News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Christian Coalition itself should answer questions

Bless their hearts, the members and backers of the Christian Coalition of Alabama just want to educate voters about issues important to those who want to be Christians (or at least vote like Christians).

Education is what John Giles, president of the coalition, said is the motive behind a nine-page, 76-question survey that the group has mailed to candidates. It will use candidates' answers — or their failure to answer — to prepare about 1.7 million voter guides, which will be distributed before the November election. "It's so the people can make an informed decision when they vote," Mr. Giles said, denying any intention to endorse particular candidates.

Some Democratic legislators disagree. They think the purpose is to make them look bad and steer votes toward their opponents. Expect some candidates not to answer the survey.

"They will cherry-pick the answers they use," said Rep. Randy Hinshaw, D-Meridianville. "I am sure the Christian Coalition will try to convince people that I'm a godless heathen designed to burn in hell." Hell, in fact, is exactly where the ever-quotable Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, told Mr. Giles he could go if he himself didn't answer Mr. Holmes' questions about where the Christian Coalition gets its money.

The coalition's selection of issues to ask about is intriguing. Some issues — homosexuality, capital punishment, abortion, gambling, art that's obscene, pornographic or anti-religious — have obvious religious overtones, though not all Christians would embrace the Christian Coalition's conservative opinions on them. But other issues — government vouchers to help parents pay for private schools, taxes and tax credits, health insurance, rewriting the state constitution, compulsory union dues used for political contributions — are more relevant to conservative politics than religion. Jesus said little about taxes, except to pay them.

Smart voters will be skeptical about the Christian Coalition's agenda while realizing that candidates' reaction to the questionnaire does reveal something about them. A candidate who refuses to answer the coalition's loaded and oversimplified questions may be showing that he appreciates the complexity of the issues and sees through the coalition's facade of objectivity.

Meanwhile, Mr. Hinshaw, Mr. Holmes and others have singled out the Christian Coalition's Achilles' heel: unresolved questions about whether the fine Christian casino operators in Mississippi have funded the coalition in order to keep gambling competition out of Alabama. Mr. Hinshaw has sponsored legislation seeking to require the coalition to disclose its sources of money.

Now there's a question that's relevant to the way people vote.

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