Ralph Reed, the former executive director of the Christian Coalition, and Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, will speak tonight in Campbell Hall on the role of religion in public life.
Both Lynn and Reed will speak for 30 minutes, then answer questions, which religious studies professor Phillip Hammond will moderate. The event costs $5 for UCSB students and $10 for the general public.
Hammond said he did not know yet what the two speakers would talk about, but said Muslim ideology and voting evangelical Christians would likely come up.
“Both are very articulate people,” he said.
Lynn, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, has been the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State since 1992. The 60,000-member organization has opposed school vouchers, putting the Ten Commandments in schools and using religion to justify court decisions.
The Southern California chapter of Lynn’s organization contacted Hammond last year with the idea of holding the lecture on campus. Hammond talked to a colleague, writing program lecturer David Machachek, who told his students. Senior history major Lee Gientke, concerned about what he felt was a liberal bias in the speakers on campus, talked to Machachek about getting a conservative to speak.
Gientke offered to help pursue Reed with the College Republicans, and with a $10,000 grant from the Young America’s Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to getting conservative speakers on campus, they succeeded in arranging the lecture.
“Right after I took the final I went to [Machachek’s] office hours and complained, you’ve got a lot of liberal speakers, why don’t next year you consider bringing in some conservatives?” Gientke said. “He said sure, we went through the list, and he hit up on Ralph Reed right away. He said ‘Hey, we’ve got to do this.'”
Reed is widely regarded for his work to mobilize the 1.9-million member Christian Coalition in the 1994 elections, which is one of the reasons Republicans gained a majority in Congress. He left the coalition in 1997 to start a political consulting firm.
Reed has been plagued of late by rumors stemming from the Enron collapse. Stories that presidential advisor Karl Rove got Reed a job with Enron to keep him on George W. Bush’s campaign without keeping him on the campaign payroll have surfaced in the The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN.
The Washington Post reported two weeks ago that Reed accepted a $380,000 fee to help Enron “deregulate the electricity industry by working his ‘good friends’ in Washington and by mobilizing religious leaders and pro-family groups for the cause.”
According to the Post, a conservative watchdog group has asked for a federal investigation into the details of Reed’s involvement with Rove and Enron, including the possibility that Rove arranged the job to compensate Reed without using Bush campaign funds.
In January Reed went on CNN and denied allegations that Rove had helped him get the Enron job. He said he had been paid by the Bush campaign for his work, and that he was not aware of any contact between Rove and the Enron personnel that hired him.
UCSB’s Arts & Lectures, the Political Science Dept., the Religious Studies Dept., the History Dept., the Sociology Dept. and the Chancellor’s office also helped fund the forum, which begins at 8 p.m. in Campbell Hall.