TV evangelist faces tax bill for millions decade of tax 10-year tax bill for 10 years

THE CAUSE of the multi- millionaire American television evangelist Pat Robertson, has suffered a further setback with a ruling from the US tax office that his Christian Coalition organisation does not enjoy tax-free status.

The decision, which has just been made public, could make the Christian Coalition, a highly influential constituency within the Republican Party, liable for 10 years' back taxes just as next year's presidential election campaign is hotting up.

This blow to the organisation follows the recent decisions by the Bank of Scotland and Laura Ashley to sever their ties with Mr Robertson because of his public remarks on homosexuals. The outcry over Mr Robertson's religious views underlined a sharp cultural difference between Britain and the United States, where Christian fundamentalism is a social and political force to be reckoned with. While he will receive compensation of several million dollars from the bank, its retreat bodes ill for his efforts to expand into Europe.

The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) ruling was determined by what it judged to be the political nature of the Christian Coalition and the extent of its commercial and lobbying activities.

Founded by Mr Robertson in 1988, it has made substantial contributions to Republican candidates who endorsed its fundamentalist programme and supplied literature that was often distributed at churches by sympathetic pastors. Such was its influence that Pat Robertson himself became something akin to a power broker inside the Republican Party.

The IRS made its first ruling on the Christian Coalition's tax status last year, but agreed to keep the decision confidential pending an appeal. The coalition received notice in the past 10 days that it would lose the appeal.

The coalition is now to be restructured. While this has been dictated in part by the IRS ruling, it also reflects increasing internal difficulties and a weakening of the organisation's influence on the US political scene.

According to the coalition's spokesman, Mike Russell, the organisation will be split into two. The new Christian Coalition International will operate as a "for-profit" corporation, able to engage in party political activity, endorsing political candidates, making campaign contributions, and perhaps opening chapters abroad.

The other part would be named the Christian Coalition of America and restrict its work to non-profit "voter- education". Mr Russell said: "The organisation has been dramatically reshaped, but its mission statement remains intact and it will continue to do the things it has been doing since it formed, which is to recruit pro-family activists, draw people to the polls in record numbers for elections and educate people on the issues that affect families."

A force within the Republican Party that built on the Reagan-era return to Christian fundamentalism in politics, the Christian Coalition has watched its influence decline during Bill Clinton's presidency, both in the country - its income fell by more than one-third between 1996 and 1997, from $26m (pounds 16m) to $17m - and inside the Republican Party.

The rise within the party of less dogmatic and more pragmatic state governors - exemplified by George W Bush of Texas - is curbing the influence of the religious right and leading candidates for national office to temper their opposition to such issues as abortion. George W Bush is typical of the new trend, professing that while he personally opposes abortion, the country at large is not ready to accept a legal ban. At the same time, more people appear willing to speak out against groups such as the coalition. One seasoned critic, Barry Lynn of a group advocating a clearer separation of church and state, responded to the IRS ruling by saying: "The Christian Coalition is a hardball political machine that is masquerading as a religious group. The evidence is overwhelming that this organisation has been operating as virtually an arm of the Republican Party."

Even conservative groups appear to accept that the political influence of the religious right is in decline. John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, the conservative legal group that helped to fund Paula Jones's sexual harassment case against President Bill Clinton, said: "The Christian right has been potent for a while, but now it's going away."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Sport
footballLive blog: Follow the action from the Capital One Cup semi-final
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough, Cam...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century