It’s disappointing that some politicians won’t listen to reason.
Today is the first day of the Values Voter Summit, an annual Religious Right gathering hosted by the Family Research Council, American Family Association Action and others in Washington, D.C.
Scheduled to speak are a number of high-ranking politicians, including U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and the Republican vice presidential nominee U.S. Rep Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.).
These powerful leaders are expected to speak at the conference despite stern warnings from an array of human rights groups.
A coalition including the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the National Black Justice Coalition and the National Council of La Raza have asked public officials not to attend the Values Voter Summit. The reason: because “the Family Research Council has spread demonizing lies about the LGBT community, and because one of its co-sponsors, the American Family Association, has linked homosexuality to the Holocaust.”
In fact, the SPLC has designated the Family Research Council as a hate group. If you take a look at the “workshops” offered during the summit, it’s not hard to see why.
Bishop Harry Jackson Jr. will be leading a session called “Vertical Vote Campaign for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberties,” which is based on the premise that “the institution of marriage is under a barrage of attacks from certain politicians, judicial activists, and citizen advocates.” Jackson is fiercely opposed to civil rights for gays, having asserted that God removes gay rights advocates from public office and that marriage equality and the gay rights movement are the work of the Devil.
Another panel is titled “Israel, Iran and the Future of Western Civilization.” One of the “experts” who will discuss Iran is retired Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, who is now a vice president at the FRC. He once claimed to have captured an Islamic warlord in Somalia because “I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol.”
A third panel is titled “Debunking the Myth of Separation...Why Pastors Must Engage in Politics.” It is being led by the Rev. Rick Scarborough, a Texas preacher who calls gays “sodomites” and thinks AIDS is God’s punishment for homosexuality. He has denounced church-state separation as a lie of Satan. As my colleague Rob Boston has reported, “In the mid 1990s, Scarborough briefly succeeded in getting his allies elected to the city council and school board in Pearland, Texas, where he pastored a Baptist church. He announced plans to export his political model to other communities, but the effort fizzled after a scandal erupted, and Pearland voters refused to reelect Scarborough’s candidates.”
And yet, despite shrill speakers like these, many elected officials are still stumping at the Values Voter Summit, lending credibility to groups that should have none.
That’s why several Americans United staffers, including myself, will be at the Values Voter Summit this weekend. We feel it’s important to keep a close eye on the Religious Right – especially when government policy is involved.
I attended my first Values Voter Summit last year, and was treated to a dizzying display of people whose minds are divorced from reality and whose hearts are full of hate. I expect more of the same this year. Should make for an interesting time.