From ......... Daily News Miner

August 3, 1996 ........... A-4

The surprise in the Federal Election Commission (FEC) lawsuit against the Christian Coalition for allegedly crossing the line dividing voter education from political partisanship is not the suit itself - but that it has taken so long.

Since religious conservatives became active in politics in the late 1970s, many liberal coalitions have been looking for ways to intimidate those conservatives and invalidate their full participation in the political process, which liberals apparently believe ought to be reserved exclusively for themselves.

The FEC objects to the "scorecards" the Christian Coalition distributes, saying they "express advocacy" for certain candidates and therefore should have been reported as "in kind" contributions to those candidates or as independent expenditures. Because the coalition is incorporated, the FEC charges that money spent to help George Bush, Sen. Jesse Helms [R-N.C.] and Oliver North's failed Virginia Senate race also amounted to illegal corporate contributions.

The scorecards are statements by candidates on issues of importance to the Christian Coalition. They include not only predictable ones, such as abortion and gay rights, but also economic ones, such as a balanced budget, welfare and national defense. Republicans and Democrats are questioned and their responses (or non-responses) are duly printed. None of the scorecards I've seen endorses or opposes any candidate.

Christian Coalition spokesman Mike Russell called the lawsuit "a completely baseless and legally threadbare attempt by a reckless federal agency to silence people of faith and deny them their First Amendment Rights."

Not exactly. Only some people of faith. When the Rev. Jesse Jackson ran for president, he openly collected funds for his campaign in black Baptist and other churches in what appeared to be a flagrant violation of IRS and FEC rules. No action was taken against him. Liberal clergy and their churches and denominations have for years been involved in lobbying for and against legislation while enjoying special status under the tax code.

At Foundry Methodist in Washington, D.C., which Bill and Hillary Clinton attend, literature opposing the Republican "Contract With America" was available inside the church, and Foundry's facilities have been used by gay rights and other groups as a platform for political speech and activism.

Last Monday [July 29] Mrs. Clinton spoke to 1,500 members of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and suggested that Jesus favors her health-care proposals. She quoted a Bible passage in which Jesus tells His disciples to "let the little children come unto me," which she interpreted to mean that people must think of every child as if "he had the face of Jesus stamped on his head." She added, "I believe it takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a church in that village to make sure the village does raise a child." Mrs. Clinton sees the "village" as the federal government.

The Interfaith Alliance, founded to combat the so-called "Christian right," is heavily subsidized by Democratic money. It's holding a "prayer vigil" the day before the Republican convention opens in San Diego. The alliance is advertised as "nonpartisan," the same billing used by the Christian Coalition.

The Christian Coalition has invited Democrats, such as former Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey, to speak at its events. Some have accepted; most have declined. It cares about issues with which mainly Republicans identify. Is that the fault of the Christian Coalition?

The lawsuit by the Federal Election Commission should be rejected on First Amendment grounds, or the FEC should be required to go after every liberal group that enjoys special tax privileges as an "educational" organization but dabbles in politics.

The FEC case against the Christian Coalition is destined for the Supreme Court. That's another reason why the coming election - with the likelihood the next president will get two, possibly three, appointments to the high court - is critically important.

Cal Thomas comments on politics, values and ethics in Amarica. His column is distributed by the Los Angelese Times Syndicate.


From ........... Daily News Miner

August 3, 1996 ........ A-4


By JOHN YOUNG Waco Tribune-Herald

WACO, Texas - I just heard a great joke. Every time I hear it, it cracks me up. Here's the joke:

Hooo hah. Hardy-har. Stop it. You're killing me.

If the Christian Coalition is a non-political group, Boris Yeltsin and Fabio were separated at birth.

Of course the Christian Coalition is a political group. All it does, 24 hours of every day, is politics. And it doesn't do party-neutral politics, a la League of Women Voters. The Christian Coalition does Republican politics, and does it with impunity.

But when the subject is its status in the eyes of the federal election or tax codes, the Christian Coalition says it's not a political group.

Yes. And Rush Limbaugh is really Jenny Craig.

The Federal Election Commission has figured this out. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's not an eel.

The FEC charged Tuesday that the Christian Coalition had violated federal elections laws by serving as a political action committee, that it not only was involved in clearly partisan activities but was receiving contributions for purely partisan reasons.

What's wrong with that, you say? Can't religious conservatives do that? Yes they can.

But political campaigns and contributions are governed by laws. The Christian Coalition wants to play political action games, but not by the rules governing political action groups.

The FEC did a duck check. It called this creature a PAC. It has filed suit in federal court. As a PAC, the suit alleges, the Christian Coalition violated campaign contribution laws in 1990, 1992 and 1991 exceeding contributions limits in bankrolling Republican efforts and violating campaign disclosure laws.

The suit alleges actions "in coordination, cooperation and/or consultation" with a long list of Republican campaigns. What's wrong with coordinating, cooperating or consulting with political causes? Nothing, unless one poses as non-political. If the Christian Coalition is non-political, Madonna is celibate.

Yes, that should be big, big news to anyone who pays even scant attention to politics. The Christian Coalition rules the Texas Republican Party. It is a grassroots political giant. You may say, "more power to it." The FEC says, OK, but stop Iying. Call yourself a political group. Register as a PAC.

What's at stake here is nothing more than what got Jesus militant in the temple: money. The Christian Coalition, by claiming to be a non-political organization, can pull in unlimited contributions, and the contributors need not be identified.

In the American scheme of things, money equals political power. The Christian Coalition, which bows to the almighty, owes much of its might to the almighty dollar.

Fortunately, people of faith have risen to challenge not only the politics of the Christian Coalition but its acrid theme - that there's a "Christian" way to vote. The Interfaith Alliance, made up of 30,000 people of 30 different denominations, has made its mission to point out that the Christian Coalition doesn't speak for all of Christianity.

The Interfaith Alliance is an apt repudiation to the certain comeback: that to cite the politics of the Christian Coalition is to assail Christians.

Like "Moral Majority" before and "pro-life" since, the name "Christian Coalition" is intellectual deception, a basic tool of the political trade. But the biggest deception is that the Christian Coalition isn't political.

Yes. And Daffy is no duck.

John Young is opinion page editor of the Waco Tribune-Herald, Waco, Texas.