'Religious Right' Critics Skeptical About Ralph Reed's New Group

An Atheist public policy group expressed skepticism Tuesday over a new group formed by former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed.

"This new organization seems to be just the latest effort in promoting religious-right candidates, and demolishing the 'wall of separation' between church and state in America," said Ed Buckner, president of American Atheists, after hearing about the low-key activities of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

"Despite his questionable record on being forthright and a squeaky-clean crusader, Reed is a savvy political hit man with big ambitions," he added.

Reed, however, says his new organization "is not your daddy's Christian Coalition."

"It's got to be more brown, more black, more female, and younger," he told USA Today's Dan Gilgoff last month, weeks after the organization quietly launched.

Reed, who raised the Christian Coalition into a potent political force in the 1990s, says the nation is at a crossroads and is need of people to stand up for time-honored values, stronger families and individual freedom.

And he believes that many of those people are within the rising generation of young believers, who may not approach the issues in the way that older conservatives do but still stand for them.

"The Obama administration and the dominant media are leading us in the direction of bigger government, higher taxes, extreme social policy, liberal judges, and exploding debt," he tells potential supporters on the Faith and Freedom website, ffcoalition.com. "We are standing in the gap to oppose these policies."

Though the movement is small now and launched without the fanfare that some might expect from a man who – at the pinnacle of his power – was dubbed "The Right Hand of God" by Time magazine, Reed says the humble beginning is intentional.

More than publicity, what Reed is focused on is cultivating and training the rising generation of young leaders in the faith community who will ultimately be the movers and shakers of the movement.

Reed, himself, was tapped to run the Christian Coalition at age 28.

Despite the claims of the now-48-year-old conservative that the new group will be "younger, hipper, less strident and more inclusive," there are groups like American Atheists that believe Reed's new organization will indeed become "your daddy's Christian Coalition," if it's not already.

"I usually prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt, but Mr. Reed's history speaks for itself," said Dave Silverman, communications director for American Atheists, alluding to string of troubles Reed has faced since resigning as executive director of the Christian Coalition in 1997.

"We'll be watching this very, very closely," promised Silverman.