A program of the Center for Inquiry
The following article is from the Secular Humanist Bulletin, Volume 13, Number 4.
Christian Coalition founder and Chairman Pat Robertson has admitted he plans to control the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, according to a Church-State watchdog group. In a speech that raises serious legal questions, Robertson appeared to contradict the Christian Coalition's oft-repeated claims not to be a political organization. He told a closed-door session of Coalition state leaders that he will recommend a Republican presidential candidate in private correspondence and then tell Coalition leaders to unite behind the candidate.
The speech, to a September 13 breakfast meeting during the Coalition's "Road to Victory" conference in Atlanta, was recorded and made public by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Robertson boasted "I told [Coalition President] Don Hodel when he joined us, `My dear friend, I want to hold out to you the possibility of selecting the next president of the United States, because I think that's what we have in this organization.'" The Televangelist and 1988 Presidential candidate also outlined a precinct-based political strategy for electing federal, state and local officials.
Robertson plans to use his political power to impose his extremist religious agenda on the U.S.. During the speech he called separation of church and state "a distortion of what the framers of the Constitution intended." He cited US Representative Ernest Istook's so-called "Religious Freedom Amendment" as a major Coalition goal. Constitutional experts believe that the amendment would effectively destroy church state separation.
Calling for the Republican leadership in Congress to submit to the Christian Coalition's agenda, Robertson said, "We just tell these guys, `Look, we put you in power in 1994, and we want you to deliver. We're tired of temporizing. Don't give us all this stuff about you've got a different agenda. This is what you're going to do this year. And we're going to hold your feet to the fire while you do it.'"
Following the release of the tape of the talk, Americans United's executive director, Reverend Barry Lynn, called for the IRS to remove the Christian Coalition's provisional tax-exempt status. Groups with this status may not endorse candidates or engage in political campaigning as their primary activities. The Coalition has already been sued by the Federal Election Commission for coordinating its activities with Republican candidates for office in 1990, 1992 and 1994 and failing to report its expenditures.
In June, two long-time Republican politicians were appointed to head the Christian Coalition. One-term Republican congressman Randy Tate became executive director, replacing Ralph Reed. While the new President of the Coalition, Donald Hodel, is best known for his role in the Reagan administration as head of the energy and interior departments.
Matt Cherry is Executive Director of the Council for Secular Humanism.