Jeff Heinrich writes for Canwest about scary, evangelical agenda being a real possibility. This should be exciting when the Cons write yet more blogs about me this week.
MONTREAL - Francis Pearson has something in common with Stephen Harper: They're evangelical Christians. Not only that, he and Harper belong to the same Protestant sect, the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
Harper worships at East Gate Alliance Church, in Ottawa. Pearson runs the Alliance network in Quebec and worships at Fairview Alliance Church, in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Que.
But that doesn't mean Pearson's vote is a lock for the Conservatives on Oct. 14. Pearson says he doesn't mix politics and religion.
"I'm apolitical - I consider myself a citizen of the world," said the pastor, who was once municipal councillor in Quebec.
At his church, "we pray for all government authorities, whether they be municipal, provincial or Canadian," he said. "We leave it to the discretion of each of our members to decide what politics to espouse. We don't favour any one party or hold any in disfavour. Everyone is entirely free to choose."
Other conservative Christians sing from the same hymnal.
Eric Lanthier, director of Academie Chretienne Rive-Nord, an evangelical school for Christian boys and girls in Laval, said he won't guarantee his vote will go to the Conservatives.
"Of course, some Protestants will vote Conservative, but there are no marching orders telling them to do so," he said. "No one's saying 'Let's vote for Harper's party and no other'."
Same sermon at 4 MY Canada, an Ottawa-based organization for young evangelicals that is militantly "pro-family" - that is, anti-abortion.
"We want to make it clear that 4MYC will NOT be endorsing any one party in this election," its website says. "We are endorsing individuals on the basis of their values."
Still, the organization wants a "pro-marriage Parliament" and encourages members to support "value-based campaigns" in 45 swing ridings in B.C., Ontario and Quebec.
"This time, the evangelical vote must be a significant force," the 4MYC site says.
It's in the realm of values that the conservative agenda of the Christian right and some of the big-c Conservative policies under Harper match up - ideologically, at least.
"The fact the Conservatives favour a smaller role for the state, that appeals to Protestant evangelicals, and the fact the Conservatives have opposed gay marriage, that appeals to us, too," Lanthier said.
Other Tory policies - helping mothers stay at home with the kids instead of sending them to day care, for example, or eliminating tax credits for "offensive" films - fit in with what evangelicals believe: that "family" means a mother and a father raising their kids together in a happy God-fearing home, and that the Bible is more than just a moral guide, it is revealed truth.
Harper's Tories appear to be headed for a majority next month. For evangelicals, that ascendancy makes this election different from others.
"Elections shouldn't just be limited to atheists," said Lanthier. "As evangelicals, we want politicians to promote our values" and Harper just might do that, he said.
That said, the prospect of a Tory majority isn't cause for rejoicing just yet - the Conservatives' move to the centre hasn't pleased a lot of evangelicals.
"We wanted the abortion debate opened up again, and that didn't happen," said Lanthier. Same with the death penalty.
The prospect that, with a majority, Harper might feel free to translate his fundamentalist Christian principles into legislation scares people who are wary of the party's attraction for the Christian right.
"That's the big question," said Toronto author Marci McDonald, who is writing a book on what she calls the "theo-cons" - evangelicals, conservative Catholics and orthodox Jews - who she's documented have helped bring Harper to power.
"They are there - they are all over his government," she said. In cabinet, in the PMO, in the candidates running under the Tory banner, "he may have muzzled his far right, but he hasn't eliminated them."
In the end, "it matters less where Harper himself stands, than on what he owes to this constituency, because they will be demanding," McDonald said.
"They very meekly sat through the 2006 election and the last two years, not speaking to the press, not venturing anything. But they expect payback."