The Family Research Council hosted “Arise & Stand,” a “special update” Monday night touting the accomplishments of the Trump administration on issues important to conservative evangelicals. The online event featured HUD Secretary Ben Carson, Reps. Mike Johnson (R-LA) and Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), former Rep. Michele Bachmann, FRC’s Jerry Boykin and Kenneth Blackwell, and some clergy members.
“Arise & Stand” also served as a fundraiser for FRC and an opportunity for FRC President Tony Perkins to repeatedly exhort FRC supporters and “the church” to “stand” for faith, family, and freedom. Perkins repeatedly asserted that the United States is beset by people seeking to exploit its divisions for the purpose of “destroying the republic.”
Perkins encouraged listeners to text FRC with a request for a list of Trump administration accomplishments. “This is something that you can share with your friends, because there are those that are not gonna see this because the media is not gonna report it,” Perkins said. “And there are those that are gonna get hung up in the personalities and the tweets and those other things.”
“Keep your eye on the policy,” Perkins said. “That’s what shapes the culture of our country.”
The eight-page document FRC sent to those who requested it is entitled “The Trump Administration Accomplishments on Life, Family and Religious Freedom.” It starts with Trump reinstating and expanding the anti-abortion “Mexico City Policy”—also known as the “global gag rule.” It praises Trump for his judicial nominees, the Department of Justice weighing in on behalf of business owners seeking the right to discriminate against same-sex couples, rollbacks in legal protections for transgender people and servicemembers, the appointment of religious-right activists like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Cabinet positions, Health and Human Services directives on “conscience and religious freedom,” Trump addressing the March for Life in person, the inclusion of direct funding for clergy and other church salaries in coronavirus relief legislation, and more.
Perkins began the program with video clips of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri—the latter from his recent speech complaining that the Republican establishment has expected religious conservatives to keep quiet and go along. “It’s time for religious conservatives to take the lead,” Hawley said in his speech, which became a theme of the FRC fundraiser.
Perkins referred to two recent Supreme Court cases that did not go the way the religious right had hoped—one that held that LGBTQ people are protected from job discrimination by federal civil rights law and one that upheld a lower court ruling throwing out a Louisiana law designed to shut down abortion clinics. He suggested that the courts themselves are “creating a sense of lawlessness.”
Rep. Johnson agreed, saying the court was acting in an extra-constitutional matter, which he said is “exactly what the Founding Fathers warned against.”
“No one knows how long this is going to last,” Johnson said, suggesting that the continued existence of the U.S. is uncertain. “This thing could go either way.”
Perkins introduced HUD Secretary Carson as one of the Trump administration’s “most calming voices” in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Perkins noted recent reports about spikes in COVID-19 cases, but he said he takes those media reports “with a grain of salt.”
Carson said spikes were expected upon reopening, though he said there have been more new cases than anticipated because people have “relaxed.” But he said there was no reason to panic. Citing a lower number of daily deaths than earlier in the pandemic, Carson said that we’re “making progress.” He told people the best thing to do is to assume that they are an asymptomatic carrier and act accordingly.
Perkins floated Trump’s line about the rising number of cases being connected to a rise in testing. Carson agreed, saying that point is not made very often because the media has “another motive.”
Perkins then asked Carson about rioting and protests, which he said have obscured many of the administration’s accomplishments. Carson cited administration support for opportunity zones, criminal justice reform, funding for historically black colleges and universities and school choice.
Hartzler, who chairs the socially conservative Values Action Team in the House, cited her own list of Trump administration accomplishments, including defunding Planned Parenthood, allowing faith-based adoption agencies to “act according to their tenets of their faith” (in other words, discriminate against LGBTQ couples), the creation of a “religious freedom” division within the Department of Health and Human Services, a Department of Labor rule clarifying that Christian employers can hire people “aligned with their faith,” policies toward Israel, and 200 Trump-nominated judges.
She urged people to throw off fear and discouragement and be encouraged by victories. “We need to keep our eyes on Jesus, get out, and continue to fight,” she said.
Before turning to FRC board chair Bachmann for the closing money pitch, Perkins engaged Boykin, a retired general, and Blackwell, former Ohio Secretary of State, in conversation about the threats facing the country and the need for conservative Christians to take a stand.
“We as Christians are called to stand up and take a stand against evil,” said Boykin, who declared that apathy among Christians is “probably the single biggest threat in America today.” He claimed that “The future of this constitutional republic is at stake.” Anarchy in the streets, he said, is depriving people of their rights. He encouraged people to think about what they can do as individuals and collectively and to “take some risk” and “start doing what is lawful but also but also what is absolutely imperative right now if we’re going to save the republic.”
Blackwell said the nation has to move forward toward becoming a more perfect union without getting “bogged down in yesterday’s issues.” Blackwell said one would have to have the imagination of Walt Disney not to have seen the progress the U.S. has made, saying, “We’ve watched the walls of systemic racism come tumbling down.” Division and chaos are being perpetrated in the name of fighting racism, Blackwell said, adding, “They are fighting a bogeyman.”
Perkins steered Boykin and Blackwell back to the theme of the event—celebrating the accomplishments that have taken place “because evangelicals, Christians, conservatives stood up three and a half years ago.” Blackwell cited judicial appointments and economic growth, calling Trump “a full-service president.” Boykin cited Trump’s efforts on behalf of religious liberty, calling him “probably the most evangelical-friendly president that we’ve ever had.”
Bachmann closed with a pitch for financial support for FRC and a prayer that God would support those who “have been deeply wounded and deeply hurt by the events of 2020” and “are on the front lines.”