Upbeat Christian Coalition Convenes: `Tremendous' Growth over Year

Article excerpt

After a year of mobilizing for presidential primaries and both major party conventions, the Christian Coalition rolls into the nation's capital today for its annual conference.

Reform Party nominee Ross Perot is on its schedule. So is GOP vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp. The coalition has invited President Clinton to speak. So far he has not responded. The group said yesterday GOP nominee Bob Dole's plans are uncertain.

"It caps a pretty much yearlong effort to put a full-court press on this constituency," said coalition spokesman Mike Russell. "We've seen tremendous growth."

With 4,000 people expected at the "Road to Victory" conference here, he said, a total of 10,000 activists will have attended coalition events in recent months. Two other main events were rallies at the political conventions.

The Associated Press has challenged the coalition's claim to growth. The wire service published a report that coalition donations dropped from $21.2 million in 1994 to $18.7 million the following year, according to tax filings.

Mr. Russell said national donations were up in 1994 because it was an election year. In 1995 more money was kept in state chapters to contribute to their growth. "We're on track for the $24 million budget for this year," he said.

The three-day conference at the Washington Hilton will feature more than 100 speakers in a mix of inspirational speeches and expert panels on social issues. This afternoon, each of the 50 state chapters will hold meetings.

Founded in 1989 by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, the coalition puts its membership at 1.7 million. Circulation of its subscriber magazine, Christian American, has ranged between 310,000 to 350,000 in recent years, according to the tax records. …