IRS and religious left tread on sacred ground

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Pity the poor religious right! It's being attacked by two sets of sinners: the religious left (yes, there is one) and the IRS.

Today in Washington, D.C., "Red Letter Christians," the self-described "Leading Voices of the Progressive Christian Movement," announced a national campaign to mobilize liberal Christians for the upcoming midterm elections.

Meanwhile, the IRS is winding up a major investigation of church abuse of tax-exempt status. Earlier this year, the IRS issued a report saying nearly half the 110 nonprofit groups it investigated after the 2004 elections "for improper political activity were churches. Of the 40 churches that the IRS had finished investigating, 37 were found to have violated the law."

Last week, the religious left won a victory of iconic proportions in California when the IRS pulled the tax-exempt designation for antiabortion group Operation Rescue West. In 2004, the group promised donors tax deductions for contributions to help defeat Roman Catholic Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry for his pro-abortion-rights stance.

The left has been trying for some time to gain traction with voters but has largely failed. This year will mark a turnaround, proponents are hoping, for several reasons. First, traditional religious supporters of conservative Republicans are deserting their former heroes in droves.

One example: Call 'em "swingin' Steel Magnolias," "NASCAR moms," or Bible belles, but the women of the South are turning on the partisan leader of the religious right, President Bush. An AP-Ipsos poll released earlier this month showed southern women, some of the staunchest supporters of President Bush and his tough stance against terrorism, are now reversing direction and heading for cover under the nearest mossy oak.

Southern women warmed to the president's selection of Jesus Christ as his favorite philosopher and his traditional-values-and-patriotism rhetoric. They also stood behind him as he launched the Iraq war. But as they see more and more of their own sons (and daughters) or their friends' and neighbors' children dying or being mutilated in Iraq, they're deserting the GOP quicker than a rotting peach.