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Christian Coalition

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The Christian Coalition is a nonprofit organization that serves as a powerful lobby for politically conservative causes. Under federal tax law, the organization is permitted to lobby for political issues but cannot endorse political candidates. The Christian Coalition has primarily sought the support of born-again evangelical Christians, but since 1996 it has attempted to build alliances with Roman Catholics, members of the Greek Orthodox Church, and Jews.

The Christian Coalition was founded in 1989 by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson. Robertson, who unsuccessfully sought the 1988 REPUBLICAN PARTY presidential nomination, decided to create an organization of evangelical Christians that would exert influence over the party. The coalition's central goals have been to gain working control of the Republican Party through grassroots organizing and to elect Christian candidates to office. The coalition soon became a potent political force. By 1997, it claimed control of several Republican state central committees and had elected to public office numerous Christian Coalition members and other candidates it endorsed. Prior to the congressional elections of 2002, the Christian Coalition distributed 70 million voter guides throughout the 50 states, an effort that has been credited with helping the Republican Party gain control of Congress.

The Christian Coalition has focused on family and moral issues. It strongly opposes legalized ABORTION, and in 1998 it began an effort to require all endorsed Republican candidates to oppose partial-birth abortions. The coalition has also campaigned against gay rights, and through its legal arm, the American Center for Law and Justice, it has filed many church-state lawsuits.

Robertson, who served as president until 1997, appears on the 700 Club, a television program that, as of July of 2003, is watched by 1 million viewers each week. Robertson has characterized politics as a struggle pitting militant leftists, secular humanists, and atheists against conservative, evangelical Christians. The success of the coalition's grassroots organizing, however, can be attributed to Ralph Reed, who served as executive director until 1997. Reed encouraged coalition members to run for school boards, city councils, and legislatures without revealing their affiliation. This strategy also proved effective within the Republican Party.

The Christian Coalition has over 1,500 chapters in the United States with over one million members. The coalition's staff is headquartered in Chesapeake, Virginia; it also maintains a legislative office in Washington, D.C. With a budget of more than $27 million, the coalition has the resources to mount nationwide campaigns on public policy issues. The organization also actively lobbies Congress on numerous issues, sponsors grassroots training schools across the United States, and organizes activists

Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson (right) and the group's former executive director Ralph Reed built the organization into a powerful political force whose grassroots organizing is credited with helping the Republicans gain control of Congress in 1994.
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around the country who are involved in federal and local politics.

The election of GEORGE W. BUSH as president in 2000 and the gain of Republican seats in both the House and Senate in 2002 gave increased clout to the Christian Coalition's already vigorous advocacy. In early 2003, the Christian Coalition lobbied for the confirmation of Miguel Estrada, an Hispanic lawyer, to be a judge on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals. According to the coalition, his confirmation was "being blocked by those who would subject judicial nominees to a liberal litmus test." The organization also supported a ban on partial-birth abortions and the cloning of humans. In addition, the Christian Coalition voiced strong support for President Bush as the United States was poised on the brink of war with Iraq.

FURTHER READINGS

American Center for Law and Justice. Available online at <www.aclj.org> (accessed June 17, 2003).

Christian Coalition. Available online at <www.cc.org> (accessed June 17, 2003).

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