WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (search) spoke by video to the first "Justice Sunday" evangelical rally in April, but he wasn't invited to address "Justice Sunday II," even though it's in his home state of Tennessee.
Since the first rally, the potential 2008 presidential candidate has angered the events' organizers by stating his support for expanded human embryonic stem cell research (search). House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, was invited to speak at the Aug. 14 rally.
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said Tuesday on the group's Web site that Frist's recently announced stem cell stance "reflects an unwise and unnecessary choice both for public policy and for respecting the dignity of human life." Perkins also has been annoyed with Frist for allowing a compromise on President Bush's judicial nominations (search).
In a telephone interview late Tuesday, Perkins said Frist wasn't invited because he had participated by videotape in the group's previous event. The main reason the event is being held in Nashville, he said, is that it is easier to line up country music stars there to perform.
"There is a disagreement" with Frist, he said, but held open the possibility that the majority leader could be invited to future events.
The Aug. 14 gathering, entitled "Justice Sunday II: God Save the United States and this Honorable Court!" is the second in a series of televised church demonstrations.
The organizers hope to voice support for Bush Supreme Court nominee John Roberts (search) and bring attention to judicial matters of importance to evangelicals, said Amber Hildebrand, a spokeswoman for the Family Research Council.
Frist will not be in Tennessee the day of the event, said spokeswoman Amy Call.
Another conservative group that will participate in the rally, Focus on the Family, is also upset about Frist's stem cell decision. Spokesman Paul Hetrick said, "Our views have not changed; Senator Frist's views have evidently changed."
The first "Justice Sunday" event, held in April at a Louisville, Ky., church, was aimed at stopping a potential filibuster of several nominees for the federal bench. Frist had threatened to try to change Senate rules to prevent certain filibusters if Democrats persisted, a move applauded by the rally organizers.
Weeks later, 14 Senate Republicans and Democrats forged a compromise. Some conservatives criticized it and blamed Frist for allowing it to take place. "There will be repercussions," Perkins said at the time.