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The GOP's Hate Summit: A Who's Who Of The 2014 Values Voter Summit

This weekend, Republican elected officials including Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul, and Gov. Bobby Jindal will take part in what has become an annual ritual for potential GOP presidential contenders: they will seek to curry the favor of the Religious Right by speaking at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit.

In doing so, they put themselves in the company of some of the most radical groups and activists working today to dehumanize LGBT people, roll back reproductive rights, tear down the wall between church and state, and deny free exercise rights to religious minorities.

The Values Voter Summit’s sponsor, the Family Research Council, regularly issues false and demeaning smears about LGBT people and advocates for an America ruled according to the dictates of a small sliver of right-wing Christians. Just this month, the group’s president Tony Perkins suggested that the Constitution’s religious liberty protections do not apply to Muslims.

The other primary sponsors of the event, the American Family Association, Liberty Counsel, and Gary Bauer’s American Values have equally if not more egregious records of extremism. In addition, a number of fringe groups are contributing to the conference by sponsoring exhibition tables, including Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), which pushes discredited conversion therapy on LGBT people; the anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR); and the World Congress of Families, which works with activists throughout the world to push harsh anti-gay laws.

But the Values Voter Summit’s speakers do not have to visit the event’s exhibition hall to encounter extremism. They will find plenty of that in their fellow speakers. Below is an introduction to some of the speakers who will be sharing a stage with prominent GOP elected officials at this week’s summit.

Tony Perkins

Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council, the chief sponsor of the Values Voter Summit. Now a widely recognized spokesman for social conservative causes, Perkins served two terms as a Republican legislator in the Louisiana House of Representatives before launching a failed bid for the U.S. Senate in 2002. Perkins has:

  • Contended that the anti-bullying “It Gets Better” project is “immoral,” “disgusting,” and promotes “perversion.”
  • Defined efforts by the Obama administration to advance LGBT rights abroad as a push for “radical sexualism” and “global homosexuality.”
  • Praised a Uganda bill that would have condemned gays and lesbians to death as an effort to “uphold moral conduct that protects others and in particular the most vulnerable.”
  • Warned that LGBT rights advocates will launch a holocaust against Christians, placing those that oppose same-sex marriage into “boxcars.”
  • Suggested that Christian clergy who support LGBT rights should not have the same religious liberties as anti-gay conservatives because “true religious freedom” only applies to those he believes hold “orthodox religious viewpoints.”
  • Warned that lawmakers who voted to repeal the military ban on openly gay service members would have “the blood of innocent soldiers on their hands.”

Jerry Boykin

Retired Army Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin earned a public rebuke from President George W. Bush when, as a high-ranking official in the Bush Defense Department, he framed the "War on Terror" as a holy war against Islam. He has since built a career as a Religious Right speaker, specializing in anti-Muslim rhetoric and anti-Obama conspiracy theories. In 2012, he was named executive vice president of the Family Research Council.

Boykin rejects religious freedom for American Muslims, claiming that Islam “is not just a religion, it is a totalitarian way of life.” In an interview with the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, he called for “no mosques in America.”

Boykin is a leading member of the dominionist group The Oak Initiative, and once told the group that President Obama used health care reform legislation as a cover to establish a private army of Brownshirts loyal just to him. Boykin has also:

  • Suggested that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell led to the “absolute destruction of our military.”
  • Described CIA head John Brennan as “very sympathetic to the jihadist cause.”
  • Denounced the repeal of laws banning women from military combat service.
  • Blamed the Sandy Hook school massacre on the presence of secularism in society.

Mat Staver

Mat Staver is the dean of the Liberty University School of Law and the founder and chairman of its affiliate, Liberty Counsel, which is a sponsor of the Values Voter Summit. At a previous Values Voter Summit, Staver claimed that progressives are using LGBT rights and secular government in order to “ultimately implode America” and that the “agenda of the homosexual movement” is to destroy freedom and Western civilization. Through his position at Liberty Counsel, Staver has:

Gary Bauer

Gary Bauer is the president of Values Voter Summit sponsor American Values, a former president of the Family Research Council, and one-time Republican presidential hopeful. While serving in the Reagan administration as a Department of Education official, Bauer was named chairman of the president’s Special Working Group on the Family. Bauer has:

  • Reacting to A&E’s suspension of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson for racist and homophobic remarks, declared that progressives are waging a “jihad against America’s cultural norms,”
  • Warned that President Obama is “obsessed” with LGBT issues, and claimed that his “secular” agenda will “destroy” America.
  • Claimed that Supreme Court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage were acts of “judicial terrorism” putting America on “the verge of criminalizing the Book of Genesis.”
  • Wondered why African Americans keep “falling through the cracks  of society despite the fact that “every major goal” of Martin Luther King, Jr. has been reached.

Benham Brothers

Twin brothers Jason and David Benham were catapulted to national attention this year when an HGTV show that they were set to star in was cancelled following revelations about their anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-Muslim activism. Since the show’s cancellation, the brothers have become a cause célèbre for the Religious Right, which has lifted them up as an example of the supposed persecution of conservative Christians in America. One or both of the brothers have:

  • Asserted that the LGBT equality movement is part of a “spiritual fight" between God and the “kingdom run by Satan.”
  • Urged the city of Charlotte, NC to deny permits to an LGBT Pride event, calling it a “vile” and “destructive” activity that “should not be allowed in our city.”
  • Compared the fight against marriage equality to opposing Nazi Germany.
  • Called an Islamic community center a “den of iniquity” and referred to Muslims as “the enemy attacking" America.
  • Organized a prayer rally to coincide with the 2012 Democratic National Convention, declaring that America must repent for “homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation.”
  • Led protests outside of abortion clinics, praising anti-choice demonstrators for taking a stand at “the gates of hell” and confronting the “altars of Moloch.”

E.W. Jackson

The 2013 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor of Virginia, E.W. Jackson is a longtime activist who has likened the Democratic Party to the Antichrist, said Planned Parenthood is worse than the Ku Klux Klan, suggested that President Obama is a Muslim and demonic, and fought against efforts to desegregate public housing. Jackson’s most pernicious rhetoric has focused on LGBT people. He has:

  • Referred to gays and lesbians as “perverted,” “degenerate,” “spiritually darkened” and “frankly very sick people psychologically, mentally and emotionally.”
  • Criticized abortion and in vitro fertilization as “evils” that carry “the mark of Satan.”
  • Argued that gay marriage will release a “torrent of wickedness” that will result in man-animal marriages.
  • Said homosexuality is connected to pedophilia and that homosexuality also “poisons culture, it destroys families, it destroys societies; it brings the judgment of God unlike very few things we can think of.”

Star Parker

Star Parker is a longtime Religious Right activist who is particularly active in anti-gay and anti-choice advocacy. She has called legal abortion a “genocide” on par with slavery and the Holocaust and blamed “sexual promiscuity” for nearly all financial and societal problems. At the 2011 Values Voter Summit, she claimed that God was getting ready to punish America for marriage equality and legal abortion. Parker has also:

  • Declared that LGBT people are forcing Christians “into the closet.”
  • Mused that family life for African Americans was “more healthy” under slavery than it is today
  • Argued that the rate of HIV infections in Washington, D.C., would spike once the city legalized marriage equality, “transforming [the city] officially into Sodom.”
  • Tied same-sex marriage to failing public schools.

Todd Starnes

Todd Starnes, a Fox News commentator and the author of several books including this year’s “God Less America," specializes in generating stories of dubious accuracy purporting to illustrate the persecution of conservative Christians in America. Recently, he has:

  • Speculated that public school officials oppose abstinence-only programs to protect their “condom profits.”
  • Asserted that Obama refuses to take action against ISIS to “accommodate the Islamic faith at the expense of all other faiths.”
  • Blamed Obama for “ orchestrating” the protests in Ferguson, Mo., in an effort to exacerbate racial tensions.
  • Baselessly accused the University of Wisconsin of intentionally inflating grades to boost the academic performance of minority students.
  • Worried that LGBT rights advocates will inevitably demand the deportation of Christians.

Sandy Rios

Sandy Rios, a former president of Concerned Women for America, now hosts a daily radio show on American Family Radio, the network run by the American Family Association. At last year’s summit, she promoted ex-gay therapy and said Matthew Shepard’s murder was a “complete fraud.” Like other AFR hosts, she frequently promotes right-wing conspiracy theories, including claims that President Obama was not born in the United States. Rios has also:

  • Insisted that one of Obama’s first priorities as president was to resettle thousands of Palestinian refugees in the U.S. and provide them with food stamps.
  • Advanced the myth that the health care reform law “says that Muslims will be exempt from the government mandate to purchase health insurance.”
  • Compared the relationships of same-sex couples to those of kidnapper Ariel Castro and his captives.
  • Warned that the “homosexual takeover” of the military would jeopardize the effectiveness of the armed forces.
  • Frequently links the gay community to child abuse.

Brigitte Gabriel

Brigitte Gabriel is the founder and president of ACT! for America, where she works with local activists throughout the country to promote fears that Sharia law is taking hold in the U.S. and must be banned and to challenge textbooks that she believes are insufficiently critical of Islam. She makes frequent media appearances to warn of what she calls the “ secret Islamification” of the West. Among other attacks on Mulsim-Americans, Gabriel has:

This post was updated to include Brigitte Gabriel following an FRC announcement that she would speak at the summit. A previous edition of this post listed incorrectly listed James Dobson, one of the founders of the FRC, as a speaker.

GOP's Base Clamors To Impeach Obama

Nearly two years into President Obama’s second term, a do-nothing Republican Congress is focusing on its next project: the 2014 midterm elections. But that effort might be complicated by increasing pressure from the party’s base to turn Congress’ energy to impeaching President Obama. The impeachment call, which has existed on the right-wing fringe since the start of Obama’s presidency, has picked up steam in recent weeks as it has been endorsed by right-wing media figures, activists and elected officials.

This has put Republican congressional leaders in a tricky spot as they attempt to placate their base without alienating moderate voters. When House Majority Whip Steve Scalise appeared on Fox News Sunday this week, he continually dodged the question. Ted Cruz similarly batted away a question about impeachment, calling it politically unfeasible. Right-wing leaders including Pat Buchanan and Tom DeLay have urged caution in the impeachment campaign, although DeLay said he would personally “love to impeach him.” Likewise, Karl Rove has warned that when it comes to impeachment, “the politics of it are all wrong.”

Even Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas, who last year distributed to every office on Capitol Hill a book on why the president should be impeached and removed from office and hired an attorney to look into impeachment, is now backtracking and warning that impeachment proceedings could benefit Democrats in the midterm elections.

Now, House Speaker John Boehner is claiming that talk of impeachment is a Democratic “scam” to win voters…an odd claim since it’s members of his own party who have been beating the drum about impeachment.

But it might be too late for Republicans to backtrack on a steady buildup of rhetoric questioning the president’s legitimacy, love of country, and authority to govern, which has led to increasing calls for impeachment from right-wing lawmakers, activists and media personalities... although nobody can quite agree on what the impeachment should be for.

  • In a radio interview last week, Rep. Michele Bachmann said that she believed the president has "committed impeachable offenses” but that first “the American people have to agree with and be behind and call for the president’s impeachment.”
  • This month, Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania said that there are “probably” the votes in the House to impeach the president for “absolutely ignoring the Constitution, and ignoring the laws, and ignoring the checks and balances.”
  • Also last year, Rep. Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan said that impeaching the president would be “a dream come true.”

Setting The Record Straight: DC Circuit Court Nominee Nina Pillard Is A Fair and Unbiased Candidate

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Cornelia “Nina” T.L. Pillard to the influential Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Pillard is one of President Obama's three nominees to fill vacancies on the court, which is currently operating with nearly one-third of its seats empty.

Pillard is a fair-minded, nationally recognized law professor and experienced appellate lawyer with an extraordinary record of service. She has won historic Supreme Court victories:  she opened one of the last male-only public colleges to women, and protected the Family and Medical Leave Act. She has served two tours as a high-level government lawyer and is currently a distinguished and beloved professor at Georgetown University Law Center. Her expertise in appellate litigation led to her appointment as a co-director of Georgetown’s Supreme Court Institute, which assists lawyers from around the country in preparing for Supreme Court arguments, without regard to which side they represent. Her record demonstrates her superb character, judgment, and fundamental commitment to upholding the principles of our Constitution and laws.

Right-wing bloggers are already making nasty and untrue attacks on Professor Pillard, but here are the facts:

The National Review Online cited unnamed sources in a blog calling Professor Pillard a “complete ideologue.” In reality, Professor Pillard is a fair-minded, highly accomplished litigator with broad experience and an outstanding reputation for public service. She has litigated major constitutional cases brought or defended by Republican Administrations, and Supreme Court justices appointed by Republican presidents have often written the majority opinions agreeing with Professor Pillard’s legal arguments. And prominent officials in Republican-appointed officials are supporting her nomination.

FACT:  Because of Pillard’s unbiased approach to the law, which has earned her the respect of her colleagues, she was asked to chair an American Bar Association Reading Committee that evaluated Judge Samuel Alito’s qualifications to serve on the Supreme Court. Her committee’s evaluation led to the ABA rating Alito “well qualified."

  • The Reading Committee reviewed all of the legal writings of then-Judge Samuel Alito for purposes of evaluating his nomination to the Supreme Court. Armed with the review by Professor Pillard’s committee, the Standing Committee unanimously gave Judge Alito its highest rating of “Well Qualified.”   

FACT:  Pillard serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the American Arbitration Association, the world’s largest alternative dispute resolution provider. 

  • At the American Arbitration Association, Pillard has worked with corporate general counsels and business leaders to advance the Association’s private arbitration services and mission.  Arbitration is a process favored by many businesses for resolving disputes without the cost and delay of litigation.

FACT:  Pillard has a long track record of fair and unbiased work, including litigating major constitutional cases brought or defended by Republican Administrations. And Supreme Court justices appointed by Republican presidents have often written the majority opinions agreeing with her legal arguments.   

  • Over the past 15 years, Professor Pillard has distinguished herself as a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, where she both teaches and serves as a Co-Director of the Supreme Court Institute, preparing lawyers for argument on a pro bono, first-come basis to all lawyers who seek assistance. Over the past term, the Supreme Court Institute prepared lawyers on one or both sides of every case heard by the Supreme Court. 
  • Professor Pillard argued the Supreme Court case Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs alongside DOJ officials in the George W. Bush administration. Together, their defense of the Family and Medical Leave Act successfully vindicated a state employee’s right to take unpaid leave to care for his ill wife. Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote the majority opinion, siding with Professor Pillard’s argument.
  • In United States v. Virginia, a case filed by the George H.W. Bush administration, Professor Pillard wrote the briefs that persuaded the Supreme Court to open the Virginia Military Institute to women, ending one of the last state college male-only admissions policies in the country.
  • In Ornelas v. United States, Professor Pillard argued that reasonable suspicion and probable cause – the defining standards for police searches and seizures – require independent review in appellate courts to clarify and control the legal rules, unify precedent, and afford law enforcement clear guidance as to when searches are appropriate.  In an opinion written by Chief Justice Rehnquist, the Supreme Court agreed with Professor Pillard’s legal arguments. 
  • In Behrens v. Pelletier, Professor Pillard won a critical victory ensuring that local, state, and federal government officials can defend themselves adequately when sued. In an opinion by Justice Scalia, the Supreme Court agreed with the position articulated by Professor Pillard.   

FACT: President George W. Bush’s Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh signed a letter of support for Professor Pillard citing her unbiased approach to the law.

  • Professor Pillard “is exceptionally bright, a patient and unbiased listener, and a lawyer of great judgment and unquestioned integrity. We certainly do not agree on the merits of every issue, but Nina has always been fair, reasonable, and sensible in her judgments. She approaches faculty hiring, teaching and curriculum, and matters of faculty governance on their merits, without any ideological agenda--at times even against the tide of academic popularity to defend and respect different views and different types of people.

The Family Research Council has attacked Professor Pillard, claiming she has radical liberal ideas on abortion, motherhood and abstinence only education.

The FRC wrongly attributed a quote to Professor Pillard which was actually a quote belonging to former Chief Justice Rehnquist.

  •  FRC’s Email stated: “A mother of two, Nina wrote a 2011 paper, "Against the New Maternalism," which argues that by celebrating motherhood, society is creating a "self-fulfilling cycle of discrimination."
  •  In Professor Pillard’s Article, she is quoting the majority opinion in the Hibbs case, written by then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist: “Providing men with family leave, the Hibbs court reasoned, would help to change underlying gendered patterns of family care and thereby help to counteract “a self-fulfilling cycle of discrimination” – a cycle that “fostered employers’ stereotypical views about women’s [lack of] commitment to work and their [lesser] value as employees,” as well as “parallel stereotypes” of men’s overriding workplace commitment that routinely obstruct men’s equal access to family benefits that could encourage them to spend more time parenting. The radical implication of Hibbs is that we cannot end sex discrimination outside the home without changing our beliefs about women’s and men’s differential attachments to family care within it, and we cannot change those beliefs without actually shifting the allocation of care work within the family.” (Pillard, Against the New Maternalism, p. 231)
  • Additional reference to the original Rehnquist Quote: “But in a broadly worded opinion, Rehnquist said Tuesday that Congress and the courts could use stronger standards to fight sex discrimination. He detailed the long history of discriminatory leave policies and the rationale for the family leave law, which guarantees employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for family members… Before the law, he wrote, leave policies were grounded in "stereotypes about women's domestic roles" and "parallel stereotypes presuming a lack of domestic responsibilities for men." Those "mutually reinforcing stereotypes," Rehnquist noted, created a "self- fulfilling cycle of discrimination" that forced women to maintain the role of primary family caregiver.” (Court bolsters family leave, Chicago Tribune, 05/03)

The Family Research Council wrongly accuses Professor Pillard of broadly claiming that abstinence only education is unconstitutional, saying, “Pillard is so fiercely opposed to abstinence education that she has said publicly she would declare it unconstitutional.”

  • Nina Pillard: “I do not here take a position on the abstinence message itself, beyond arguing that it must not be embedded with sexual stereotypes or discriminatorily applied to women and not men.” (Pillard, Our Other Reproductive Choices, p. 962)
  • Professor Pillard does not oppose abstinence-only education. Rather, she has written that sex education, whether it advocates abstinence or not, should treat boys and girls equally and avoid sex-role stereotypes, in the interest of promoting equal responsibility on the part of both boys and girls.

The FRC claimed that Professor Pillard has ‘extreme pro-abortion’ views when in fact Professor Pillard’s academic writing on abortion seeks ways to bridge the gap between abortion rights advocates and opponents by finding common ground for ways to reduce reliance on abortion.

  • “All of these visions of sex equality and reproductive rights are ones that can be shared by people whether they view themselves as pro-life or pro-choice. If society were willing to recognize the demands of equality in these three areas, there might well be less need for abortion. Filling out the reproductive rights agenda with measures that make abortion less necessary is one way to seek progress, notwithstanding legal and cultural conflict about abortion itself.”  (Pillard, Our Other Reproductive Choices, p. 990)
  • Professor Pillard’s academic writings show her openness to viewpoints raised by abortion rights opponents: Professor Pillard consulted respected anti-abortion advocate Helen Alvaré in writing her article ‘Other Reproductive Choices’ to ensure her work considered all sides of the public debate on women’s reproductive health. In fact, Professor Alvaré is listed in the article’s acknowledgements.
  • “Feminists for Life (FFL), a nonprofit organization declaring itself in favor of equality for women and against abortion, makes some claims that resonate with those of some pro-choice feminists, and which should be common ground in the reproductive rights battles.” (Pillard, Our Other Reproductive Choices, p. 981)
     
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