The argument among born-again Christians over their influence in American politics will rage once again at Ralph Reed’s annual Faith & Freedom Coalition’s three-day moveable talkfest that gets under way at prime locations Thursday in Washington.
Yet what will be in dispute among the conference’s rank and file is whether conservative religious voters failed to come out in full force last year for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney partly because of internal evangelical disputes over his Mormon faith or whether the candidate could lay legitimate claim to conservatism. Evangelical voters clearly didn’t come out in big numbers in 2008 for Republican nominee John McCain after he publicly denounced the Rev. Pat Robertson and other evangelical leaders and took policy positions often anathema to traditional conservatives, both economic and social.
Mr. Robertson will be honored for his work at the summit’s banquet Friday evening.
Also disputed, mostly in private, will be whether the evangelical movement, especially its younger members, is moving toward a libertarian toleration — but not approval — of homosexuality, cohabitation by unwed couples and other social issues.
“Exit polls in 2012 showed evangelicals were 27 percent of the vote, making them the largest voting bloc in the electorate, larger than the African-American and Hispanic vote combined,” said Mr. Reed, who in 1989 helped create Mr. Robertson’s Freedom Coalition and now heads the successor organization. “Romney won 78 percent of the evangelical vote, meaning he got more evangelical votes than George W. Bush.”