Mike Huckabee announced the formation of a Faith and Values Coalition last night, with a former Southern Baptist Convention president and radio show host and activist Janet Folger at the helm. The coalition's members will be both cheerleaders and advisers, and the list represents considerable reach into different constituencies on the Christian right.
For anyone waiting for the Rapture, there's Jerry Jenkins, co-author of the enormously popular apocalyptic Left Behind book series. For activists whose memories go back to the 1980 Washington for Jesus rally on the National Mall, which supported Ronald Reagan for president, there's rally organizers Anne and John Gimenez of Virginia Beach. Last spring, the Gimenezes hosted a three-day conference devoted to commemorating the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown as evidence of America's heritage as a "Christian nation." Among their featured speakers were two targets of Sen. Charles Grassley's (R-Iowa) investigation into alleged misuse of church donations for lavish personal lifestyles, Kenneth Copeland and Paula White. Harry Jackson was also there, and the Harvard MBA shared a story of how the Washington for Jesus rally convinced him to forego a Wall Street job for a life in ministry. Christians United for Israel's John Hagee was also on hand, and afterwards Anne Gimenez agreed to become the Virginia state director for CUFI.
The Gimenezes represent a long-term link between conservative charismatics/Pentecostals and the largely white evangelical leadership of Christian right organizations like Campus Crusade for Christ. At his conference last spring, John Gimenez paid homage to late CCC founder Bill Bright, whom he credited for helping to organize the Washington for Jesus rally, and for embracing the tongue-talking, hand-raising, and dancing charismatics into the political fold.
Publisher Stephen Strang, one of the earliest evangelical supporters of Huckabee, is also in Huckabee's coalition, and he, too, has long been a player in Republican outreach to evangelicals and particularly his charismatic audience. Likewise Copeland protege, Detroit preacher, and former Republican Senate candidate Keith Butler, long cultivated for his potential star quality among African-American Republicans. Butler also serves on CUFI's executive board.
To counteract Mitt Romney's support from Christian right legal powerhouses Jay Sekulow (of Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice), David French (of James Dobson's Alliance Defense Fund), and James Bopp (a long-time lawyer for anti-abortion causes), Huckabee announced support from Matthew Staver of Jerry Falwell's Liberty Council and Kelly Shackelford of Texas's Liberty Legal Institute.
Not surprisingly, there's a big group of Southern Baptists on the list, and today Huckabee is appearing with Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr. at the university's convocation ceremony. Perhaps an endorsement from Lynchburg is not far behind?
CLARIFICATION: Just to be clear, the Alliance Defense Fund was founded by a number of religious right leaders, among them James Dobson, but is a separate organization from Focus on the Family and all of the other founders' organizations.
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