An attendee at a religious rally in Iowa in 2008. (Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
A group of top evangelical leaders is launching a new voter initiative in hopes of increasing turnout among Christian voters in next year’s midterm elections.
The American Renewal Project, an arm of the conservative American Family Association, is launching “Pastors and Pews,” which will offer policy briefings to church leaders and their congregations in hopes of encouraging Christians to become more politically active amid years of declining turnout among voters of faith.
The group tells the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody that it will hold its first event in May in Des Moines, Iowa—a key presidential primary state. And in a sign it's not messing around, the group has invited three Republicans rumored to be considering White House bids in 2016: Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Alex Conant, a spokesman for Rubio, confirmed that the Florida senator received the invitation, but said he “will not be able to attend.” Spokesmen for Paul and Jindal did not immediately return requests for comment.
David Lane, an influential conservative operative who's steering the group, tells Brody that it's a way to unite pastors over crucial issues facing the church and society.
“If the key to maintaining sustainable freedom is righteousness—the same virtue that produced freedom—what is the greatest threat to freedom? Unrighteousness,” Lane tells CBN. “America has left God.”
The group’s efforts come after former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed led an effort to drive up voter turnout among faith voters during the 2012 election. His group, the Faith & Freedom Coalition, said evangelical voters made up 27 percent of the voting electorate—a number that was far better than the turnout in the 2008 election, but which still wasn’t enough to help Republican Mitt Romney win the White House.