NBC: Secretive DC prayer group has worldwide reach
Nick Langewis and David Edwards
Published: Saturday April 5, 2008

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Who is Douglas Coe?

"The most important religious leader you've never seen or heard," says NBC's Andrea Mitchell.

Coe, leader of a group called The Fellowship, is a powerful, secretive and well-connected religious leader, widely known among senators across the aisles, and across faiths; but not by the general public. Coe's services have been attended by all three of the major 2008 presidential hopefuls: Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Barack Obama (D-IL).

The Fellowship appears to be as much of a networking opportunity as it is a religious group, says Joshua Green, senior editor of The Atlantic Monthly.

"I think, in part, through her involvement with The Fellowship's prayer group," Green says, "[Senator Hillary Clinton] was able to meet a lot of these conservative Republican senators, get to know them on a one-on-one basis..."

Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family, was disturbed by Coe's teachings after spending time living among his followers.

Sometimes referring to themselves in jest as the "Christian Mafia," Sharlet says, Fellowship members didn't seem to understand why he was concerned that Coe referenced such historical figures as Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Lenin and Chairman Mao in his teachings.

"Hitler's genocide wasn't really an issue for them," says Sharlet. "It was the strength that he emulated."

People close to Clinton say Coe is not Clinton's minister, she does not consider Coe to be a leading spiritual advisor, nor has she contributed to his group or ever been a member.

Coe mostly talks about Jesus, and invokes Hitler only as an example of how small groups can cultivate power for good or bad, said a close friend to NBC. Coe declined to be interviewed for the segment.

The following video report was broadcast on NBC's Nightly News on April 3, 2008.