Christianity Today has identified four key races to follow on Election Night. These contests feature debates about issues of special concern to evangelicals.
Little South Dakota made a big splash in February when its legislature voted to ban all abortions except to save a mother's life. Pro-choice lawyers delayed their court challenge as activists collected signatures to refer the ban to voters. Even in traditional South Dakota, the ban is in jeopardy.
"On the face of it, this bill is unconstitutional," Green said. "But the people who pushed this through the legislature wanted a test to see just how far the new Supreme Court will go."
So far, South Dakotans seem to agree. Summer polling indicated that 47 percent of voters would cast their ballots to overturn the ban. Only 39 percent supported the ban, with 14 percent undecided. However, the same poll indicated 59 percent of voters would support a ban with clear exceptions for the mother's life, rape, and incest. The bill approved by the legislature does allow women to take emergency contraceptives before a doctor can verify pregnancy.
Russ Tarver, a retired United Methodist Church pastor, has joined other mainline leaders in opposing the ban. "Even though the mainline churches are more organized [now] than we have been," he said, "the Religious Right here is better organized because they've been at it for a while."
Church at the Gate pastor Steve Hickey has devoted many sermons to teaching the biblical case against abortion. He's even taking some time away from his Sioux Falls church to defend the ban. He's disheartened that some other evangelical churches haven't been so active. In addition to the abortion ban, South Dakotans will also vote on a marriage amendment and a measure to repeal video lottery. "I feel like pastors are going to miss their divine window of opportunity if they don't wake up," Hickey said.
South Dakota's evangelical community, while growing, is not large enough to uphold the ban by themselves.
"In a tight race, we need non-evangelicals to be convinced that life is sacred and to get past the mentality that this is a women's issue," said Bill Kinnan, senior pastor of Linwood Wesleyan Church in Sioux Falls. "Yes, it's about women, but you don't have to kill someone to [help women]."
Tomorrow: Embryonic stem cell research factors in the Illinois District 06 U.S. House race.
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