The New Year is traditionally a time to ditch old, bad habits in favor of more positive ones. Someone clearly didn’t tell that to GOP presidential hopefuls, who over the weekend doubled-down on rubbing shoulders with extremists at the Family Research Council's "Free to Believe" event.
The “Free to Believe” broadcast, organized by the anti-LGBT hate group Family Research Council (FRC) and Vision America, was delivered to more than 160 churches in all 50 states. The broadcast, billed as a way to “learn practical ways to advance faith, family and freedom in their local communities,” featured speeches from some of the most prominent anti-LGBT figureheads in America, as well as taped remarks from almost the entire GOP presidential field, including Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, and Rick Santorum.
Each of the seven GOP candidates participating were asked the question: "What do you see as the greatest threat to religious freedom in America today, and what will you do as president to protect our First Freedom?” Marco Rubio used his answer to talk about finding and “destroying radical terrorists.” Rubio stated that if “we catch a radical jihadist, they are getting a one way ticket to Guantanamo Bay.” Rick Santorum praised the Family Research Council, calling Tony Perkins “our good friend.”
Perkins has a sordid political history. He purchased Klansman David Duke’s mailing list for use in a Louisiana political campaign he was managing. In 2001, Perkins gave a speech to a Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white nationalist group. Since joining the FRC, Perkins has taken the group far into the field of anti-LGBT hate, publishing false propaganda about that community and contending that gay rights advocates intend to round up Christians in “boxcars.”
In 2010 he wrote on the FRC website, “While activists like to claim that pedophilia is a completely distinct orientation from homosexuality, evidence shows a disproportionate overlap between the two. … It is a homosexual problem.”
Another speaker at the “Free to Believe” event was Mat Staver, chair of the anti-LGBT Liberty Counsel. Staver has warned about homosexuality, abortion and the consequences for Christians who oppose homosexuality and marriage equality, saying they will be targeted for their views. He even went so far as to call for a new revolutionary war as marriage equality advanced. In March of 2015, Staver stated that he would personally advocate disobedience to any U.S. Supreme Court ruling that favored marriage equality, and that “collectively, we cannot accept that as the rule of law.”
During the 2015 brouhaha over Indiana’s religious freedom law, Staver likened “the homosexual lobby” to terrorists, claiming, "It’s hard to negotiate with people who are irrational and who are inventing things that simply don’t exist.”
Staver and the Liberty Counsel have taken a leading role in defending Rowan County, Ky., clerk Kim Davis, who has refused to grant same-sex couples marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in June 2015. For his part, Staver has compared Davis to a Jew living under Nazi Germany and complained that Christians are persecuted in America as court after court ruled she has to issue same-sex marriage licenses in accordance with her duties.
Rick Scarborough, head of Vision America, the other co-sponsor of the broadcast, also participated. Scarborough has said that AIDS is God’s judgment for an immoral act and once claimed, “Sexual anarchy led by Sodomites who will not stop demanding more until they have destroyed every semblance of public morality.”
Ridiculously, Scarborough has demanded to know what LGBT people have to be proud of since they’re “defined exclusively by their aberrant sexual behavior” and have more than a thousand sexual partners in their lifetimes –- a clear exaggeration.
In a 2009 attempt to stall the federal hate crimes bill, Scarborough sent an email to Vision America supporters, telling them to “KEEP THE HATE CRIMES PRESSURE ON!” The email referred to the bill as the “Pedophile Protection Act” because of its “inclusion of pedophiles as a protected class under the proposal that protects homosexuals from hate crimes.” In fact, while the law would allow prosecution of crimes motivated by bias against gays or transgendered people, it would not extend hate crimes protections to pedophiles.
This is hardly the first time this campaign season that GOP presidential hopefuls have aligned themselves with virulently anti-LGBT activists. But handing groups who have a long track record of demonizing an entire group of people an air of legitimacy by addressing their event is bad politics.