Robertson Resigns from Christian Coalition

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Byline: Joyce Howard Price

The Rev. Pat Robertson resigned yesterday as president and board member of the Christian Coalition, the grass-roots organization he founded 12 years ago that helped make Christian conservatives a political force.

"I would rather be active in spiritual ministry than engaged in political activity anymore. . . . My active participation as a member of the Christian Coalition has come to an end," Mr. Robertson, 71, said in an interview with the Associated Press.

The religious broadcaster founded the Christian Coalition in 1989, a year after his failed bid for the Republican nomination for president.

Roberta Combs, who was elected to succeed Mr. Robertson as coalition president, served as South Carolina state director of Mr. Robertson's 1988 presidential campaign. Mrs. Combs served as executive vice president of the Christian Coalition before being elected president yesterday by the board of directors.

Mr. Robertson will focus his energies on being chairman and CEO of the Christian Broadcasting Network.

The Christian Coalition spearheaded the rise of the religious right in the 1990s. It was seen as a dominant force in the 1994 congressional elections. But in recent years it has been rocked by financial debt, lawsuits, the loss of experienced political leaders and gaffes by Mr. Robertson. And there are doubts about how effective it will be under Mrs. Combs' leadership.

Marshall Wittman, who served as director of legislative affairs for the Christian Coalition during its heyday from 1993 to 1995, said yesterday: "Pat Robertson was the catalyst for the growth of the modern conservative right. But he was also one of the factors in its demise."

Mr. Robertson was widely criticized for implying on "The 700 Club" that the United States brought the September 11 terrorist attacks on itself by abandoning God.

But others with former ties to the Christian Coalition said Mr. Robertson caused a much greater stir among pro-life conservatives in his organization when he seemed to defend China's forced-abortion practices in anApril CNN interview. …