The anti-gay hate group Family Research Council (FRC) brought quite a collection of extremists to Washington, D.C., for its Values Voter Summit 2011 (VVS). According to the FRC, the event, which is being held today and tomorrow at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, has an attendance of some 3,000. It’s co-sponsored by organizations, like the American Family Association (AFA), that join the FRC in demonizing of the LGBT community. (The Southern Poverty Law Center today ran an advertisement in the Washington Post detailing these groups’ false claims about LGBT people). But bigotry toward gays and lesbians is not the only kind on display here today. Muslims took quite a beating, too.
Speakers repeatedly expressed their fears about gay marriage and the expansion of LGBT rights. In his opening remarks, FRC President Tony Perkins warned that President Obama was “redefining the family” by refusing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act and by repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). In a session Perkins moderated about the military, he wondered, given the repeal of DADT, who would protect those with “politically incorrect values?”
The extremism was most vivid in the main exhibit halls. Maybe the weirdest bunch in were from the American Society for Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), a self-described Catholic organization whose representatives seemed to be wearing red cloaks. The TFP table had a particularly noxious pamphlet – “10 Reasons Why Homosexual ‘Marriage’ is Harmful and Must be Opposed” – that argued that same-sex marriage “ignores a child’s best interests” and that it “turns a moral wrong into a Civil Right.” The pamphlet blamed same-sex marriage for forcing Christians to “betray their consciences by condoning … an attack on the natural order.” Another TFP pamphlet warned hysterically about the dangers of “socialism,” which, for some unknown reason, given our hyper-capitalist economy, they seem to think is on the march and targeting “traditional marriage” and “parental rights.” Anti-gay propaganda from the FRC and AFA was also on hand.
There was a table operated by the “Shariah Awareness Action Network,” a coalition that includes anti-Muslim hate groups. They were giving out material against the so-called “9/11 Mosque” – actually a Muslim cultural center run by a moderate cleric and called Park51 – that claimed “it will be a place for Islamic radicals around the world to celebrate their victory.”
The network’s representatives were hard-selling a November conference they will be holding in Nashville that will bring together members of the anti-Muslim hate group Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA) and activists from the anti-gay hate group Traditional Values Coalition. The conference promises to reveal how Shariah law, which can never exist in the U.S. given our Constitution, “poses a threat to our American way of life.” The same folks were distributing copies of WorldNetDaily, a publication best known for pushing crazy conspiracy theories and birtherism. The table for David Horowitz’ Freedom Center, which funds SIOA, had a pamphlet giving the top 10 reasons why the U.N. needs to be abolished. It claims the U.N. is in an “obsessive war against the free world.”
The AFA held the Friday luncheon. Though it was staffed by figures who are rabidly anti-gay and anti-Muslim, such as Bryan Fischer, the luncheon mostly shied away from controversy. But not entirely. The AFA’s director of social media, Don Cobb, said he had watched a full two seasons of the Fox TV program “Glee,” which urges acceptance by parents of gay children. Cobb was horrified by how engaging the show was – and by its message. “Just accept [a gay child’s] lifestyle?” Cobb asked sarcastically. “Just accept his lifestyle without thinking about him?” The implication was clear: acceptance of gay children was unacceptable.
The AFA luncheon also featured Neil Mammen, author of Jesus is Involved in Politics!: Why aren’t You? Why isn’t Your Church? Mammen repeatedly referred to President Obama as “Barack Hussein Obama” and warned repeatedly of Muslim evil toward Christians.
Public figures were on hand to add their voices to the anti-gay and anti-Muslim sentiments expressed in the literature being handed out in the exhibition hall. Freshman Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) warned the crowd ominously that “they,” whoever they are, “are trying to use the military to advance their social agenda.” Her comments came in a discussion about the recently revoked DADT policy. Hartzler has long warned against expansions of gay rights. During the Eagle Forum Collegians 2011 Summit, she delivered a speech on why young conservatives should oppose marriage equality, claiming that legalizing gay marriage is akin to legalizing pedophilia, incest and letting 3-year-olds drive a car.
Joining Hartzler on her panel was another freshman, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.). He echoed her concerns. “We cannot use our military to promote social ideas that do not reflect the values of the country,” he said.
In the afternoon session, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) mocked gay people, saying, “the most unhappy people I’ve met were those that called themselves gay.” King has repeatedly warned that gay marriage will destroy Western Civilization, an idea he repeated this afternoon. King seemed a little paranoid in his talk, referring more than once to unnamed opposition he called “they” who he claimed “will attack everything we believe in.” As with Hartzler, King didn’t say who “they” are.
Given the comments that were made and the ugliness expressed towards the LGBT and Muslim communities today, it was funny that the moderator of the event repeatedly warned those attending VV2011 to not be the “weird one.” He claimed the media wants to “provoke” values voters into saying something crazy so that they could use the comments to make the point that “this is what all Values Voters are like.” But no provocation was really needed – the weirdness was amply on display.