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Help wanted: evangelicals and Catholics especially.

HARRISBURG, Pa.--A conservative advocacy group is hiring 10 fulltime organizers to rally churches across Pennsylvania to get out the vote for the November election. "Evangelical or Catholic background is helpful," said an online job posting.

The group, Let Freedom Ring, was founded by former Chester County Commissioner Colin Hanna. As part of a coalition called the Pennsylvania Pastors Network, Let Freedom Ring kicked off a statewide series of get-out-the-vote training sessions for pastors this month in Valley Forge, with Sen. Rick Santorum appearing in a video.

Santorum, a prominent conservative Republican who is seeking a third term, faces a battle for re-election in one of the nation's key political races this year. The Democrats' Senate candidate, State Treasurer Robert Casey Jr., has a 10 to 15 point lead over Santorum in most polls. Both candidates are Catholic and antiabortion.

The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said Hanna's group is conducting "an under-the-radar campaign to re-elect Santorum" that could get churches into trouble with the Internal Revenue Service.

The same theme was sounded in a complaint Fried with the IRS by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Hanna dismissed the group as a "liberal front" and its complaint as "groundless."

Gary Marx, project director with Let Freedom Ring, said the focus will be "nonpartisan voter drives," well within the law. "We're really trying to send a clarion call to citizenship."

Churchgoing voters care about "those issues the biblical principles clearly speak to," Marx said. He cited abortion and same-sex marriage.

Both Santorum and Casey oppose same-sex marriage, though Casey favors civil unions.

Santorum was the only candidate to appear live or by video March 6 at the Valley Forge training session, sponsored by a coalition that includes Let Freedom Ring, the Pennsylvania Family Institute, the Urban Family Council and the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation.

Marx said Santorum "spoke as a public servant, not as a candidate. ... There was no discussion of any campaign or voting for anybody." It was "very natural" for pastors to hear from "someone who has spoken very openly about the intersection of faith and politics," Marx said.

--Religion News Service
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Title Annotation:IN THE BEGINNING
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Geographic Code:1U2PA
Date:Apr 7, 2006
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