Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition recently announced the formation of a new political organization called the Catholic Alliance. The goal of the new organization is to increase conservative Catholic participation in the political activities of Robertson's 1.7 million-member organization.
By having a separate organization with the word Catholic in its title, Robertson hopes to attract the support of conservative Catholics who are otherwise wary of him and his political ambitions. However, as Ralph Reed himself has admitted, this new organization will function as a "fully owned subsidiary" of the Christian Coalition. In other words, it will be nothing more than a Catholic front for Pat Robertson and his extreme brand of right-wing politics.
When televangelist Robertson ran for the presidency of the United States in 1988 many Americans were alarmed at his extreme views and his radical agenda. Many people of faith were outraged that he was so cavalierly cloaking his political agenda under the mantle of religion and claiming that his views were the ones endorsed by God.
Nevertheless, most of us found it difficult to believe that large numbers of people would take him seriously, or that there was any real possibility that this man could attain enough power to impose his radical views on all Americans.
Then came Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition. Using the donor lists and political connections acquired during Robertson's failed attempt at the Republican nomination, Reed and others established a network of grassroots organizations which today claim 1.7 million members. Stealth candidates, biased voter guides, and the shrewd use of polling data to craft different messages for different audiences have all contributed to the success of his powerful political organization on the local state and national level.
And now, thanks to the Christian Coalition's increasing power and influence, Pat Robertson has become a major force in American politics. He is now in prime position to achieve his goals: seizing control of the Republican party and imposing his view of a Christian America on the rest of the nation.
In order to achieve these goals, however, Pat Robertson needs Catholic support — he needs the general support and compliance of the Catholic leadership, and he needs the active support and money of faithful Catholics. Above all, he needs Catholic activists to distribute his biased voter guides (which distort the positions and values of political opponents) in Catholic churches.
However, there is a problem for Robertson: the Christian Coalition is comprised mainly of conservative evangelicals, many of whom come from churches and denominations with a history of anti-Catholic rhetoric and a deep suspicion of the American Catholic community. Furthermore, many Catholics are skeptical about involving themselves with an organization which exists to further the political ambitions of Pat Robertson. That's why Robertson and Reed developed the idea of the Catholic Alliance — to provide a "separate" organization for Catholics which would, in reality, be entirely under the control of Pat Robertson.
The Christian Coalition and the Catholic Church have conflicting positions on several issues:
Christian Coalition: In an August 29, 1995 letter to Senator Bob Dole, leaders of the Christian Coalition, Family Research Council, and six other organizations wrote, "We have emphasized repeatedly that scaling back the cash benefits to mothers is the least we can do and still honestly claim to be changing the system."
Catholic Church: "Genuine welfare reform should rely on incentives more than harsh penalties; for example, denying needed benefits for children born to mothers on welfare can hurt the children and pressure their mothers toward abortion and sterilization."
Pat Robertson: Mirroring NRA language, he has called for "criminal control, not gun control." After Michael Jordan's father was murdered, Robertson accused liberals of using this tragedy as "an excuse for even stricter gun control."
Catholic Church: "We believe that effective action must be taken to reverse the rising tide of violence. For this reason, we call for effective and courageous action to control handguns, leading to their eventual elimination from society."
Pat Robertson: As a 1988 candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, Robertson said, "I can't see frankly anything wrong with a death penalty for federal crimes."
Catholic Church: "...in the conditions of contemporary American society, the legitimate purposes of punishment do not justify the imposition of the death penalty."
Pat Robertson: As a presidential candidate in 1988, Pat Robertson opposed the Civil Rights Restoration Act, which restored broad anti-discrimination protections previously limited by the Supreme Court.
Catholic Church: Archbishop John May, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote in a letter to President Ronald Reagan that the Church believes that the Civil Rights Restoration Act "does much to strengthen civil rights protection while safeguarding vital concerns about human life and religious liberty."
Pat Robertson: "It's a very wasteful and it's not necessarily a good program. It's helped some people, but at a huge cost to the government."
Catholic Church: In an August 17, 1995 letter to Congressman Neil Abercrombie, leaders of the U.S. Catholic Conference and the Catholic Health Association wrote, "We strongly recommend that consideration of reductions in the growth of program funding reflect a recognition of the dependence of the elderly and the poor on Medicare and Medicaid."
Christian Coalition: According to Ralph Reed, "It is irresponsible public policy to subject the American public to a health menace being imported within our borders. We already have a health crisis in our country. Why would we want to further import it?"
Catholic Church: "The U.S. Bishops support increasing the number of immigrants admitted to the U.S. and providing temporary safe haven for those in need."
Jon Paone is with the Washington, DC-based Interfaith Alliance.