The Christian Coalition has unveiled its "nonpartisan" voter guide for distribution at churches and other locations before the November election. In a letter accompanying the document, Coalition President Roberta Combs calls the guide "one of the most powerful tools Christians have ever had to impact our society during elections."
What she didn't say is that her guides are so "powerful" because they are partisan hatchet jobs carefully crafted to give the false appearance of an objective accounting of the candidates' stands on issues.
Churches and other groups that receive a tax exemption may, indeed, distribute voter guides, so long as they are unbiased and neutral toward all candidates. The Coalition's guides,however, never seem to meet this basic standard.
There's a long history here of deception. The Coalition was up to no good from the first day of its founding in 1989 by TV preacher Pat Robertson. Robertson has bailed out of the floundering organization, but it's still churning out partisan propaganda from its small offices in South Carolina.
Americans United has challenged Coalition deception from the beginning. In 2001, AU called out the Christian Coalition for a voter guide that clearly used factually inaccuracies.
At that time, Americans United Executive Director Barry Lynn said, "The guides select specific issues to make the Republican a saint, and the Democrat a sinner." He added, "Just as importantly, the guides phrase the issues in a biased fashion, and then give misleading and sometimes wrong information. These guides don't belong in churches, they belong in the recycling bin."
In 2004, Christian Coalition Field Director Bill Thomson candidly admitted that the guides are intended to affect the outcome of elections. He boasted that the one-page flyers can "change an election between 5 and 7 percentage points," calling them the group's "B-2 bomber."
The Coalition's newest voter guide is also clearly biased and does not fairly reflect the positions of presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama.
For example, it states that Obama supports "an increase in federal income tax rates" while McCain opposes an increase. Throughout the entire election season, Obama's campaign has consistently asserted that his tax plan would decrease income tax rates for 95 percent of the country, so the Coalition's generalization is misleading.
The guide says McCain supports "appointing judges that will adhere to a strict interpretation of the Constitution," and Obama opposes it. What in the world does "strict interpretation" mean? I guess it means whatever the Coalition wants it to mean.
What's even more astonishing is the fact that in 2005, because of a history of questionable voter guides, the Coalition reached a settlement agreement with the Internal Revenue Service that explained in detail how the Coalition's guides should be drafted.
Under these settlement requirements, the voter guides were not only required to be neutral, but the Coalition was required to "state that the candidate did not respond if no response was received" and that if the organization had to determine the candidate's stance in absence of an answer, it must "indicate the sources used."
The guide deliberately misleads by making it seem Obama and McCain actually responded to the Coalition's questions. Nowhere on the guide does it mention that Obama or McCain did not respond.
Does anyone really think Obama said he supports "sex education for children in kindergarten through 12th grade." Did McCain say he opposes it? I don't think McCain would oppose sex education classes for high schoolers, would he?
We also know the candidates didn't respond to these issues because, from reading the IRS guidelines, the guide is formatted in a way only used if the candidates do not respond. And nowhere in the guide does it state any specific source for the information.
Then Combs has the nerve to say in her letter, "Christian Coalition is the only organization whose voter guides are prepared in accordance with IRS approved guidelines for distribution in churches"!
It's appalling that the Christian Coalition, however insignificant it might have become today, still doesn't think it has to play by the same rules as everyone else.
Any church that distributes this biased and partisan guide will be breaking federal tax law and asking to have its tax exemption revoked.