When I saw an article covering a forum hosted by the Alabama Christian Coalition with candidates running for governor, I have to admit that I did not expect this:
Five Republicans and one Democrat running for governor showed up tonight at Taylor Road Baptist Church in Montgomery for a forum sponsored by the Alabama Christian Coalition.
But this was not your typical Christian Coalition forum, at least not compared to what has typically been the focus of political get-togethers sponsored by the group before it underwent a split several years ago and then came back under new leadership, leadership that many Republicans in the state now believe is nowhere near as conservative as the group once was.
Evidence of that was everywhere Monday. For starters, the panel asking questions featured some moderate Democrats along with some Republicans.
The real indication that maybe the focus of the group is not what it once was came when the questions were asked of the candidates. In a two-hour event, not one question was asked about their views on same-sex marriage, abortion, school prayer or even their views on taxes.
Some candidates, such as Republican Bill Johnson, had to seemingly go out of their way to say they were for traditional marriage and against abortion.
Other candidates, such as Republican Bradley Byrne and Democrat Artur Davis, occasionally referred to the Bible when making points. Former Chief Justice Roy Moore, who was the darling of the group as it existed in 2006 when he ran for the GOP nomination for governor, received at best polite applause but not the kind of thunderous ovations he saw three years ago.
Instead of plenty of questions about abortion, prayer and sin, Monday night’s forum was filled with questions about health care, the economy, education and yes, some moral issues. But those took the form of what to do about crowded prisons, the candidates pledging not to play the race card — Davis is black — and whether gambling should be made legal and taxed.
The Christian Coalition of Alabama has undergone some confusing changes in recent years. Back in 2006, then-president John Giles announced that they were breaking from the national Christian Coalition and reforming under the name Christian Action Alabama. The Christian Coalition of Alabama subsequently tapped Randy Brinson as president and the two organizations then got into a legal battle over assets.
Brinson, who was a key backer of Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign, and his organization also made news last year when they attacked Freedom’s Watch over ads it ran in the state because Sheldon Adelson, the man behind the organization, had made his fortune in the gambling industry and the even blasted the National Republican Congressional Committee for ads it ran attacking Democratic Congressional Candidate Parker Griffith, claiming the NRCC ad intentionally misrepresented some of Griffith’s statements “to cast aspersions on his character, patriotism and even Christian commitment.”
Interestingly, Giles left his new organization shortly after it broke with the Christian Coalition and now the organization appears defunct. Meanwhile, the Christian Coalition of Alabama has been branching out and taking stances one would never have expected from this sort of group:
The Christian Coalition of Alabama teamed up with a Democratic lawmaker on Tuesday to call for better health care for the state’s uninsured.
The event may defy con ventional wisdom about Christian Coalition priorities and partnerships, but it is only the latest example of what the group’s leader says is an effort to expand its focus.
“Yes, we’re ardently pro-life. Yes, we’re ardently for marriage,” said Dr. Randy Brinson, chairman of the state Christian Coalition. “But beyond just that, there’s other moral failings that are having (an) impact. … Not enough emphasis is put on that.”
One such problem is the number of people who lack medical care because they are uninsured or underinsured, said Brinson, a Montgomery physician and lifelong Republican, during a news conference with state Sen. Linda Coleman, D-Birmingham.
Brinson and Coleman said the rising cost of gas and food exacerbate the plight of the uninsured, forcing them to choose between transportation, sustenance and basic medical care.