“Pastors say they never instruct their congregations how to vote, but in many ways they don’t have to. Even in churches with no overt sign of political activity, the link between Bush’s stand on social issues, particularly his opposition to gay marriage and abortion, and a general perception that he is a good Christian are galvanizing the faithful.” In a round-up article on the Bush’s Protestant electoral base, The Chicago Tribune’s Geneive Abdo turns a skeptical eye on churchs’ claims of nonpartisanship.

11:45 am: Johane Church of God elder Raphael Panganayi spoke to Ryder Gabathuse, of Botswana’s independent daily Mmegi, about the sense of “helplessness he feels when he stands in front of the congregation preaching against the use of modern medicines and other ‘taboos’ when the flock recently witnessed their children being forced to take the anti-polio drops.” In a sympathetic profile, Gabathuse reports on Panganayi’s church–a religious sect commonly known as Bazezuru, recently in the news for resisting the immunizations–and considers some of the consequences that the growing church’s opposition to modern medicine could have in the country’s fight against AIDS.

10:45 am: On a recent visit to Rapid City, South Dakota, the gay-bashing activists of the Westboro Baptist Church seemed to be running “‘out of steam,'” according to Kevin Woster of the Rapid City Journal. Having come to condemn city Alderman Tom Murphy, who is planning a sex-change operation, as an “‘abomination’ in the eyes of God,” the group apparently found little support, and cut short a scheduled protest near U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle’s office. Woster reports that area churches had forewarned their parishioners about the Westboro Baptists, and that Alderman Murphy “said he came away believing that the visit by the Phelps pickets galvanized the city against their message of hate.”

10:24 am: Austin Web developer Ryland Sanders has created a “Church Sign Generator” Web site that allows people to create their own sayings on a simulated marquee and order refrigerator magnet bearing the images. According to an AP report, Sanders says the slogans are “‘meant to amuse and maybe to attract and maybe to a certain extent to reassure people.'” Read moreMake a sign.