I'm back from the Religious Right Bizarro World that is the "Values Voter Summit." As always, it was quite an experience.
I'll have a full report on the event in the October Church & State, but I wanted to share some things I learned at the Summit with you today:
* Be As Partisan As You Want To Be: I'm used to Religious Right confabs being GOP rallies, but this one was way over the top. These groups don't even pretend to be non-partisan any more – yet many of the sponsoring groups (the Family Research Council, the Heritage Foundation and the American Family Association) hold tax-exempt status. Are you listening, IRS?
* It's OK To Pray For Your Enemies To Die: Bishop Harry Jackson, a Maryland mega-church pastor, blasted gays and same-sex marriage. He led the crowd in chanting part of the first verse of Psalm 68, which reads, "Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered." Interestingly, he didn't go on and read the next line: "Let them also that hate him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away. As wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God." Yikes!
* States Don't Have To Obey Federal Laws If They Don't Like Them: That's what Texas Gov. Rick Perry said. He ought to know, right?
* God Watches Over Beauty Pageants: Carrie Prejean, the former Miss California, portrayed her inability to win the Miss USA title as something akin to the sufferings of the early Christians. But that's OK – it was all part of God's plan! Personally, I don't think God cares who Miss California is. Rarely have I heard someone so full of conceit. Get over yourself, lady.
* Capes Aren't Just For Oscar Wilde Anymore: Representatives of the group American Society for Tradition, Family and Property were present in the exhibit hall. If I didn't know better, I'd swear they were street theater. First of all, they are monarchists who spend most of their time pining for the days when Catholic kings ruled Europe. When they're not doing that, young men in the group go to college campuses to protest same-sex marriage – while wearing red capes, sashes and brooches. I am not making this up.
[caption id="attachment_2130" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="T.F.P. booth and a representative wearing a cape and a brooch"][/caption]
* We Already Have Innovative Health-Care Solutions: At Saturday night's banquet, a woman at my table opined that there really is no heath-care crisis. After all, you can just go to a hospital emergency room, and they can't turn you away. Star Parker, an African-American conservative much beloved by the Religious Right, made the same point, telling the crowd, "It is an absolute lie that we don't have access for everyone who is sick."
* Conspiracies Abound: At the Summit I learned that when the facts don't support you, just make something up. For example, on Sept. 12 anti-government protestors marched in Washington. The crowd was estimated to be between 70,000 and 100,000. But according to one speaker at this event, it was really 2.2 million. The media's covering it up.
* Sarah Palin Was Ambushed By The Liberal Media: That's right. Mean old reporters asked the woman who wanted to be a heartbeat away from leading the free world some questions about domestic and international affairs. She was not prepared to answer them. Obviously, it was the media's fault.
* President Obama Wants To Force You To Put An Outlet For A Hybrid Car In Your House: House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio Tanning Bed) asserted this. No, I have no idea what he's talking about either.
* Phyllis Schlafly Is One Of The Greatest Figures Of The Modern Era: The woman who made a career out of traveling around the country urging women to stay home and not have careers was feted during a Saturday night banquet and a got a major award! Not only did she stop the Equal Rights Amendment, she also single-handedly brought down communism, saved the American family and rescued us from Swedish-style day care centers. I believe she also once assisted Lassie in rescuing little Timmy from a well.
* Socialized Medicine Is Coming From Europe To Get Your Mom!: Lots of speakers railed against "Obamacare" and "European socialism." No one cited this chart from the CIA listing life expectancy by nation. Note that America is 50, below every Western European nation and just above Albania. USA! USA!
It was nutty, but don't get the wrong idea. We can't dismiss these people as mere cranks. They have the ears of some powerful people, and some folks who aspire to very high office are eager to keep them happy. These groups also have tons of money.
The mood of the country is very unsettled right now, and the Religious Right hopes to surf a rising wave of right-wing anger right into the halls of power.
They've done it before, and they can do it again.