ATLANTA -- The Christian Coalition is being investigated for
its close relationship to the Republican Party. But those ties
didn't prevent leaders of the influential religious group from
giving their allies a cold splash of holy water yesterday.
"To the conservative leaders who are wondering why the
American people don't respond, here is a clue -- the American
people think you don't get it," said Randy Tate, a former GOP
congressman from Washington state and the coalition's new
Congress has lost popular support because its leaders have
strayed from fundamental social concerns, Tate said at the
coalition's national convention.
"The American people don't care if there are 13, 15 or nine
Cabinet agencies -- they worry about whether their kids are safe
at school and whether the education system is undermining the
values that are taught at home," Tate told a crowd of about
The convention was the first since Tate and his partner,
coalition president and former Reagan Cabinet member Donald
Hodel, took over the 400,000-member group from Ralph Reed
earlier this year.
Reed, a 36-year-old protege of coalition founder, the Rev.
Pat Robertson, is moving back to his native North Georgia to
open a political consulting firm.
The convention brought out some of the Republican Party's
biggest names, including House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., who
called the coalition "an outstanding force for good."
Embracing the group's top priorities, Gingrich promised
Congress will send President Clinton another version of his
vetoed bill outlawing late-term "partial birth" abortions, and
pass Georgia Sen. Paul Coverdell's legislation letting parents
set aside money for private-school tuition in tax-free accounts.
He also said Congress will scrutinize a $369 billion
multi-state lawsuit settlement with tobacco companies to make
sure legal fees don't consume billions intended for youth
anti-smoking campaigns, which he said should also include
anti-drug and alcohol messages.
"We are going to insist every state file every document of
every agreement they have with lawyers," Gingrich said. "This is
not going to be a litigation lottery for the enrichment of trial
A pair of 1996 presidential candidates eyeing another run in
2000 joined in questioning the resolve of the Republican
Congress to carry out the coalition's agenda and stand firm
against President Clinton.
"Our congressional leadership is neck-deep in compromise,
captive to its doubts, in search of its soul," publishing heir
Steve Forbes said.
Though not a favorite of the Religious Right in his first
presidential bid, Forbes won applause yesterday for coming out
in favor of a constitutional amendment banning abortion with
narrow exceptions to protect the mother.
Former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander complained that the