February 18, 1998 in Nation/World

Christian Coalition Plans To Work More With Churches

Ron Fournier Associated Press
 

Emboldened by the defeat of a gay-rights law in Maine, the Christian Coalition plans to recruit 100,000 “church liaisons” to help push the group’s agenda in all 50 states.

The new plan, part of a “Families 2000” strategy being unveiled today, borrows from the coalition’s success last week in Maine. The coalition said it worked with 900 churches to pass the ballot initiative, adding 77,000 households to its mailing list.

Under the new strategy, volunteer activists will be tapped by the coalition to coordinate activities between churches and local coalition chapters.

The coalition will publish a menu of issues around which these newly constituted local entities can rally. The list includes state bans on certain late-term abortions, restrictions on pornography, opposition to legalized gambling initiatives and opposition to any measures that extend anti-discrimination protection based on sexual orientation.

The last item is a reference to the Maine referendum, in which voters decided, 51 percent to 49 percent, to repeal a new law that would have barred discrimination against gays and lesbians in employment, housing, public accommodations and credit.

However, David Smith, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay political group, said the coalition is making a mistake by trying to duplicate its success in Maine.

“I think it is a complete misreading of the results in this election in Maine if they think those totals give them a mandate nationally,” Smith said. “Polls show that Americans are opposed to discrimination against people based on sexual orientation. Any attempt to achieve the same results in other states would backfire.”

But coalition officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the new strategy reflects the fact that churches are becoming an efficient way to reach voters in an age of suburban sprawl.

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