The Values Voter Summit, the largest annual political gathering of Religious Right activists, will take place in Washington, D.C., this weekend. The schedule for the summit reveals that the anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice, anti-Muslim “values” celebrated by conference organizers are deeply at odds with core constitutional principles, including freedom of religion, freedom of the press and equality under the law.
President Donald Trump will address the gathering on Friday, capping off a week in which he has called for the federal government to yank the broadcasting licenses of network television stations whose coverage displeases him. Trump, who campaigned at last year’s Values Voter Summit, will undoubtedly be showered with adulation from Religious Right activists who are thrilled with his far-right judicial nominees, his attacks on Planned Parenthood and women’s access to reproductive health care around the world, and his efforts to reverse progress toward legal equality for LGBT people.
Groups like the Family Research Council, which hosts the Values Voter Summit, and Alliance Defending Freedom are counting on Trump-nominated Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and like-minded judicial nominees to help dismantle church-state separation, reverse progress toward legal equality for LGBT people, and eliminate legal protection for women’s access to abortion—not to mention demolishing Great Society and New Deal programs by declaring them unconstitutional.
Trump spokesperson Kellyanne Conway is also scheduled to speak, along with former White House aides and Breitbartistas Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, who campaigned to help Roy Moore defeat Trump-endorsed Sen. Luther Strange in the Alabama primary. Moore will also be speaking at the summit.
Moore was twice removed from his job as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to abide by federal court orders. The Religious Right’s embrace of Moore is the clearest signal possible that all their talk about the Constitution and rule of law is nothing more than a smokescreen to hide their Christian-nation agenda.
Moore is likely to get a hero’s welcome in spite of revelations this week that he took more than $1 million from the nonprofit he founded, the Foundation for Moral Law, between 2007 and 2012, which the Washington Post reported “far surpassed what the group disclosed in its public tax filings most of those years.” On top of that, Moore’s political career has been funded in part by Michael Peroutka, who has been active in Christian Reconstructionist and neo-Confederate groups and promotes the idea that a certain interpretation of biblical law should trump civil laws.
Moore has repeatedly put his own religious beliefs above the law. He is intensely hostile to legal equality for LGBT Americans, arguing that homosexual relationships should be criminalized. And his avowed devotion to religious liberty seemingly extends only to those who share his faith. In 2006, he wrote a column entitled “Muslim Ellison Should Not Sit in Congress,” in which he urged Congress to refuse to seat Keith Ellison, who was elected by Minnesota voters, because “The Islamic faith rejects our God and believes that the state must mandate the worship of its own god, Allah.” A year later he was complaining that a Hindu had given the opening prayer in the U.S. Senate, saying Hindu beliefs were inconsistent with “the Christian faith upon which our nation is founded.”
It’s a virtual certainty that this year’s Values Voter Summit will feature multiple attacks on the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has been the target of a concerted, coordinated campaign of vilification by Religious Right groups unhappy that the organization has called them out for promoting inflammatory anti-LGBTQ misinformation.
Members of Congress scheduled to attention include Republican Reps. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, Mark Walker of North Carolina, Chris Smith of New Jersey and Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who is being honored with the Distinguished Christian Statesman award from the D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship. In June, at another Religious Right gathering organized by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, Meadows told activists, “we have work to do to take this city and return it to its rightful place to honor God and faith.” Former Rep. Michele Bachmann is also on the schedule.
In addition to Religious Right leaders like the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins and Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, Values Voter Summit speakers will include:
- Anti-LGBT activists David and Jason Benham have parlayed a cancelled television show into a career as supposed martyrs to political correctness. They said last month that hurricanes striking the U.S. were a warning for the U.S. to repent for “breaching the boundaries” of God on gender, sexuality and marriage. The Benhams, who portray themselves as champions of free speech, once urged the city council in their home town of Charlotte, North Carolina, to ignore the First Amendment rights of LGBT activists and deny them permits to hold pride events. This summer they asserted unequivocally, “Discrimination against gay people simply does not exist.”
- Everett Piper is the president of a Christian college who has found success on the Religious Right speaking circuit by attacking the “ideological fascism” of gay-rights supporters and other liberals, who he says area waging a “war against Christians” in academia and the broader culture. Piper gave a rousing culture warrior’s closing keynote to the 2015 summit of the World Congress of Families, which works to restrict LGBT rights and reproductive freedom around the globe. Piper has described WCF’s critics as “a hateful people who hate anyone who dares stand in their way of hating God.” At a 2015 conference organized by anti-gay activist Jim Garlow, Piper described the Obama White House as “seemingly more aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood than Franklin Graham.” Piper was listed earlier this year as a member of the education committee of the secretive far-right Council for National Policy.
- Phil Robertson, the famously bearded patriarch of the “Duck Dynasty” television family, is another of Roy Moore’s far-right boosters. Robertson was the star of “Torchbearer,” Steve Bannon’s 2016 “Christian war film,” which was screened during the Republican convention in Cleveland last year. He says government shouldn’t be involved in providing relief to victims of natural disasters. He suggested that Barack Obama and other liberals were in league with Satan. Robertson has said that “the blacks” in pre-Civil-Rights-movement Louisiana, “pre-welfare” in his words, “were godly, singing and happy, adding that “no one was singing the blues.”
- Lila Rose is an anti-abortion activist who wants the government to criminalize abortion and stop “promoting” contraception. At the 2009 Values Voter Summit she suggested that as long as abortions are legal, they should be performed “in the public square.” She has done “undercover” work to “take out Planned Parenthood.” In September, she asked supporters of her organization, Live Action, to urge senators to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Last year she denounced the indictment of fellow anti-abortion acdtivist David Daleiden as evidence of “tyranny” and lied about a prosecutor who served on a local Planned Parenthood board but recused herself from the investigation.
- David Daleiden is another anti-choice extremist who is embraced by the Values Voter Summit. Daleiden, who is connected to the sometimes violent fringe world of the anti-abortion “rescue movement,” became a far-right folk hero when he released a series of edited “sting” videos with the purpose of destroying Planned Parenthood.
- Brigitte Gabriel, who runs the anti-Muslim group ACT for America, declared last year that the election of Donald Trump was essential to the survival of western civilization. She claimed last month that “over 90 percent of mosques in America are preaching radical Islamic ideology against our democracy and the overturn of our government, all paid for and funded by the Saudis.” Last year she attacked Gold Star father Khizr Khan, saying that a practicing Muslim cannot abide by the U.S. Constitution; for the same reason she has urged activists to resist Muslims running for public office. In spite of, or perhaps because of, this record of promoting religious bigotry, Gabriel was able to get Sen. Ted Cruz and other members of Congress to address her group earlier this month. Trump’s short-lived national security adviser Michael Flynn has served on ACT for America’s board of advisers.
- Travis Weber, director of the Family Research Council’s “Center for Religious Liberty,” took part in a trans-Atlantic summit this year in which anti-LGBT and anti-choice culture warriors asked, “How far can we get?”
- Jerry Boykin, a Family Research Council vice president who’s also part of dominionist groups POTUS Shield and the Oak Initiative, is an anti-Muslim activist who postures as a victim of anti-Christian “persecution” while calling for restrictions on the freedom of American Muslims.
- Carol Swain, recently retired law professor at Vanderbilt University, is a once-respected if controversial academic turned culture-war propagandist. She got a flurry of attention last year for being a black law professor who criticized Black Lives Matter activists in harsh terms. She’s part of the hard-line faction within the Religious Right on immigration. proposes Swain sees “spiritual significance” in recent hurricanes, saying God holds nations accountable for their sins and adding, “I don’t know why any Bible-believing Christian would believe that the United States would get a better deal than ancient Israel.” Swain says Supreme Court rulings upholding separation of church and state, what she calls the “expulsion of God from public schools,” was “a clear repudiation of what Jesus proclaimed to be the greatest commandment.” She says liberal churches are “agents of Marxism.”
- George Barna, an evangelical pollster, has declared that Trump’s election was a “major miracle” sent by God and said that the conservative religious leaders who embrace Trump have brought about a “major change” in “the heart and hopefully the soul of this man who’s now our president.”
- David Horowitz, a far-right activist with ties to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, said in December that the racism problem in the U.S is “black racism” and “certainly not white people.” The Trump-supporting Horowitz said in May that the Democratic party runs on “hate and character assassination.” He’s said the term “people of color” is “an ideological term to demonize white people.”
- FRC senior fellow Peter Sprigg answered “yes” when asked by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews if he thinks “we should outlaw gay behavior.” Discussing LGBTQ immigration issues in 2008, Sprigg said he’d “much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States” because “homosexuality is destructive to society.” Sprigg took part in an event at the United Nations last year at which U.S. Religious Right activists teamed up with the world’s most repressive regimes to celebrate their working together to promote “traditional” ideas about gender, sexuality and family. In 2015, Sprigg urged activists at an anti-LGBTQ gathering to avoid using the words gay and lesbian because activists should be challenging the “gay identity paradigm.” He said of gay men who died of AIDS that “the reason they died is because they chose to have sex with men, not because conservatives told them not to. We do no one a kindness by denying the truth.”
- Right-wing media personality Dana Loesch is the contemptuous face of the National Rifle Association’s “clenched fist of truth” campaign against mainstream media and liberals.
- Right-wing media personality Laura Ingraham’s Lifezette outlet early this year posted a video suggesting that Bill and Hillary Clinton were tied to the deaths of numerous colleagues and political enemies.