(CNSNews.com) - Evangelical Christians believe that a growing number of Americans are rejecting the "1960s counterculture" and are ready to return to a "Judeo-Christian moral consensus."
More than 900 evangelical Christians from 40 states gathered in Fort Lauderdale last week -- to celebrate their agenda's advance and to see how they can become "more effective agents of moral renewal in American culture," as a press release put it.
"We've got the Holy Spirit's wind at our back," Dr. Richard Land, moral issues spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention, told the "Reclaiming America For Christ" conference, which took place Feb.18-19 at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.
Land said the next 10 to15 years will decide whether America succumbs to a "neo-pagan triumph" or returns to a "Judeo-Christian moral consensus where rape and illegitimacy are rare, marriage and child-rearing are valued, and prisons are converted into museums."
Dr. Gary Cass, one of the conference organizers, unveiled four new initiatives intended to expand the impact of the Center for Reclaiming America (a grassroots outreach project of Coral Ridge Ministries): The initiatives include:
-- Liberty's Voice, a lobbying office in Washington that is expected to open in March.
-- Strategic Institute, a think tank that will "add intellectual muscle" to the Center's pro-family efforts.
-- National Grassroots Alliance, an initiative to boost the Center's existing grassroots network of 400,000 evangelicals up to one million.
-- Reclaiming America Media to communicate the Center's message.
In four years, the Center for Reclaiming America will have 12 regional offices across the country, said Cass, the center's executive director. The long-term goal is to have a trained activist/organizer in all 435 congressional districts across the United States, he said.
Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) urged Christian evangelicals to support a bill that would allow clergy to preach for or against political candidates. Right now, federal law penalizes clergy who engage in political activity by removing their church's tax exempt status.
Jones said his bill, the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act (H.R. 235), "allows a minister to say whatever God puts in their heart and in their mouth."
Jones said returning freedom of speech to American clergy is even more important than other pro-family issues: "There is no hope for the moral future of our country unless pastors can speak freely," he told conference goers.
Jones said his bill, first introduced in 2001, has been blocked by the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. He urged conference-goers to ask Speaker Dennis Hastert, a supporter of the bill, to apply the pressure needed to get the bill out of committee.
"We have got to get it done this year," Jones said. "I believe that after four years, that 2005 is the year, but it really is up to you and your energy."
American University professor Daniel Dreisbach, a First Amendment expert, told the conference that the First Amendment was intended to let the clergy speak freely.
According to Dreisbach, the Founding Fathers "wanted the prophetic voice of the church to be freely raised to ensure the very survival of the political order."
The concept of a wall of separation between church and state "has been used to silence the religious voice in public life," he added.
Inaddition to Jones and Dreisbach, the conference featured 19 speakers, including Christian historian David Barton, author David Limbaugh, American Family Association President Tim Wildmon, U.S. Rep. Katharine Harris (R-Fla.) and Alliance Defense Fund President Alan Sears. (Dr. D. James Kennedy, president of Coral Ridge Ministries, the parent organization of the Center for Reclaiming America, was ill and therefore unable to speak at this year's conference.)
In a press release summing up the conference, organizers noted that "two remarkable symbols of America's unique heritage of law and liberty" were displayed at the convention. They include former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore's granite Ten Commandments monument and a life-size replica of the Liberty Bell, which was rung to open the conference.