Badpuppy Gay Today

Friday, 16 May 1997

CHRISTIAN COALITION CRUMBLING FROM WITHIN

Ralph Reed Steps From Limelight Before Deceptions Go Public

Coalition's Chief Financial Officer Cries "Foul!"

By Jack Nichols


 

Ralph Reed is escaping his high profile in an organization, The Christian Coalition, that is mired in beetle dung. Financial contributions have fallen, two hostile factions are struggling for organizational control, and charges of tax-exempt illegalities involving Republican political contributions are shaking the Christian Coalition to its foundations.

The two fractious factions are (1.) hard-core social conservatives, religious zealots making insistent political demands injurious to the interests of the second group who are (2) moneyed businessmen, pragmatic on their own behalf and willing to make compromises to stay politically relevant. Ralph Reed represents the pragmatists in the minds of the zealots. To zealots, any compromise is anathema. The business-oriented faction watches further reductions in disaffected membership as zealots are lured into extremist groups like the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council .

Until now, the bitter divisions between these two camps have been little known outside the organization. Blatant lies, it is now believed, have been told about the Christian Coalition's inflated membership counts. A Coalition boast which placed its membership at 1.5 million became suspect when U.S. Postal records reported in late 1995 deliveries of only 310,296 copies of Christian American, reportedly sent to every member who contributes $15 or more.

The Federal Election Commission, federal prosecutors in Virginia and the U.S. Senate are currently investigating this high-profile "political-religious" organization, a tax-exempt fund-raising front that is now worth $27 million. At the center of the prosecution's case against the Christian Coalition is Judy Liebert, its former chief financial officer. Ms. Liebert states that Ralph Reed specifically told her to hide an anonymous $60,000 political donation from a wealthy businessman who had requested that his contribution go to Bush. Both the Christian Coalition and Ralph Reed are denying Judy Liebert's embarrassing charges.

Clyde Wilcox, a government professor at Georgetown University who has been studying the Christian right for over a score of years, says that its membership has peaked, and that various attempts by Reed, (such as his recently much-hyped courting of inner-city African- American children) to mainstream the politics of the Coalition have failed. Most of the group's legislative agenda as embodied in Reed's "Contract With the American Family" has been bypassed.

Another major faction, Roman Catholics, who'd temporarily been brought under the Christian Coalition's anti-free-choice banners, have also fallen away, forming their own organizations. Polls indicate that 40% of all evangelicals do not support The Christian Coalition.

Thus, Ralph Reed is leaving a "Christian" group stuck in legal, financial, and ideological disputes raging between its unhappy warring factions.

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