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It ain’t no lovers’ quarrel

The tit-for-tat between Rep. Alvin Holmes and John Giles of the Christian Coalition is both amusing and annoying.

It’s annoying in that both men are clearly playing political games. The lack of love-loss each has for the other is evident. Holmes, a Democrat from Montgomery, has little in common with Giles, who serves as president of an organization that routinely supports Republican candidates and causes.

The background is this: Holmes refuses to fill out a questionnaire being distributed by the Christian Coalition of Alabama. The questionnaire is a tool used by the Christian Coalition to rank candidates and lawmakers.

Holmes has a flair for the dramatic, and he displayed it when he reportedly said Giles could “go to hell” if he didn’t answer a few questions about the coalition.

On the flip side, Giles’ coy attitude is laughable. The Christian Coalition has its mind made up a bout Giles – and probably most every other lawmaker.

Holmes questions were as follows:

Did the Christian Coalition of Alabama ever receive money from former Christian Coalition national president Ralph Reed or lobbyist Michael Scanlon to fight legalized gambling in Alabama? Both Reed and Scanlon have been implicated in the illegal activities of lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Why did Giles and his group fight legislation that would require non-profits to report their funding sources?

From where does the Christian Coalition of Alabama receive its funding?

Giles said the questions are just meant to smear the good work of the Coalition by insinuating wrongdoing on the group’s part.

Of course that’s part of the reason for the questions, just like the point of the Coalition’s publishing and distribution of the questionnaire results is designed to smear the good work of lawmakers with whom the Coalition disagrees on a narrow slate of issues.

The question regarding Reed and Scanlon is the most legitimate of the three.

According to The Montgomery Advertiser, Giles says the Coalition “has never solicited or received gambling money directly or indirectly.” For the record, that’s parsing some pretty important words. Such as, “We’ve never received financial assistance from Ralph Reed or Michael Scanlon.”

The gambling issue is pertinent because Giles’ organization is against legalized gambling. They support legislation that would ensure the criminalization of all gambling in the state.

So why would they ever receive money from casinos to fight gambling? Simple. Gambling is legal in Mississippi along her Gulf Coast, the Mississippi River and Indian reservations. It would be in the best interest of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians if gambling did not spread into neighboring Alabama. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry.

But when all is said and done, it all gets back to politics. The Christian Coalition of Alabama and Holmes – and most likely most Democrats, especially members of the Legislative Black Caucus – are on opposite sides of the political spectrum.

Holmes goes too far when he says that the Coalition is the modern-day Ku Klux Klan. But race-baiting is definitely alive and well in politics. Black lawmakers in the South as a whole are often labeled as “liberal,” which is ironic.

The African American community is a socially conservative group. Their culture is centered on the church. So from where does the liberal label come? You tell me.

Perhaps it’s just convenient because most African Americans are Democrats, and to Republican politicos all Democrats are liberal – unless of course they are a “conservative Democrat,” which is just code for a Republican who lives in a Democratic district and thus must run as such.

The bottom line is that the tiff between Giles and Holmes does nothing but further erode the faith of the average citizen in government and politics. Both are trying to score cheap political points.

Holmes should not be blamed for refusing to play into the hands of a group who will work against his candidacy and policy issues. That said, he shouldn’t go so far as to direct them to eternal damnation or group them wholesale with the followers of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

The Christian Coalition is composed of a lot of good people – black and white – who do good work. But if Giles denies that the Coalition flexes a pretty hefty political muscle on behalf of the Republican Party, he is breaking the Ninth Commandment (or Eighth, if you are Lutheran or Catholic).

Perhaps the best course of action would be if the two ended their petty public dispute and moved on to more pressing matters, even if the spat is a bit amusing to watch.

Sam R. Hall is publisher of The Times. He can be reached at (334) 289-4017 or by e-mail to sam.hall@demopolistimes.com.