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Running Against Sodom and Osama

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The Christian Coalition

After the televangelist Pat Robertson unsuccessfully attempted to secure the Republican Party’s nomination for the 1988 Presidential race, he began a new organization in Virginia Beach, VA, calling it the Christian Coalition. Its purpose was to mobilize Christian conservatives to vote based on their traditional values. His first Executive Director was Ralph Reed, who nurtured the organization from its humble beginnings in 1989 to the most powerful organization of its kind in the 1990s. Many see the Coalition as a deciding factor in bringing out the vote to support Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America and causing the 1994 Republican Congressional sweep. Reed’s hardball tactics earned him the reputation of being a tough, and sometime ruthless, tactician.

The coalition used the technique of distributing millions of voters guides directly to churches, eventually concentrating on selected states. This approach attracted criticism with opponents like American United for the Separation of Church and State claiming successfully that the organization had violated its tax exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code. In addition, it sponsored annual “Road to Victory” conferences, which, in their heyday, offered political candidates a forum and provided motivation to attendees to get out the Christian Right vote. The group then began to suffer from management issues. By the time Reed resigned in 1987, the group had begun to lose ground.

Subsequent directors have not realized the results of the organization under Reed’s leadership, and no one has matched Reed’s charisma. Road to Victory conferences became biennial, finally ending in 2004.The current director, Roberta Coombs, has struggled with state affiliates that chose to disassociate themselves from the coalition in disputes over the direction of the group. While the Coalition still produces voter guides, its voice and influence have both receded as the better-funded groups of FRC Action and Focus on the Family Action have grown in importance.

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