The following organizations were among the human rights groups joining the Southern Poverty Law Center in a media briefing to urge public officials – including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan – not to speak at the Values Voter Summit being held Sept. 14-16 in Washington, D.C.
The groups below delivered the following statements.
Michael Sherrard, Director
Good morning, on behalf of the 170,000 members of Faithful America, thank you for including us in this call today.
Sincere Christians can disagree on public policy, but the bigotry and dishonesty consistently on display at the Values Voters Summit run directly contrary to Jesus’ teachings – whether it’s Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association labeling President Obama “a street thug,” Tony Perkins accusing gays and lesbians of child molestation, or General William Boykin’s claim that “Islam is not a religion.”
There’s nothing Christian or pro-family about the false and hateful rhetoric that the Family Research Council and the American Family Association have used to demonize our gay and lesbian neighbors and people of other faiths.
The truth is that while everyday Christians – of all theological and political stripes – are abandoning the religious right in droves, the Family Research Council and the American Family Association continue to shamelessly exploit the Christian faith in order to advance their own narrow and extreme political agenda. And that’s the real “war on religion” happening in America today.
Faithful America members are appalled that any politician who espouses Christian values would lend their credibility to the Values Voters Summit, let alone elected officials with the national stature of Reps. Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor.
It’s time for them to examine their consciences, rethink the company they keep, and cancel their appearance at this year’s Values Voters Summit.
Herndon Graddick, President
When reporting on this summit for so-called “Values Voters,” media have an obligation to put the event into context – and that includes the violently anti-LGBT rhetoric of its organizers, including FRC’s Tony Perkins and AFA’s Bryan Fischer. By speaking at the conference and aligning with these organizers, elected officials are sending a dangerous message to the American people that they support their outdated and false views. It appears that the only credentials Perkins and Fischer have to speak about LGBT issues are that they hate LGBT people, but hate is not an American value.
The Family Research Council’s designation as a hate group has nothing to do with their stance against marriage equality or other policy issues. The real issue is FRC’s well-documented history of hateful rhetoric – particularly against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
It’s entirely inappropriate for mainstream elected officials – who are responsible for advocating for the best interests of all their diverse constituents – to appear at an event hosted by a group that actively works to banish LGBT people to the outskirts of society, denying us not only the benefits and protections we deserve, but even basic forms of dignity and respect.
The Family Research Council isn’t some policy shop that attempts to find constructive solutions to problems facing our society. Tony Perkins wants you to believe that FRC is a family-focused advocacy organization, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The only thing FRC advocates for is the demonization of those who do not fit into their narrow worldview. They are a hate group that actively spreads blatant lies about LGBT people – with absolutely no regard for the impact of their harmful rhetoric.
Just two years ago, Tony Perkins called pedophilia a “homosexual problem.” In 2008, FRC fellow Peter Sprigg called for the exportation of LGBT people from the United States – and then the year after that he actually called for the criminalization of homosexuality.
Those are just a few of the FRC’s “greatest hits” on LGBT people, which they’ve previously encapsulated in a packet they call “The Top 10 Myths about Homosexuality.” In that document, they also claim that being gay is a choice – and that people can simply choose to be straight.
The Family Research Council continues to churn out these hateful lies even though we have data that illustrates they negatively impact our nation’s youth.
Earlier this year, HRC released a comprehensive, first-of-its kind study of LGBT youth. We found that a whopping 92 percent of LGBT youth say they hear negative messages about being LGBT – and 60 percent say they hear those messages coming from elected officials.
We also learned that LGBT youth see non-acceptance and bullying as their biggest problems in life. When elected officials validate a group that compares LGBT people to pedophiles and says we should be exported, it isn’t hard to see why so many LGBT youth struggle with acceptance and support systems in their local communities.
This is a moment for people like Paul Ryan to say enough is enough – that no matter what your policy opinions are, it is never acceptable to stoop to the levels that the FRC and Tony Perkins do on a daily basis. For any elected official to attend this conference and simultaneously claim to care about our nation’s youth, or to say, as Mr. Ryan’s running mate has, that he doesn’t tolerate discrimination, would be the height of hypocrisy.
Michael B. Keegan, President
People For the American Way Foundation have been followers of the Values Voter Summit since the very first one in 2006.
All year round, our research team at RightWingWatch.org follows the speakers who appear at the summit, including when they’re away from the national TV cameras.
What’s remarkable about the summit is that it really does show how closely aligned the so-called “mainstream” conservatives are with these extreme groups.
The other speakers have talked about the main groups behind the summit – the Family Research Council and the American Family Association – and about the dangerous anti-gay smears coming from these groups. But I don’t want to end without pointing out a few of the other right-wing extremists who will be speaking at the event.
There’s Jerry Boykin, who is now the FRC’s executive vice president, who is famous for his anti-Muslim activism. He’s said that the First Amendment doesn’t protect Islam and that there should be no more mosques anywhere in America. He also espouses far-out conspiracy theories, including that President Obama is using health care reform to recruit an army of Brownshirts loyal to him. He’s so extreme that West Point just recently disinvited him from a prayer breakfast.
There’s Kamal Saleem, who claims he’s an ex-terrorist who has renounced Islam. Multiple reports have shown that his story is almost certainly untrue, but that hasn’t stopped the Right from embracing him.
And of course there’s Frank Gaffney, whose anti-Muslim fear-mongering was behind Michelle Bachmann’s smears on Huma Abedin earlier this year.
And that’s just to name a few. Other less well-known names who will be there are Lila Rose, who has called for abortions to be performed in the public square. There’s Liberty University’s Mat Staver, who teaches his law students that they should kidnap children rather than allow them to be raised by gay parents. The school is now being sued for its role in a kidnapping.
We think that it’s remarkable that elected officials like Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor are lending their credibility to an event with these sponsors and these participants. They clearly think they can get away with it. But if people know more about the people behind the Values Voter Summit, these politicians are going to have to explain themselves.
Elected officials can’t pretend to be mainstream figures while appearing at a convention of extremists. This shows how far out of the mainstream the conservative movement is going.