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Christian Coalition fading fast

Well-lacquered current Christian Coalition head Roberta Combs is trying to pick up the pieces. Russ, here’s the tiny violin playing for the CC…

That’s the title of the article in South Carolina’s paper, The State. And it’s a pitiful tale of how far the once-mighty organization has fallen since Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed flew the coop.

Rocked by financial debt, lawsuits and the loss of experienced political leaders, the Christian Coalition has become a pale imitation of its once-powerful self.

Some say the group — now based in Charleston and headed by a South Carolinian — is on life support, having been eclipsed by higher-profile, better-funded groups such as Focus on the Family. “The coalition as we knew it doesn’t exist,” says Lois Eargle, former chairwoman of the Horry County Christian Coalition.

The 16-year-old organization once was a political juggernaut. But it has been in steady decline since it lost one of its most effective national leaders, executive director Ralph Reed. Reed left in 1997 to form his own political consulting firm in Atlanta. “He was a great media figure, able to convey his particular message,” says Corwin Smidt, professor of political science at Calvin College, a Christian liberal arts school in Michigan. “But he was also a very bright young man and was able to articulate and make arguments effectively on behalf of the coalition.

“Today, the coalition doesn’t have anyone of that caliber. Once Reed left, the organization never recovered.”

As the piece says, much of the religious right power base has flocked to James Dobson’s rancid organization as the Christian Coalition has had to fight off lawsuits, further depleting the coffers.

One interesting suit that it settled out of court was a discrimination suit by CC black staffers in 1999. They filed a $39 million racial discrimination suit against the Christian Coalition, alleging the administration forced them to use a separate entrance at its headquarters. The CC paid out $300,000 to the employees. How Christian of them.

After Reed saw this organization flagging, he bolted, and Roberta Combs took over as national executive director. She had previously headed the coalition’s South Carolina chapter, and the HQ relocated to the state. Robertson stepped down as coalition president in February 2002, again Combs took over.

“It hurt fund-raising,” she says of Robertson’s departure. “There’s never enough money.”

The coalition is looking for a media spokesman — someone of Reed’s caliber — to be a talking head on the television news shows and to put the organization back on the map.

“We have not had a media spokesman for a good while now,” says Drew McKissick, a Columbia-based political consultant and coalition activist. “You’ve got to show the flag these days. It makes a big difference in people’s perception. We need to boost our profile so folks know we exist.”

Interestingly, SC is also the home of the Christian Exodus movement, Its’ mission, according to its Web site, is “to scrap the ‘tyrannical authority’ of federal government in favor of a constitutional republic, with the Ten Commandments rather than the U.S. Constitution as government’s guide.”

These two organizations really should be bedmates.

Hat tip, PageOneQ.

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Pam Spaulding

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