Jerry Falwell to urge Johnson County pastors to mobilize congregations

? An Overland Park church leader who has been trying to rally Johnson County pastors to get involved in political issues is getting help this week from the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

The Rev. Jerry Johnston will join Falwell in urging Christian leaders across the Kansas City area to mobilize their congregations ahead of the Nov. 2 general election.

Johnston, pastor of the 3,000-member First Family Church, said he decided earlier this year to get more involved in state politics after the Kansas Legislature rejected an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage.

“A pastor who really believes in being salt and light should be ministering to his representatives and senators,” Johnston said. “He should know them.”

Falwell plans to speak at Johnston’s church tonight; then the two pastors will conduct “pastor policy briefings” all day Thursday at three locations in the Kansas City area and one in Wichita.

“I am going to try to motivate the pastors to do something, to not be silent and to become engaged in a long-term process,” Johnston said. “The big deal is getting people informed, targeting the 50 percent of the evangelical vote that is not voting.”

Organizers of the Falwell event will hand out DVDs containing information on where various candidates stand on issues important to “people of faith,” including abortion, same-sex marriage and home schooling.

The DVD will include the views of Democratic Rep. Dennis Moore, who is facing Republican Kris Kobach in Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District.

Kobach, a law professor who will join Falwell and Johnston in their visits to area churches, taped his responses to questions a few weeks ago at a candidate forum at Johnston’s church. Moore could not attend that forum and is submitting written responses.

Johnston said Kobach’s appearance with the two ministers was because of the candidate’s expertise on constitutional issues and had nothing to do with the congressional race — even though Kobach has campaigned heavily against abortion and gay marriage.

“I wish Dennis would come,” Johnston said. “I’d love to have him. I’d love to have him talk about his voting record and how it contrasts with Kris. That would be awesome.”

But Moore campaign manager Julie Merz said Moore disagreed with some of Falwell’s political positions and probably wouldn’t have accepted an invitation to appear with him.

Johnston said comments also were being sought from Missouri gubernatorial candidates Matt Blunt, a Republican, and Democrat Claire McCaskill, as well as from candidates for the state’s 5th Congressional District.

Groups across the country are raising questions about the legality of ministers such as Falwell and Johnston using their pulpits to support political candidates and causes. At issue is whether the churches are violating their tax-exempt status by politicking.