Ten Republican members of Congress spoke Tuesday morning to the annual gathering of the anti-Muslim group ACT for America, which assembled at the Capitol to lobby lawmakers about refugee resettlement and other issues. The highest-profile lawmaker to address ACT was Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who told the activists that the criticism ACT had attracted from the Southern Poverty Law Center and other anti-extremism groups was a badge of honor.
“Given the sorry record of that leftist institution of targeting groups that have the temerity not to be bound by political correctness and to speak out the truth despite D.C. orthodoxy, let me commend you,” he said. “If they’re coming after you, you’re probably doing something right.”
ACT has a long record of smearing American Muslims. Its founder, Brigitte Gabriel, has said that Muslims should not serve in public office because a “practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.” At the group’s annual conference last year, Gabriel attacked the refugee resettlement program by claiming that “20 percent of Muslims are radicals.”
The ACT members on site received instructions to lobby their representatives on seven bills, including a set of bills limiting the refugee resettlement program and Cruz’s bill to urge the State Department to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. A set of talking points the activists received instructed them to tell their representatives to “build the wall” on the southern border. Of the Muslim Brotherhood bill, the talking points said, “We finally have a President who appreciates the threat of terrorism and has vowed to defeat it.”
Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who Gabriel said had sponsored the group’s room at the Capitol, told ACT members that their voices were important because things are “going to get worse.” Citing Mark Steyn’s book “America Alone,” Perry said, “Look at what’s happening to Europe. I mean, go visit now if you’re going to go visit, because if you think that you’re going to see the same thing in 20 years, I’m not sure what you’re going to see. I’ve been to third-world countries that are still existing in the seventh century; that’s where some folks are headed.”
Discussing refugee resettlement, Perry said that he himself had made calls that fell on deaf ears “when some folks came to my town unvetted—I’ve got little children and I’ve got a wife that I’m concerned about their safety, their wellbeing”
Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina sounded a similar note on refugee resettlement, saying that while Americans “should have compassion” for refugees, they “ought to be just as compassionate about the small towns, about our churches, about our relatives, about our friends, about our neighbors” in communities where refugees are being placed.
Rep. Brian Babin of Texas, the sponsor of two of the anti-refugee bills that ACT was lobbying for, said that President Trump’s recent decision to lower the cap on refugees resettled in the U.S. was “a good start” but “we need further reductions” because refugee resettlement “absolutely is a dangerous program.”
Babin also lamented that federal courts had “overstepped their authority” in ruling against Trump’s travel ban from several majority-Muslim nations, but assured the audience that Trump was appointing “conservative, Christian” judges to courts across the country.
“Activist judges are one of our biggest threats to the American national security, freedom and liberty,” Babin said, describing the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court as Trump’s “biggest legacy.”
“And as we speak,” Babin said, “he is nominating dozens of lower-court appointees, conservative, Christian, national-security oriented judges that are well-vetted, and I cannot wait to see them all confirmed and see this court system turned around.”
Rep. Rob DeSantis of Florida also praised Trump’s judicial nominees, saying that “I think you’ll see more of these cases because Obama really stacked the federal courts” but that Trump “has done a really good job” of “fortifying” the lower courts “with people who are constitutionalists rather than activists.”
In the background of the event was the mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday night. During ACT’s conference sessions on Monday, ACT founder Brigitte Gabriel had taken the stage to share reports that ISIS had taken credit for the attack, which has been recorded as the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. She told the activists in exasperation that “our politically correct media and elected officials are still even now, after 58 people dead and over 200 people injured with ISIS taking credit, are still saying, ‘Well, we don’t know if this has anything to do with Islamic terrorism because ISIS’s claims are not substantiated.’”
At Tuesday’s legislative briefing, after the FBI had said it had found no ties between the shooter and foreign terrorist organizations and the motive for the attack remained a mystery, the lawmakers expressed more caution, but a few of them tied the shooting more broadly to a fall of “Judeo-Christian” values in the United States.
Virginia’s Rep. Dave Brat lamented that children in American schools “don’t know anything about religion, nothing about philosophy,” while the higher education system is waging a “systematic assault on the Judeo-Christian tradition, the rule of law and free-market principles.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas said, “It’s only under the Christian foundation that every religion will find freedom or any secularists will find freedom. It’s when we destroy those roots on which we were based that you start having mass killings like we’ve never seen before.”
Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona criticized liberals for talking about tightening gun laws after the massacre, saying that the shooter in Las Vegas could have just as easily used his weapons to save lives. “Our friends on the left focus strictly on the guns, you know, and they’re going to have to start focusing on the pressure cookers, trucks and things like that at some point, I guess,” he said. “But the issue is the guns he used could have saved or taken lives. But the real problem is what caused [him] to murder innocent people.”
Also speaking to ACT were Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado and Rep. Steve King of Iowa.
King, true to form, used his time to extol “American civilization” and criticize multiculturalism.
He told the audience the story of a liberal San Francisco woman whom he had met on a plane who had told him that “one of the most great experiences that she had was some event out in California where they had all the people there were speaking so many different languages, they brought so much different food, they wore so many different clothes, you looked at all that, and she saw all that diversity and it was one of the most wonderful experiences of her life.”
“And it sounded to me,” he said, “like the recreation of the Tower of Babel was what she thought was utopia for America. And I’m fine with all of the languages, we have all kinds of people in the world we need to communicate with. But there’s something that goes along with the English language that is a gift to this country.”
He was met with loud applause.