Since the departure of Ralph Reed in 1997, the Christian Coalition has been on a long, slow slide toward irrelevancy, seeing its budget shrink from a high of $26 million to just around a $1 million today. In the last year alone, the Coalition has seen at least four of its state affiliates break away from the national organization and now the CC announced that it has chosen a new president, one who plans to move the national headquarters to Florida.
According to press reports, the Rev. Joel Hunter hopes to restore the Coalition, in part by finding “common cause with mainline and progressive organizations on issues such as immigration, raising the minimum wage and providing prescription drugs to the needy and elderly.”
Needless to say, others on the Right are none-too-impressed with this progressive-sounding agenda
Some, such as Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, who have been critical of Robertson’s often-controversial leadership of the coalition, question this new strategy.
“One of the problems with broadening the agenda is that most people’s lives are so busy and full, there are only one or two issues that they can focus on at once,” Cromartie said. “The future of marriage and the pro-life debate are pretty clear-cut issues for most people in the religiously conservative community. Poverty and the environment are not unimportant issues. But there is much more room for disagreement for what the best policy is for solving the problem.”
The Rev. Louis Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, agreed.
“It is not a good idea strategically,” said Sheldon, whose organization focuses on issues involving sexuality and young people.
The Rev. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, thinks Hunter’s approach is folly.
“When people try to pretend there is consensus where there is no consensus, they lose their credibility with their constituency and eventually they lose their credibility with Washington,” he said.
It is clear that Hunter has his work cut out for him, but at least he is being realistic about his chances of success
“The Christian Coalition is in decline,” Hunter acknowledged, citing his discussions with the organization’s board during the past year. “I think they were desperate when they asked me. . . . I’ve always been drawn to lost causes.”