Wednesday, June 11, 2008

New Religious Outreach Could Land Obama in Legal Trouble

By Nathan L. Gonzales

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is about to launch his latest outreach to religious voters, but the name of the group could land him in legal trouble.

First reported on Friday by Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody, Obama's “Joshua Generation” is designed to help the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee appeal to young evangelicals.

But “Generation Joshua,” a division of the Home School Legal Defense Association, has been established since 2003 and is pursuing legal action against the Obama campaign.

“This is an improper invasion of our trademark and we've retained legal counsel to notify the Obama campaign to stop this,” HSLDA’s co-founder, chairman, and general counsel, Michael Farris, told Roll Call on Monday morning. The conservative group planned to notify the Obama campaign on Monday afternoon.

Although recent Democratic presidential nominees have had a hard time attracting support from evangelical voters, some Obama partisans believe the candidate has broad appeal.

“There's unprecedented energy and excitement for Obama among young evangelicals and Catholics,” a source told Brody about the new group’s effort. “The Joshua Generation project will tap into that excitement and provide young people of faith opportunities to stand up for their values and move the campaign forward.”

On the flip side, “Generation Joshua is designed for Christian youth between the ages of 11 and 19 who want to become a force in the civic and political arenas,” according to the group’s Web site.

Farris believes the similarity in names is no accident.

“It's impossible to miss this, as Web savvy as they are,” said Farris, who also wrote a 2005 book called, “The Joshua Generation: Restoring the Heritage of Christian Leadership.”

Both groups, and the book, reference the Old Testament and the generation of people that led the Israelites into the Promised Land. But because the Joshua Generation and Generation Joshua are both interested in organizing youth for political purposes, Farris believes the name confusion is a violation of the older organization’s trademark.

Obama has been referencing the Old Testament story in speeches at Howard University and in Selma, Ala., so the name of his outreach effort is not a particular surprise.

Farris was an early supporter for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) in the presidential race and is awaiting Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) vice presidential choice before making an endorsement. Generation Joshua is a 501(c)(4) organization, but the HSLDA PAC has been active, making in-kind contributions to more than 30 Republican candidates — and no Democrats — during the past four years.

“If they're going to pick Biblical analogies, they should pick policies to correspond,” Farris said.

This item first appeared on on June 9, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.