Ryan Sember

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					Ryan Sember

Solo Paper 2

7 November 2001

           The Internet’s Influence on the Christian Coalition of America
   Pat Robertson founded Christian Coalition of America in 1989 for the purpose of

giving Christians a voice in government. The Coalition is now said to represent nearly

two million people and claims to still be growing. The group has a strongly held belief

that people of faith have a distinguished right and responsibility to be involved in various

actions around them. Specifically, the Coalition cites community, social, and political

actions. With examination of the Christian Coalitions official web site (www.cc.org), it

can clearly be seen that this group uses the Internet as a mode of influence in a number of

ways. The Coalition provides an in-depth, well-structured web site including information

on how to get involved in the group, their ideals, and offer various contacts for people to

directly express their views to the group. As a result, the Internet has been a central tool

for the Coalition in their mode of influence on politics.

   The official web site for the Coalition cites several specific goals. The goals listed

   are:

   1.)    Strengthening the family
   2.)    Protecting innocent human life
   3.)    Returning education to local and parental control
   4.)    Easing the tax burden on families
   5.)    Punishing criminals and defending victims’ rights
   6.)    Protecting young people and our communities from the pollution of pornography
   7.)    Defending the institution of marriage
   8.)    Protecting religious freedom
   It is definitely worth noting that the goals listed are not said to be unique to Christians

   or people of faith. As long as this is the case and the group stands by it, these goals

   seem fair and approvable. Also listed on the Net is the group’s five-fold mission:

   Represent the pro-family point of view before local councils, school boards, state legislatures and
   Congress
   Speak Out in the public arena and in the media
   Train leaders for effective social and political action
   Inform pro-family voters about timely issues and legislation
   Protest anti-Christianity bigotry and defend the rights of people of faith



Both the mission and goals are can be found from the homepage under the link

Becoming Involved. Additionally, information including a message from the President

and ways of contacting the group are also listed under the same link.

   The Internet is definitely serving as an important tool for the group to gain support and

influence in both government and politics. By clicking under the Legislation link, one

example can be seen as to how the group uses the Net for support and influence.

Included under this link is a separate link for Action Alerts. These action alerts are

inevitably used as ways in which the group attempts to influence government and various

political issues.   The format for Action Alerts many times start by the Coalition

describing issues of legislation with a very obvious sense of support or opposition. Once

the Coalition takes their stance on an issue, they urge everyone to follow suit. In one

such case, the Coalition urged everyone to e-mail and/or call a specific Senator and

prompt him to stop a certain process. Printed in bold is exactly what they desire people

to say upon contacting. Furthermore, the Senators phone number and e-mail address is

given, and it is stated by the group, “If his phone is busy, call again.” This is only one

example of many attempts for the group in their hopes to influence legislation. In other

examples, the Coalition explicitly urges people to contact their Congressman to vote in a
certain favor. These efforts for influence only describe issues from the group’s point of

view and can be seen as desperate attempts to get people involved. I do not see them

offering nearly enough information and empirical data to be effective in gaining

widespread conformity with their views. From simply reading the views of the Coalition,

not enough understanding can be gained on issues the Coalition wishes people to act on

by contacting political figures. For those who are not fully engaged or completely

trustworthy of the Coalition, these attempts of influence will not be effective.

   However, there have been a number of cases in which the Coalition has been effective

in using the Internet to influence. The group has used this technology to their advantage

by sending to Congress e-mails expressing thoughts and concerns. For example, e-mail

was used by the Coalition to defeat the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1994. In only ten

days, the Coalition amassed thousands of e-mails to Congress expressing their interests.

As an end result, the group’s collective action caused that specific legislation to be

suppressed.

   A separate example of how the Coalition used the power of e-mail is when they

protested partial birth abortion. On this occasion, the Coalition created a web page

describing the implications and procedures of birth abortion as an inhumane and hideous

procedure. Thanks to the Internet, allowing the information to be effortlessly received, a

large number of people were influenced by what the Coalition had to say on the issue.

Because of this, an impressive stack of e-mail protests were sent to Legislators and

eventually the issue went in the Coalition’s favor. Obviously, the Internet was used to

influence many people in this case. Some even wrote back to the Coalition and thanked

them for the valuable information they provided. One person from Melbane, North
Carolina wrote, “I’m very glad that this page is on the Internet! Partial birth abortions is

an issue that all of America needs to be informed about. I am adamantly against PBA

and all abortions for that matter! Thank you”(tidalweb.com 3)!

   The Christian Coalitions use of their main home page on the Web has been used as a

powerful tool for quite some time. On July 7, 1994, a message posted on the main page

urged everyone to contact Congress and demand an end to federal support for the

National Endowment for the Arts.       Just three days after this initial posting, it was

reported that a group of Republican Congressmen had reversed their initial stance and

were now in favor of ending this federal support. Author Ed Schwartz explained that

occurrence in “NetActivism: How Citizens Use the Internet” by saying, “Every local

activist who responded to that Web site—or to email messages through the Internet—was

able to share in a political triumph that could not have put together any other way”(2).

Schwartz went on in explaining how effective the Internet can be for use in online

organizing and advocacy by citing the Christian Coalition as an example. He says, “You

can connect with thousands of people within a matter of minutes from anywhere in the

country, and every one of them can respond in kind. Major national groups like the

Christian Coalition figured all this out some time ago”(2).

   It is well established that the Christian Coalition uses the Internet to their advantage.

Their ability to influence public policy effectively, however, is because of acting

collectively as an interest group. In Mancur Olson’s “Collective Action: The Logic”,

Olson argues that those groups who have access to selective incentives will be more

likely to act collectively, and smaller groups have a greater likelihood of engaging in

collective action. However, this theory of collective action does not apply in any way to
the Christian Coalition.     As a group, they have been able to lobby public policy

effectively despite lacking social incentives and being a relatively large group. On their

Web Site the group constantly asks for contributions and donations, although individual

incentives for doing such are dismal. Upon becoming a member of the group, the only

noticeable incentive is receiving legislation news via e-mail from the Coalition.

   There does seem to be some relation to Olson’s cost-benefit analysis, which believes

if the costs for making certain actions outweigh the benefits, collective action will

probably not occur. The costs of e-mailing legislators on issues is small compared with

the obvious benefits of the legislators ultimately deciding in the groups favor. Even

though followers do not receive individual incentives and can see their contacting of

legislators not mattering in the overall picture, the costs do not outweigh the benefits for

individual followers of the Christian Coalition.

   In analyzing the Coalition’s Web site, the group is presented as one that is eager to get

people involved in democracy by giving people more of a voice. The group presents

itself as being very family oriented with many of their missions and goals leading

towards the advancement of families. This representation involving a broad range of

people helps mobilize support for the group by giving a large number of people the idea

that they can easily become involved. Another reason why many people feel they can

become easily involved is the fact that the Coalition offers links to their affiliates in all 50

states. Even though the group does not offer the ability to communicate with other

members directly, one can easily contact their state chairman or development director. In

addition, anyone can find access to elected officials, issues and legislation, and a media

guide for a particular state simply by clicking on the state.
   In further analyzing the site, political issues are a click away from the home page

under the Legislation link. On this link, visitors can find legislation issues, contacts to

media and Congress, House schedules, and Senate schedules. Although the group tries to

appear as if they are nonpartisan, careful examination proves this is not the case. They

have, in the past, endorsed candidates (mostly Republican) who supported their positions

on issues. Founder Pat Robertson explains this process in saying, “…it is perfectly all

right to advocate candidates who support your positions on key issues, be they abortion,

or family tax credits, or whatever”(c.c.watch 1). The Web site does offer group members

the opportunity to give input via e-mail, mail, phone, or fax. In addition to this, many e-

mail addresses and phone numbers for government officials are given when the group

desires members to voice certain opinions reflecting the feelings of the Coalition.

   Clearly, the Christian Coalition uses the ability of the Internet to their advantage. By

offering various contacts and easy access to become involved, interested citizens can

easily play a part in politics. However, the Coalition should make some changes that

would help social welfare and political values. One change should definitely involve the

way in which they report legislation. It is inevitable the group will have a certain bias

when presenting news, but they should do a better job at giving opposing arguments

contrary to their own. This new way of reporting would better inform people and help in

the long run. It would allow people to make more accurate, confident, and sophisticated

political decisions.
Schwartz, Ed. “NetActivism: How Citizens Use the Internet.” (1995) 06 April 1995.
   www.oreilly.com/catalog/netactivism/excerpt

“Partial Birth Abortion Protest Email Legislators!” (1996) 10 November 1996.
    www.tidalweb.com/life/comment2.htm

“Pat Robertson Admits That Christian Coalition is Partisan…” (1996) 15 August 1996
    http://wlo.org/ccwatch/con42.html

Olson, Mancur. “Collective Action: The Logic.” New York: St. Martin’s Press, Inc.
    1990.

				
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