Renewing his attack on conservatives and the Bush administration, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (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 to the talk, but he doesn't walk the walk," Bond told members on Sunday at the annual convention of the NAACP, a civil rights group.
President George W. 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."
The NAACP has been battling an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, which has said NAACP officials' political statements, mainly attacking the Bush administration, are partisan comments that violate the group's nonprofit status.
The Baltimore-based group also dealt this year with allegations that former president Kweisi Mfume granted workplace favors to an NAACP employee with whom he had a relationship, and it has struggled in recent years to raise money.
Its national board last month selected a new president, retired Verizon executive Bruce Gordon, who has pledged to raise an endowment and improve efficiencies in the organization. He is expected to be confirmed on 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 Representative James Sensenbrenner also spoke to the group on 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 US 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.
Earlier on Sunday, civil rights advocates and other NAACP officials echoed those sentiments, saying blurring the lines between religious groups and politics threatens equal opportunity.
Democratic Representative Bobby Scott 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.
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