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Christian Coalition Gets a Rival on Political Front

September 07, 1996|From Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — The Christian Coalition, the largest and most powerful group of Christian political activists, will gather in Washington next week for its sixth annual Road to Victory conference.

But this year is different from the others: It won't be the only game in town mixing religion and politics.

Just a few blocks from where the estimated 3,500 religious conservatives will meet, an insurgent group of faith-based political activists, Call to Renewal, with roots in some of the same evangelical territory as the Christian Coalition, will gather at the same time next weekend to present its competing vision for America.

Over the past several years, the Christian Coalition, founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, has emerged as one of the most powerful influences in Republican Party politics.

That influence is evident in the lineup of speakers at the Road to Victory meeting, a virtual Who's Who of conservative Republicans lawmakers and activists: GOP vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, defeated presidential hopeful Pat Buchanan and House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Henry Hyde, among others.

In addition, Reform Party presidential nominee Ross Perot is scheduled to address the meeting. Coalition spokesman Mike Russell said the Perot appearance would mark the first address by the Texas billionaire to a gathering of social conservatives.

Up the street, at Call to Renewal's "National Forum on Faith and Politics," a number of well-known liberal voices--Sen. Bill Bradley, Reps. Tony Hall and John Lewis and Children's Defense Fund President Marian Wright Edelman--will be accompanied by conservative voices, including syndicated columnist Cal Thomas and Reps. Frank Wolf and Chris Shays.

Other Call to Renewal speakers, such as the U.S. Catholic Conference's John Carr and David Beckmann of the Christian anti-hunger organization Bread for the World, stand studiously outside partisan politics because they work with both Republicans and Democrats.

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