U.S.-based carmaker Chevrolet is linking up with an evangelical concert tour for a marketing campaign, a move criticized as crossing the line between religion and the boardroom.

U.S.-based carmaker Chevrolet is linking up with an evangelical concert tour for a marketing campaign, a move criticized as crossing the line between religion and the boardroom. The Chevrolet Presents: Come Together and Worship shows begin Nov. 1 in Atlanta and ends Nov. 23 in Auburn Hills, Mich. The tour includes a multimedia worship service with preaching by the Rev. Max Lucado, a Texas pastor and author, and a distribution of free evangelical literature. Michael W. Smith and rock act Third Day will headline.

The shows are booked into venues averaging 14,000 seats, such as the American Airlines Center in Dallas and Atlanta's Philips Arena. "This is surprising -- a real blurring of the lines between the commercial and the sacred," Phyllis Tickle, an expert on religious marketing for Publishers Weekly magazine, told the Detroit Free Press. "We know that church and state are never supposed to meet, and I think it's also a bad idea for church and Wall Street to be meeting like this."

Steve Betz, the General Motors Corp. division's marketing manager for the southeastern U.S., said he was confident the tour will send a positive message and give dealers a boost. "It's important that we get the message out there with regards to Chevrolet and how we're so family oriented and have great values," he said.

"We consider this to be a breakthrough for our industry," said Frank Breeden, head of the Christian Music Trade Association in Nashville. "A lot of corporations have had a long-standing hands-off policy on topics they consider controversial. And for a long time they've thought about religion as one of those topics."

Smith is touring in support of his latest Provident album, "Worship," which debuted in September 2001 at No. 20 on The Billboard 200 and No. 2 on Billboard's Top Contemporary Christian Albums chart. The set resurged and last month topped the latter tally in its 50th week on the chart.

Third Day's latest, "Come Together" (Zomba), debuted at No. 3 on the Top Contemporary Christian Albums chart and No. 31 on The Billboard 200.

Here are the Come Together and Worship tour dates:

Nov. 1: Atlanta (Philips Arena)
Nov. 2: Lexington, Ky. (Rupp Arena)
Nov. 3: Memphis, Tenn. (the Pyramid)
Nov. 4: Birmingham, Ala. (Birmingham Jefferson Arena)
Nov. 7: Winston-Salem, N.C. (Lawrence Joel Complex)
Nov. 8: Hershey, Pa. (Giant Center)
Nov. 9: Fairfax, Va. (Patriot Center)
Nov. 10: West Point, N.Y. (Eisenhower Hall)
Nov. 15: Mobile, Ala. (Mitchell Center @ University of Southern Alabama)
Nov. 16: Houston (Compaq Center)
Nov. 17: Dallas (American Airlines Center)
Nov. 20: St. Louis, Mo. (Savvis Center)
Nov. 21: Peoria, Ill. (Civic Center Arena)
Nov. 22: Madison, Wis. (Alliant Energy Center)
Nov. 23: Auburn Hills, Mich. (Palace of Auburn Hills)


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