Christian Coalition Spat Continues in Alabama

Last week’s attack on James Dobson by some anti-abortion groups prompted rebukes defending Dobson from other anti-abortion groups with almost the same names, displaying an internecine conflict between factions on the far Right: Operation Rescue versus Operation Rescue and National Right to Life versus affiliate Colorado Right to Life.

Similar problems have been brewing over the last year between the waning Christian Coalition and its state affiliates. Chapters in Ohio, Iowa, Alabama, and Georgia have split off, citing disgust over the group’s finances as well as apparent ideological differences, such as the national group’s support of an Alabama tax reform measure, which the Republican governor called a Christian duty to the poor but which was fervently opposed by the group’s Alabama chapter.

It seems like CC of America is having trouble finding its identity: While disgruntled affiliates complained of the national group’s involvement on non-abortion and non-gay-related issues such as poverty and the environment, incoming president Rev. Joel Hunter withdrew before taking office because, he said, the board didn’t want to be involved in poverty or the environment (as it was “unwilling to part with its partisan, Republican roots”). Nevertheless, the Christian Coalition is still having an impact, according to a recent AP report – even in Georgia, where the breakaway chapter, renamed Christian Alliance, worked alongside the replacement CC of Georgia to oppose Sunday liquor sales.

Things aren’t as peachy in other states as they are in Georgia. The current policy dispute between the breakaway chapter in Alabama – now Christian Action Alabama – and its replacement affiliate centers on a proposed constitutional amendment on electronic bingo machines: the new CC of Alabama supports the amendment, claiming that it would eliminate more machines at gas stations than it would allow at dog tracks, while former Christian Action Alabama head and prominent activist and politician John Giles and other former CC figures oppose the measure.

Behind that policy dispute, however, is something nastier: The head of the new CC of Alabama is suing Giles, claiming he and the breakaway chapter absconded with CC assets. Giles responds by calling the suit “frivolous and baseless” and claims the new CC of Alabama is in the “palm of gamblers.”

If all this talk about the Christian Coalition, gambling, and Alabama sounds familiar, it’s because of reports in recent years that imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former Christian Coalition of America leader Ralph Reed funneled $850,000 from casino-owning Indian tribes in Mississippi to the Christian Coalition of Alabama to oppose a gambling measure there in 1999; the money alleged passed through Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform.