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The Rev. Louis P. Sheldon founded the Tradi¬tional Values Coalition in 1981 primarily to work on issues in California. The group was originally named the American Liberties Institute and later the California Coalition for Traditional Values but soon branched out, establishing a Washington beachhead. The D.C. office is run by Sheldon’s daughter, Andrea Lafferty.

Sheldon claims to represent more than 43,000 churches, but critics dispute that figure. In the world of the Religious Right, the Presbyterian minister has a reputation as something of a money-grubbing huckster. He has been criticized for acting as a front for gambling interests on at least two occasions. An aide to disgraced casino lobbyist Jack Abramoff once called Sheldon “Lucky Louie” in an e-mail when the two worked together on a lobbying project on behalf of the legalized gambling industry.

Sheldon’s rhetoric is shrill, even by Religious Right standards, and he makes no efforts to moderate his extreme goals. His daughter is equally florid, once claiming in a 1999 fund-raising letter that she had confronted a “witch” who had sown a “spirit of confusion” over the Senate.

For many years, Sheldon carved out a niche for TVC by engaging in unrelenting gay bashing. (TVC’s Web site includes a section titled “Causes and Cures Of Homosexuality And Gender Identity Disorders.”) In 1995, he even persuaded conservative members of the House of Representatives to hold hearings on the alleged “gay infiltration” of public schools. But in recent years, Sheldon has diversified, ramping up his assaults on church-state separation, public education and the federal judiciary.

TVC is a 501(c)(4) group, which means donations to it are not tax deductible. However, it maintains a fully tax deductible arm called the TVC Education and Legal Institute.

Sheldon Quote: “A dangerous Marxist/Leftist/Homosexual/Islamic coalition has formed – and we’d better be willing to fight it with everything in our power. These people are playing for keeps. Their hero, Mao Tse Tung, is estimated to have murdered upwards of 60 million people during his reign of terror in China. Do we think we can escape such persecution if we refuse to fight for what is right?” (“The War on Christianity,” column, TVC Web site, Dec. 13, 2005)

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Lou Sheldon’s Sleazy Fund-Raising Mail