The Christian Coalition unveiled a new initiative Jan. 30 designed to reach out to African-Americans and Hispanics. The Coalition, which has 1.7 members and a network of 100,000 churches, also announced a legislative agenda designed to combat poverty and revitalize American innercity ghettos.
“For too long, our movement has been a predominantly — and frankly almost exclusively — white, evangelical, Republican movement whose center of gravity has rested in the cloistered safety of the suburbs,” said Ralph Reed, executive director of the Christian Coalition. “Today, we propose a bold plan that shatters the color line and bridges the gap that has separated white evangelicals and Roman Catholics from our African-American and Latino brothers and sisters.”
The new plan, dubbed the “Samaritan Project,” includes government-financed scholarships to private schools for low-income children in 100 of the nation’s worst school districts. It also includes a $500 tax credit for people giving money and at least 10 hours of volunteer time to charitable groups that serve the poor.
Reed also called for the establishment of “empowerment zones” to give tax breaks to individuals who start businesses and create jobs in innercity neighborhoods. He spoke out against legalized gambling, which he said takes money from the poor and gives it to the rich “on the basis of a cheat and a lie.”
Reed’s call for urban revitalization went beyond government spending. He also said the Christian Coalition will work to raise up to $10 million in the next few years to help black and Latino churches minister to at-risk youths. The coalition already raised $750,000 for black churches damaged by arson in 1995 and 1996.
The project also encourages stable families to move to inner-city neighborhoods to help recover neighborhoods. “How each family or person decides to give will be left up to them,” Reed said. “We hope to have people working in homeless shelters, teaching literacy classes, working in hospitals.”
A coalition of liberal religious leaders dismissed Reed’s proposals. “This seems like nothing more than a politically packaged strategy aimed at softening the Christian Coalition’s image, while doing little to address the real issues affecting poor and working families in this country,” claimed the Rev. Albert Pennybacker, president of the Interfaith Alliance.
But the Rev. Lawrence Haygood, a black minister from Tuskegee, Alabama who spoke at the Christian Coalition’s press conference, says he believes the organization’s new initiative can make a difference for America’s minority communities. “We in the black community have looked for a leader in a black form. But he did not show up in a black form,” Haygood said. “He has come in a white form, in the image of Ralph Reed.”
— E.P. News