Washington, D.C. -- Republicans in Congress are saints and Democrats are sinners. At least, that's the case if you believe the 1998 Christian Coalition Congressional Scorecard.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State released a report today that found the Christian Coalition's new congressional ranking to be "overwhelmingly biased toward Republicans."
Americans United sent its findings to the Internal Revenue Service and asked the federal agency to reject the tax exemption of the Coalition, a group founded by TV preacher Pat Robertson.
"The Christian Coalition isn't a religious group; it's a partisan political machine hiding behind a stained glass window," said Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn. "This rigged congressional scorecard is just the latest example of the Christian Coalition's poisonous politicking. It's time for the IRS to enforce the law."
Lynn said Americans United's report is especially important, because the IRS is under pressure from the Coalition's Republican allies in Congress to grant the group permanent tax exemption. Last week, Rep. Bill Archer, head of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, met with IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti to intercede on behalf of the Coalition.
Since 1989, the Coalition has been operating under a provisional tax exemption while the IRS reviews its application for permanent tax-exempt status. Critics, meanwhile, have produced voluminous evidence that the group is a partisan Republican operation.
The Coalition scorecard gave members of Congress rankings from zero to 100, depending on their record on 12 votes this session.
According to Americans United's report:
The average Republican member of the House scored 89.85, while the average Democrat scored 13.12. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Majority Leader Dick Armey and Majority Whip Tom DeLay all scored 100, while Democratic Minority Leader Richard Gephardt scored zero.
The average Republican in the Senate scored 80.31, while the average Democrat scored 6.16. Majority Leader Trent Lott scored 92, while Democratic Minority Leader Tom Daschle scored 8.
Of the 172 members of Congress who scored eight or less, 171 were Democrats (plus independent Bernard Sanders).
Of the 198 members of Congress who scored 90 or above, 196 were Republicans.
Christian Coalition Chairman Pat Robertson met with House Speaker Newt Gingrich recently to discuss Republican strategy for the 1998 elections and to pledge his support. According to a May 9 interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Robertson said, "I met with Newt about three weeks ago and I told him I wanted to mobilize the grass roots, just like we did in 1994."
In April Coalition Executive Director Randy Tate wrote Coalition members, "Distribution of the Congressional Scorecard is the key to the Christian Coalition's CHRISTIAN VOTER MOBILIZATION CAMPAIGN for the 1998 primary and general elections."
Americans United's Lynn, in a May 28 letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti, said, "The Internal Revenue Service bears the responsibility of ensuring that tax-exempt status is not abused by partisan political groups such as the Christian Coalition. I trust you will carry out this responsibility in regard to the Christian Coalition, despite unconscionable pressure from members of Congress."
Lynn also wrote to Rep. Archer to demand that he disavow any attempt to influence the IRS decision regarding the Christian Coalition.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.