Christian Coalition Starting to Splinter?

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Three state chapters of powerful conservative lobbying group the Christian Coalition have split from the national organization, signaling division in the group’s ranks.

Chapters in Iowa and Ohio broke ties with the group earlier this year, and the Alabama chapter announced it was doing likewise this week.

Alabama chapter President John Giles said there were a dozen reasons for the decision, most importantly the national organization’s shift of emphasis from issues such as gay marriage to “soft” issues such as the minimum wage.

Truth be told, the Christian Coalition has faced numerous problems in the past year, from its estimated $1 million debt and legal troubles with the Internal Revenue Service to the recent media reports of past President Ralph Reed’s ties to corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff during his tenure.

Also, the leader of the Oregon chapter admitted last week in a police report to sexually touching three teenage girls years ago.

Giles said the group’s influence has been severely damaged and that the loss of the three state chapters leaves the Christian Coalition with strong support in only six states.

But national President Roberta Combs said the group still has more than 2 million members and remains a strong force in Washington, D.C. Also, the coalition already has given the go-ahead to individuals in Iowa and Ohio to form new state chapters.

Part of the group’s troubles with the IRS stemmed from “voter guides” the coalition distributes during state elections. Part of the coalition’s settlement with the government was a promise that all voter guides would be approved by the national organization to ensure the language would not compromise the group’s tax-exempt status.

However, the Alabama chapter earlier this month handed out a nine-page survey that many in the state say makes Democratic candidates look decidedly unchristian.

Combs noted that the questionnaire was not approved by the national organization and said it is one of the reasons the coalition decided mutually to make a break from the Alabama chapter.

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