The Christian Coalition was founded in 1989 by TV preacher Pat Robertson as an organization dedicated to advancing the Religious Right’s agenda through church-based political action. During the 1990s, the Coalition was the nation’s most powerful Religious Right group with a budget that reached $25 million annually. It was led by Ralph Reed, a GOP strategist.
The Coalition, once a powerful force in the Republican Party and the evangelical community, no longer wields the influence it once did. In its prime, the group had a mailing list of over 1 million names and perhaps more than 400,000 dues-paying members. It now has a membership estimated to be no more than 30,000.
Closely aligned with the Republican Party, the Coalition claimed to be non-partisan but actually worked to forge a church-based political machine that would disseminate stacked “voter guides” on behalf of GOP candidates. The plan was ambitious, but many pastors were wary.
Clergy concern escalated in 1997 after Americans United released an audiotape of a closed-door Coalition leaders’ meeting in which Robertson said the group must emulate Tammany Hall, the notoriously corrupt New York political machine. In 1999, the IRS determined that the tax-exempt Coalition had engaged in too much politicking, forcing the group to restructure. Reed had by this time left the group, and in December of 2001, Robertson pulled his support and funding. Subsequently, the Coalition has struggled unsuccessfully to maintain a financial infrastructure and a vibrant membership base.
The Coalition, now led by South Carolina activist Roberta Combs, continues to operate, but its positions and statements wield a tiny fraction of the influence than they once did.