Ralph Reed Departs Christian Coalition

Article excerpt

Ralph Reed, the executive director of the Christian Coalition who turned the organization into the Religious Right's pre-eminent political force, announced April 23 that he will leave it to form a new campaign consulting firm and to work with charitable groups. In announcing his resignation after more than seven years in the job, Reed, 35, credited the coalition with turning religious conservatives from a "marginal" group into "one of the most potent and well-organized political forces in all of American politics."

Speaking at a news conference, Reed said the coalition's efforts will continue after he departs the organization founded in 1989 by religious broadcaster and onetime presidential candidate Pat Robertson. "Clearly, the work of the Christian Coalition will never be done," Reed said. "I believe and hope and trust that my work in the political arena is not over. But I believe that my work at the Christian Coalition is done." Reed, whose resignation is effective September 1, did not rule out the possibility of running for political office in the future but said for now he will concentrate on helping the coalition--which is based in Chesapeake, Virginia--find a successor.

Academic observers who have followed the coalition's rapid growth under Reed, and supporters and opponents alike, averred that Reed will be a tough act to follow. They point to his ability to reach out to a wide range of groups, including religiously conservative Jews and politically conservative African-Americans. "Reed has been an important bridge between the Christian Coalition and other conservative forces and . . . a bridge to more centrist forces in American politics," said Jim Guth, a political science professor at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. "I don't want to say that Ralph Reed is unique, but there aren't a whole lot of people out there like him."

Some of his critics commented that Reed has been able to put a kindly face on the group's controversial political agenda. "I think that Ralph Reed has consistently tried to take very radical positions of Pat Robertson and convert them into sounding like mainstream politics," said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an organization that monitors and opposes the Religious Right. …