The group sponsoring a ballot initiative that seeks to ban abortion and some forms of birth control says it plans on enlisting the help of Florida pastors this weekend, in an effort at gathering “several thousand” signatures to coincide with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Personhood Florida, the group sponsoring a proposed state amendment that would grant personhood to fetuses, is making good on its promise for a “big push” to coincide with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. In December, the group’s head discussed his plans with The Florida Independent, saying he wanted to use the month of January to drum up publicity for the ballot initiative that, if enacted, would ban abortion and some forms of birth control.
Port St. Lucie Pastor Bryan Longworth says his hope is to enlist Sunshine State pastors to help gather enough signatures so that the Personhood initiative can make its way onto the 2012 ballot. “We are continuing to contact churches and get the word out,” he says. “We’ve been faxing petitions to churches so that they can feature them in their services, and gather signatures.”
Some Florida pastors who have endorsed the Personhood movement are listed on the group’s website, each shown in a YouTube video explaining his personal attachment to the cause. In his video, Pastor Lynberg Nelson, of New Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, compares abortion to slavery, saying that the unborn are not mere pieces of property, but “living creatures, inside the womb.”
Rob Boston, senior policy analyst with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, says that advocating a ballot initiative from the pulpit is completely legal. “Federal law prohibits all 501 (c)(3) organizations – which includes houses of worship – from intervening in elections between individuals by opposing or endorsing candidates,” he says. “However, the ban does not extend to issue advocacy. That is legal.”
A staunch anti-abortion advocate, Longworth says he has big plans for his organization. ”We are in the process of building the largest pro-life, pro-family, organization that Florida has ever known,” he says.
One mechanism that may prove effective for Personhood Florida is social networking. Longworth often uses the Internet to tout the importance of his fight against abortion. In a blog post, he wrote: “The blood of over 55 million children cries from the ground for vengeance, and God will avenge! Godsend us a true move of God lest we perish in our iniquity!”
A Twitter posting from Jan. 20 was equally passionate: “In the US, we’ve killed 55,000,000 babies by #abortion. Those who haven’t killed allowed it 2 happen!”
In addition to a March for Life scheduled in Port St. Lucie on Saturday, Longworth says that events such as prayer vigils will be held across the state on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Though this will be the group’s inaugural March for Life, Longworth says he is hopeful that over 100 people will join.
“Right now, we have people in various regions in the state,” he says. “Eventually, we will have people in every county. But this year we have more people working than last year. We received 2,500 signatures last year. We’d like to receive several thousand this year.”