Under the USA Patriot Act and the Pentagon's Terrorism Awareness Initiative, Ashcroft has already gathered medical records, library card check-out rosters, airline ticket databases, and Home Depot shopping lists from millions of Americans.
Now the Attorney General is seeking church directories from a variety of denominations, particularly those whose members are thought to be likely Bush voters in the 2004 elections.
In addition to the Southern Baptist Convention, whose 16 million members strongly supported Bush in 2000, Ashcroft has subpoenaed church directories, Sunday School class transcripts, and congregational recipe collections from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Christian Missionary Alliance, Whole Truth Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc., Old Order Amish, Mennonite Church USA, Unification Church, and the Church of God in Satan, Reformed.
The Bush-Cheney campaign plans to use the data to spot likely Republican voters and implant microchips in their cerebellums in order to more accurately track campaign trends. Spokesrobots for Bush-Cheney deny that the microchips will actually be used to "change minds" or motivate voters to go to the polls.
However, reaction from leading religious conservatives indicates that the plan may have backfired. The Rev. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention declared that he was "appalled," and added, "Baptists are very protective of the congregational recipe collections that each church compiles. We certainly wouldn't want original recipes like 'Aunt Edna's Dynamite Watermelon Jello Salad' to be scanned up into some government database. There may even be copyright issues involved here."
Bishop Yoney Hochstetler, an Old Order Amish leader from Holmes County, Ohio, concurred. "Ach, ja," he told reporters. "Ve Amish haff passed down sacred shoofly pie recipes from generation to generation, und now ve hear the government vants to steal them. Das ist nicht kosher. Und besides, ve Amish don't even vote."