The Washington Post’s Tom Hamburger has a detailed report out of Missouri:
Nearly 400 Missouri pastors gathered at the podium of a hotel ballroom recently to pray over the kneeling figure of Rep. Todd Akin, a Senate candidate whose campaign had been pronounced dead by national Republican leaders weeks before.
Akin’s political revival has become a cause celebre for this group of clerics and other conservatives, who have launched a carefully orchestrated effort to lift the GOP candidate back into contention for a seat that could help decide control of the Senate.
“People are drawn to Akin’s cause because they see it as the opening battle for the soul of the Republican Party,” said strategist David Lane, who has spent months in the state organizing pastors to fight for Akin, at times bucking the wishes of GOP leaders in Washington. Akin’s campaign, Lane said, represents the fight against establishment politicians, their consultants and “a morally flawed approach to politics.”
It was part of the Pastors’ Policy Briefing, organized by the Missouri Renewal Project, a spin-off of an idea Lane first hatched in Texas, when pastors organized for Governor Rick Perry’s reelection in 2006. They’ve been active in several states since that time; Lane told me in 2008 that their purpose was to “the mobilization of pastors and pews to restore America to her Judeo-Christian heritage.”
The Bott Radio Network, one of the sponsors, posted a photo of pastors laying hands on Akin.
Speakers at the St. Louis event — including Texas Gov. Rick Perry — introduced political candidates and encouraged evangelical “awakening” and political action, but they did not endorse or focus on Akin or other candidates by name. Much of the program offered practical advice: how pastors can sometimes endorse candidates from the pulpit and invite them to speak at church; ways to improve evangelical Christian voter participation; and promotions for revival rallies, registration events and distribution of voter guides listing candidate positions on abortion, prayer and gay marriage.
Churches have been sponsoring some of those activities for years, but the St. Louis event, with so many clergy members participating in statewide training and political events, is unprecedented.
Pastors cannot, incidentally, endorse candidates from the pulpit, although the IRS has not been enforcing its prohibition against it of late. But Hamburger reports that one of the speakers at the event told the assembled pastors, “we are going to war.”