The Christian Coalition last month abandoned efforts to remain a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt nonprofit organization amid reports the IRS imminently planned to deny its application. The group is expected to pay an estimated $400,000 in back taxes as a result.

"The Christian Coalition withdrew its request after ten years of fruitless negotiations with the IRS," spokesperson Molly Clatworthy told CT. "We needed time to prepare for the 2000 election." The group has a $21 million campaign to recruit voters in the works (CT, April 26, 1999, p. 13).

The move means the Chesapeake, Virginia┬ľbased group is recasting itself as the for-profit Christian Coalition International and the nonprofit Christian Coalition of America. The entities will have separate boards.

"Christian Coalition International will act like any business organization and endorse candidates and make financial contributions to PACS," Clatworthy says. Christian Coalition America will continue as an "educational" organization with activities that include distribution of 75 million voter guides at churches next year.

Such events have prompted probes by federal agencies. "We fully intend to stay within the letter and the spirit of the law," Clatworthy says. But Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, predicts a loss of clout.

"In light of the IRS action, pastors would have to be out of their minds to distribute these guides now," Lynn says. Lynn also sees the group in turmoil. Christian Coalition president Don Hodel and national field director Dave Welch quit earlier this year. "People of caliber move on," Clatworthy says. "They're sought after." In addition, executive director Randy Tate has been dispatched to Washington to lobby full-time, and 69-year-old founder Pat Robertson has resumed control of daily operations.

Meanwhile, Robertson sustained two setbacks in personal financial dealings as a result of comments he made on The 700 Club that "in Scotland you can't believe how strong the homosexuals are. It's just unbelievable."

A proposed joint venture between Robertson and the Bank of Scotland fell through following customer complaints. Robertson said "media comments about him had made it impossible to proceed."

He also stepped down as a member of the Laura Ashley Holdings PLC board because "the press in Great Britain, in alliance with certain radical elements of society, have launched a campaign of unprecedented bigotry against me because of my deeply held Christian beliefs."

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