It’s quite a week in Washington, D.C. House Speaker John Boehner kicked off the week by threatening to destroy the global economy if President Obama does not give in to Tea Party demands. The shutdown of the federal government, planned and engineered by anti-government extremists in Congress and their billionaire backers, continues. And the Supreme Court started a term in which conservatives on the Court could further gut campaign finance laws, restrict women’s access to abortion, undermine fair housing and educational opportunity, and weaken separation of church and state.
In other words, it’s the perfect week for the Values Voter Summit, the annual event at which thousands of Religious Right activists have a chance to rub shoulders with the movement’s leaders and the Republican politicians who court them. The summit’s lead sponsor, the Family Research Council, has asked its supporters to pray, “May God cause this years [sic] VVS to have a profound impact in informing Christian and conservative leaders, and in shaping the 2014 elections for righteousness!”
People For the American Way has joined the Southern Poverty Law Center, Faithful America, GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza in urging public officials not to participate in the festival of extremism, but experience indicates that the chance to preen before these super-motivated right-wing activists is impossible for many Republican politicos to pass up.
The schedule gives you a pretty good sense of what the Values Voter Summit will be like: the first four speakers are senators from the Tea Party wing of the GOP: Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz. Of course, that’s after the pre-event breakfast, “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition,” a panel on gun rights. (No, you are not reading The Onion.) Current and former Republican House members scheduled to speak on Friday are all Tea Partiers: Allen West, Jim Bridenstine (Okla.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Jim Jordan (Ohio), and Steve Scalise (La.)
The Values Voter Summit makes clear how completely the Religious Right’s leaders are working to merge their activists’ anti-abortion and anti-gay zeal with the anti-government extremism of the Tea Party. Actually, it goes beyond that. Movement leaders are trying to give the Tea Party’s agenda a biblical foundation. A couple of weeks ago, for example, Family Research Council spokesman Ken Blackwell said that there is “nothing more Christian” than throwing millions of low-income families off food stamps. The Tea Party – Religious Right convergence is also evident on a panel called “Where do we go from here: Challenging Tyranny,” whose speakers include FRC’s Ken Blackwell and Dean Clancy of the Koch-funded FreedomWorks.
The Family Research Council has been leading cheers for Ted Cruz, the shutdown Svengali. Cruz appeared on Perkins’ radio show last week for a fawning interview in which Cruz blamed President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for the shutdown and accused Democratic leaders of holding veterans hostage. For his part, Perkins called Obamacare a “government takeover of health care” and a “lurch toward socialism” and said there is nothing more important than stopping it. Perkins even portrayed the government shutdown as a reason to attend VVS, because there won’t be as much traffic on the streets.
Perkins recently sent out a fundraising letter in which he called on Congress to use both the government funding bill and the looming debt limit deadline to force through limits on the Obama administration’s requirement that insurance plans cover contraception. He is also promoting the dangerous idea being floated by Tea Party Republicans that failure to increase the debt ceiling is no big problem.
Of course, if you’re an old-school Religious Right activist who is really motivated by hostility to legal equality for LGBT people, the Values Voter Summit will have plenty of anti-gayness for you. A panel on marriage features Brian Brown, who traveled to Russia earlier this year to rally support for a law that bans the adoption of Russian children by parents who live in countries that recognize legal equality for LGBT people. Several speakers will present marriage equality as a dire threat to religious liberty. Dr. Ben Carson, who became a Tea Party folk hero for lecturing President Obama about a flat tax during a prayer breakfast last year, said last week that supporters of LGBT equality want to “get rid of” everything in the Bible.
In fact, multiple panels on Saturday are built around the notion that religious liberty is in extreme peril in the U.S., with speakers from the Heritage Foundation, the Becket Fund, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, among others.
A concentrated dose of right-wing extremism may come on Friday night, where the line-up includes far-right Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, whose bid to revive the state’s unconstitutional sodomy law was just rejected by the Supreme Court; his even fringier running mate E.W. Jackson; former presidential candidate and radio host Mike Huckabee; and former Sen. Jim DeMint, the Tea Party godfather who left the Senate to take charge of the Heritage Foundation, whose massive budget he is using to bully Republicans into submission to the wishes of the Tea Party.
But even that line-up may be topped by “Standing Up to the Assaults on our Faith,” a panel that includes birther extraordinaire Joseph Farah; conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, who insists that Obama is gay; dominionist anti-choice activist and radio host Janet Porter, author of The Criminalization of Christianity; and self-described “Christocrat” Rick Scarborough, who says AIDS is God’s punishment. Whew! The Obama hatred and reality-denial will be knee-deep in that one.
The increasingly unhinged Glenn Beck gets an hour of Saturday afternoon presumably to peddle his wild conspiracy theories, though you never know if you’ll get the despondent Glenn Beck, messianic Glenn Beck, or bold and blustery Glenn Beck. Whichever one shows up, it’s a safe bet that the crowd will eat it up.