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Ralph Reed: From Purgatory to Power

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Cross-posted from Bill Moyers.com

When Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition, was discovered to have raked in millions of dollars from the super lobbyist -- and eventually convicted felon -- Jack Abramoff, Reed wound up in political purgatory. But outraged by the election of Barack Obama, and responding to what he describes as God's call (via Sean Hannity), Reed returned to start the Faith and Freedom Coalition with the aim of toppling Barack Obama from the White House.

This week, Moyers & Company tracks Reed's rise, fall, and return: does it signal a new revolution, or an old racket?

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. If you watched the Republican Convention in Tampa only on Primetime television you would have missed the story we're about to report. And it's the one that could make the biggest difference on Election Day in November. On the seventh day, we're told, God rested. But not Ralph Reed. There he was, the Sunday before the convention opened, speaking at a rally of his Faith and Freedom Coalition.

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RALPH REED: We're here today not just to celebrate faith and freedom but to pray for its survival. And unlike the other side, we haven't gathered in this city this week to anoint a messiah, because you see we already have a messiah. And we're not looking for one here on earth.

BILL MOYERS: Reed's message was directed to conservative Christians Mitt Romney must convert to his cause if he's to be elected president. Romney is a Mormon, a faith many on the religious right consider a cult, even a heresy. There's no love for Romney among these people, but they are united in their loathing of Barack Obama. And that's where Ralph Reed comes in.

RALPH REED: Four years ago, we heard a lot of talk about hope and change. People were fainting at campaign rallies. There were Che Guevera posters hanging in dorm rooms. There was one candidate who stood in front of Greek columns and vowed to heal the planet and cause the oceans to recede. But you see our hope is in something this world doesn't fully understand. We hope for a kingdom yet to come. The hope of a new heaven and a new earth, in which dwelleth righteousness. A place where every tear will be wiped away. And every broken heart will be healed. And all the pain and brokenness and poverty and injustice of this world will be gone.

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BILL MOYERS: But first there's the devil to chase.

NEWT GINGRICH: I believe that Barack Obama is a direct threat to the survival of the country I grew up in.

PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: Dear friends, our religious liberty is at stake in this election, because Obama is at war with all religion in any public place, any public square, any public school.

TED CRUZ: For the first time in centuries the president of the United States has officially declared himself an enemy of traditional marriage between one man and one woman.

BILL MOYERS: You are witness to a modern tale of resurrection. A second-coming. The Bible speaks of Lazarus, raised by Jesus from the grave to walk again among the living. Ralph Reed, too, has been returned to life, political life. But he goes Lazarus one further. Lazarus was a poor man. Reed is rich, and he just keeps getting richer from mixing religion and politics. And that's a story you don't want to miss.

At age 33, Ralph Reed was the Christian Right's wonder boy. Anointed in a 1995 Time Magazine cover story as the "right hand of God" for spinning the trust of conservative Christians into political gold. It was Reed who built the Christian Coalition of televangelist Pat Robertson into a powerful arm of the Republican Party.

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RALPH REED: As religious conservatives we have finally gained what we have always sought. A place at the table, a sense of legitimacy and a voice in the conversation that we call democracy.

BILL MOYERS: In 2000, Reed helped put George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in the White House.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Ralph Reed is with us, he's the southeast regional chairman.

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Bill Moyers is President of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy.

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