Iowa

New GOP Same As the Old GOP: Iowa Summit to Feature Republican Leaders and Religious Right Stalwarts

Year after year we keep hearing about the supposed decline of the Religious Right and the GOP’s shift away from the fringes. Despite all of that talk and speculation, this weekend will see this year’s second Religious Right gathering for potential presidential candidates, almost three years before the Iowa caucus. For anyone who anticipates that Republican presidential candidates will move towards the center in 2016, this weekend’s festivities are a very loud wakeup call.

The upcoming Family Leadership Summit comes on the heels of last month’s Iowa Pastors and Pews meeting, which hosted Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Ted Cruz and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.

This weekend’s conference, hosted by the Religious Right group The Family Leader, will feature Cruz, former Sen. Rick Santorum and perennial presidential candidate-vacillator Donald Trump.

Bob Vander Plaats of The Family Leader, a former Republican gubernatorial candidate who spearheaded the 2010 campaign to boot pro-marriage equality justices off the Iowa Supreme Court, is hosting the event. The Family Leader continues its push to become a conservative power player: Last year, the organization hosted a debate attended by every Republican presidential candidate save Mitt Romney and tried to get candidates to pledge to fight legal pornography and to agree that African-American families were better off under slavery. In 2016, the group might take over the reins of the Iowa Straw Poll.

Along with Iowa Gov. Terry Brandstad and Sen. Chuck Grassley, several far-right figures are slated to speak at the summit:

Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who recently claimed that most young undocumented immigrants are drug mules with “calves the size of cantaloupes.”

Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller, the far-right 2010 GOP Senate nominee who has tiestomilitia groups.

Talk show host Steve Deace, who has fantasized about assaulting openly gay NBA player Jason Collins and suggested that the public school system was responsible for the Newtown massacre.

Talk show host Kevin McCullough, who believes that gay people are out to kill him and hate God (but also don’t exist).

Talk show host Jan Mickelson, who has said that AIDS is divine punishment for homosexuality and hailed former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s opposition to gay rights.

Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, who has likened his campaign against marriage equality to fights against slavery and Jim Crow.

David Bossie of Citizens United, the Clinton-era witch hunter who predicted that the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell would cripple the military and bring back the draft.

Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America, who argued that the Violence Against Women Act represented a “war on women” and accused Planned Parenthood of supporting domestic abuse.

Actor/Reality Show contestant Stephen Baldwin, who called President Obama a “cultural terrorist.”

Dr. Del Tackett of Truth In Action Ministries, who blamed homosexuality on lazy parenting.

Doug Napier of Alliance Defending Freedom, who pledged to represent county officials in Iowa who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Dr. David Noebel of Summit Ministries, who has warned that “Obama and his radical homosexual mafia plan to sodomize the world and make such perversion seem as wholesome as apple pie and vanilla ice cream.”

Trump: I'm A Great Christian Who's Angry the Unemployed 'Get Better Benefits' than People with Jobs

Donald Trump is totally serious this time about maybe running for president, and to prove it he is appearing at The Family Leader’s upcoming conference in Iowa alongside Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, Steve King and Brian Brown. He chatted with conservative talk show host Steve Deace on Tuesday about why Religious Right voters should love the thrice-married casino magnate.

Trump said he is a “pro-life,” “very, very, pro-family” Christian. “I’m a Presbyterian and a good one,” Trump elaborated. “A lot of people ask me about my children, how did you get them so they’re not drinkers and they’re not on drugs and you know lots of good things.”

Plus, he has a “great relationship with the church” and people love him: “Tickets are going at a rate like they’ve never gone before, maybe it’s one of the other candidates but you know what, I doubt it.” “I know some of the people that are candidates and the Republicans are not going to be winning with these people,” Trump continued.

Trump showed off his conservative credentials by making the absurd claim that “people don’t work, they don’t have to work, they get better benefits if they take it easy, which is unfair because the people that are working are paying for that.”

At Iowa Summit, Religious Right Activists Hope to 'Change the Direction of the Wind' Against the 'Gay Agenda'

We have been posting videos and reports from the recent Religious Right gathering in Iowa as they become available – so far we’ve seen Rand Paul warning of the country’s collapse and Ted Cruz repeatedly attacking gay rights.

Today, the 700 Club finally featured a segment with additional footage from the summit. CBN’s David Brody interviewed chief organizer David Lane, who has predicted divine punishment on America in the form of car bombings, along with billionaire brothers Dan and Farris Wilks, the latter of whom told Brody that he is upset about the rise of the “gay agenda.”

Brody also showed footage of right-wing pseudo-historian David Barton praying over Cruz and conservative pastor Laurence White telling activists that they can sway politicians if they “change the direction of the wind.”

Watch highlights here:

Steve King Attacks Critics' 'Unrestrained, Undisciplined, Divisive Remarks,' Says They're Dooming Nation to Failure

Rep. Steve King has taken plenty of heat from both the left and the right over the past few days for his assertion that for every valedictorian DREAMer there are “another hundred” who “weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’ve been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

Faced with criticism from House Speaker John Boehner and other fellow Republicans, King has refused to back down, saying “it’s not something that I’m making up,” and that his comments were “objective” and “might be the best informed in the entire U.S. Congress.” He wrapped up his case on the House floor yesterday, declaring that his critics would cause the downfall of the United States and of Western Civilization.

In an interview with Iowa talk radio host Simon Conway on Wednesday, King offered a similar tirade, accusing his critics of making “unrestrained, undisciplined, divisive remarks” and warning that if his opponents are allowed to have their way “this nation will eventually fail because we’ll completely lose our objectivity and we’ll be driven by our emotions instead of our reason.”

If we can’t discuss objective truth among people that are elected representatives in the United States Congress, if it has to turn personal, if they have to make these kind of remarks, these unrestrained, undisciplined, divisive remarks, at first I’d say, how  could they have listened to the tape that you’ve run and come to such a conclusion? But second is, if there’s no objective discussion, if we can’t bring up the other side of the coin, then this nation will eventually fail because we’ll completely lose our objectivity and we’ll be driven by our emotions instead of our reason.

Steve King: Undocumented Immigrants Mostly '130-Pound' Drug Runners With 'Calves the Size of Cantaloupes'

Rep. Steve King of Iowa is getting some publicity this week for an interview on Univision in which he refused to apologize for comparing immigrants to dogs. Our friends at the Center for New Community point out that just a few days earlier, King gave an interview to Newsmax in which he claimed that the vast majority of undocumented immigrants are “130-pound” drug runners with “calves the size of cantaloupes.”

“For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another hundred out there who they weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’ve been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” King said.

He challenged proponents of the bipartisan immigration law to “define the difference between the innocent ones who have deep ties with America and those who have, I’ll say, been undermining our culture and civilization and profiting from criminal acts.”

Ted Cruz, Rand Paul Rally Right-Wing Pastors in Iowa

As we noted earlier this week, Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul were the main draws at “Rediscovering God in America,” an event for conservative pastors in Iowa that was organized by Christian-nation advocate David Lane under the auspices of the Iowa Renewal Project.  According to a report in the Des Moines Register, Cruz knew his audience:

In a fiery, Bible-quoting first speech during his first time in Iowa, Republican Ted Cruz called on evangelical conservatives to demand their GOP elected officials actually stand for the conservative principles they pretend to believe in.

“Belief, saying I believe in something, is not sitting there quietly doing the golf clap,” Cruz told hundreds of Iowa Christian conservative ministers this morning at a private conclave in Des Moines….

Cruz lectured for 30 minutes, his voice at times rising to a shout. He answered questions for another 20 minutes, then stood at the center of a circle as pastors laid their hands on him and the whole audience – a predominantly white group with about 20 black pastors – bowed heads to pray for him.

As we have reported, event organizer David Lane has declared war on Republicans who are insufficiently conservative or aggressive. That’s something he has in common with Cruz, who complained during his presentation that Republicans in Congress would not have the guts to defund Obamacare in upcoming appropriations battles. And he portrayed himself as courageous warrior for right-wing causes: "The biggest applause and loudest whistles came when Cruz talked about abolishing the IRS. He said that’s “viewed as scary radical talk” in Washington, and that career politicians don’t want it to happen."

Cruz also touched on another of David Lane’s favorite themes: the responsibility of pastors to move America by being more aggressively political.

He told the pastors they have a special charge to urge their flocks to become more active in politics.

“It is so easy to hide from the public square. It is so easy to say the challenges of the country are someone else’s problem. But the pastors, and your husbands and wives who are here, ya’ll are not content to do that and I’m so grateful for that.”

The Register says that Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, who is making the Religious Right circuit on his own these days, was also in attendance.

The Register also reports on Rand Paul's speech:

Republican Rand Paul thinks the country needs to find its way back to Christian values and the traditions of the founders, he said in Iowa today.

“What America needs is not just another politician or more promises,” he said. “What America needs is a revival.”

According to the Register, Paul couched his less-interventionist foreign policy in terms of denying U.S. support for "haters of Christianity."

To an audience of about 650, Paul said some Republicans have the mistaken belief that the way for the nation to project strength is through war.

“Jesus reminds us what our goal should be when he proclaims: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God,’” Paul said. “This does not mean we never go to war. But it means we should do so reluctantly, and seek an end expeditiously.”

Paul said the U.S. Senate is now attempting to arm Islamic rebels in Syria, many of whom are Al Quaeda.

“There is an irony that is impossible to escape: Our taxpayer dollars will fund Islamic rebels who may well be killing Christians,” he said. “In country after country, mobs burn the American flag and chant ‘death to America.’ Congress responds by sending more of your money to these haters of Christianity.”

And, in the line that drew a standing ovation and the most passionate applause of his speech, he said: “I say not one penny more to any nation that is burning our flag.”

 

Iowa Religious Right Leader Defends Trump, Praises His Birther Crusade

Bob Vander Plaats, head of the Iowa-based Religious Right group The Family Leader, spoke with conservative Des Moines radio host Jan Mickelson last week to defend his invitation of twice-divorced casino magnate Donald Trump to speak at the group’s upcoming Family Leadership Summit. (The event is also sponsored by the Heritage Foundation’s advocacy arm and the National Organization for Marriage.) After all, Vander Plaats is the same man who tried to get Republican presidential candidates to sign a pledge swearing personal fidelity to their spouses and vowing to make it tougher to get a divorce.

But Vander Plaats insisted that “we’re not lowering our standards by bringing in Donald Trump. Donald Trump is coming up to our standards.” Vander Plaats went on to praise Trump for “being bold and saying some stuff that others just don’t want to say” including his insistence that President Obama “prove to us that you were born here.”

Vander Plaats was previously caught on video during the Republican presidential primary praising Trump’s birther efforts.

Vander Plaats: Trump has made no, I mean, he’s basically said he’s very interested in running for president. Part of our job is to vet. And we’re not lowering our standards by bringing in Donald Trump. Donald Trump is coming up to our standards. And so what we’re saying is, hey, if he wants to have a microphone and to speak to our audience, let’s see what he’s got to say. And I guarantee you….

Mickelson: You are going to have a dump button, aren’t you?

Vander Plaats: I will definitely. If Donald Trump says things that we just definitely don’t agree with, I will speak after him, and I will basically…

Mickelson: You will fire him.

Vander Plaats: You are fired! But he’s an intriguing fellow, and he’s been on the money with regards to international trade and our relationship with China, how that impacts the family. You remember just over the year ago, people were basically applauding Trump because at least he was being bold and saying some stuff that others just didn’t want to say. And even the deal of Obama’s birth certificate, whether people think that was ridiculous or not, at least he said, ‘Prove to us that you were born here.’

Vander Plaats Explains Opposition to Marriage Equality: 'It's Awful'

KSFY in Sioux Falls took on the debate about legalizing same-sex marriage in South Dakota yesterday by airing a report on how Iowans are faring under that state’s four-year-old marriage equality law. The station, in an attempt to hear both sides of the issue, interviewed an Iowa married couple, John Sellers and Tom Helten, and the state’s leading anti-gay activist, Bob Vander Plaats, who is trying to get the law overturned.

Which led to this segment, in which Sellers and Helten explain how they go to church, argue about bills and care for each other’s parents, followed by Vander Plaats explaining that he opposes marriage equality because, “If you do things God’s way when it comes to marriage, things work out really good. When you go against His plan, it’s awful.”

Bob Vander Plaats Really Should Stop Talking About Slavery

Two years ago, the Iowa Religious Right group The Family Leader caused a bit of a stir when it convinced Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann to sign a “marriage pledge” that, among other questionable provisions, stated that African-American families were better off under slavery than they are today.

Just a few months later, all the major Republican presidential candidates save Mitt Romney participated in a “Thanksgiving Family Forum” hosted by the group.

And apparently the Family Leader’s president Bob Vander Plaats hasn’t learned much from the “marriage pledge” episode. In an interview today with Business Week about Sen. Rand Paul’s chances with social conservatives, Vander Plaats says Paul’s “leave it to the states” position on marriage equality is unacceptable because gay marriage, like slavery, is something “you don’t leave up to the states.”

Vander Plaats said Iowans may tolerate Paul’s comments on abortion exceptions because he’s also authored a bill that would define life as beginning at conception. His views on same-sex marriage are another matter.

“We are definitely going to have visits with Rand on some of those things,” said Vander Plaats, who disagrees with Paul’s view that the legal status of same-sex marriage, like drug crimes, should be left up to the states.

“You don’t leave slavery up to the states, nor should you,” said Vander Plaats. “It’s either right or it’s wrong.”

Vander Plaats 'Not Here to Judge' Openly Gay State Senator Who Might Not Be 'Practicing Gay'

WHO-TV in Des Moines featured a debate last week between openly gay Iowa State Senator Matt McCoy and anti-gay activist Bob Vander Plaats.

Both were fairly restrained, despite the best efforts of the moderator, who at one point asked Vander Plaats if McCoy, who lives in Des Moines with his partner, is “living a life that is not approved by God, in your mind?”

Vander Plaats responded that he was “not here to judge Sen. McCoy” because the senator might be like “some people that say, ‘Well, I’m gay, but I’m not practicing gay.'"

Later on, the conversation turned to the future of marriage equality. Vander Plaats brought up a question that Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked during oral arguments on the Prop 8 case, in which she prompted attorney Ted Olson to take down the right’s “slippery slope” argument that gay marriage will lead to legalized polygamy and incest. This question, Vander Plaats alleges, actually indicates that Justice Sotomayor would be ready to give legal backing to polygamists and “a dad who wants to marry his son or daughter.”

Vander Plaats added that, despite polls showing steadily increasing support for marriage equality, he believed that there would be a “reverse” of marriage equality “probably in our lifetime or in somebody else’s lifetime.”

 

 

Iowa Republicans Threaten to Cut Salaries of Judges Who Backed Marriage Equality

Iowa Republicans are determined to remove the nine state supreme court justices who ruled unanimously in 2009 to allow same-sex marriage in the state, and they'll try just about anything. In 2010, anti-gay groups funded a successful campaign to oust three justices in retention elections. Then Iowa anti-gay leader Bob Vander Plaats called for the remaining justices to resign. When that didn't work, state Republicans then tried to impeach them. Last year, an effort to remove a fourth justice failed at the ballot box. So now Iowa Republicans are trying a different strategy, proposing to dramatically lower the salaries of the remaining judges who were involved in the marriage equality decision. The Iowa City Gazette reports:

A handful of House conservatives want to reduce the pay of Iowa Supreme Court justices involved in a 2009 decision striking down a ban on same-sex marriages as part of an effort to maintain the balance of power in state government.

“It’s our responsibility to maintain the balance of power” between the three co-equal branches of government, Rep. Tom Shaw, R-Laurens, said Tuesday.

The justices “trashed the separation of powers” with their unanimous Varnum v. Brien decision and implementation of same-sex marriage without a change in state law banning any marriages expect between one man and one woman, added Rep. Dwayne Alons, R-Hull.

Their amendment to House File 120, the judicial branch budget bill, would lower the salaries of the four justices on the seven-member court who were part of the unanimous Varnum v. Brein decision to $25,000 – the same as a state legislator.

It’s not meant to be punitive, Alons and Shaw said Tuesday.
“We’re just holding them responsible for their decision, for going beyond their bounds,” Shaw said.

“It’s not the merits of what they said in that decision,” added Alons. He’s trying to stop “an encroaching wave” of judicial activity including decisions on nude dancing and landowner liability – decisions the Legislature also is trying to correct through legislation this session.

The chairman of the state Senate Judiciary Committee tells Gazette “that a plan to pay justices differently based on their role in one case would be unlikely to withstand a court challenge.”

NOM’s Brown Claims Gay Rights Advocates Want to Take Away Opponents’ Right to Vote

National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown joined Iowa anti-gay luminary Bob Vander Plaats at a Des Moines rally today to call for a ballot referendum to overturn the state’s marriage equality law. Following Vander Plaats, who compared same-sex marriage to polygamy and incest, Brown argued that making the civil rights of a minority subject to a popular vote is in fact right in line with the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

It’s marriage equality proponents, Brown argued, who are trying to “deprive” their opponents of civil rights– specifically “the right to vote":

Opposition to gay marriage is not rooted in fear and hate as supporters suggest, Vander Plaats said, but rather love and religious truth. He also lashed out at the notion of “marriage equality” as a slippery slope toward no restrictions on relationships whatsoever.

“If we want marriage equality, let’s just stop for a second. Why stop at same-sex marriage? Why not have polygamy? Why not have a dad marry his son or marry his daughter? If we’re going to have marriage equality, let’s open this puppy up and let’s have marriage equality,” he said. “Otherwise, let’s stick to the way God designed it – one man and one woman, period.”

Referring to Senate Democrats’ refusal to advance the amendment and clear the way for a statewide vote, National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown invoked Martin Luther King, Jr., to suggest that it was the opponents of same-sex marriage whose civil rights were threatened.

“We hear that this is about civil rights, and that those of us who oppose the redefinition of marriage are somehow bigots,” Brown said. “And yet, what Dr. Martin Luther King called the most important civil right – the right to vote – these very same folks are trying to deprive us of this right.”
 

Rep. Trent Franks Calls Marriage Equality A "Threat To The Nation's Survival"

Today on Washington Watch Weekly with Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) claimed that marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples is “a threat to the nation’s survival.” Franks appeared on Perkins’ radio show to discuss his recent House hearing on “The State of Religious Liberty in the United States,” in which his fellow Republican congressman Steve King of Iowa attacked marriage equality as “an active effort to desecrate a sacrament of the church” that is like the desecration of the Eucharist.

Franks, a zealously anti-gay congressman who even threatened to impeach President Obama over his refusal to defend the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, told Perkins that marriage should remain a “special right” reserved for opposite-sex couples and that marriage equality “not only is a complete undermining of the principles of family and marriage and the hope of future generations but it completely begins to see our society break down.”

Listen:

Franks: We understand that when we’re granting the rights of marriage, that that’s a special right Tony, that’s something we have suggested is clearly the best possible way to see children raised through the best possible environment to launch the next generation, we believe that with all of our hearts as a society, I think most people understand that. So we’ve set aside this special area of the law that says we’re going to respect traditional marriage of a man and a woman because that is the launching pad of the next generation. Let’s face it; we have made a special exception in the law that gives special consideration and recognition to that.

And when people would come along and blur that distinction and say ‘well that should apply in every way’ it not only is a complete undermining of the principles of family and marriage and the hope of future generations but it completely begins to see our society break down to the extent that that foundational unit of the family that is the hope of survival of this country is diminished to the extent that it literally is a threat to the nation’s survival in the long run.

Right Wing Round-Up

Media Banned From Secretive Religious Right Event

Shortly after Rick Perry's prayer rally earlier this year, organizers of that event started promoting a Religious Right voter mobilization effort called "Champion The Vote," which seeks to "mobilize 5 million unregistered conservative Christians to register and vote according to the Biblical worldview in 2012."

It turned out that the Champion The Vote effort was a project of organization called United In Purpose, which is being funded by conservative millionaires for the purpose of mobilizing "40 million out of the estimated 60 million evangelicals in the United States to vote" over the next decade.

As part of this effort, United In Purpose/Champion The Vote are producing an event called "One Nation Under God" where churches and Religious Right activists will gather to watch a three-hour DVD being provided United In Purpose and featuring David Barton, Newt Gingrich, James Dobson, and others talking about the importance of keeping America "one nation under God":

Over the weekend, all of the speakers gathered in Florida for a Florida Renewal Project event for pastors at which the filming for the DVD was presumably done ... and it seems that organizers did not want any attention because when a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel showed up at the event, he was tossed out of the hotel by security:

The media was advised that Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s speech to a gathering of Florida pastors Friday would be closed to the public, but apparently the group behind the meeting didn’t even want media in the same hotel.

A couple weeks ago, Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry were announced as possible speakers at a two-day event in Orlando Thursday and Friday called the Florida Renewal Project. But this week no one wanted to talk about it, except to say it would be closed to the media and public.

Perry’s staff even denied he would attend. Gingrich’s staff confirmed his appearance but would not return phone calls to discuss it.

I went anyway this morning, to the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando, to see if Gingrich would be willing to talk to me before or after his speech. When he arrived shortly before noon, I was the lone journalist on the scene, waiting in the hallway outside the meeting room. Gingrich and his staff agreed to talk to me later, at another hotel. After seeing that exchange, hotel officials approached me and, saying they were acting on behalf of event organizers, ordered me to leave the Rosen Centre property immediately, and escorted me to my car.

...

Then it turned out Perry had attended after all, sort of, Thursday night - by satellite link-up, according to tweets posted Thursday night by John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, which was a participant in the Florida Renewal Project.

That appearance, which included a speech and taking questions from the pastors, came just hours after the Texas governor’s campaign staff assured the Sentinel he would not attend.

Who organized the event though? No one would say for sure, though Stemberger acknowledged that the California-based organization United in Purpose, which had organized similar “Renewal Project” events in California and Iowa earlier this year, “was involved.”

The last time United In Purpose hosted one of these conferences, we caught Mike Huckabee telling the audience that Americans ought to be forced to listen to David Barton at gunpoint.  But when United In Purpose later broadcast the event, that exchange was entirely edited out

So while organizers are going to be releasing a DVD of this Florida event in the coming weeks, it seems that they want to be able to control what people actually see and don't want reporters around revealing what was really taking place.

Right Wing Round-Up

Right Wing Round-Up

Values Voter Summit 2011 & America in 2013

As RWW readers know, the Values Voter Summit, the year’s biggest political gathering for the Religious Right, took place in Washington, D.C. this past weekend.  Every Republican presidential candidate with the exception of Jon Huntsman addressed the summit, evidence of the continuing importance of Religious Right activists and political groups to the GOP. Polls suggest that the Religious Right is about twice as big as the Tea Party, with significant overlap between the two movements. Ron Paul’s campaign packed in enough voters to win the straw poll, but it would be wrong to say he was the favorite of the Values Voter crowd. It was up-and-coming candidate Herman Cain who won the loudest cheers (and took second place).

The two days of speeches from presidential candidates, congressional leaders, and Religious Right activists painted a clear picture of where they’ll try to take the country if they are successful in their 2012 electoral goals.  In their America, banks and corporations would be free from pesky consumer and worker protections; there would be no Environmental Protection Agency and no federal support for education; women would have no access to abortion; gays would be second-class citizens; and for at least some of them, religious minorities would have to know their place and be grateful that they are tolerated in this Christian nation. 
 
Here’s a recap of some major themes from the conference.
 
Religious Bigotry on Parade
 
In one of the most extreme expressions of the “Christian nation” approach to government, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer has stated repeatedly that the religious liberty of non-Christians is not protected by the First Amendment.  More specifically, he says Mormons are not protected by the First Amendment.  For whatever reason, VVS organizers scheduled Romney and Fischer back-to-back on Saturday morning. 
 
Before the conference, People For the American Way called on Romney to take on Fischer’s bigotry, which he did, albeit in a vague and tepid manner, criticizing “poisonous” rhetoric without naming Fischer or explaining why his views are poison.  Getting greater media attention were comments by Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress, who in his introduction of Texas Gov. Rick Perry insisted on the importance of electing a “genuine” follower of Christ. Reporters who accurately saw this as a swipe at Romney’s faith asked Jeffress about it, and he labeled Mormonism a cult.  (Mormons consider themselves Christians, but many Christians, including Southern Baptists, believe Mormon theology is anything but.)  Following Romney at the microphone, Fischer doubled down, insisting that the next president has to be a Christian “in the mold of” the founding fathers.  Fischer’s inaccurate sense of history is eclipsed only by his lack of respect for church-state separation and for the Constitution itself – even though he insisted that his religious test for the presidency was really a “political test.” Romney took only four percent in the VVS straw poll, even though he has been leading in recent polls of GOP voters.
 
Beating up on Obama
 
Religious Right leaders routinely denounce President Barack Obama, so it is no surprise that a major theme of the VVS was attacking the president and his policies.  Perhaps the nicest thing anyone said about the president was Mitt Romney’s snide remark that Obama is “the conservative movement’s top recruiter.”    Among the nastiest came from virtue-monger Bill Bennett, who said, “if you voted for him last time to prove you are not a racist, you must vote against him this time to prove you are not an idiot.” Rep. Anne Buerkle, one of the Tea Party freshmen, said flat out that the president is not concerned about what is best for the country. 
 
Health care and foreign policy were top policy targets.  Many speakers denounced “Obamacare,” and most of the presidential candidates promised to make dismantling health care reform a top priority. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Religious Right favorite who is leading a legal challenge to the health care reform law, said that if the Supreme Court did not overturn it, Americans would go from being citizens to subjects.  Just about every speaker attacked President Obama for not being strong enough in support of Israel, and repeated a favorite right-wing talking point by pledging to “never apologize” for U.S. actions abroad.
 
Gays as Enemies of Liberty
 
It is clear that a Republican takeover of the Senate and White House would put advances toward equality for LGBT Americans in peril.  Speaker after speaker denounced the recent repeal of the ban on openly gay and lesbian servicemembers in the armed forces; many also attacked marriage equality for same-sex couples.  And many portrayed liberty as a zero-sum game, insisting that advances toward equality posed a dire threat to religious liberty. Rep. Mike Pompeo said “You cannot use our military to promote social ideals that do not reflect the values of our nation,” concluding his remarks with a call for the election of more Republicans, saying “ride to the sounds of the guns and send us more troops.”
Another member of the 2010 freshman class – Rep. Vicky Hartzler – attacked the Obama administration for “trying to use the military to advance their social agenda,” saying, “It’s wrong and it must be stopped.” Predictably, the AFA’s Fischer was the most vitriolic and insisted that the country needs a president “who will treat homosexual behavior not as a political cause at all but as a threat to public health.”
 
Loving Wall Street, Hating Wall Street Protesters
 
On the same day that moving pictures of Kol Nidre services at the site of Occupy Wall Street protests made the rounds on the Internet, Values Voter Summit speakers portrayed the protests as dangerous and violent.  Others simply mocked the protesters without taking seriously the objections being raised to growing inequality and economic hardship in America.  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor denounced the “growing mobs” associated with the protests and decried “the pitting of Americans against Americans.” (Too bad he didn’t stick around to hear the rest of the speakers).  Glenn Beck denounced “Jon Stewart Marxism” and warned that the protests were the sign of an approaching “storm of biblical proportions” in which “the violent left” would smash, tear down, kill, bankrupt, and destroy.  Pundit Laura Ingraham simply made fun of the protesters and held up her own “hug the rich” sign.  Rising star Herman Cain defended Wall Street, blaming the nation’s economic crisis on policymakers, not reckless and irresponsible financiers.  Nobody wanted to regulate the financiers; speakers called for a repeal of the Dodd-Frank law. 
 
A number of speakers promoted Christian Reconstructionist notions of “Biblical economics,” with Star Parker declaring that “this whole notion of redistribution of wealth is inconsistent with scripture” and calling for the selection of a candidate with commitment to the free market according to the Bible.  Ron Paul also insisted “debt is not a political principle.”  The AFA’s Bryan Fischer said that liberalism is based on violating two of the Ten Commandments, namely thou shall not steal, and thou shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.  Liberalism, he said, is “driven by angry, bitter, acquisitive greed for the wealth of productive Americans.” 
 
No Love for Libertarians
 
A major theme at last year’s Values Voter Summit, as at other recent Religious Right political events, was an effort to make social-issue libertarians unwelcome in the conservative movement by insisting that you cannot legitimately claim to be a fiscal conservative if you are not also pushing “traditional family values.”  The same theme was sounded this year by the very first speaker, Tony Perkins.  Another, Joe Carter, took a shot at gay conservatives, saying it was not possible to be conservative and for gay marriage – it simply made you a “liberal who likes tax cuts.”  Carter said “social conservative” should be redundant. Ingraham echoed the theme, calling for an end to conservative modifiers (social, fiscal, national security) and, echoing popular Christian writer C.S. Lewis, called for a commitment to “mere conservatism.”  There were far fewer mentions of the Tea Party movement itself at this year’s VVS, perhaps owing to the movement’s unpopularity – or to the fact that the GOP itself has essentially become one big Tea Party party.
 
Crying Wolf on Religious Persecution
 
Religious Right leaders routinely energize movement activists with dire warnings about threats to religious liberty and the alleged religious persecution of Christians in America.  William Bennett said liberals are bigoted against “people who publicly love their God, who publicly love their country.”  Retired Gen. William Boykin said Christians are facing the greatest persecution ever in America.   The American Center for Law & Justice’s Jay Sekulow warned that the next president will probably select two Supreme Court justices, and that if it isn’t a conservative president, our Judeo-Christian values could be “eliminated.”  Crying wolf about persecution of Christians in America is offensive given the very real suffering of people in countries that do not enjoy religious freedom.  Several speakers addressed the case of a Christian pastor facing death in Iran.  That is persecution; having your political tactics challenged or losing a court case is not.
 
America is Exceptional; Europe Sucks
 
Republican strategists decided a couple of years ago that “American exceptionalism” would be a campaign theme in 2010 and 2012, and we heard plenty of talk about it at the Values Voter Summit.  Among the many who spoke about American exceptionalism was Rep. Steve King, who said “this country was ordained and built by His hand,” that the Declaration of Independence was written with divine guidance, and that God moved the founding fathers around the globe like chess pieces .  Liberals, said the Heritage Foundation’s Matthew Spalding, don’t share a belief in American exceptionalism or the American dream. Many speakers contrasted a freedom-loving, God-fearing America to socialist, post-Christian Europe.  Rick Perry said “those in the White House” don’t believe in American exceptionalism; they’d rather emulate the failed policies of Europe.  Gen. Boykin declared Europe “hopelessly lost.”
 
Smashing the Regulatory State
 
The anti-government, anti-regulatory fervor of billionaire right-wing funders like the Koch brothers was on vibrant display at the VVS.  Without the slightest nod to the fact that regulating the behavior of corporations’ treatment of workers, consumers, and the environment is in any way beneficial, a member of a Heritage Foundation panel said conservatives’ goal should be to “break the back” of the “regulatory state.”  Some presidential candidates vowed to halt every regulation issued during the Obama administration.  Michele Bachmann said her goal was to “dismantle” the bureaucracy.
 
Judging Judges
 
Many speakers criticized judges for upholding abortion rights, church-state separation, and gay rights. Newt Gingrich took these attacks to a whole new level, calling for right-wing politicians to provoke a  constitutional crisis in which the legislative and executive branch would ignore court rulings they didn’t like.  He called the notion of “judicial supremacy” an “affront to the American system of self-government.” Aside from Gingrich’s very dubious constitutional theory, the speech seemed out of place at a conference in which speakers had been calling for the Supreme Court to overturn the health care law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama.
 
Deconstructing the ‘Pursuit of Happiness’
 
VVS speakers love quoting the Declaration of Independence, but some are clearly a little troubled with the notion that the “pursuit of happiness” is an inalienable right, one that might apply, for example, to happy, loving gay couples.  Rick Santorum said that the founders’ understanding of “happiness” meant “the morally right thing” and doing what God wants.  Steve King said the  pursuit of happiness was not like a tailgate party, but the pursuit of excellence in moral and spiritual development.  Michele Bachman has equated the pursuit of happiness with private property.
 
Notably weird speeches
 
Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel gave a meandering address that moved from U.S. policy on Israel to the war on Islamic radicalism to an attack on the United Nations to denunciations of sexologist Alfred Kinsey and humanist/educator John Dewey for undermining western civilization. He warned against conservatives using rhetoric that might push the growing Latino population into the maw of the “leftist machine,” making an aside about Latinos whose names end in “z” having a special connection to Israel.
 
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who ended up taking third place in the straw poll, seemed personally hurt that conservative evangelicals weren’t rallying around him given all that he had done for them and the price he had paid for it.  He whined, “Don’t you want a president who’s comfortable in his shoes talking about these issues?”
 
Rep. Steve King of Iowa said that people who support marriage equality or legal abortion don’t do so because they have a value system supporting those things, but because they want to spite the Religious Right – “because they know it’s precious to us.”
 
Former Fox TV personality Glenn Beck gave a trademark lurching speech contrasting visceral anger with his recitation of Abraham Lincoln’s “with malice toward none.” The speech was long on mockery of Wall Street protestors and on the messianic narcissism that was on display at his Lincoln Memorial rally last year.  “We need to give America the same choice” that Moses gave Israel, he said: good or evil, light or dark, life or death, freedom or slavery.  He said America is in a religious war, a race war, a class war, and other wars.  In one breath he insisted that the nation “must return to God” and talked about the “country’s salvation” – and in the next he denounced the notion of “collective salvation,” which he has elsewhere attributed to President Obama and denounced as evil and satanic.
 

King: Marriage Equality Will Erode America's Foundations

Iowa congressman Steve King, who once claimed that gay rights will lead to children raised in warehouses, told the Values Voter Summit that marriage equality for gays and lesbians will lead to the downfall of civilization. King argued that progressives only want to lead an "assault" on marriage because of their hatred for moral values and later discussed his "bus tour" to remove Iowa judges who ruled in favor of marriage equality, arguing that LGBT rights activists are the "most unhappy people" he's ever met:

The Multi-Pronged Effort To Mobilize Millions Of Religious Right Voters

Ever since Rick Perry help his public prayer rally in August, we have been noting how organizers of that event have been hard at work promoting something called "Champion The Vote" which is a Religious Right voter mobilization effort designed to get "5 million unregistered conservative Christians to register and vote according to the Biblical worldview in 2012."

The Champion The Vote effort is of project of a group called United in Purpose, which is an organization that seeks to "mobilize 40 million out of the estimated 60 million evangelicals in the United States to vote" over the next decade.

United In Purpose was the group responsible for the Rediscover God In America conference in Iowa earlier this year which was organized by David Lane ... who also happened to serve as the National Finance Chairman for Perry's prayer rally.

Now United In Purpose/Champion The Vote is organizing an event called "One Nation Under God" to be held in November:

We’ve lost sight of our great heritage as a nation founded on Biblical truth, and the consequences are dire: schools are failing, the divorce rate is climbing, and our society is rife with scandal and corruption. It’s time to reclaim our Biblical heritage and bring God back to the center of American life. Where do we start?

On Saturday, November 12, United in Purpose presents One Nation Under God – a national, three-hour premiere event featuring top American thinkers and political leaders who will bring the truth about God and America to people gathered in homes and churches across the nation.

And you will, no doubt, be surprised to learn that Rick Perry is listed among the speakers:

Organizers are promoting the event with this video:

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