OAKWOOD — Two Republican hopefuls for Georgia governor joined a half-dozen other conservative speakers in taking to the pulpit Saturday for a combination of religion and politics aimed at educating and rallying Christian conservatives on national and state issues.
The topics for the third “God and Country Rally” at McEver Road Baptist Church were school choice and health care. The speakers made it clear they were in favor of more private choice for the former and no more government involvement in the latter.
“Help us block socialized health care and break down socialized education,” said State Sen. Eric Johnson, R-Savannah, who is running for governor. Johnson described the national debate over school choice as the “civil rights of the 21st century.”
State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, another GOP candidate for governor, also spoke.
Gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Gainesville, was not present but spoke at a God and Country rally held in June at Poplar Springs Baptist Church.
About 100 people attended Saturday’s event, which was promoted as a forum for education but also contained plenty of old-fashioned rallying of the base.
“There’s a lot of Davids out there with a pocketful of rocks, and we’ve got some giants who need to be taken out,” said Dean Rosson, the forum’s master of ceremonies.
Oxendine said President Barack Obama “is probably the most prayed-for president in American history, and it’s important that we do that.”
Saying Obama was raised by parents who “didn’t have a Christian background,” Oxendine suggested that “in his formative years, he didn’t have a lot of the foundation we had growing up. And for that reason, God may not have touched him the same way he touched a lot of us in our early years.”
Event organizer John Spinks said the purpose of the church rallies was to “educate people to the way our country has drifted from the Christian foundations and principals it was founded on.”
“We’re trying to get more people involved who feel the same but may have become complacent,” Spinks said. “The problem with our country is there are a lot of people who may feel one way but are not willing to take a stand for what they believe in.”
Said Tony Hale, founder of Christian Men for America, “We’re concerned about the deterioration of Christian values in our homes, in our schools, in our community and government. We want to reach everybody we can.”
Attendees heard about a school choice initiative in Georgia that some speakers said was underpublicized and underutilized.
In 2008, Gov. Sonny Perdue signed into law a $50 million Corporate and Individual Scholarship Tax Credit. The credit allows corporations to receive a 100 percent tax credit for private school scholarship donations of up to 75 percent of their total state tax liability.
Individuals can also donate up to $1,000 per person to scholarship organizations and receive a 100 percent tax credit for the contributions. The organizations must spend at least 90 percent of donations on scholarships.
Bob Jasion, director of the Georgia Student Scholarship Organization, said last year, $43 million of the $50 million available went unused. As of Monday, $41 million remained available for the tax credit, he said.
“This program is for real,” he said. “The government and the state of Georgia is allowing us to have some control.”