Values Voter Summit

David Barton Narrows Down The Five Commandments For Conservative Christian Voters

Even before the long security lines, the singing of the National Anthem, and Tony Perkins’ use of a goofy toy gavel to call the 2016 Values Voter Summit to order, early risers filled the Empire Room at Washington, D.C.’s Omni Shoreham hotel for a breakfast sponsored by United in Purpose, a Silicon Valley-based organization that uses “big data” techniques to help Christian organizations better understand and motivate their supporters and to help boost conservative Christian voter turnout.

The opening prayer at the breakfast was given by Jim Garlow, a United in Purpose board member and anti-gay pastor who made his name in right-wing politics by mobilizing church support for California’s anti-marriage-equality Prop 8. Attendees were given copies of Garlow’s new book, “Well Versed: Biblical Answers to Today’s Tough Issues,” published by Regnery Faith.

A quick glance suggests that the themes of Garlow’s book will be familiar to anyone who has attended a Religious Right gathering or absorbed the “scholarship” of the Right’s favorite self-proclaimed historian, David Barton: The Bible is a guidebook for government policy on everything from marriage to education and tax policy, and America has lost its way because pastors haven’t been preaching these truths aggressively enough. Garlow writes that his book was written to overcome pastors’ resistance to political preaching, which he blames on legal restrictions on church politicking that Donald Trump has vowed to overturn.

The breakfast’s two keynoters, conservative Christian pollster George Barna and Barton, the truth-challenged “historian,” are also, like Garlow, board members of United in Purpose. Barna runs the group’s American Culture and Faith Institute, which is carrying out in-depth longitudinal studies on changing attitudes among church-going Christians.

Barna argued that America was strong when family, church and government were all doing their jobs well and staying in their own “lanes.” But, he said, today is different. He ran through a set of statistics that depressed the people sitting at my table, demonstrating Americans’ lack of basic civic knowledge, lack of trust in the government and the church, and lack of hope in the future. One big problem, he said, is that only nine percent of born-again Christian adults have what he calls a “biblical worldview”—which seems to mean embracing the Barton-Garlow vision that Christians have a duty to vote according to their particular interpretation of the Bible. “That’s what makes it so difficult,” he said, “to be America.” Barna said America is “ripe for another revolution.”

Barton was his fast-talking self, quoting founding fathers, showing slides of colonial-era sermons, and generally contrasting the thundering sermons of revolution-supporting pastors and what he said are whispers coming from today’s pulpits. Barton asserted again that the Bible has policy directives on divorce, the minimum wage, the capital gains tax and just about any other issue a politician might confront.

Barton said Christians should not think in terms of having a right to vote, but rather a responsibility to vote. And, in what felt like a clear pitch for evangelicals to view voting for Trump as a biblical mandate, Barton explained that according to the Bible, a nation’s righteousness is not based on the righteousness of its leaders but on the policies they produce. And nothing is more important than the kind of judges a president will nominate and senators confirm, he said.

God gave the Israelites 613 laws, he said, and then focused them on His “top ten” priorities. Barton’s conclusion: You might care about immigration or climate change, but those can’t be among your top five voting issues because God says the top five must be abortion, marriage, public acknowledgment of religion, judicial nominations and support for Israel.

Donald Trump And The So-Called 'Values Voters'

Countless articles have been written on Donald Trump's relationship with the Religious Right, often by those who argue that his rise reveals the movement's increasing irrelevance. After all, how could social conservatives ever get behind a thrice-married failed casino mogul who is more comfortable at the Playboy Mansion than at church? He has bragged that he has never asked God for forgiveness, insisted that Jesus Christ had a massive ego (in an interview with Playboy) and, in an episode that carries obvious symbolism, threw cash on the communion plate in an Iowa church.

It's almost as if the Religious Right cares more about gaining political power than defending Christian teachings.

Trump is slated to make an appearance today at the Values Voter Summit, the annual Washington, D.C., convention organized by the Family Research Council that's the marquis event on the Religious Right's calendar. Trump's appearance at the summit isn't discordant; as his campaign has progressed, it has become clear why the movement has rallied behind him and why he has relied on its support.

Trump once told a crowd at a Christian university not to forgive their enemies but to "get even." The leaders of today's Religious Right have been preaching that message for years, treating politics as a no-holds-barred battle against opponents who they regard not just as people with different points of view, but as spiritual enemies.

For instance, Tony Perkins, the president of Family Research Council (FRC), has described supporters of LGBT rights as pawns of Satan.

Just as Trump championed the birther movement, arguing that President Obama is neither an American nor a Christian, Perkins has suggested that Obama is not a true Christian (and is most likely a Muslim) and raised questions about his birthplace. Obama supporters, according to Perkins, must repent for voting for him. One past Values Voter Summit speaker even told the crowd that Obama would shut down all of the country's churches before leaving office.

Trump's demagogic, hateful rhetoric has nothing on the Religious Right, whose leaders have been belittling and denigrating LGBT people, religious minorities and Christians who don't agree with their right-wing political ideology for years.

It wasn't surprising that most Religious Right leaders who talk a big game on religious liberty either stayed silent or were openly supportive when Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the country. A spokesman for the American Family Association, a cosponsor of the Values Voter Summit, had called for a Muslim ban long before Trump ever did.

While many evangelicals, along with Roman Catholics and mainline Protestants, have worked tirelessly to reform the country's immigration system, conservative Religious Right groups like the FRC and the AFA have denounced immigration reform.

Trump and Religious Right groups have also joined together in portraying American Christians as a marginalized group under constant persecution thanks to the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits houses of worship and other nonprofits from explicitly endorsing candidates if they want to maintain their tax-exempt status, and injustices like the "War on Christmas," with Trump even claiming that he was personally a victim of anti-Christian persecution because he was subject to a routine IRS audit.

And above all, the movement's leaders are thrilled that Trump has promised to give them the Supreme Court of their dreams, even letting conservative activists hand-pick his nominees.

The Religious Right, with its constant talk of the country's imminent undoing by evil anti-American actors, promotion of conspiracy theories and patently hateful rhetoric, paved the way for Trump's success in the GOP primaries. Now, Trump needs the movement to help put him over the top in November, and will be more than happy to further its agenda if he makes it into the White House.

At the Values Voter Summit, Trump will surely pander to the Religious Right. But he should also thank them.

(This post also appears on the Huffington Post)

Jerry Boykin Hopes Values Voter Summit Will Help Win Conservative Christians To Trump

Jerry Boykin, the executive vice president of the Family Research Council, which is hosting this weekend’s Values Voter Summit, said today that he hopes the event will end with conservative Christians becoming comfortable with voting for Donald Trump.

Boykin, who recently endorsed Trump, told Breitbart News this morning that “we’re going to see a lot more people become comfortable with the Trump-Pence ticket” over the weekend and that greater support for Trump is “what I’m hoping we’ll come away with.” He specifically praised Trump’s hire of Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon, who has made the outlet a platform for the racist alt-right movement, saying that Bannon “has been a great influence on Trump.”

What I think we’re going to see this weekend, we’re going to see a lot more people become comfortable with the Trump-Pence ticket. If you notice what Donald Trump has been doing recently, he has stayed on message, he has really, I think, followed a lot of good advice from the people around him, you know, one of which is your president, Steve Bannon, and I think Steve has been a great influence on Trump.

So I think we’re going to have a lot of people here that are coming in still questioning whether they’re going to support Trump and I think it’s going to be an opportunity for them to be convinced that the guy will make a much better president than Hillary and there just are no perfect candidates. So that’s what I’m hoping we’ll come away with.

Boykin also previewed a panel discussion he will be hosting on “jihad in America,” which he said will inform the audience that the U.S. government should be working with Muslims who don’t “want to be involved in jihad” but that the only people we reach out to as a nation are the very entities of the Muslim Brotherhood that want to destroy America, and we basically ignore the rest of the Muslim population.

Anti-Choice Activists With Extremist Ties Given Top Billing At Values Voter Summit

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is scheduled to address the Values Voter Summit, an annual Washington, D.C., event hosted by the Family Research Council, tomorrow. In doing so, he’ll be sharing the stage not only with extreme anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim activists, but also with activists who are rooted in the radical fringes of the anti-abortion movement.

Trump will address the summit soon after David and Jason Benham take the stage. The Benhams are twin brothers who became Religious Right megastars in 2014 after HGTV cancelled a show they were set to star in following Right Wing Watch’s revelations about their extreme anti-gay, anti-choice activism.

The Benhams’ status as martyrs within the Religious Right has too often obscured the true radicalism of their activism.

The brothers’ activism is rooted in the work of their father, Flip Benham, a North Carolina preacher who took over the anti-abortion protest group Operation Rescue after the infamous Summer of Mercy, in which anti-abortion activists spent weeks laying siege to Wichita, Kansas, in 1991. Benham later changed the name of his group to Operation Save America and expanded its work to include anti-gay and anti-Muslim activism. (The group is now led by Rusty Thomas, although Benham remains involved.)

David and Jason Benham worked closely with their father and Operation Save America but also became activists in their own right. Leading one protest outside a Charlotte abortion clinic in 2013, David Benham told protesters they were standing against the “gates of hell” and the “altars of Moloch.” He has also called abortion “child sacrifice.” David and his wife lead and fund a Charlotte-based group called Cities4Life that leads sidewalk protests outside of abortion clinics and distributes “abortion pill reversal kits.” On its website, the group compares legal abortion to the Holocaust and explains why it uses graphic signs in its protests:

Women are rarely told the truth about abortion. Without the truth, Satan is free to rob, kill, and destroy. It is urgent for these women to know the truth about this hidden evil, done in secret. We must lay bare the demonic lie that an unborn baby is not a human life. When we shine the light of truth about this “legal” procedure, it wakes up the sleeper and moves them to action.

The Benhams continue to associate with the fringes of the anti-abortion movement that their father represents. This spring, for instance, it was announced that they would appear in a movie directed by Patrick Johnston, an Ohio “personhood” activist. In 2008, the Colorado Independent revealed that Johnston had ties to militia groups and once wrote a troubling essay on the website of the violent anti-abortion network Army of God attacking a pastor for criticizing Paul Hill’s murder of abortion clinic doctor John Britton and his bodyguard.

Also speaking at the Values Voter Summit will be David Daleiden, the young activist who’s undercover “sting” videos of Planned Parenthood took the anti-choice movement by storm last year.

Like the Benhams, Daleiden’s work is rooted in the fringe world of the anti-abortion “rescue” movement. Troy Newman, who runs the group now called Operation Rescue—which has been in a years-long feud with Flip Benham’s Operation Save America over its name—helped Daleiden to get his project off the ground. Newman, who moved his group to Wichita in 2002 in order to go after Dr. George Tiller, who was later assassinated, has written that the U.S. government has “abrogated its responsibility” to execute abortion providers and argued that a man who murdered an abortion provider should have been allowed to argue that the homicide was justifiable. Newman’s second-in-command at Operation Rescue is Cheryl Sullenger, who has spent time in jail for conspiring to bomb an abortion clinic.

The Benhams and Daleiden have both been embraced by the “mainstream” Religious Right despite their roots in the radical fringes of the anti-choice movement. And now all three are speaking alongside the Republican Party’s presidential candidate.

Donald Trump To Convene With Ex-Gays, Self-Styled Knights & The John Birch Society

Donald Trump is set to appear Friday at the Values Voter Summit, a Washington, D.C., conference organized by the Family Research Council that brings together what we’ve called “some of the country’s most extreme opponents of LGBT rights, vocal conspiracy theorists and outspoken critics of the separation of church and state.”

Several of the summit’s organizers and speakers are so radical that they have even backed laws criminalizing homosexuality.

But pandering to extremists is nothing new for Trump. And he himself has found political success by promoting many of the Religious Right’s fears about supposed anti-Christian persecution in America and a pro-Muslim bias within the Obama administration.

Trump will be joining some of the country’s most hateful groups at the Values Voter Summit. Here are just 10 of the convening’s sponsors and exhibitors:

1) Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX)

PFOX is dedicated to promoting ex-gay conversion therapy and “educating society on the facts about sexual orientation in order to eliminate negative perceptions and discrimination against ex-gays and those trying to overcome same-sex attraction.”

The group’s materials have described coming out as “a kind of murder of the family” and railed against “homofascism.” One of the group’s top officials, Greg Quinlan, has claimed that President Obama and Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy and Elena Kagan are all secretly gay and has accused gay people of “sexual cannibalism.” Quinlan even blamed suicides among gay youth on gay “recruitment”: “We’re making martyrs out of kids that we’re recruiting to behave as homosexuals when no one is born that way, and that’s the problem and that’s the issue.”

PFOX also has ties to the FRC, the summit’s chief sponsor: FRC senior fellow Peter Sprigg is a PFOX board member and the FRC has promoted PFOX’s events.

FRC President Tony Perkins, who has defended PFOX’s work giving “options” to children “struggling” with homosexuality, successfully lobbied the Republican National Committee to adopt a resolution opposing laws that seek to curb the use of ex-gay therapy on minors as part of its 2016 party platform.

2) The John Birch Society

Since its founding, the John Birch Society has been a racist clearinghouse of far-right conspiracy theories.

JBS has accused Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, Civil Rights Movement leaders and advocates of water fluoridation of advancing a communist plot…a plot that goes all the way back to the founding of the Illuminati. More recently, the group linked the Sandy Hook massacre to “the assault on white men” that includes everything “from ‘affirmative action’ to massive Third World immigration,” and attacked the GOP for turning into the “Gay Old Party.”

Jeet Heer of The New Republic writes that the Birchers’ conspiratorial nature helped set the stage for Trump’s nomination: “Far from belonging merely to the lunatic fringe, the Birchers were important precursors to what is now the governing ideology of the Republican Party: Trumpism. Bircherism is now, with Trump, flourishing in an entirely new way. Far from being drummed out of conservatism, it has become the dominant strain.”

3) Americans For Truth About Homosexuality

A former Family Research Council official, Peter LaBarbera founded Americans For Truth About Homosexuality in order to apply “single-minded determination to opposing the radical homosexual agenda” or, as he sometimes calls it, “the hydra-headed monster of the Homosexual/Transsexual Lobby.”

LaBarbera, an outspoken defender of laws criminalizing homosexuality and banning pro-gay speech , has warned about the threat of what he calls “Gayria law” and “homofascism,” calling for “civil disobedience on a massive scale” to prevent same-sex couples from marrying.

He has said that the people really being persecuted today are anti-gay activists,comparing himself and others to Jews living in Nazi Germany. He has claimed that anti-LGBT activists like himself can’t help but follow their “natural inhibition against homosexual behavior,” while gay rights advocates use “ political terrorism” to advance “like an insatiable, devouring monster” while promoting “Satan’s plan.”

LaBarbera has lamented that anti-gay violence is no longer “normal,” called pedophilia “a subset of the larger deviance of homosexuality,” said that he’d “love to see” a group organize a class action lawsuit against homosexuality and found it “reassuring” that the gay community is affected by STIs and violence.

In LaBarbera’s ideal America, the government would imprison doctors who perform sex reassignment surgery for transgender people, close the door to refugees who are gay, launch a campaign against “homosexual behavior” just as it did against tobacco products and “re-stigmatize” homosexuality.

4) Family Watch International

With a global focus, Family Watch International has promoted ex-gay therapy and laws criminalizing homosexuality overseas.

One of the most glaring examples of its activism is in Nigeria, where the group’s leadership pushed the country’s lawmakers to adopt a law that “punishes those who enter into a same-sex marriage with up to 14 years in prison” and “prohibits anyone from officiating a gay union, bans same-sex ‘amorous relationships’ and membership in an LGBT advocacy group.” The law has led to dozens of arrests.

The group has been particularly active in promoting ex-gay pseudo-science and opposing United Nations resolutions calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality. For a time, FWI even worked withMartin Ssempa, an extreme anti-gay activist in Uganda, and praised Iran as “one of the strongest nations in standing up for family values at the UN.”

5) Liberty Counsel

Liberty Counsel is a conservative legal advocacy firm with close ties to Liberty University, the school founded by Jerry Falwell. The group recently gained national attention for its work representing Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and Alabama state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who defied federal courts by attempting to obstruct the recognition of marriage equality in his state.

Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver has called for mass disobedience against the Supreme Court’s landmark decision striking down bans on same-sex marriage, warning that the ruling will lead to revolution and civil war. Staver, as we’ve reported, has also “predicted that President Obama will impose ‘ forced homosexuality’ upon the nation, regularly likened gay people to terrorists, labeled the gay rights movement as ‘demonic’ and defended countries that outlaw same-sex relationships. Gay equality, Staver warns, will lead to the end of civilization and cause America to ‘implode’ and ‘unravel.’”

Anita Staver, Staver’s wife and the president of Liberty Counsel, recently said that she would take her gun into restrooms in reaction to Target’s decision to let transgender customers use the restroom that matches their gender identity, although she was unable to connect the store’s policy to any criminal acts.

6) Thomas More Law Center

The conservative legal group the Thomas More Law Center, as we’ve noted, is “best known for its unsuccessful lawsuit against Planned Parenthood and the Shepard-Byrd hate crimes law as well as its botched defense of a Pennsylvania’s school’s Intelligent Design curriculum.”

While the group wrongly predicted that the 2009 Hate Crimes Act would “criminalize the Bible,” that didn’t stop it from similarly insisting that marriage equality would lead to the end of “intellectual liberty.” The Thomas More Law Center has also warned that Arabic lessons in school will train kids to become terrorists and claimed that Islam is not a religion but a “Trojan Horse” seeking “to destroy America.”

7) American Family Association

The American Family Association has truly earned its designation as a hate group.

It’s one-time spokesman Bryan Fischer, who still hosts a radio program on the group’s affiliate American Family Radio, has repeatedly called for homosexuality to be outlawed, while cheering on countries like Uganda that criminalize homosexuality, calling for an “Underground Railroad to deliver innocent children from same-sex households” and declaring that God will use ISIS terrorists to punish Americans for their tolerance of homosexuality. Upon learning that the Boy Scouts of America rescinded its ban on gay members, Fischer said that the group should change its name to the “Boy Sodomizers of America.”

Fischer has alsolikened homosexuality to terrorism and blamed the Holocaust on gay people, and said that non-Christians have no First Amendment rights and that non-Christian immigrants should be forced to convert to Christianity. Fischer has repeatedly defended the massacres and expulsions of Native Americans from their lands as divine justice and once lamented that welfare makes African-American women ‘rut like rabbits.’”

The AFA’s current governmental affairs director, Sandy Rios, has linked homosexuality to terrorism, train crashes and pedophilia.

8) Intercessors for America

Intercessors for America, as we’ve reported, has “prayed to stop anti-bullying laws to protect LGBT and LGBT-perceived youth, warning they ‘can only lead to God’s judgment,’ and that support for marriage equality ‘leads a soul to eternal damnation.’” The group also “believes that federal government is developing technology to implant microchips in all citizens as a form of mind control.”

9) Tradition, Family And Property

The Roman Catholic organization Tradition, Family and Property is a group of men who dress up like knights with trademark red capes and costumes and tour the country protesting events they perceive as anti-Catholic, as well as abortion rights and same-sex marriage. The group is particularly active in its opposition to gay rights, advocating for colleges to disband LGBT clubs and protesting Desmond Tutu due to his “affirmation of the homosexual agenda.” One of the group’s board members suggested that tornadoes were God’s judgment for gay marriage .

10) Family Research Council

The Values Voter Summit’s chief sponsor, the Family Research Council, is far from a mainstream group.

FRC Senior Fellow Peter Sprigg has called for bans on homosexuality and the exportation of gays from the U.S., and its executive vice president, Jerry Boykin, has promoted a wide range of bizarre conspiracy theories .

But the group’s most extreme official is its president, Tony Perkins, who has defended Uganda’s “kill-the-gays” bill, connected homosexuality to pedophilia , asserted that same-sex relationships are a government “population control” scheme, depicted LGBT rights supporters as terrorists and minions of Satan bent on murdering Christians, called for a revolution to stop same-sex marriages and denounced anti-bullying efforts for spreading “perversion.” He has also suggested narrowing the definition of religious freedom to exclude Muslims and liberal Christians, and once falsely claimed that it has been a “federal crime” to be a Christian since 2009.

Trump Cozying Up To Activists Who've Supported Criminalizing Homosexuality

Donald Trump is scheduled to speak this week at the Values Voter Summit, the annual confab hosted by the Religious Right powerhouse the Family Research Council. While Trump has claimed that he will be a better “friend of LGBT Americans” than Hillary Clinton (just “ask the gays”), his appearance at VVS shows the extent to which he has cozied up with some of the country’s fiercest opponents of LGBT equality, going so far as to offer them their pick of Supreme Court justices.

Many of the summit’s organizers and speakers have a long history of anti-LGBT rhetoric and promoting anti-LGBT policies, from denigrating gay and lesbian armed service members to falsely linking homosexuality with pedophilia. In fact, a glaring number of VVS participants have defended laws criminalizing homosexuality in the U.S. and around the globe.

While the Religious Right has changed its messaging in recent years to claim that conservative Christians in the U.S. are facing persecution from LGBT rights activists, it was not long ago that many of the same groups were fighting to preserve laws that made gay people criminals—and some still support enacting these policies at home and abroad.

The Family Research Council, which is the chief organizer of the conference, is a case in point. In 2003, when the Supreme Court was considering the constitutionality of Texas’ ban on “sodomy” in the landmark Lawrence v. Texas case, the FRC filed an amicus brief on behalf of the state. When the court ruled against Texas in the case, the FRC called it “a direct attack on the sanctity of marriage” and the group’s president, Tony Perkins, declared, “What’s at stake here is the very foundation of our society, not only of America but all Western civilization.”

Not only has Perkins defended state laws criminalizing same-sex relations, he once defended a notorious anti-gay bill in Uganda that at the time he discussed it proposed life in prison or even the death penalty for people who have sex with someone of the same sex. Perkins lauded this bill as an effort to “uphold moral conduct that protects others and in particular the most vulnerable,” criticizing President Obama for opposing it. The FRC even spent $25,000 to lobby Congress about a resolution denouncing the Ugandan bill—the group later claimed that it didn’t oppose the resolution, it just wanted to make its language less friendly to gay rights. In 2011, FRC asked its members to pray to give Malawi the “courage to withstand U.S. coercion” and maintain its ban on homosexuality.

Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at the FRC who will have a speaking slot at this weekend’s summit, has perhaps been the most clear about the organization’s views on the subject. Asked by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews in 2010 if he thinks “we should outlaw gay behavior,” Sprigg replied, “Yes.” In a 2008 television interview, Sprigg mused, “I 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.”

The American Family Association, another sponsor of the Values Voter Summit, likewise backed Texas in the Lawrence case, writing in the amicus brief that a law like Texas' could prevent the “injury caused to the public by same-sex sodomy” and would even protect the gay people it targeted by sparing them “illness, disease and death resulting from [their] conduct.” That same year, the AFA published an essay lamenting that the disappearance of sodomy laws showed that “Judeo-Christian views” were being abandoned in favor of “moral relativism.” In 2011, then-AFA spokesman Bryan Fischer said that homosexuality should be a “criminal offense.”

First Liberty, another sponsor of the event, likewise backed Texas in the Lawrence case (under its previous incarnation as the Liberty Legal Institute), with the group’s leader Kelly Shackelford—also a speaker at this year’s VVS—declaring that there is “no constitutional right to engage in homosexual sodomy.”

Other figures at the Values Voter Summit have also supported criminal bans on homosexuality.

Rick Santorum, who will have a speaking slot, has boasted of his opposition to the Supreme Court’s Lawrence decision. Family Watch International, which is sponsoring a booth at the event, frequently works with some of the world’s most repressive governments to keep LGBT-friendly language out of UN documents and has supported harsh anti-gay legislation in Nigeria. Liberty Counsel, which will also be sponsoring a booth in the summit’s exhibit hall, backed Texas in the Lawrence case and defended a homosexuality ban in Malawi. Radical anti-LGBT activist Matt Barber said on a Liberty Counsel radio program he co-hosts that the U.S. should adopt a ban on “homosexual activist propaganda” similar to Russia’s. Fischer, the former AFA spokesman, also advocated enacting a similar law in the U.S.

Many Religious Right leaders have rallied behind Trump because he has promised to give them their ideal Supreme Court justices and lower court judges. Very recent history shows that these groups aren’t just interested in using the courts to reverse marriage equality—which would be harmful enough on its own—but also to severely roll back years of hard-won legal protections for LGBT people. Trump says that he’d be better for the LGBT community than Hillary Clinton—but we doubt that he’ll bring that message to the Values Voter Summit.

Donald Trump's Extremist Allies: Who's Who At The Values Voter Summit 2016

Donald Trump is slated to join conservative activists and a number of GOP elected officials at next weekend’s Values Voter Summit, the annual Washington, D.C., event sponsored by the Family Research Council.

The GOP nominee has been busy recruiting Religious Right leaders, often while waving the Bible in the air and boasting about his plans to appoint conservative jurists to the bench and end the “War on Christmas.”

The activists joining Trump at the Values Voter Summit are some of the country’s most extreme opponents of LGBT rights, vocal conspiracy theorists and outspoken critics of the separation of church and state:

Tony Perkins

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.

Perkins himself frequently reflects the extreme views of his organization. He has:

  • Warned that LGBT rights advocates will launch a holocaust against Christians, placing those who oppose same-sex marriage into “boxcars.”
  • Denied that there is 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 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.”
  • Called Islam “evil.”
  • Said Obama is paving the way for the Antichrist.

Jerry Boykin

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 has:

  • Suggested that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell led to the “absolute destruction” of our military.

Peter Sprigg

Peter Sprigg is a senior fellow for policy at the Family Research Council, where he supports policies including criminalizing homosexuality and exporting homosexuals. Sprigg:

  • Advocated for gay relationships to be outlawed and met with “criminal sanctions,” calling homosexuality “objectively harmful to the people who engage in it and to society at large.”
  • Defended Uganda when it sought to make homosexuality a crime warranting long jail sentences and in some instances the death penalty, saying that Uganda was under attack from those trying to force the “homosexual agenda down the throats of other countries.”
  • Insisted that homosexuality can “go away” once “the underlying psychological problems are addressed.”

James Dobson

James Dobson is the founder of the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family and currently hosts the “Family Talk” radio program. Recently, he signed on to advise Trump as part of the GOP nominee’s Evangelical Executive Advisory Board. Dobson:

  • Alleged that Obamacare would deprive the elderly of life-saving treatments.
  • Insisted that bisexuality means “orgies.”

Todd Starnes

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.”
  • Blamed Obama for “orchestrating” the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, 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.
  • 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.

Phil Robertson

“Duck Commander” Phil Robertson and his family were already reality TV celebrities when they were launched into a new role as right-wing activists after Robertson made racist and homophobic comments in a 2013 magazine interview. Since then, Robertson has appeared at Republican events and in campaign ads, including one for Ted Cruz, and he is now starring in a “Christian war film” called “Torchbearer,” directed by Trump campaign CEO Steven Bannon. Robertson has:

  • Claimed black people during Jim Crow were not mistreated but were “singing and happy.”
  • Described marriage equality as “wicked” and “evil” and said of its supporters: “We have to rid the earth of them.”
  • Suggested that AIDS is God’s “penalty” for “immoral conduct.”
  • Attacked secular government as Satanism.

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 canceled 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:

  • 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.”
  • 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.”

William Federer

William Federer is a conservative author, columnist and media commentator who focuses on the role of Christianity in American history. He has been embraced by many Republican leaders such as Ben Carson, who plagiarized from Federer’s writings without attribution. Federer has:

Michele Bachmann

While she is no longer a member of Congress, having retired in the midst of a campaign finance scandal, Michele Bachmann has continued to be a vocal conservative activist and End Times forecaster. Bachmann, who recently became a member of Donald Trump’s Evangelical Executive Advisory Board, has:

Allen West

Former congressman Allen West has remained active in conservative politics since losing his re-election bid in 2012, joining Fox News as a contributor and becoming executive director of the National Center for Policy Analysis. West has:

  • Demanded that Khizr Khan seek God’s forgiveness for his “stunt” at the Democratic National Convention.
  • Said feminists were making men “subservient” and denounced the “women that have been neutering American men and bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness.”
  • Wondered if Obama was waging “biological warfare” against Americans through enterovirus D68 or the Ebola virus.

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 previous Values Voter Summits, she claimed that God was getting ready to punish America for marriage equality and legal abortion, urged gay people to “keep it private” and lamented that “homosexuality is now dividing us and bringing horrible hostility into the public square.” Parker has also:

  • Said LGBT-inclusive rules in schools amount to the “molestation” of children.
  • Tied same-sex marriage to failing public schools.
  • Mused that family life for African Americans was “more healthy” under slavery than it is today.
  • Referred to the Congressional Black Caucus as “the overseer today” that wants to torture black people and keep them “uneducated” and “on the plantation.”

Elaine Donnelly

A veteran of social conservative campaigns such as the successful effort to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment, Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness is an outspoken critic of attempts to include LGBT people and women in the military. She has:

  • Criticized a Pentagon office focusing on preventing sexual harassment, saying it would become the “Office of Male Bashing.”
  • Insisted that the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell “could put remaining troops in greater danger, and break the All-Volunteer Force.”
  • Called on the military to ban same-sex wedding ceremonies on bases.

Kirk Cameron

Actor Kirk Cameron has emerged as a favorite on the Religious Right speaker circuit, where he publicizes his movies about the War on Christmas and preaches about how he is persecuted for being conservative. Cameron also styles himself as a historian, although he is not very good at it. He has:

  • Made a film about how bananas disprove the theory of evolution.
  • Said of homosexuality: “I think it's unnatural, I think it’s detrimental and ultimately destructive to so many foundations of civilization.”
  • Urged voters to oppose Obama in order to “hold back the flood of moral and spiritual evil that has been pouring into the country.”

Who Really Won At Values Voter Summit (It Was Me)

Last week, I, a progressive, attended Values Voter Summit. I was there to soak up the conservative vibes and better understand the far-right. I expected to leave with nothing more than a disconcerted feeling, having listened to people disparage gay and transgender people and degrade women’s health for two days. Instead, I left with what every college student wants most: a $25 Chipotle gift card.

Here’s what happened. It was Saturday and I was at the first breakout session of the afternoon, “The Silencing of Free Speech for Christians in the Media and in Education.” The session was a panel on Christian persecution, which according to panelists Dave Garrison of Ohio Christian University, Kate Obenshain of Fox News, and Kelly Shackelford of Liberty Institute, is sweeping the nation through things like gay rights and reproductive freedom.

Obenshain opened the session by calling for any students in the audience (whom she probably assumed were all from Liberty University, since the event was heavily attended by LU students) who knew the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. If anyone wanted to come to the front of the room and recite it, she said, they would be rewarded with a $25 gift card to Chipotle. Her challenge was met with silence. The group of LU students sitting at the front of the room apparently either did not know the Preamble to the Constitution that every speaker at the Summit had invoked, or were too nervous to stand in front of the crowd.

Obenshain asked again, and when she was met with silence again she said she would open the floor to any adults in the room.

It was at that moment that I thought, “Hey, I’m a student… I’ve known the Preamble since 7th grade… I like Chipotle…” and raised my hand. I was called to the front of the room and handed a microphone. Pausing after each clause (because I had memorized the Preamble by watching Schoolhouse Rock and needed to sing it in my head), I recited the Preamble. The crowd applauded, Shackelford shook my hand, and I was handed my reward. I hurried back to my seat, met on my way back with high fives from older men in the audience.

Not to sound ungrateful for free food, but I’ve often considered that, if I could do that day again, I might do a few things differently. In a perfect world, I would have identified myself, and let it sink in that the person in the room who knew the Constitution was a progressive college student there for an internship with a progressive organization.

All in all, at least after a weekend of homophobia, transphobia, and thinly veiled racism and misogyny, I got a good story… and four free burritos.

Religious Right's Persecution Complex On Full Display At The Values Voter Summit

We understand how difficult it might be for Religious Right activists to find cases of “anti-Christian persecution” in the U.S., especially for people like Todd Starnes and Bryan Fischer, who have done their best to rile up Christian conservatives in an effort to depict themselves as the truly marginalized and victimized class in America.

Kelly Shackelford of Liberty Institute tried his best at the Values Voter Summit last week — just as he did at last year’s summit — to portray America as a country that is no different than the former Soviet Union in how it treats Christians.

Shackelford whipped out a mix of new and old “persecution” cases. He told the crowd, for instance, that his organization had defended “senior citizens who were told that their federally funded meals were being taken away because they were praying over their meals and that would violate the separation of church and state.” Unsurprisingly, that’s just not true. As Chris Rodda pointed out after Shackelford told this story at an event last year, what actually happened was that back in 2003 three senior citizens in a Texas town complained that a city-owned senior center was hosting pastors and gospel bands during meal hours. The city council tried, in a move that was ultimately rejected in court, to restrict such activity — it did not take away anyone’s meals.

Shackelford then went on to allege that a Florida college professor directed his students to step on a sheet of paper with “Jesus” written on it. The lesson in question was created by a professor from St. Norbert College, a Catholic institution in Wisconsin, and was not about religion at all, but rather the importance of symbols:

One of the "most distinguishing features" of humans (compared to other animals) is the way they view symbols, some of which are quite powerful, he said. That's the message of the exercise. When the students hesitate to step on the word "Jesus," they understand that a piece of paper has meaning to them because of the word, which helps them understand the force of symbols, he added.

At St. Norbert, [Jim] Neuliep said he has been doing the exercise for 30 years -- without any complaints. He said that the discussion that follows tends to involve students "talking about how important Jesus is to them, and they defend why they won't step on it. It reaffirms their faith." And at the same time, he said, they learn about symbols.

The most dishonest point of Shackelford’s speech, however, was when he described the case of Marco Perez, a Florida father who said his daughter was told by a cafeteria worker that it is “not good” to pray before she eats. At the time, Perez was working to promote Starnes’ book on supposed cases of anti-Christian persecution in America and Starnes was, coincidentally, the first one to report on the story. Starnes did not mention his connection to Perez in his original report, only adding the disclosure later after the connection was revealed.

Shackelford insisted that Perez’s daughter ultimately received an apology for the incident. What he conveniently left out was the fact that the culprit identified by Perez’s daughter wasn’t in or near the cafeteria at the time and the school found no evidence whatsoever of the incident taking place. A spokesman said the school “apologized for the incident she believes occurred, but there was nothing warranted or found” in the investigation. Liberty Institute senior counsel Jeremy Dys, who was representing Perez, at first accepted the school’s apology but then rejected it, saying it wasn’t a “real apology.”

That’s right: Liberty Institute’s senior counsel rejected an apology because the school’s investigation found that the student’s story was baseless, and now this is the same apology that Liberty Institute’s president is citing as proof that the school admitted fault.

Another tale that Shackelford told the Values Voter Summit was that a “girl was punished” for “saying ‘God bless’ and ‘bless you’ when somebody sneezed,” a charge that was denied by girl in question’s the school.

He then brought up the cases of Sgt. Phillip Monk, whose tall tale of “persecution” was roundly debunked when his story fell apart under an Air Force investigation, and Cpt. Wes Modder, whom Shackelford claimed was going to be kicked out of the military simply for opposing same-sex marriage, which, as you may have guessed, was not the case.

If Shackelford wants to find some more false examples of persecution that have been parroted by the Religious Right, we are happy to provide him with further cases, seeing that it seems that he doesn’t mind giving a speech riddled with dishonest claims.

A Fitting End To The Values Voter Summit: God's Judgment Is Coming And There Is No Way Out

It seemed quite fitting that the Values Voter Summit closed out two days of speakers, including eight Republican presidential hopefuls, by featuring two preachers who warned that God's judgment upon America is inevitable.

First up was Jonathan Cahn who, fresh off his utterly failed Shemitah prophecy, nevertheless continued to warn that God's judgment is imminent, not only for his standard reasons of abortion and gay marriage, but also because an image of the Hindu goddess Kali was projected upon the Empire State Building last month.

"When a nation drives out God, it always brings in other gods," Cahn said. "This god is the god of darkness. Kali is also the god of death and destruction, here over New York City. We are racing to judgment and I believe a great shaking is coming."

For good measure, Cahn also declared that the jailing of Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis was also a sign of God's impending judgment.

Following Cahn was Joel Rosenberg, who likewise warned that God's judgment was inescapable, though he provided a bit of hope that we might be able to at least forestall it if we were to outlaw and end abortion.

"We're facing implosion," he stated. "We're not just facing a rough patch, we're facing implosion. We cannot kill 58 million babies and escape the judgment of God ... The train has left the station. Judgment is coming. There is no way out."

Star Parker: Gay Marriage is 'Bringing Horrible Hostility Into The Public Squre'

Star Parker spoke at the Values Voter Summit on Saturday afternoon, where she ranted about gay marriage and warned that its legalization is "bringing horrible hostility into the public square."

"We have 500,000 orphans in our foster system," she said. "Most God-fearing Christians don't even know we have an orphan system, but those homosexuals know because now that they're married, that's where they're going to get their children, right out of our foster system!"

Liberals have "declared a war on marriage, weakened women and opened the door to this culture of meaningless," she warned. "The feminist movement was nothing more than the promotion of monism, the elimination of gender binary. It's an attack on the Creator, the created, the distinction. He said if we look at marriage, we see Him. Conjugal and sacramental marriage is the capstone of creation and, as a result of its collapse, homosexuality is now dividing us and bringing horrible hostility into the public square."

"As the Apostle Paul defined in Romans," she said with disgust, "men leaving the natural use of the woman, burning in their lust for one another. Men with men, committing what is shameful."

Mark Levin: The Supreme Court Is Imposing Secular Sharia

Right-wing radio host Mark Levin spoke at the Values Voter Summit today, where he declared that secularism has become the established religion of the United States and the Supreme Court is now essentially imposing secular Sharia upon the entire nation.

The media and the "Sunday show dress-up hosts," Levin stated, are too stupid to understand that the First Amendment was not intended to create a separation of church and state, but rather simply to prevent the establishment of a theocracy.

"The federal government is not supposed to establish a religion," he said. "What we have now though is the federal government as a religion, secularism has become a religion. And just as in Muslim countries they have these Sharia courts to enforce Sharia law, well, we have a Supreme Court that exists to enforce apparently secularism."

Staver: 'God Birthed Kim Davis ... For This Moment In American And World History'

Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council introduced Kim Davis at the Values Voter Summit this evening, where the Kentucky county clerk received the Cost of Discipleship Award for prohibiting her office from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples in repeated violation of court orders.

"These are times in history that are unlike anything that we had before," Staver declared. "God birthed Kim Davis, and Joe Davis, and each one of you for this moment in American and world history ... [God is] looking for people who love Jesus Christ and who will stand for Him, who will not flinch when their time is called and that person is Kim Davis and Joe Davis. May God raise up more."

Perkins echoed that sentiment, proclaiming that it is time for Christians who hold public office "to resist the edicts of unelected and virtually unaccountable rulers who issue unjust edicts that conflict with the truth of God."

"Kim Davis should not be an outlier," Perkins said. "Kim Davis should not be something that surprises America. There should be Kim Davises in every elected office, at every level ,who say 'No' to judges who redefine the revealed truth of God."

At that point, Davis was welcomed onto the stage to a long standing ovation, where she then delivered a very short speech declaring that "I am only one, but we are many!"

Donald Trump Promises That He Is A Nice Person: 'I Believe In God. I Believe In The Bible. I'm A Christian'

In a rather transparent attempt to appeal to the Christian conservatives who make up the audience at the Values Voter Summit, Donald Trump brought a Bible with him to the podium when he spoke today, because "it brings back so many memories."

Trump them proceeded to spend the next 20 minutes delivering his standard stump speech, which consisted of relentless boasting interspersed with personal attacks on his rivals and vague but grandiose promises to solve all of this nation's problems.

At one point, after wondering why we even need to hold an election considering that he is leading in all the polls, Trump took a moment to assure the audience that he is actually a nice person.

"People were not sure I was a nice person," he said, "and I am. I am. I am. I am. I'm a giving person. I believe in God, I believe in the Bible. I'm a Christian. I have a lot of reasons. I love people."

Trump later closed out his speech by hoisting his Bible in the air and declaring "this is the key."

When Donald Trump 'Waged War' On Christmas

Donald Trump offered up his typical word salad to the Values Voter Summit today, but this time while hoisting his Bible in the air and claiming that it is “the reason” that he is leading among evangelical voters in Iowa and declaring that it is “the key” to saving America.

One of the threats to America, Trump said, is the so-called War on Christmas.

“The word ‘Christmas.’ I love Christmas," he said. "I love Christmas. You go to stores, you don’t see the word ‘Christmas.’ It says ‘Happy Holidays’ all over. I say, 'Where’s Christmas?’ I tell my wife, ‘Don’t go to those stores. I want to see Christmas. I want to see Christmas.’ Other people can have their holidays but Christmas is Christmas. I want to see ‘Merry Christmas.’ Remember the expression ‘Merry Christmas’? You don’t see it anymore. You’re going to see it if I get elected, I can tell you right now.”

Of course, Trump himself has waged war on Christmas:

As has the Trump Hotel Collection:

But we are just glad that Trump is ready to take on the important issues of the day… like the War on Christmas.

Santorum: America Is 'Never Going To Be Blessed By God' So Long As Abortion And Gay Marriage Are Legal

Rick Santorum kicked off his remarks at the Values Voter Summit today by declaring that the United States will never be a great nation or receive God's blessing so long as gay marriage and the right to an abortion remain legal.

Bragging that he has attended every VVS event since it began 10 years ago, Santorum thanked those in attendance for "standing up and bringing to this city the issues that are at the core of the problems in this country."

"America is never going to be a great country if we're a country that kills our children in the womb, ever!" he said. "We're never going to be blessed by God if we're a country that kills our children in the womb. We are never going to be a great country if we allow for the destruction of the American family, that's what's happened over the last 50 years."

Donald Trump Heading To Extremist Religious Right Summit

It appears that Donald Trump is stepping up his outreach to the Religious Right, as the Family Research Council today confirmed that the Republican frontrunner will be attending its annual conference, which has become something of a cattle-call for the most radical speakers in the country.

The chief organizer of the Values Voter Summit, FRC’s Tony Perkins, criticized Trump when the candidate initially declined an invitation to the summit, claiming that Trump was neglecting conservative evangelicals and wasn’t trying to “talk about issues they care about” in “a way that is convincing.”

But given that the Values Voter Summit has traditionally been an event at which speakers are wildly cheered for delivering bigoted remarks and self-righteous tirades, Trump will probably fit right in.

Indeed, Trump has embraced the Right’s “persecution complex,” decrying the “War on Christmas” and warning that “before you know it, you won’t be able to go to church.”

He also expounded on his feelings about God during an interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network today:

Well I say God is the ultimate. You know you look at this? Here we are on the Pacific Ocean. How did I ever own this? I bought it fifteen years ago. I made one of the great deals they say ever. I have no more mortgage on it as I will certify and represent to you. And I was able to buy this and make a great deal. That’s what I want to do for the country. Make great deals. We have to, we have to bring it back, but God is the ultimate. I mean God created this (points to his golf course and nature surrounding it), and here’s the Pacific Ocean right behind us. So nobody, no thing, no there’s nothing like God.

Like His Wife, Joe Davis Has Now Become A Religious Right Celebrity

Yesterday, the Family Research Council announced that Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who became a Religious Right hero for prohibiting her office from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, would be receiving an award at its upcoming Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C.

It turns out that Kim is not the only member of the family who has been transformed into a Religious Right celebrity, as her second/fourth husband Joe Davis will be a featured speaker at an upcoming "Stand in the Gap for Truth" rally being organized by the Tennessee Pastors Network, which is an arm of the American Pastors Network.

Davis will be speaking along with Richard Land, E.W. Jackson, Rafael Cruz and several others:

Joe Davis had been living a quiet life in Kentucky with his wife, Kim. But this summer, the Davises were thrown into the national spotlight over religious freedoms and the rights all Americans have when it comes to their closely held religious convictions.

As Kim returned to work in the Rowan County’s clerk’s office yesterday, after being jailed for six days for refusing to issue marriage licenses to any couple, Joe is traveling to Nashville to rally others to stand for their freedoms like his wife did.

On Thursday, Joe Davis, often seen wearing his signature straw hat and overalls, will be a part of an exciting and much-needed event that will help motivate Tennesseans to defend their religious freedom and uphold God’s design for the nation at the “Stand in the Gap for Truth” Rally, hosted by the Tennessee Pastors Network (TNPN,

Starting at 11 a.m. Sept. 17, the rally will take place at the Legislative Plaza, 301 6th Ave N in Nashville. Pastors throughout Tennessee who are part of TNPN will partner with state legislators to host the event that will engage Tennesseans to address the most talked-about issues of the day such as shifting marriage and family foundations, an unworkable immigration system, weak terrorism laws, failing education, a damaging nationalized health care system, lack of religious freedom protections and the blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution.

“This summer, Kim and Joe Davis have been a part of a religious freedom battle of a lifetime,” said TNPN President Dale Walker. “And now, we are honored to welcome Joe to the ‘Stand in the Gap for Truth’ Rally, as he has shared about their experiences that have essentially changed this nation’s history. We are thankful for those like the Davises who have stood for freedom—not only for themselves, but for all Americans. In Nashville on Thursday, we want to fill the Legislative Plaza with thousands who want to take that stand, too.”

Religious Right Martyr Kim Davis To Receive Award For Fighting 'Legal Tyranny'

As many predicted, Kim Davis is cashing in on her new role as a right-wing celebrity. The Family Research Council announced today that Davis will receive its “Cost of Discipleship Award” at the upcoming Values Voter Summit.

FRC head Tony Perkins has already compared Davis to the previous award winner, Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman who, unlike Davis, actually faced persecution for her faith, as she was arrested and imprisoned by Sudan’s government for converting to Christianity. Leading up to Ibrahim’s appearance at the FRC event, Perkins attempted to use her story to attack the Obama administration, even though her U.S. supporters actually thanked the State Department for working diligently to secure her release. An attorney working on Ibrahim’s case, who is also a Religious Right figure, criticized Perkins for his rhetoric.

In announcing the award, Perkins praised Davis for her “courage” in standing up to “militant secularists”:

“We are pleased to announce that Kim Davis will be honored at this year's Values Voter Summit. After meeting with her last week, I can tell you that Kim Davis wasn’t looking for this fight, but she is not running from it either. What militant secularists are almost certainly afraid of is what is coming to pass: courage is breeding courage. When other people might have cowered in fear, Kim took a stand. And today, millions of Americans stand with her and for the religious freedom upon which our nation was founded.

“Far from the media's portrayal, Kim isn't trying to impose her views on anyone, she is simply asking that her orthodox religious views be accommodated.

“The courage of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis isn't just changing the conversation -- it's changing the political landscape. In places like Missouri, where state officials watched with horror as Davis was hauled off to jail for her Christian beliefs, leaders are moving quickly to protect their people from the same fate. The Supreme Court created this mess -- now it's incumbent on states to protect the victims mired in it.

“While the Court redefined marriage, it did not redefine the First Amendment. Thank goodness for people of courage like Kim Davis, who refuses to let religious liberty be trampled by legal tyranny. We applaud her. In the face of intense pressure, she's shown more courage than 99 percent of the elected officials in Kentucky,” concluded Perkins.

Another county clerk in Kentucky who is trying to prevent same-sex couples from receiving marriage licenses, Casey Davis (no relation), is also scheduled to speak at the summit. He has gone so far as to say that he may die in his fight against gay marriage.

Perkins addressed the rally in front of the Kentucky prison where Davis was detained after a federal judge held her in contempt of court but doesn’t seem to know some basic facts surrounding the case. For example, Perkins told Fox News that Davis wasn’t barring her deputy clerks from issuing marriage licenses, even though Davis explicitly said at the time that she was doing just that.

Is Jeb Bush Out Of Values Voter Summit?

Every year, Republican leaders flock to the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit, which gives them a chance to curry favor with Religious Right activists and gives FRC President Tony Perkins a chance to assert his political influence.

So it caused a minor hubbub last year when Perkins pointedly refused to invite presidential hopefuls Jeb Bush and Chris Christie to speak at the summit, saying that they “shouldn’t take it the wrong way” but they “just weren’t on the top of the list” for “values voters.”

We were interested, then, to see that Bush is not listed as an invited speaker at this year’s summit:

When, as recently as July, Bush was listed as invited:

Bush, for his part, seems to have been doing what he can to woo Perkins, meeting with him at the Conservative Political Action Conference this year and saying that he has “a lot of respect for Tony and his group.”

Interestingly, the Christian Post reported yesterday that Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump had turned down his invitation to speak at the summit and Perkins was miffed, saying that Trump was “not interested” in speaking with evangelicals:

Although some polls have shown that the misogynistic real estate mogul who once favored abortion and carries liberal views on same-sex marriage has had no trouble gaining the support of Evangelicals , Perkins asserted that Trump's refusal to speak at the conference is a sign that he has no interest in conversing with Evangelicals.

"We have got the Values Voters Summit coming up and Donald Trump has passed. He is not going to come," Perkins said. "I think that is going to send a message to Evangelicals and values voters that he wants their support, but he is not really interested in having a conversation with them."

"I think that is probably about the time, in about three or four weeks, people are going to start thinking more seriously about this as we move forward into the year," Perkins continued. "[Trump's absence], whether it was intended to or not, it will send a message."

"I think [Trump] is going to have to have conversations with Evangelicals and talk about issues they care about. He hasn't really done that in a way that is convincing," Perkins argued. "Could [Trump] make some progress with Evangelicals? I think he could if he tried, but I don't really see that happening right now."

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