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Megachurch’s bankruptcy mirrors declining conservative influence in Orange County

Once seen as the reification of Orange County’s distinctive brand of conservatism in Southern California, Crystal Cathedral’s recent bankruptcy filing [PDF] is consistent with the realities facing this moneyed-and-family-values region.

The 40-acre place of worship is being sold by the parent company, Chrystal Cathedral Ministries, to a real-estate investment group. The move is meant to alleviate the debt burden of CCM, which is on the hook for $50 million owed to creditors and could stand to benefit from shedding the property’s $36 million mortgage.

The terms of the deal, outlined on the religious organization’s website, include a guaranteed 15-year leaseback and an option to buy back most of the property at an exclusive fixed price. The worship services, community outreach programs, and seminal “Hour of Power” media unit will be unaffected. The latter has an indelible mark on Sunday television programming in the LA and OC regions; programming is also featured on the Trinity Broadcast Network.

Declining revenues for the church continue a trend for conservatism in Orange County at large. Though a historic breeding ground for prominent conservative thinkers and Republican Party leaders, voting trends in Orange County show a significant drop in GOP affiliation among voters, a rise in the number of registered Democrats, and a suddenly narrow margin between GOP and Democratic national candidates.

The influential Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna east of Los Angeles notes that Barack Obama nearly carried the county in 2008, losing by less than three percentage points to John McCain. In 1984, Ronald Reagan won 75 percent of the vote.

The Rose Institute also notes:

But in all 17 Republican-held Orange County based state legislative and congressional districts, the Republican margin of victory was smaller in 2010 than in 2002. This is true despite a significant rebound in almost every district in 2010 over 2008.

The trend is likely a product of demographics. Hispanics and Asians have greatly altered the racial makeup of the area, whose ranks tend to align with in dependents or Democratics.

And while both major parties are losing ground to voters who have no party affiliation, the exodus from the GOP is at a much faster rate.

OC-GOP-losses_1103.jpg
OC-GOP-losses_1103.jpg

Source: Orange County Register

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