US right-wing political pressure group founded in 1989 by the television evangelist Pat Robertson. The Christian Coalition aims to ‘stop the moral decay of government’ and to promote the election of ‘moral’ legislators. By 1995 the group had 1.7 million members in 1,500 branches in all 50 states, making it the group with the most influence over the policies of the Republican Party. Its headquarters are in Chesapeake, Virginia.
Policies The Christian Coalition combines born-again evangelical beliefs with social and political conservatism, opposing federal welfare schemes, abortion, and gay rights, for example, and favouring lower taxes and school prayer. Robertson appeals to grass-roots supporters with his fundamentalist faith, but some critics have accused him of anti-Semitism.
Growth of influence The organization began as a spin-off from the 1988 presidential campaign of Pat Robertson and has been growing spectacularly in size and influence. It has become a dominant voice in as many as 18 of the 50 states and strongly influences another 13. The coalition contributed massively to the Republican triumph in US general elections 1994, and in the 1996 presidential race, it virtually vetoed the selection of any Republican candidate or running mate who tolerated abortion.
Ralph Reed (1961– ) became executive director 1989, and has been largely responsible for turning the movement into a controlled political force.
Contract with the American Family In May 1995 the Christian Coalition presented its ‘Contract with the American Family’, a ten-point legislative agenda. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (who invented politics by contract) pledged to bring every item to a vote. Parts of the programme, such as tax relief for families and promoting school choice, were already in play in Congress. Parts were new, such as a crackdown on pornography, a gradual replacement of state welfare by private charities, and tougher treatment for prisoners. More controversial items included a constitutional amendment that would allow voluntary prayer in public places, and restrictions on late-term abortions.
The ‘contract’ has gained widespread Republican backing. It had been thoroughly market-tested in opinion polls and focus groups. Each item, the coalition claims, has the support of between 60% and 90% of Americans.
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