September 2, 2010

Candidates and Their Supporters Use YouTube Videos to Appeal to Religious Voters

Some subtle references to religion have cropped up in YouTube videos posted by or on behalf of several candidates this election season.

James Lankford, a first-time candidate for office who ran a Baptist youth camp for 13 years, won the Republican nomination for Oklahoma’s 5th congressional district after the primary runoff on Aug. 24, as The Oklahomanreported. Contemporary Christian music artist Chris Tomlin, who has known Lankford since high school, endorsed Lankford in a video posted on July 22 on Lankford’s YouTube page.  Tomlin is not identified as a Christian artist in the video, nor does he mention religion as a reason for his endorsement, but he is a very prominent name in the evangelical Christian community, as noted by Religion News Service’s Religion News Blog in 2009. An earlier videoposted on Lankford’s YouTube page promoted a fund-raising concertfeaturing Tomlin and several other Christian performing artists. While the video does not identify any of the artists as Christian, about half way through the video, the words “An Incredible Night of Worship” flash across the screen.

Roy Barnes, the Democratic nominee for governor in Georgia, posted acampaign ad on April 30 on his YouTube page titled “Providence” that shows him sitting in a church. None of the issues he discusses in the ad are directly related to religion, nor are any religious symbols, such as a cross, visible in the ad, but the rows of pews clearly show that Barnes is using the church as a backdrop.

Finally, the National Republican Senatorial Committee posted this ad on Aug. 4 on its YouTube page criticizing Jack Conway, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, for swearing at a church picnic in 2009. As USA Today reported in August 2009, Conway called himself “one tough son of a b–” at St. Jerome’s Catholic Church’s annual Farm Fancy picnic, prompting the planners of the picnic to ban profanity at the event in 2010. Conway, who has served as Kentucky’s attorney general since 2008, will face Republican candidate Rand Paul in November in a race that has captured national attention, as reported by The Washington Post. Following this year’s picnic, Paul found himself in hot water with Farm Fancy organizers after he told conservative radio talk show host Sean Hannity that Fancy Farm was “a wild picnic” and that speakers “worry about people throwing beer on you and throwing things at you,” according to the Associated Press. Paul apologized for his remarks the day after the Hannity interview, the AP reported.

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