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
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
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
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
Schwartz, Ed. “NetActivism: How Citizens Use the Internet.” (1995) 06 April 1995.
“Partial Birth Abortion Protest Email Legislators!” (1996) 10 November 1996.
“Pat Robertson Admits That Christian Coalition is Partisan…” (1996) 15 August 1996
Olson, Mancur. “Collective Action: The Logic.” New York: St. Martin’s Press, Inc.