Christian Conservatives and the GOP

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," March 28, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Religious leaders are pushing the GOP (search) to get in the fight for Terri Schiavo's life, but Christian conservatives are equally vocal on many other cultural issues, like abortion and gay marriage. After the success in the last election, how much influence do they have over the Republican Party's agenda?

I'm joined by Colin Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring. So, Mr. Hanna, how much influence do Christian conservatives have over the GOP these days?

COLIN HANNA, PRESIDENT, LET FREEDOM RING: Hi, John. Thanks for having me on.

I think a fair amount, because several studies have shown that one of the great political divides in America, from a party's standpoint, is between those who attend church and those who don't. The former representing about two-thirds of most congregations, tend to vote Republican and supported the President the last time around; and those who don't, split about the same way: about two-thirds, one-third the other way.

But I think it's very important to draw a distinction between values- based political positions and overtly partisan political organizing. And we, for instance, work closely with pastors to encourage them to take true leadership positions within their communities on issues that are in the public sphere, but to be very careful to stay away from overt party identification.

GIBSON: Well, there was a story in The New York Times Monday about the pastors organizing the vote in Ohio. It did very well for President Bush in Ohio, they don't want to let the momentum go, and they're making the moderate GOP very uncomfortable, thinking that the Christian conservatives are pushing the party too far to the right.

What can you say to comfort, if you can, the moderate GOP?

HANNA: Well, I think that a party's purpose is to draw people together in a common philosophy. And I think that the reason that Christian conservatives have had a major impact in the Republican Party is because there is a closer harmony between the world-view of a number of religiously conservative Christians and other denominations and other sects as well.

Between that world-view and the world-view of the Republican Party, which tends to promote concepts such as freedom and so on. So, I do think that there is a harmony between world-views, between basic sets of philosophical values, but I don't think that it is appropriate for churches to get involved in partisan identification, partisan organizing, and things of that nature.

So I think that the harmony that's there is fundamental and philosophical and entirely appropriate.

GIBSON: Colin Hanna, President of Let Freedom Ring. Mr. Hanna, thank you very much. Appreciate you coming on.

HANNA: Thank you, John.

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