The Rev. Louis Sheldon, anti-gay, antiabortion Christian leader, dead at 85

The Rev. Louis Sheldon cheers at a Mitt Romney campaign stop in Las Vegas in 2008
The Rev. Louis Sheldon cheers Republican presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at a campaign stop in Las Vegas in 2008.
(LM Otero/Associated Press)

The Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, who founded the Traditional Values Coalition, a lobbying group that was largely known for opposing homosexuality and gay rights, died Friday. He was 85.

Sheldon, a former Anaheim resident, died in Southern California of a long-standing condition, son-in-law James Lafferty said. He did not say where he died and the cause of death.

An unapologetic Christian conservative, Sheldon lived in California but commuted weekly to Washington and was close to political leaders, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Lafferty said.


He founded the Traditional Values Coalition in 1980 to uphold conservative positions, including opposing abortion and homosexual rights. The group had a significant impact in anti-gay rights circles in the 1980s and 1990s but was decried by many political leaders

Sheldon and his daughter visited the White House nearly 70 times and personally met eight times with President George W. Bush, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which in 2010 designated the Traditional Values Coalition an anti-LGBT hate group.

Sheldon contended that there was a “homosexual agenda” to not only promote acceptance of gay rights but to recruit children into homosexuality.

“As homosexuals continue to make inroads into public schools, more children will be molested and indoctrinated into the world of homosexuality,” he once wrote. “Many of them will die in that world.”

Sheldon was ordained in the Presbyterian Church but later left and became an Anglican priest, said daughter Andrea Sheldon Lafferty, who currently heads the coalition.

She said he started out focusing on religious liberties before getting involved in social issues and supported Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during his nomination process.


“My father was a key figure in Christian conservative activism,” she said. “During the 30 years I worked by his side, I saw daily examples of extraordinary faith and patriotism.”

“My family and I will miss him,” she said. “He was a great pastor to official Washington and all who knew him.”