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Christian Coalition reorganizes after IRS rejects tax-exempt status

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Christian Coalition has reorganized itself into two entities in the wake of being denied tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service.
The organization, based in Chesapeake, Va., announced June 10 it would become a for-profit organization to be known as Christian Coalition International. It will endorse candidates for office and contribute to their campaigns. Also, Christian Coalition of Texas, which has tax-exempt status, will be renamed Christian Coalition of America to perform many of the functions of the previous organization.
Pat Robertson, president and founder of the coalition, said in a written release the organization would “remain a prominent fixture on the political landscape as the nation’s number one pro-family, pro-life organization.”
In its statement, the organization said it had withdrawn its application for an exemption from paying income taxes under section 501(c)(4) of the IRS code, but the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times reported the same day the IRS had rejected Christian Coalition’s attempt for such status.
The ruling was the most recent in a series of setbacks for the 10-year-old organization, which has mobilized many conservative Christians to political and public-policy action and become a force in the Republican Party. Its outreach has spanned denominations, especially among evangelicals. Many Southern Baptist churches have distributed the coalition’s voter guides to their members.
Christian Coalition raised $26 million in 1996, the last presidential election year, but its revenue fell to $17 million in 1997, The Washington Post reported. The organization also has lost membership in recent years.
Ralph Reed, executive director since its founding in 1989, left the organization in 1997. Only the week before the IRS ruling was reported, Christian Coalition announced former congressman Randy Tate, who became executive director after Reed’s departure, would move to Washington to head its Capitol Hill office.
Don Hodel, a cabinent member under President Reagan, said when he became Christian Coalition president the organization would return to a principle-before-politics focus. Hodel left the position several months ago, and Robertson has taken over as president. Three other top officials have left the organization in recent months, according to The New York Times.
Strict church-state separation organizations that have been especially critical of the use of Christian Coalition voter guides in churches lauded the IRS decision. The voter guides contrast the positions of candidates on selected issues.
Among those applauding the ruling was Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which campaigned for the IRS ruling denying tax-exempt status to the Christian Coalition.