by Edd Doerr
Remember Ralph Reed, the slick gunslinger brought in by televangelist Pat Robertson to head his Christian Coalition in the late 1980s? The guy who was embarrassed by his lucrative association with convicted felon Jack Abramoff? The guy who flopped miserably in his 2006 run for lieutenant governor of Georgia?
Well, he's back. This time at the helm of a new outfit called the "Faith and Freedom Coalition", which he describes as "a 21st-century version of the Christian Coalition on steroids". It is intended to combine Tea Partyers and evangelical Christians in a movement of "29 million conservative voters" for the 2012 political campaigns. Reed's new outfit talks about raising and spending $15 to $21 million mobilizing voters.
Reed's new group is having a conference this coming weekend (June 3 and 4) in Washington that will attract such big names as Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Donald Trump, John Boehner.
Reed is a slick political operator, but has his limitations. A dozen years or so ago a major Jewish organization had a conference at the Hilton on 16th Street near the White House. Reed was one of the speakers. Fortunately, they paired him with not some New York lawyer but, rather, with a Baptist minister from Texas, James Dunn, who at the time was executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty in Washington, an office founded in the 1930s to defend church-state separation. Dunn mopped up the floor with Reed.
The lesson in all of this is that in defending humanist values, which we share with a very great many people across the religious spectrum, we need to work with all of those who stand on our side of the fence against the Ralph Reeds, the anti-choicers, the public school haters, the clericalists, the malignant patriarchalists, and their like who would take us all back to the Dark Ages.