In the wake of ever-growing frustration with politics and what appears to be voter apathy, another grassroots conservative effort is building momentum in McKinney and the North Texas Area.
Recently, the newly established Texas branch of the Faith & Freedom Coalition (FFC) held an event in the ballroom at Rick’s Chophouse, where 90 guests were afforded the opportunity to gather information and mingle with local founders and the Coalition’s national founder and guest speaker, Dr. Ralph Reed.
Reed, who hails from Atlanta, is perhaps best know as the first executive director of the Christian Coalition in the '90’s. He founded the Faith & Freedom Coalition in 2009. Saying that he has been a political activist since his college days when he campaigned for Ronald Reagan, Reed elaborated that he believes it is time to take back our rights and stand on faith.
The FFC philosophy is based on ideology that “the greatness of America lies not in the federal government but in the character of our people … the Faith & Freedom Coalition is committed to educating, equipping, and mobilizing people of faith and like-minded individuals to be effective citizens.”
McKinney resident and entrepreneur Scott Smith is the driving force behind bringing the organization to the North Texas area, with the goal of expanding to encompass the entire state of Texas. Smith said he felt strongly enough about the principles of the organization that he was motivated to set up here. He reached out to others within the community and found willing partners in Curtis Rath, Judge Keith Self (County Commissioner’s Court) and Derek Baker. Smith said that when he approached Judge Self with the prospect of becoming involved in FFC, Self was especially interested in reaching out to church communities and encouraging those individuals to participate in the faith-based organization.
Smith said he became acquainted with Reed 12 years ago, during the time he lived in Atlanta. During more recent conversations with Reed, Smith was motivated to found a branch of the FFC here in Texas.
“Ralph convinced me that there is a need in Texas," Smith said, "and that the Dallas area would be an ideal location to start. Collin County is the bastion of conservative values, so why not start here? We spent the last few months organizing, getting our 501 (c) (4) status, setting the framework and tweaking some of the FFC’s ideology to fit Texas, but not to deviate from the core socially conservative values of the national organization."
“Ralph, after some strong encouragement from national civic leaders, and after many weeks of deliberate prayer and mindful thought, decided to design an organization that was similar in execution to the Christian Coalition, but with a primary focus on faith and a much broader and inclusive membership. We think there is apathy among religious voters and confusion about the right to express faith. The Coalition will embrace all faiths, as long as they have the same values," Smith said.
Baker, who will serve as part-time executive director of the Texas Faith & Freedom Coalition, also agreed that Collin County is the perfect market for the start of the Texas contingent because the state is largely conservative and largely Republican. Baker believes that people tend to be complacent when things are going relatively smoothly. Because Texas is not experiencing the upheaval that some other states like Wisconsin are, there is a tendency to feel comfortable, he said.
“Texas is an untapped market that truly believes in the precepts that we espouse, but we need to stand up for our faith and see the warning signs,” Baker said.
To be clear, this organization is not a political action committee (PAC) and will not be raising funds to support or endorse candidates. Smith said Reed believes that citizens are disillusioned, often uneducated about the issues and apathetic about elections. The numbers are telling. In 2004, 17 million more social conservatives voted than in the 2008 national election.
Rath said, “The Faith & Freedom Coalition is not trying to promote individual candidates or parties. Our message is one of faith and freedom. The Coalition's ideals are similar to that of the Republican Party, but we don't embrace only Republican candidates."
While Collin County may not need another conservative Republican organization, Rath said the Coalition’s efforts are specifically to attract people of faith. Rath also emphasized that the group is not a part of the Tea Party, but is a completely separate entity.
“The purpose is to promote faith-based values and encourage those who are not in the mainstream of the political special interest process to exercise their right not to be managed by the federal government, but to act in the best interest of a morally based, family oriented, community driven free will society,” Smith said.
“If people share our values, believe in the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment – we want people to join us. We want to cooperate with all other faith based groups, including churches and other religious organizations,” Baker said.
Rath and Baker traveled to Washington D.C. in June for the National Faith & Freedom Conference. Rath said he "was impressed by the groups in a number of different states, such as Virginia and Wisconsin, who have been doing this for months and have been able to make a difference in elections (outcomes).”
Rath further emphasized that an 8 percent voter turn out for Collin County is embarrassing, saying that he is amazed at lack of involvement of local citizens.
Based on the principles of limited government, lower taxes and fiscal responsibility, and free markets and free minds to create opportunity for all, the goals of the Coalition are:
- To mobilize an train people of faith to be effective citizens.
- To speak out in the public arena and in the media on behalf of common-sense values.
- Influence legislation and enact sound public policy at every level of government.
- Train citizens for effective civic action.
- Protest bigotry and discrimination against people of faith.
The founders further explained that an effective citizen also means understanding what the issues are, who the candidates are and what the beliefs of the candidates are, and then exercising his or her right to vote.
An effective citizen also gets back to common sense values. These values are based on the Judeo Christian heritage, and based on Biblical principals.
“Today’s world is complicated,” Smith said. “We know that there are people of all faiths in the United States. We want to respect people and encourage all to be involved. We want this to transform the political landscape to be more inclusive, less divisive.”
Common sense values, Smith says, are values which don’t intrude on the rights of people, coupled with the belief that the government should not control individuals. They embrace the concept that the family is the nucleus, that citizens must support the community and the poor, and encourage participation of those who operate from a faith base, regardless of what that faith may be.
"All people deserve a voice,” Baker said. “The essence of faith is that people have a choice – that’s what America is about. I’m fighting for people to have a choice. We believe in traditional marriage, but we aren’t fighting for the right to practice that. The most effective way to reach out to people is to show love and share my beliefs.”
Baker, who has spent 25 years working in conservative politics, said his role as executive director will include fundraising efforts and day to day operations of the organization. Funds are necessary to support education and methodologies for getting people engaged, such as a citizens to action training program, free voter education, voter registration and assembling a comprehensive voter's guide. The National Coalition will match local funds raised dollar for dollar.
What’s next in the plans? Baker said a prayer rally is in the works. “We will be praying for our country and for issues and reminding citizens that faith is vital to our country,” he said.
The leaders are also in the process of putting together a TFFC advisory council and working to organize and train volunteers.
For more information www.ffcoalition.com.