TV preacher Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, once regarded as a Religious Right powerhouse, has been left reeling by allegations of racism and charges that its influence is in rapid decline.
Ten African American employees at the Christian Coalition's Washington, D.C., office have filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing the organization of engaging in a pattern of racial discrimination. The suit alleges that Coalition Executive Director Roberta Combs excluded black employees from staff prayer meetings and an inaugural dinner, extended health care benefits to white employees but not blacks and forced black employees to eat lunch in a segregated dining area.
A separate legal action has also been filed by a white employee who says he was fired after he refused to eavesdrop on the black employees who expressed dissatisfaction with working conditions.
To make matters worse from the Coalition's perspective, the ultra-conservative Washington Times newspaper reported March 14 that the group has fallen on hard times. It is in debt and is rapidly losing its political influence in the Republican Party.
"If this is the end of the Christian Coalition, I say good riddance," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "Throughout its life, this organization has been a negative force in American politics."
Lynn charged that the Coalition, while claiming to be a voice for conservative Christians in public life, was in reality little more than a hardball partisan machine that promoted Republican candidates for office. To achieve that goal, the group routinely engaged in cheap smears, character assassinations and the politicization of churches.
"If these allegations of racial bias are true, then no politicians in their right minds will touch the group with a 20-foot pole in the future," said Lynn.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization represents 60,000 members and allied houses of worship in all 50 states.
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.