Admiral of Morality: End Times for the "Christian Coalition"

Thursday, December 21, 2006

End Times for the "Christian Coalition"

The once influential group circles the drain

Last month, the incoming president of the Christian Coalition was pushed out after the group refused to move into areas like poverty, the environment and homelessness, signaling that the group is crumbling under the weight of a narrow focus on right-wing politics and religious fundamentalism.

Like Spain's Fascist dictator, Generalísimo Francisco Franco, who was kept alive so that his death would coincide with the anniversary of the death of another well-known fascist leader 39 years earlier, the Christian Coalition's demise is taking a dreadfully long time to play itself out.

While Reports of Franco's death made it into the popular culture--it became a recurring item during the satiric Weekend Update segment on the then-new "Saturday Night Live" program--the death of the Christian Coalition probably won't get the same comedic treatment.

It should be noted that in its day, the Christian Coalition became the heir and-then-some to the Rev. Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority. Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition (CC) set the gold standard for Christian conservative grassroots organizing efforts, fundraising ability and lobbying efforts well into the 1990s.

At its peak, one of the organization's claims to fame was its highly partisan Voter Guides. In 2000, it distributed over 70 million voter guides in churches all across America, including over 5 million in Spanish (approximately 2 million of which were distributed in Florida alone). In the 2004 election cycle, the group claimed that it distributed around 30 million voter guides, but this time in targeted states and congressional districts, choosing instead to focus its efforts on areas that were more politically competitive.

"The once-mighty Christian Coalition founded 17 years ago by the Rev. Pat Robertson as the political fundraising and lobbying engine of the Christian right, is more than $2 million in debt, beset by creditors' lawsuits and struggling to hold on to some of its state chapters," the Washington Post reported in April of this year.

"In March, one of its most effective chapters, the Christian Coalition of Iowa, cut ties with the national organization and reincorporated itself as the Iowa Christian Alliance, saying it "found it impossible to continue to carry a name that in any way associated us with this national organization."

Stephen L. Scheffler, president of the Iowa affiliate since 2000, said that "The credibility is just not there like it once was. The budget has shrunk from $26 million to $1 million. There's a trail of debt...We believe, our board believes, any Christian organization has an obligation to pay its debts in a timely fashion."

In reality, the organization hasn't been the same since Ralph Reed, the organization's baby-faced point man who garnered serious face time on television pushing the organization's agenda, and Robertson, the founder and chief operating officer left the Coalition. "After the founders left, the Christian Coalition never fully recovered," James L. Guth, an expert on politics and religion at Furman University in South Carolina, told the Washington Post's Alan Cooperman and Thomas B. Edsall in April 2006.

Read the entire piece here.

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