Politics First, Prayer Second: Pat Robertson's Parochial Priorities

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Every activist at the Christian Coalition's "Road to Victory" rally sported a button that read, "I Will Pray & Vote -- Election 2000."

That line, however, reflects misplaced priorities -- at least, according to Coalition founder and President Pat Robertson.

In a closed-door speech to pastors Sept. 30, Robertson complained that too many Americans let their religious devotion get in the way of their political agenda. He recounted an incident from Nevada in which a Republican state committeewoman aligned with the Religious Right lost her position by only a few votes. The TV preacher said the defeat occurred because several conservative Christians went to a prayer meeting instead of the GOP caucus.

"I mean, man, I'm all for prayers," blustered Robertson, "but for heaven's sake, put the woman in office and then go pray, you know."

The Robertson rant speaks volumes about the priorities of the Christian Coalition. Although the group has tried to portray itself as a religiously based, nonpartisan organization devoted to representing the Christian point of view in the public square, it is, in fact, nothing of the sort. The Coalition is a Tammany Hall-style political machine dedicated to one primary goal: electing conservative Republican candidates to public office.

This year, that goal remains the same. The line-up of dignitaries at the "Road to Victory" Conference was a who's who of GOP luminaries, ranging from Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott to House Speaker Dennis Hastert. (Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush was beamed in via videotape.)

Some tried to cloak their partisan agenda in religious rhetoric. …