The North Carolina Republican Party asked its members this week to send their church directories to the party, drawing furious protests from local and national religious leaders.
"Such a request is completely beyond the pale of what is acceptable," said the Rev. Richard Land, head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
During the 2004 presidential race, the Bush-Cheney campaign sent a similar request to Republican activists across the country. It asked churchgoers not only to furnish church directories to the campaign, but also to use their churches as a base for political organizing.
The tactic was roundly condemned by religious leaders across the political spectrum, including conservative evangelical Christians. Ten professors of ethics at major seminaries and universities wrote a letter to President Bush in August 2004 asking him to "repudiate the actions of your re-election campaign," and calling on both parties to "respect the integrity of all houses of worship."
Officials of the Republican National Committee maintained that the tactic did not violate federal tax laws that prohibit churches from endorsing or opposing candidates for office, and they never formally renounced it. But Land said he thought the GOP had backed down.