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Evangelical Christians Lobby for AIDS Funds

June 13, 2003

Evangelical Christians fanned out across Capitol Hill yesterday to lobby for full funding of President Bush's five-year, $15 billion program to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. Together with the National Association of Evangelicals and the relief group MAP International, Richard E. Stearns, president of the Christian relief group World Vision, brought 250 ministers, missionaries and donors to Washington for two days of meetings on HIV/AIDS.

The Rev. John Good, mission pastor at the 4,000-member Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina, Minn., was among 90 evangelicals who divided into groups yesterday to visit about 20 lawmakers from both parties, according to World Vision lobbyist Robert G. Zachritz. He said their primary plea was for Congress to appropriate the full $15 billion authorized by Bush's global AIDS program, beginning with $3 billion for fiscal 2004.

Evangelicals also support provisions in the program that earmark a third of the prevention funds for sexual abstinence programs. But Zachritz said that was not the focus of yesterday's lobbying, because it is in the law and because some Christian groups, including World Vision, support distribution of condoms to high-risk populations.

Congressional Democrats have questioned the strength of Bush's commitment to his own initiative, noting that the president's budget request for next year seeks about $2 billion for AIDS, instead of the $3 billion directed in the law. Presidential adviser Karl Rove, who briefed the evangelicals at the White House on Wednesday, did not explain the president's lower budget request and was not asked about it, participants said.

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Excerpted from:
Washington Post
06.13.03; Alan Cooperman

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