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A Democrat at Fellowship Bible

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Mark Pryor grew up with mainline religion, the Presbyterianism of his father, David Pryor. But like many of his generation, Mark and his family worship at one of the new, non-denominational churches, conservative in theology and politics, that have arisen across America in recent years. In Mark's case, it's Fellowship Bible Church, a large congregation in west Little Rock. A fellow worshipper is state Rep. Jeremy Hutchinson, a conservative Republican and son of the man Pryor's running against.

In February, when Attorney General Pryor testified for a "hate crimes" bill before the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Hutchinson, a member of the Committee, suggested that Pryor's testimony for a bill to punish persecution of homosexuals, among others, might not conform with the beliefs of Fellowship Bible. Pryor didn't agree.

Pryor is accustomed to people asking what a moderate Democrat is doing at Fellowship Bible. "Most people would consider Fellowship a Religious Right church," he said, "and some of the members are very active in politics. But the church by and large does a good job of remaining neutral in politics. You seldom hear political rhetoric from the pulpit. The last couple of years, the church has put a lot of emphasis on service to one's fellow man. It's partnered with other churches, often black churches, to repair homes and clear vacant lots — sharing the Good News through work." It's that sort of fellowship that attracted the Pryors, he said.

Moderates and liberals may worry that Fellowship Bible sermons that don't offend Pryor might offend them. Some of them were displeased when Pryor took his two children out of public school this fall (Baker Elementary in the Pulaski County District) and enrolled them in Walnut Valley Christian Academy. Pryor wasn't unhappy with Baker, and remains a supporter of the public schools, a spokesman said, but the Pryors have strong religious convictions and wanted their children to try a school that includes religious instruction in the curriculum.

Since his first race for attorney general, "pro-choicers" have fretted off and on that Pryor may be on the other side. Like many politicians, he's sort of tiptoed around the issue when possible. A spokesman said he'll address it as the campaign proceeds.

He's probably more conservative than his father, but chances are that Mark Pryor, like David Pryor, will generally remain close to the political middle. Moderates and liberals don't have anywhere else to go, in any case. All the ratings show that Sen. Tim Hutchinson votes the hardest conservative-Republican line in Congress.

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