Ruling Hits Christian Coalition, IRS Forces Powerhouse to Pay Taxes


Associated Press/June 10, 1999

Washington -- There's a dramatic shake-up in the works at the Christian Coalition following the bombshell revelation that the IRS has denied the organization its tax-exempt status.

Officials told the Associated Press that the coalition was first denied tax-exempt status last year, when the IRS ruled that certain Christian Coalition activities were too partisan for the group to enjoy tax-exempt status. But the ruling was kept under wraps pending an appeal.

Apparently, the Christian Coalition was notified in recent weeks that it would lose that appeal.

Now, the former political powerhouse is expected to split into two groups. Officials say the changes will leave the coalition "dramatically reshaped," with the main contingent focusing on non-profit voter education.

Goals Remain Same
Despite structural changes, though, officials say the coalition's goals will be the same - to recruit "pro-family" activists, draw people to the polls for elections and educate people on the issues that affect families.

"The new Christian Coalition International will operate much like a for-profit corporation, allowed to engage in partisan activity, endorse candidates, give candidate contributions," said Mike Russell, spokesman for the organization.

He said the new entity could form a political action committee, and would open chapters overseas.

The IRS decision is a major blow to a lobbying group already waning in influence and experiencing dips in fund-raising. Other religion-focused groups, such as the Family Research Council, hope to emerge as the next powerhouse of the Republican right wing.

Barry Lynn, a longtime critic of the coalition, said the political implications are enormous.

"The Christian Coalition is a hardball political machine that is masquerading as a religious group. The evidence is overwhelming that this organization has been operating as virtually an arm of the Republican Party," said Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

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