Next weekend, GOP presidential contenders and top lawmakers will mingle with some of the most extreme Religious Right activists in the country at the Values Voter Summit, an annual event in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, American Values, and others.
Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, Lindsey Graham and Ben Carson have all confirmed that they will be speaking at the event. Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and John Kasich have been invited but have not yet confirmed their attendance, according to the event’s website. Jeb Bush, who was snubbed by FRC at last year’s event, declined to attend but will send a video address. Donald Trump is the only presidential candidate to have publicly turned down the invitation, provoking the ire of FRC’s president, Tony Perkins.
Candidates who attend the Values Voter Summit choose to align themselves with some of the most radical activists and organizations working to dehumanize LGBT people, erode reproductive rights, demolish the separation between church and state, and eliminate First Amendment rights for religious minorities.
The Family Research Council routinely smears LGBT people with false and degrading pronouncements and campaigns for a United States ruled by the dicta of a small faction of fundamentalists Christians. Another principal sponsor of the summit, the American Family Association, has an equally extreme record.
In addition to the abhorrent record of the sponsors of this event, the presidential candidates will also be joined by a host of radical Religious Right speakers.
Below is an introduction to some of the people who will be sharing the stage with the Republican presidential hopefuls.
As the president of the Family Research Council, the summit’s main sponsor, Tony Perkins heads the organization’s efforts to erode gay rights, reproductive rights, and the separation of church and state.
FRC continually expresses hostility to the rights of Americans who don’t share his conservative brand of Christianity. Last year, Perkins suggested that the First Amendment’s religious liberty protections do not apply to Muslims, not surprising for the leader of an organization that once issued a statement that read, “[W]hile it is true that the United States of America was founded on the sacred principle of religious freedom for all, that liberty was never intended to exalt other religions to the level that Christianity holds in our country's heritage…. Our Founders … would have found utterly incredible the idea that all religions, including paganism, be treated with equal deference." He similarly suggested that Christians who support LGBT rights should not have the same religious freedoms as anti-gay conservatives because “true religious freedom” only applies to those whom he believes hold “orthodox religious viewpoints.”
Perkins has also overseen one of the most anti-gay platforms of any major political organization. FRC officials have expressed support for the criminalization of homosexuality not only in the United States, but also in Malawi and Uganda. Senior fellow Peter Sprigg once said he would “much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States because we believe homosexuality is destructive to society.”
Perkins himself frequently reflects the extreme views of his organization. He has:
- Called Islam “evil”
- Said Obama is paving the way for the Antichrist
- Linked homosexuality to pedophilia, compared it to alcoholism and said that advances in gay rights encourage ISIS
- Warned that LGBT rights advocates will launch a holocaust against Christians, placing those that oppose same-sex marriage into “boxcars”
- Called gay rights activists “intolerant,” “hateful,” “vile,” “spiteful” and “pawns” of Satan and said that homosexuality is “man shaking his fist in the face of God”
- Insisted the government is using the “promotion of same-sex relations ” as a means of “population control”
- Wrote that the anti-bullying “It Gets Better Project” is “immoral,” “disgusting,” and promotes “perversion”
- Denied that there was a correlation between anti-gay bullying and depression and suicide, saying instead that gay and lesbian teens know they are “abnormal” and therefore “have a higher propensity to depression or suicide because of that internal conflict"
- Warned, “I don’t know if the country can survive” a second Obama term and that the president’s reelection would “destroy this country”
- Defined efforts by the Obama administration to advance LGBT rights abroad as a push for “radical sexualism”
- 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”
- Predicted that marriage equality would “create a revolution” that would “break this country apart” and lead to “the dissolution of the republic”
Family Research Council vice president and retired Army Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin sparked a controversy when, as a high-ranking official in the Bush Defense Department, he framed the fight against terrorism as a holy war between Christianity and Islam. He has since built a career as a Religious Right speaker, specializing in anti-Muslim rhetoric and anti-Obama conspiracy theories. He:
- Says that “Islam is evil” and that “Islam is not a religion and does not deserve First Amendment protections,” and wants to ban mosques
- Thinks Christians should act more like ISIS
- Warned that Obama was using the health care reform law as a cover for establishing a private army of Brownshirts loyal just to him
- Claimed the bailout of AIG led to the establishment of Sharia law and that George Soros and the Council on Foreign relations conspired to collapse the U.S. economy in order to help Obama get elected
- Said that American Jews were misled into supporting Democrats by wrongly thinking Adolf Hitler was a right-wing extremist; thinks that Jews must be converted to Christianity
- Accused the Obama administration of showing “support for the infiltration of the Muslim Brotherhood into our government”
- Suggested that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell led to the “absolute destruction” of our military
Mat Staver is the founder and head of Liberty Counsel, which is the organization currently representing Kentucky clerk Kim Davis in her campaign to deny marriage licenses to gay couples in her county. At a previous Values Voter Summit, Staver claimed that progressives are using LGBT rights and secular government as part of an effort to “ultimately implode America” and that the “agenda of the homosexual movement” is to destroy freedom and western civilization. Staver has:
- Compared Kim Davis to a Jew living in Nazi Germany, and said requiring her to grant marriage licenses to gay couples is like forcing her “to grant a license to sodomize children”
- Argued that President Obama “does not respect America” and wants to intentionally cripple America so he can have global power and create his own personal army of Brownshirts
- Called the legalization of same-sex marriage “the beginning of the end of Western Civilization,” warning that it will lead to “forced homosexuality” and the “ghettoization of Christianity”
- Said that the Boy Scouts will become “a playground for pedophiles” now that the organization allows gay troop leaders
- Claimed that Obamacare has forced Americans to “participate in a genocide” worse than what occurred in Nazi Germany
- Promoted “ex-gay” reparative therapy and warned that gays and lesbians are “intent on trampling upon the fundamental freedoms” and compared them to Hamas
- Alleged that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act will lead to child molestation, sexual assault, and even death and “harm women and children” if passed
- Defended Malawi’s law criminalizing homosexuality and said U.S. opposition to criminalization was “immoral”
- Urged schools to prohibit students from holding a “Day of Silence” to protest anti-gay bullying and said teaching LGBT history in schools amounts to “sexual assault”
- Warned that the Supreme Court’s decision in the DOMA case would cause the United States to cross “into the realm of revolution”
- Said that the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision was a “grave sin” that would lead America “into the very pit of Hell,” warning that the justices who voted in the majority would face “judgment” if they don’t “repent.”
Messianic rabbi Jonathan Cahn is best known for his novel “The Harbinger,” which asserts that the 9/11 attacks were a result of America losing God’s protection due to its sins. Cahn also:
- Said Obama’s election and the affirmation of marriage equality will “accelerate” God’s judgement
- Claimed that America’s defeat in the Vietnam War, economic recessions, and the September 11 attacks were all the result of divine judgment linked to the legalization of abortion in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and the funding of Planned Parenthood
- Warned of purported dangers of books like the Harry Potter series, as well as gay rights laws, which he says will outlaw the Bible and ultimately “produce a Hitler or a Stalin, and the antichrist”
- Predicted that God’s judgment would befall America this month, due to a number of factors including the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality and the jailing of Kim Davis
- Prophesied that there would be some sort of cataclysmic event on September 13 of this year
Fox News commentator Todd Starnes has become notorious for filing false reports based on right-wing conspiracy theories, especially about the supposed persecution of Christians in America, which of course makes him a favorite “journalist” among conservative activists. Starnes has also:
- Speculated that public school officials oppose abstinence-only programs in order to protect their “condom profits” from the “free condoms” they distribute
- Asserted that Obama refuses to take action against ISIS because he wants to “accommodate the Islamic faith at the expense of all other faiths”
- Said that the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality amounted to the persecution of Christians and will lead America to become like Nazi Germany
- 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
- Suggested that President Obama is secretly having a gay affair
- Warned that the Obama administration and gay rights laws are ushering in tyranny, cultural cleansing, fascism and second-class citizenship for straight people
- Said that defeats for anti-gay activists are a sign of “the end of days”
- Compared officials who back the removal of Confederate symbols from government property to ISIS terrorists
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:
- Said Obama hates America and called a speech he gave “verbal rape”
- 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
David and Jason Benham
Twin brothers Jason and David Benham were catapulted to national attention 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 martyrs in the eyes of 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”
- Compared themselves to ISIS victims
- Urged the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, 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”
Kim Davis, the clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, became a Religious-Right folk hero this summer when she refused to allow her office to issue marriage licenses after the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality. Davis, saying that she was acting under “God’s authority” and wanted to use her county office to spread “God’s word,” spent five nights in jail after a federal judge found her in contempt of court for violating multiple court orders to begin issuing licenses. The viciously anti-gay group Liberty Counsel and its founder Mat Staver has been active supporters of Davis and have been representing her in court.
At the summit, Davis will receive FRC’s “Cost of Discipleship” award, which previously went to Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman who was actually persecuted for her Christian faith. Tony Perkins, the president of FRC, has previously compared Davis’ experience to that of Ibrahim, who was imprisoned for converting to Christianity and was later granted asylum in the U.S.
Casey Davis (no relation to Kim Davis) is another Kentucky clerk who has refused to grant marriage licenses to gay couples. Davis called the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality a “war on Christianity,” and vowed to go to jail — and even die — in order to protect his “freedom” to deny gay couples marriage licenses.
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:
- Implied that President Obama is secretly a Muslim and grew up “praying just like Osama bin Laden prayed”
- Argued that Muslims should be banned from serving 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”
- Warned that Muslim Students’ Associations are waging “a stealth jihad against America through the indoctrination of our youth on college campuses”
- Claimed that “[w]hat we are seeing in public schools today is basically the talking points of our enemies being fed to our sixth and seventh graders in the name of diversity and multiculturalism, teaching them about religion.”
Pat Fagan is the director of summit sponsor the Family Research Council’s Marriage and Religious Research Institute. He has compared a UN report criticizing the Vatican over its handling of sexual abuse cases to Kristallnacht, the spate of violence in which Nazis attacked Jews and destroyed their property while German police turned a blind eye, and has advocated for coming up with new names for gay marriage, such as “garriage,” “larriage” or “harriage,” so that when he says “marriage” it will be clear he means heterosexual marriage. He has said that Eisenstadt v. Baird, the Supreme Court ruling that allowed the distribution of contraception to unmarried people, may be “the single most destructive decision in the history of the Court,” explaining that “functioning” societies “punish” and “shame” people who have sex outside of marriage.
Erick Erickson is a Fox contributor and the editor of conservative blog RedState. Constantly pushing for the conservative movement to move further to the right, Erickson has:
- Claimed that “biology” and the “natural world” show that women are not cut out to be breadwinners
- Said that feminists are “feminazis” are “too ugly to date”
- Said that he wouldn’t enroll his son in the Boy Scouts after the organization lifted its ban on gay scouts, writing that he was worried about his son “living in a society that doesn’t recognize [homosexuality] as a sin”
- Called retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter a “goat-fucking child molester”
- Mocked evolution as dumb and said those who believe in it are just jealous of creationists
Former sportscaster Craig James joined the Family Research Council in 2014. In addition to claiming that Obama may secretly be a Muslim, James has:
- Asserted that the LGBT community's intolerance “is going to kill America”
- Failed to repudiate a radio show caller who suggested that gays be put to death
- Proposed a constitutional amendment to ban the government from recognizing a trans person’s gender
- Said that Satan is pushing gay rights in pro sports
Aaron & Melissa Klein
Aaron and Melissa Klein are the owners of an Oregon bakery who were sued for violating the state’s nondiscrimination laws when they refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. They have since become Religious Right martyrs and were featured by Sen. Ted Cruz in a campaign video. Aaron Klein has said that denying a cake to a gay couple was part of his fight against “Satan.”
As research director of the American Family Association, Ed Vitagliano is a vocal anti-gay activist. Not only does he believe “pray away the gay” works, but he also claims that gay rights will lead to the destruction of America.
- Said that Obama looks like “a skinny, ghetto crackhead”
- Called the rapper Common’s invitation to the White House an example of the “Obamas surrounding themselves with… anti-American, American-hating people”
- Claimed that children are “targets” of “gay propaganda”
- Called Conan O’Brien and Lady Gaga “losers” for marrying gay couples