Ralph Reed Named Southeast Coordinator For Bush Campaign

Former Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed has been named Southeast Regional Coordinator for President George W. Bush's reelection team.

Reed, an Atlanta-based political consultant, most recently served as chairman of the Republican Party in Georgia. His appointment to the Bush team was announced July 10 by Marc Racicot, chairman of the Bush reelection campaign, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Reed will oversee the Bush effort in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and, perhaps most significantly, Florida the state that was the battleground during the 2000 election.

Bush's campaign calls large fund-raisers "Rangers." To hit this status, Bush backers must have raised at least $200,000. The next level down, backers who have raised $100,000, are called "Pioneers." The Washington Post reported that Reed hit Pioneer status in July.

One task for Reed will be rebuilding enthusiasm for Bush among Religious Right leaders. Although the president has advanced much of their agenda, he has stopped short of giving them everything they want.

Paul Weyrich told Religion News Service recently, "The president is a religious conservative. The Senate majority leader is a religious conservative. The speaker of the House and the House majority leader and the majority whip are all religious conservatives. Yet we make only marginal, incremental progress. We really have to rethink our strategy."

In other news about the Religious Right:

The Rev. Louis P. Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition is under fire for working as a front for pharmaceutical lobbyists to oppose a bill that would permit the importation of prescription drugs from foreign countries.

The lobbyists, who crafted Sheldon's argument, hired him to argue that allowing importation of these drugs could lead to the legalization of RU-486, the so-called "abortion pill." The stunt backfired because the bill is popular among many lawmakers, including several conservative Republicans.

The Washington Post reported that a TVC mailing targeting conservatives angered the recipients, who saw through the ruse and realized that Sheldon was fronting for drug companies. Some lawmakers were so angry that they have barred Sheldon from attending meetings of the Values Action Team, a congressional group that works with the Religious Right.

"I do not understand...how a religious organization can be manipulated by the pharmaceutical industry to do this sort of thing," Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) told The Post. "They are supposed to be moral people. And yet I am confident, in fact I am dead sure, that the Traditional Values Coalition did not have the money to mail this kind of trash out to congressional districts all across the country."

U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) sought divine forgiveness on behalf of the entire nation during a prayer service on the National Mall Aug. 3.

Tiahrt was a participant in the event sponsored by the Assemblies of God, which closed its biennial meeting with an outdoor prayer service.

"We humbly confess that we have sinned against you in thought, in word, in deed," Tiahrt told God. He charged that Americans have "mocked you in our media" and "ruled against you in our courts.

"We are truly sorry, and we repent," he went on. "Call us from death to life, from error to truth. Rebuild our cities and our country."

The prayer service was scheduled to last nearly three hours, but Religion News Service reported that the event had to be cut short because severe thunderstorms were moving into the area.

While they were in town, members of the Pentecostal denomination held a banquet honoring Attorney General John Ashcroft, an Assemblies of God member.

Supporters of former TV preacher James Bakker are finally getting back some of the money they lost but not much.

The Associated Press reported in August that 165,00 people who invested $1,000 to buy time-share vacations at Bakker's PTL Resort near Charlotte, N.C., will receive $6.54 apiece. The payoff ends a 16-year-lawsuit by ex-supporters of Bakker's "Praise The Lord" ministry. (Attorneys in the class-action suit will get $2.5 million of the $3.7-million settlement.)

Bakker resigned as head of the PTL Club in 1987 after admitting to an affair with Jessica Hahn, a church secretary. He was later convicted of wire and mail fraud and sentenced to 18 years in prison. Bakker was paroled in 1995 and currently airs "The Jim Bakker Show," from Branson, Mo.

The Rev. Jerry Falwell has won a long-running battle with a critic over an internet parody site. For years, Illinois resident Gary Cohn ran www.jerryfalwell.com as a parody site, poking fun at the Lynchburg evangelist. Falwell, whose actual site is www.falwell.com, sued, arguing that Cohn had infringed on his copyright. Falwell initially filed suit in a federal court located in Virginia, but that suit was tossed due to lack of jurisdiction.

Cohn held firm but had to give up when Falwell's lawyers discovered that Falwell had trademarked his name several years ago in conjunction with a radio show called "Listen, America!" Falwell then threatened to sue Cohn in Illinois.

In June, Cohn turned the rights to the domain name over to Falwell. Cohn now runs his Falwell parody through the site www.internetparodies.org.