On the Sunday before the November election, at least 2,000 representatives of Christian Voice, a leading conservative evangelical group, will gather outside hundreds of churches around the country.
After services, if all goes according to plan, the representatives will hand out CV "report cards," which target for defeat 35 members of the Senate and House. These legislators flunked CV's "key moral issues" test by casting votes incompatible with "a fundamental Christian point of view."
In Iowa, for example, Democratic Sen. John C. Culver gets failing grades for his votes on school prayer, parental permission for sex education of school children, "forced busing," a balanced federal budget and federal funding of abortions. On the only other issue in his four-page report card, tax exemptions for "Christian schools," CV failed Culver for having been absent when the roll was called.
The card's last page appeals for contributions to CV's Moral Government Fund to pay for its political activities. It is the largest of the three political action committees sponsored by a conservative Christian group.
California-based CV, which says its membership includes 37,000 ministers and 153,000 laymen, has made about 3 million mailings since forming in February. At the time, it announced plans to spend $1 million. But that was "just a figure I pulled out of the air," Gary I. Jarmin, CV's legislative consultant in Washington, says.
Actually, Christian Voice in its most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission, reported receipts of $122,271 through July. Since then, Jarmin said receipts have risen to "about $200,000" and are expected to reach "about $400,000 or $500,000" by November. By contrast,Moral Majority's PAC had raised $22,089 and is now dormant, while the National Christian Action Coalition's PAC, which produces a Capitol Hill "scoreboard" on family issues, had received a mere $5,157.
Jarmin, former legislative director of the American Conservative Union and one-time official of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, said the Moral Government Fund is allocating about 60 percent of the contributions to its Christians for Reagan campaign. The balance is going to congressional races.
"Ronald Reagan is the only candidate that has firmly stood by his Christian principles at the risk of political loss," CV says.
As of July 31, the MGF had given only $850 to candidates, including $100 each to incumbent Republican Reps. John M. Ashbrook (Ohio), Daniel B. Crane (Ill.), Jim Jeffries (Kans.) and William E. Dannemeyer (Calif.). Rep. Thomas N. Kindness (R-Ohio) got $100 for his Senate campaign, and Rep. Larry McDonald (D-Ga.) the same sun. The balance, $250, went to Rep. Dawson Mathis (D-Ga.). All but Ashbrook and Mathis sit on CV's 15-member Congressional Advisory Committee.
The PAC of Moral Majority, which claims a membership of about 72,000 pastors or preachers and 328,000 laymen, has spent far more on congressional races. lIt has contributed $21,000 to candidates, including 15 who got $1,000 each. The only incumbents among them are Rep. Charles E. Grassley, the Republican trying to unseat Sen. Frank Church in Idaho. The largest contribution, $3,000, went to Brenda Jose, who was defeated -- nearly 4 to 1 -- by incumbent Bob Packwood for the GOP Senate nomination in Oregon.
The National Christian Action Coalition gave only $200, to Iowan Grassley.
In its overall congressional report card, CV rates legislators on the basis of their votes in 1979 on "14 Key Moral Issues." The issues on the Senate list include Taiwan security, enhancement of the power of local school agencies, "forced unionization" of teachers and the nomination of Patricia Wald to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Issues on the House list include funding for "Godless behavioral humanist research."
Jarmin acknowledged that CV's choice of issues parallels those of nonreligious conservative PACs. But the choice excludes numerous pieces of legislation that, mainstream religious spokesmen say, carry out religious teaching by, say, seeking to protect millions of persons from perils to life and health.
An example of what the choice excludes is a pending bill which authorizes imprisonment of corporation executives who knowingly cover up hazards such as exposure of absestos workers to lung cancer and other chest diseases, dumping of toxic chemicals in residential areas such as Love Canal and marketing of unsafe autos, tires, drugs and other products. Business groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers oppose it.
In seeking to compel corporate managers finding serious hazards to disclose them to their workers or a federal regulatory agency, Washington Rabbi Eugene J. Lipman says the bill embodies the command in Leviticus 19:16: "Neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor."
Similarly, at a hearing on the bill, the Rev. Michael H. Crosby, a Roman Catholic priest who is also a member of the Midwest Capuchin Franciscans, testified that it carries out the gospel teachings of Matthew and Luke making a steward responsible for the wellbeing of others liable to "punishment fit for the crime" if his stewardship is "scandalous and poor."
In CVs congressional report card, the bill's sponsor, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), gets a zero rating. So did 20 of 64 cosponsors; 21 others scored between 1 and 15. The only perfect rating 100, is held by Rep. Norman F. Lent, one of only three GOP cosponsors. His district in Long Island, N.Y., was found to have a serious chemical dumping problem.
Jarmin said he had been unaware of the Miller bill, adding "we can't fight every single battle." But he said he did not intend to suggest that CV would dispute the existence of the problem or that the problem does not need attention.