Loose morals abound in an election year.
Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition is holding its annual conference in Washington, D.C., today and tomorrow. That means Religious Right devotees have descended on the city to discuss “training and equipping” themselves to “advance conservative legislation” and prep for the 2012 election.
You may remember Reed. He ran TV preacher Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition throughout much of the 1990s, achieving a level of success that the group has been unable to duplicate since Reed’s departure in 1997.
Reed seemed poised for even greater things when he parted ways with Pat (if it’s possible for a Religious Right activist to top TV evangelism) – until his duplicity and greed came to light. In 2006, media outlets highlighted Reed’s ties to disgraced casino lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Reed, while working for Abramoff, seemed to be an anti-gambling crusader. In reality, he was getting generously paid to help a Native American tribe that wanted to protect its casino operation and curb a competing gambling hall.
A series of emails between Reed and Abramoff showed Reed to be eager, as he put it in 1998, to “start humping in corporate accounts.”
Abramoff did time behind bars. Reed was never charged with illegal activities, but his role in the affair derailed his 2006 run for Georgia lieutenant governor.
It seems Reed has nonetheless recovered from that scandal and has been successful in building bridges to Tea Party conservatives and forging a voting bloc among the Religious Right through his latest venture.
That success is reflected in the list of speakers scheduled for Reed’s conference, including major politicos like presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney (who will deliver a message via video), Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and rumored Republican vice presidential candidates Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Rob Portman (Ohio).
Also scheduled to speak are some Religious Right celebrities, including Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, TV preacher James Robison, Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, Regent University President Carlos Campo and the Rev. Jonathan Falwell, pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist Church (and son of the late TV preacher Jerry Falwell).
That the likes of Perkins, Land, Falwell and Co. would have anything to do with Reed is shocking, given that the Religious Right claims to oppose gambling, not to mention that Reed totally scammed the entire movement.
But Religious Right leaders can be very forgiving – when it’s in their interest. Tom Minnery, an official at Focus on the Family, told The New York Times last year, “I’m sure that Ralph learned a valuable lesson from that period in his life. But he’s a very talented man, and we welcome all the players.”
Land, Perkins and the like claim to stand for morality and values, but now that they’ve lined up with Reed, it’s clear that they’re willing to bend their morals if it means votes for politicians they back or bills they support.
Who knows what else some in the Religious Right are willing to overlook under the right circumstances, and when people yield on things that are supposed to be unbending, it’s difficult to know what they really stand for.