Christian Coalition Criticizes GOP Many Unhappy with Direction of Congress

Article excerpt

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

executive director.

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

2,500 conventioneers.

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

lawyers."

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

Republican-led Congress too often presents the appearance of

"sitting around the campfire looking for a leader. …