In June 2009, former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed formed the Faith and Freedom Coalition. The FFC describes itself as a grassroots organization dedicated to “educating, equipping and mobilizing people of faith and like-minded individuals to be effective citizens.”
As another contender for Religious Right support, the FFC joins a crowded field. While it is still in its early stages of development, Reed says the group will use the web and social networking sites to mobilize activists. Observers believe the organization is primarily a vehicle to return Reed to the media limelight. (Many of Reed’s post-Christian Coalition projects – including an attempt to become a novelist – have fallen flat.)
Reed, who now runs an Atlanta-based political consulting firm called Century Strategies, has been a pillar of the Religious Right. Although politically savvy, he saw his own attempt at a political career go down in flames when Georgia voters rejected him for lieutenant governor after his ties to disgraced casino lobbyist Jack Abramoff became an issue.
Reed’s tenure at the Christian Coalition was controversial. Under his watch, the group distributed so-called “non-partisan” voter guides that two independent researchers said were full of “manipulations, distortions and outright falsehoods.” He was prone to use intemperate rhetoric, once bragging about the need to “move quietly, with stealth, under cover of night.” (Reed later issued a memo to Coalition activists, warning against the use of war metaphors. He recommended sports metaphors instead because they “sound playful.”)
Several candidates whose views were inaccurately portrayed in Coalition voter guides complained, but Reed remained a champion of the voter-guide strategy until his departure from the Coalition in 1997.
The Coalition was started with seed money from the Republican Senatorial Committee, and under Reed, the group remained highly partisan. In 1991, Reed bragged to the Christian Coalition how the organization helped U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) get reelected in 1990 after Helms called TV preacher Pat Robertson and requested assistance. When the Federal Election Commission investigated the matter in 1994, Reed had a convenient memory lapse, claiming he did not recall Helms asking for help. None of this stopped Reed from taking the credit when Republicans took control of Congress in 1994.
Periodically, Reed would claim that the Coalition, which consisted mainly of white evangelical Protestants, wanted to expand its base to Roman Catholics, Jews and African Americans. In 1997, he even announced a new effort called the Samaritan Project aimed at helping the poor and reaching out to black voters. The project was quickly abandoned 10 months later.
Reed Quote: “What Christians have got to do is take back this country, one precinct at a time, one neighborhood at a time and one state at a time.” (Quoted in Religion News Service May 15, 1990, citing the Los Angeles Times)