By Boston, Rob
Church & State , Vol. 64, No. 10
Family Research Council of America--Political aspects
Gingrich, Newt--Political activity
Gingrich, Newt--Religious aspects
Romney, Mitt--Political activity
Romney, Mitt--Religious aspects
Perry, Rick--Political activity
Perry, Rick--Religious aspects
Obama, Barack--Political activity
Obama, Barack--Religious aspects
Editor's Note: Church & State Assistant Editor Rob Boston has been writing about the Religious Right since 1988. In this article, he gives a personal perspective on the recent Values Voter Summit sponsored by the Family Research Council and other Religious Right groups.
knew I was in for an interesting two days when I arrived at the "Values Voter Summit" Oct. 7 and spotted a man dressed in colonial garb carrying a musket and a flag. He was regaling a crowd of onlookers - in a very bad imitation of an English accent - with tales of how he and George Washington had vanquished "the left."
And Halloween was still three weeks off! But as I was soon to learn, things were only to go downhill from there.
A crowd estimated at nearly 3,000 gathered at Washington, D.C.'s Omni Shoreham Hotel for the sixth annual Summit Oct. 7-8. As a veteran observer of these events, I knew what to expect: A steady drumbeat of attacks on President Barack Obama and other Democratic leaders mixed with denunciations of same-sex marriage, legal abortion, public schools, secular government, "Obamacare," the United Nations, social programs and other bugbears of the Religious Right.
I wasn't disappointed. A litany of speakers stuck to a tried-and-true script: God is not happy. The fate of the nation (and indeed the entirety of Western Civilization) hangs in the balance. Faith and family are under attack. And, above all, you absolutely must vote for the GOP in 2012.
Obama was indicted for many crimes, chief among them failing to provide jobs, adding to the national debt, passing health care reform, refusing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court and apologizing for America overseas (something he never did, by the way).
This year's Summit, coming in the midst of a fiercely competitive and highly fluid Republican primary, gave attendees a chance to preview the hopefuls. All of the leading contenders were there to shill for votes and make their best pitch. They were joined by top GOP congressional leaders and other elected officials - uniformly Republican.
The Summit has become so partisan over the years that the Family Research Council (FRC) and its taxexempt cosponsors - the American Family Association, American Values, Liberty University, Liberty Counsel and the Heritage Foundation - do a little side-step to avoid running afoul of federal law. FRC Action, a 501(c)(4) group that is allowed to engage in partisan political action, is anointed as lead sponsor.
Attending the Values Voter Summit is like falling into a weird parallel universe where the normal rules of logic and reason simply don't apply. Thus, a speaker can simultaneously claim to support science while denying the reality of evolution. A speaker can portray all government programs as bumbling and ineffective - and then praise the military and call for a larger Defense budget. A politician can demand states' rights and local control - and then insist that abortion and same-sex marriage be banned in all 50 states.
"Patriots" are lauded for their fealty to the Constitution, even as they seek to trash that document's core promises and essentially rewrite it by adding a litany of amendments - to ban abortion, to limit marriage to heterosexuals, to promote school prayer and religious displays on government property, etc. (I came away convinced that for this crowd, 'The Constitution" is little more than a fetish object, a thing believed to impart certain magical powers and fix all problems, if only it were followed. Many speakers talked about the Declaration of Independence in similarly mystical terms.)
It was taken as a given that the nation is on the brink of spiritual, moral and financial ruin - and that only Summit attendees can save things by pulling the proper levers in November of 2012.
"I believe that the winds of change are beginning to be felt by the political establishment," FRC President Tony Perkins told the crowd during opening remarks, later adding, "This is a contest of values - whose values will lead us into the future or lead us into the history books that record the nations that were. …