Washington, D.C. -- The Christian Coalition's reported interest in giving up its current tax-exempt status and starting a political action committee shows that legal pressures from government agencies and watchdog groups are finally taking their toll.
That's the view of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a national church-state watchdog organization that has exposed the partisan political activities of the Coalition since TV preacher Pat Robertson founded it in 1989.
Said Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn, "The evidence of the Christian Coalition's partisan politicking is now so overwhelming that even Pat Robertson knows he can't keep up the charade of non-partisanship any longer. It's long past time for Robertson to confess to his political sin of abusing his tax-exempt status."
Last September, Americans United made public a tape of a Robertson speech to Coalition state leaders in which he compared the group to Tammany Hall and other notorious political machines of American history.
Robertson also took credit for electing the Republican majority in Congress in 1994, urged Coalition activists to skirt the law and unite behind a single Republican nominee in the 2000 GOP presidential primary and derided Democratic chances to win the next race for the White House. (For a text of Robertson's remarks, contact Americans United.)
Americans United sent copies of the Robertson speech to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission, two federal agencies that are examining the Coalition's activities. The Coalition has operated under a 501(c)4 tax-exempt status since its founding, but the IRS has declined to make that status permanent and an audit has been ongoing. The FEC has filed suit against the Coalition for illegal political endeavors on behalf of Republican candidates for office.
Said Americans United's Lynn, "Even if the Coalition admits its partisan character today, it still needs to pay back taxes for the many years it flouted its tax-exempt status. Repentance is good for the soul, but restitution still needs to be made. The IRS and the courts need to see that this takes place."