.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who unsuccessfully campaigned for the presidency earlier this year, said: “We’ve lost our spiritual roots. We’ve been afraid to talk about them.”
All four men are among the more than two-dozen speakers who will address thousands of young people expected at the rally. Beginning at 10 a.m., TheCall will be 12 hours of prayer, worship, fasting and inspirational talks based on the themes of repentance, national sin and holiness.
It will be structured like the Promise Keepers’ massive 1997 rally, with some of the speeches geared toward blacks, Hispanics and American Indians. A preliminary schedule supplied to The Washington Times lists several topics: immigration, racism and gay marriage.
Scheduled more than a year ago, the rally has unwittingly become a foil to another gathering taking place on the same day at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.
The Rev. Rick Warren, one of the country’s best-known evangelical pastors, will interview Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain in a “civil forum” that is sure to touch on each man’s religious beliefs.
The California gathering has become a rallying point for left-leaning evangelicals, but those attending TheCall will be overwhelmingly conservative evangelical youths, many of whom have been arriving in the District during the past week.
“Life is the issue here,” Mr. Perkins said. “The commitment to life among young evangelicals exceeds that of their parents.”
Organizers said foremost on their minds will be prayer to end legalized abortion.
“Our purpose in gathering this weekend is not political at all,” Mr. Huckabee said. “It’s about life and death, about the next generation and whether there will be one. If we make it OK for a society to slaughter innocent or vulnerable life, people will treat us the same way.”
Mr. Engle said Saturday’s rally won’t be about condemning nonbelievers.
“We will humble ourselves first of all because we have compromised as a church,” he said. “We are pointing a finger toward our own failures. … We are going to call on God to change us and then we’re going to cry out for God to change our nation. Hopefully we’ll see a turning.”