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Bush Urged To Appear At NAACP

Renewing his attack on conservatives and the Bush administration Sunday, NAACP chairman Julian Bond accused national leaders of rolling back past civil rights gains, crippling efforts to battle racism and undermining democracy.

"The President likes to talk the talk, but he doesn't walk the walk," Bond told members at the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

President Bush has turned down five invitations to attend NAACP gatherings, including this year's, and Bond on Sunday invited Bush to the next one, in Washington.

"Mr. President, we're extending the invitation a year in advance," Bond said. "We want to see you and we want you to see us - we want to know you think you're our president, too."

Bond also addressed an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, which has said NAACP officials' political statements are partisan comments that violate the group's nonprofit status.

"They may try to intimidate us into silence," Bond said, "but we will not be frightened away from the truth."

The Baltimore-based nonprofit, which has struggled in recent years to raise money, this year faced allegations that former president Kweisi Mfume granted workplace favors to an NAACP employee with whom he had a relationship.

The national board last month selected a new president, retired Verizon executive Bruce S. Gordon, who has pledged to raise an endowment and improve efficiencies in the organization. He is expected to be confirmed Thursday.

The group's 96th convention, a six-day event, is being attended by more than 8,000 people, including 2,200 young adults.

Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin also spoke to the group Sunday evening, saying he would help fight for reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, portions of which are due to expire in 2007.

"The stakes have not been higher on this in the last 25 years," Sensenbrenner said.

Bond stressed the convention's theme, Conscience of a Nation, saying the NAACP has been a pivotal force in shaping the U.S. and plans to continue doing so.

"There is not a single American - black, white, male, female, Christian, Muslim or Jewish, straight or gay - who is not a beneficiary of the work the NAACP did in the past or is doing today," Bond said. But, he said, "the enemies of justice and fair play" are trying to "steal the just spoils of our righteous war."

He criticized Democrats who agreed recently to support conservative judicial nominees. And he pointed to conservative blacks and some black churches that receive federal funding and promote conservative causes such as attacking affirmative action.

Earlier Sunday, civil rights advocates and other NAACP officials echoed those sentiments, saying blurring the lines between religious groups and politics threatens equal opportunity.

Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia said religious groups that receive federal funding for social programs are increasingly hostile to program participants who disagree with their views on social issues.

"When you allow discrimination based on religion in federal programs, you lose all your moral authority to enforce civil rights legislation," Scott said.

By Erin Texeira