State Christian group’s leader sues predecessor
Split between faith-based political organizations continues to grow after legislative battle over gambling issue
By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer
MONTGOMERY — The split between two faith-based political groups has intensified, with the new leader of the Christian Coalition of Alabama suing the organization’s old leader.
Randy Brinson, the new president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, claims in a lawsuit that John Giles took the assets of the Christian Coalition of Alabama when he left to start Christian Action Alabama, and he won’t give them back.
In Brinson’s view, Giles is setting a bad example for Christians interested in Alabama politics. “This is not the way to engage people of faith in the political process,” he said.
Giles calls Brinson’s suit “frivolous and baseless” and says a close examination of the suit will show that the new Christian Coalition of Alabama is in the “palm of gamblers.”
Montgomery Circuit Judge Gene Reese, who’s handling the suit, has not yet scheduled any hearings.
Giles was president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama and one of the most visible lobbyists in Montgomery until the state coalition split from the national Christian Coalition last year. Giles and his board, headed by longtime Chairman Bob Russell, took their assets and set up the new Christian Action Alabama last fall. Some other state chapters of the Christian Coalition made similar moves last year as the national Christian Coalition broadened its field of interest to include labor and environmental issues.
Corporation records in the secretary of state’s office show the Christian Coalition of Alabama was set up as a separate corporation from the national organization in 1992, with its own Alabama board. Last fall, the board filed papers changing its name to Christian Action Alabama. Giles became a board member of the new group, but no longer served as its president and full-time lobbyist.
After Giles and the other board members departed, the national Christian Coalition decided to rebuild its state organization and chose Brinson as its chairman. Brinson, a Montgomery physician, is well known among evangelical leaders because he has run national campaigns to get young Christians to register to vote.
Brinson said Giles used the national recognition of the Christian Coalition to build the state group, and not only did he not turn over the assets and mailing lists when he left, he created confusion by keeping the same Web site (www.ccbama.org).
Giles’ attorney, Jim Bopp, said he will argue that the old group has simply changed names and still legally controls its assets, including the Web site address.
Neither group has an official dues-paying membership like the Alabama Education Association, the Alabama Farmers Federation and similar influential lobbying organizations have. Instead, the two religious groups have mailing addresses and e-mail lists of like-minded voters who can be called into action.
The split between the two groups became clear in the current session of the Legislature when the new Christian Coalition of Alabama endorsed legislation to allow electronic bingo games at the dog tracks in Birmingham and Mobile and to crack down on gambling outside of dog tracks. Brinson said he supported the bill because it would confine gambling to locations that already had it, while making it more difficult at other locations.
The new Christian Action Alabama opposed the legislation, saying it would be a revenue boon to dog track operator Milton McGregor after the court-ordered shutdown of his electronic sweepstakes games at the Birmingham dog track.
After the bill stalled in the House, Brinson sued Giles, with the suit being filed by Montgomery attorney Tommy Gallion, whose law firm has done work for McGregor.
Brinson said he chose Gallion because he’s one of the state’s top attorneys, not because of any ties to McGregor.
To Giles, “it demonstrates the ‘new’ Christian Coalition of Alabama, under Mr. Brinson’s leadership, has been subverted by gambling interests.”
Gallion, Brinson’s attorney, said the old Christian Coalition of Alabama had ties to the Choctaw Indians that operate two casinos in Philadelphia, Miss. In writing the suit, he cited news reports from 2005 where anti-tax activist Grover Norquist acknowledged his Americans for Tax Reform received $1.15 million from the Mississippi tribe and then sent $850,000 to the Christian Coalition of Alabama and $300,000 to Citizens Against Legalized Lottery to fight an expansion of gambling in Alabama.
Brinson said his suit is not aimed at hurting Giles or his new group because the suit does not seek any monetary damages.
But Giles said Brinson is not following scripture. Citing 1 Corinthians 6:1, Giles said, “It is also biblically unconscionable for a representative of a Christian group to sue another Christian ‘first,’ instead of following the biblical example of ‘approaching differences.”’
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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