The mission of the Christian Coalition is simple," says Pat Robertson, the organization's president and founder. It is "to mobilize Christians -- one precinct at a time, one community at a time -- until once again we are the head and not the tail, and at the top rather than the bottom of our political system." Robertson predicts that "the Christian Coalition will be the most powerful political force in America by the end of this decade." And, "We have enough votes to run this country...and when the people say, 'We've had enough,' we're going to take over!"
Founded in 1989, the Christian Coalition boasts over 1,425 chapters and 1.5 million donors and supporters -- including a surge of 800,000 over the past three months. Those figures, however, appear to be inflated and actual membership is probably well under 500,000 members. Nonetheless, the Christian Coalition is one of the most influential of all the Christian Right groups.
The Coalition's 1995 budget is approximately $20 million. The Coalition operates as a 501(c)(4) organization and cannot legally endorse or oppose candidates. While it is not required to pay taxes, contributions to the group are not tax-deductible.
The Christian Coalition claims full-time staff members in 25 states and some 50,000 precinct leaders and 25,000 church liaison leaders. The full-time staff members are either volunteers or paid through funds raised by the respective state coalitions.
Marion Gordon "Pat" Robertson, 65, a former Baptist minister, and founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and "The 700 Club," is the president of the Christian Coalition. Ralph Reed Jr., 35, is the executive director. D.J Gribbin is the national field director.
The Coalition's board of directors is comprised of Pat Robertson, his son Gordon P. Robertson (secretary/treasurer), Dick Weinhold (Texas Christian Coalition state director), and the Rev. Billy McCormack (Louisiana Christian Coalition state director).
Since November 1991, the Coalition's annual Road to Victory (RTV) strategy conventions have drawn delegates from every state. The first two RTVs were held in Virginia Beach. About 800 attended the first RTV and about 1,500 attended RTV-2 in September of 1992. In 1993, RTV was moved to Washington, DC, where about 2,800 delegates attended. About 3,200 delegates attended the September 1994 conference.
The RTV conferences are followed up with state and local leadership schools. These political seminars instruct Coalition members on "how to start a chapter, how to fundraise for your candidate, how to be a candidate, and how to canvass your voters." The leadership schools also cover handling the media. To date, over 1,700 leadership schools have been held around the nation.
The Coalition continues to form chapters and organize activists on the local level through its leadership schools. The Coalition becomes involved in local, state-wide and regional skirmishes. The Coalition conducts voter ID surveys, and publishes voter guides for elections ranging from school board races to national elections.
Precinct workers organize within voting precincts. The Coalition is working toward establishing ten trained activists in each of America's approximately 175,000 precincts.
Church liaison organizers establish the link between individual churches and the local Christian Coalition chapter. They keep the local church informed about the Coalition's position on local, state and national issues and concerns.
On the third Tuesday of each month, "Christian Coalition Live" conducts a live meeting via satellite with chapters throughout the country. While the first part of the meeting can be picked up by anyone with a dish, a later, closed session is available to chapters which have received special instructions.
There are several membership categories within the Christian Coalition. All members receive the Christian American tabloid, which publishes nine times a year. Members also receive Religious Rights Watch, a newsletter which purports to document incidents of anti-Christian bigotry.
Although the Christian Coalition claims 1.5 million members, a statement which appeared in the November/December issue of the Christian American said otherwise. According to the official statement, which is required by the U.S. Postal Service for second-class publications, the paid circulation for the September 1994 issue was only 353,703.
While this is inconsistent with the Coalition's public declarations, it is consistent with Coalition tactics. At the 1993 Road to Victory convention, Dr. Max Karrer, Christian Coalition director for North Florida, led a strategy workshop.
"The thing I want to say about building up a Christian data voter base [sic] is that political candidates, or politicians, only understand two things, and that's money and votes," Karrer said. "And if they think you control a lot of votes, you suddenly become very powerful in their eyes.
"Politicians in our section think we have a bigger data voter base [sic] than we do. But we don't change that perception; we don't tell them. They come to us now. When someone wants to run for office, they come to Christian Coalition; they want to talk to us. It gives you — and not just for elections — it gives you tremendous lobbying power with the legislator, because they think you have this huge bloc of voters that you can swing — though you can't necessarily."
The Coalition can sway elections and referendums. When Senator Jesse Helms was behind in the polls in 1990, he contacted Pat Robertson. On the Sunday before the Tuesday election, the North Carolina Christian Coalition distributed 750,000 voter guides through church bulletins and church parking lots on behalf of Helms.
Helms won reelection by a narrow margin. The Christian Coalition takes credit for Helms' come-from-behind victory. "The press had no idea what we were doing," said North Carolina State director Judy Haynes, "and they still don't know what we did. But it worked."
In the 1992 national elections, the Coalition distributed 40 million voter guides. Forty-one percent of the congressional candidates who received a 100% rating from the Coalition's voter guide won.
That year in Iowa, the Coalition distributed 600,000 voter guides, and made 45,000 phone calls, urging voters to reject the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The amendment lost, 53 to 48 percent.
In the spring of 1993, the Christian Coalition formed an alliance with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York in the New York City school board election. Working together, they distributed as many as 500,000 voter guides, primarily through churches.
According to the Christian Coalition, "63% of pro-family candidates won seats in the largest and most liberal school district in America." While the Coalition had some affect on the New York school board race — several conservatives won seats — their overall effect is probably exaggerated. Nevertheless, a Robertson political advance of any sort was a shocker for New York City.
In the 1994 national elections, the Coalition distributed about 34 million voter guides. Of the candidates receiving a 100% rating by the Christian Coalition, 60% won. This included 44 representatives, eight senators, and seven governors. With approximately one-third — or 24 million out of 75 million — of the voters identifying themselves as "born-again," 17 million voted Republican.
Many Christian Coalition activists anticipated backing former vice president Dan Quayle for president in 1996. After Quayle suddenly announced that he was not running, Coalition communications director Mike Russell told The Freedom Writer, "We will determine who the Republican nominee will be." Russell said that any Republican seeking the nomination will have to win the favor of the Christian Coalition in order to win, as it will be the deciding factor.
The Christian Coalition is riddled with Christian reconstructionists, private militia members, fanatical anti-abortionists, and other radicals. One of Ralph Reed's biggest problems is keeping these factions together.
Meanwhile, opposition to the Coalition is dramatically increasing at all levels, as national and local organizations unravel the Christian Right's stealth tactics and understand its political agenda. Published reports indicate that the IRS is investigating the Christian Coalition's provisional 501(c)(4) tax status because of its alleged partisan political activities.
The Coalition is also scrambling to recover from the damage of its own excesses. Published accounts of Coalition director Billy McCormack's ties to ex-Klansman, ex-Nazi David Duke, and the Coalition's nearly all-white national conferences, have raised questions about the character of the organization. Similarly the frequent use of violent and military metaphors by Coalition leaders to describe routine politics have been unsettling even to supporters.
The Coalition's takeover tactics in the GOP, have outraged many party regulars. Particularly the now-notorious Pennsylvania Christian Coalition's "County Action Plan" manual, which advocated infiltration tactics, including the advice to "never mention the name Christian Coalition in Republican circles."
Despite these troubles, the Christian Coalition is well-organized, well-funded, high-tech, and staffed by educated, skilled, and dedicated personnel. By carefully building the organization from the bottom up, the Coalition will likely continue to affect local and national politics for years to come.
The Constitution of the United States, for instance, is a marvelous document for self-government by the Christian people. But the minute you turn the document into the hands of non-Christian people and atheistic people they can use it to destroy the very foundation of our society. And that's what's been happening. — Pat Robertson