Inside the 2012 Values Voter Summit: Religious Right, Allies Blast Church-State Separation, Invite Fundamentalist Churches to Dive into Partisan Politics

By Boston, Rob | Church & State, October 2012 | Go to article overview

Inside the 2012 Values Voter Summit: Religious Right, Allies Blast Church-State Separation, Invite Fundamentalist Churches to Dive into Partisan Politics


Boston, Rob, Church & State


The Rev. Dan Fisher puts it right out there: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and other Founding Fathers got it all wrong--there's no such thing as separation of church and state.

"Friends, we've been lied to," Fisher, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Yukon, Okla., said recently. "We've been sold a bill of goods of separation of church and state, which is nothing more than a lie, twisted out of a misused phrase out of a Thomas Jefferson letter in 1802. It's all a lie!"

Fisher's fact-challenged history lesson came during the Values Voter Summit, an annual gathering in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Family Research Council (FRC) and other Religious Right groups. He was speaking at a breakout session titled "Debunking the Myth of Separation of Church and State: Why Pastors Must Engage in Politics."

The session was organized by the Rev. Rick Scarborough, a Texas pastor who enjoyed a brief moment of notoriety in the 1990s as a protege of Jerry Falwell.

Scarborough, who runs a small Religious Right outfit called Vision America, opened the session by scanning the room, looking for Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn.

"I keep waiting for my friend Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State to pop in," Scarborough joshed. "He usually comments on what I have to say."

Alas, Lynn didn't attend this particular Summit session, so Scarborough and Fisher were unable to school the AU leader with their appeal for pastors to get involved in politics to lead America out of its "crisis."

For Fisher, political activity includes violating federal law by endorsing candidates from the pulpit. The Oklahoma pastor has intervened in elections in the past and vowed to do it again.

Scarborough even took some time to explain to attendees why it's OK to vote for Mitt Romney, whose Mormon faith is considered a cult by many evangelical Christians.

"We're not electing a pastor," he remarked. "We're electing someone to lead the nation."

That statement was a bit curious coming as it did at this conference. Summit attendees clearly do expect Romney, if elected, to behave as a pastor and implement a series of laws based on fundamentalist Christianity.

The Summit was designed to outline the Religious Right's political demands and rally the troops around Romney, which was done not by highlighting Romney's accomplishments or goals but by heaping abuse on President Barack Obama. Obama--or rather the fundamentalist movement's characterization of Obama--spent two days during the Summit as a Religious Right pinata.

For attendees, a highlight of the Sept. 14-15 confab was an address by Republican vice presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.). Also appearing were GOP governors Robert McDonnell (Va.) and Jan Brewer (Ariz.), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), U.S. Senate candidate from Texas Ted Cruz, U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and a bevy of GOP House members.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli whom the crowd loves for, among other things, his harassment of abortion clinics, was on hand too.

Ryan, who spoke Friday morning, was a huge hit. He stood before the adoring crowd and launched into a fiery assault on Obama.

The president, Ryan said, lacks "moral clarity and firmness of purpose," especially in foreign policy. He accused Obama of leading the nation down an economic blind alley and opined that thanks to Obama's policies, "We are at risk of becoming a poor country."

Romney did not attend the event in person--he sent a short video message--but Ryan, a conservative Roman Catholic beloved by fundamentalists for his strong stands for a ban on all abortions and opposition to marriage equality for same-sex couples, was a more-than-adequate surrogate.

During the 25-minute address, Ryan blasted the president as a failed leader and a proponent of big government who is a captive to the extreme left.

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