Christian voter drive organizer says tie to Perry’s ‘Response’ came as surprise
Image has not been found. URL: http://images.americanindependent.com/2010/07/MahurinReligion_Thumb.jpgPrayer-goers who attended Gov. Rick Perry’s “Response” in August may have been surprised to find themselves on a mailing list encouraging them to take part in an ambitious Christian voter mobilization effort two weeks after the rally.
Leaders of the group in charge of the initiative, called Champion the Vote, said they had no idea the American Family Association, which organized The Response, was going to connect its new friends with their effort.
Not that Bill Dallas, whose group United in Purpose is behind the voter drive, is complaining. Dallas called the move “welcome exposure,” and while his group wasn’t directly involved with the Houston prayer gathering, he said they will likely reap the benefits of reaching a wide conservative Christian audience before the 2012 elections.
As the Texas Independent previously reported, the email message from AFA founder Don Wildmon introduced those on “The Response” mailing list to CTV, an “important initiative” with a mission to mobilize and register 5 million unregistered conservative Christians to vote, “according to the Biblical worldview in 2012.”
Wildmon’s message calls for an army of volunteers to influence the outcome of the elections and signals the start of a nationwide strategy, “to return America to the principles on which she was founded, with God at the center of our nation.” For some, the letter to rally goers dispelled lingering questions about the political nature of the rally.
Dallas said he wasn’t familiar with the AFA or its leaders —or why his group had been chosen as its voter mobilization effort of choice — but said he did play a small role in notifying Houston churches about The Response. The AFA did not return requests for comment.
United in Purpose is a nonprofit group seeking, it says, “to actively advance the traditional values of America’s founding fathers” by providing resources to Christian groups and ministries for voter mobilization. According to UiP, the organization hosts nationwide educational events on topics like America’s heritage as a nation founded on Biblical truth, and facilitates talk “about the Biblical perspective on national and local political issues,” while also helping to coordinate legislative prayer caucuses and prayer support groups at the state and local level.
Dallas spent the past decade working for the Church Communication Network (CCN), which specializes in broadcasting live religious events to thousands of congregations around the country. He has partnered with Evangelical Christian ministers Rick Warren, James Dobson, and atheist-turned-megachurch pastor Lee Strobel over the past ten years to bring their messages to the pews. Last year, John Murphy, who founded UiP, called on Dallas to fuse his talents in linking the faith community with larger-scale voter mobilization efforts.
“We understand how to train and mobilize congregants, but how do you do the same thing to get people registered to vote?” said Dallas. “We wanted to combine the two ideas and connect the dots to fix the problem of the high number of unregistered Christian voters.”
To achieve the goal, Dallas said, CTV plans to data mine some 100 million names the group has gathered, and select out the Christians — Dallas said the group has tools for this — and then again those who are not registered. The goal, said Dallas, it to get 100,000 “champions” to register 50 people in their community. Conference calls take place every few weeks (the last one was with “Response” endorser and former U.S. Republican Congressman Bob McEwen), and a youth voting initiative is set for launch on Oct. 1.
In his new role, Dallas continues to broadcast religious events, including segments of influential Iowa pastor briefings, which featured a handful of Republican speakers including GOP presidential contenders Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich, as well as Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee and controversial Texas-based historian David Barton. UiP repackaged the March 2011 event as “Rediscover God In America.”
Murphy, the California-based entrepreneur and founder of UiP, refused to go on the record discussing the organization, beyond saying he is no longer active with it.
But while he said he handed operations over to Dallas last year, Murphy he continued to collect a generous paycheck from the nonprofit he started, receiving $114,000 in 2010, according to the most recent 990 tax form available.
Though he said he’s not involved with the group, Murphy is also listed as the main contact for a 527 organization called Freedom’s 56, which calls itself “a non-partisan, nationwide collaboration of individuals dedicated to refreshing the American political scene through the introduction of Statesmen and Stateswomen into the Washington, DC political process.”