Christian Coalition Expands Agenda

Christian Coalition Expands Agenda
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Despite Ralph Reed's announcement that he is resigning as executive director of the Christian Coalition in September, the organization is pressing forward with a new anti-poverty effort. The group is launching the Samaritan Project to focus on care for the poor and disadvantaged. The legislative portion of the Christian Coalition's current agenda includes a call for government-financed scholarships allowing students in the country's worst 100 school districts to attend private schools. The Christian Coalition also is endorsing a $500 tax credit for those who both give financial assistance and volunteer time to poverty-oriented programs.

However, the project is marked less by its calls to government than by promises to faith-based programs. The organization is attempting to raise $10 million through the year 2000 to assist ministries that aid the poor.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State have expressed doubts that the Christian Coalition's initiative is sincere. But one former critic, the Call to Renewal, has applauded the Samaritan Project. "We are pleased to see the Christian Coalition address the need to combat poverty and work for racial justice," says Jim Wallis, head of the movement. "We're saying, 'Welcome to the table. Now let's work together to solve these problems' " (see "Leaders Pursue Unity in Fighting Poverty," p. 60).

Earl Jackson, director of the Samaritan Project, says the group's new emphasis on justice issues marks a shift in Christian Coalition strategy.

"For the past few years, we have said what we are against: federal encroachment into lives," Jackson says. "Now it's time to say what we are for: the intervention of faith-based institutions and churches." ...

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