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Christian Coalition to returnto principles, president says

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Christian Coalition will return to aprinciple-before-politics focus, abandoning an approach that has harmedthe organization, President Donald Hodel told a Washington newspaper’sstaff.
The organization’s more political approach in recent years hasresulted in an unhealthy identification with the Republican Party, aswell as membership and financial losses, Hodel said at a Jan. 6 meetingwith editors and reporters of The Washington Times, the paper reported.
“It is more important for us to re-establish, without question,that we are focused on our main mission and that we stand on certainbasic values than it is to say we have to win the next election,” Hodelsaid, according to The Times. “If we abandon our philosophy, then we’rejust another political organization trying to win the next election.”
Under the leadership of its former executive director, Ralph Reed,the Christian Coalition had, at times, supported candidates who were notpro-life. It also had gained significant leverage in the RepublicanParty’s primary and platform processes. It provided informal support toBob Dole’s failed 1996 presidential campaign.
Reed resigned last year to form a political consulting group. InJune, Hodel, a cabinet member under President Reagan, was namedpresident, and former Congressman Randy Tate was chosen as executivedirector. Reed had been the coalition’s executive director sincetelevision mogul Pat Robertson founded it in 1989.
The Times did not report how many members or dollars theorganization had lost. A Christian Coalition spokesperson said theorganization has 1.9 million members and supporters but said its lossesprimarily were in giving decreases also plaguing similar organizations.
Hodel acknowledged the Christian Coalition had lost some of itsmembers to a new organization, the National Federal of RepublicanAssemblies, because of the coalition’s willingness to compromise inorder to gain influence. To the extent the Christian Coalition wasidentified with the Republican Party, it “has not helped. It has hurtthe Christian Coalition with our constituency,” Hodel said.
The coalition will take a stronger approach toward Republicans andsocial issues, such as homosexuality, Hodel said.
In another change from Reed’s strategy, the organization will seeka lower profile on the national scene while working at the grassrootslevel, Hodel said.
“You can have a lot of influence and not be perceived as having itin Washington,” he said. “A group like ours may in fact have greaterimpact if it is not visible. One of the strengths of a grassrootscampaign is that it doesn’t show up on a radar screen.”
With Reed’s departure, Family Research Council President GaryBauer has moved into the void to become the leading conservativeChristian spokesman in Washington. Bauer started a political actioncommittee only a year ago, and the Campaign for Working Families hasraised $2 million to become the country’s leading pro-family PAC. The CWF says it will support only pro-family, pro-life, pro-free enterprisecandidates.