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Values Voter Summit 2020: Annual gathering turns from demonizing LGBTQ community to Black Lives Matter, removal of Confederate symbols

A coalition of some of the country’s most hateful anti-LGBTQ extremists, led by the Family Research Council (FRC), will come together Sept. 22-25 for their annual festival of bigotry, cloaked as the Values Voter Summit (VVS).

Given the pandemic, it will be a virtual summit. But that’s not the only difference planned for 2020.

This year, these far-right activists are attacking the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and defending Confederate monuments.

Yes, that’s right. The same groups that have long dedicated themselves to demonizing the LGBTQ community as dangerous to children and society are turning their bigotry toward those seeking racial justice and an end to the murder of Black people by police and vigilantes. And they’re using the same scare tactics they’ve long employed to vilify LGBTQ people: misinformation and blatant lies. 

The falsehoods they peddle about the LGBTQ community are the reason the SPLC has designated both the FRC and a perennial VVS co-sponsor, American Family Association (AFA), as hate groups.

But now their toxic rhetoric has turned toward race. And in this, they’re in lockstep with President Trump’s apocalyptic “they’re coming to the suburbs next” message.

The FRC president, Tony Perkins, recently wrote that BLM seeks a “violent revolution” aimed at “annihilating America” and that the movement “justifies cop killings, prostitution, anti-Semitism, anarchy, and the suppression of speech and religion.”

According to the lineup card, the conference will include a session entitled “Racism, Protests and ‘Black Lives Matter’: An Historical and Biblical Assessment.” Its description warns of a “sinister agenda” behind BLM and of the “Marxist origins and un-American ideologies that are fueling the conflict.”

This discussion is set to feature David Barton, a self-styled “historian” who has been a key player in connecting the mainstream political right to the kind of radical-right religious ideology that fuels groups like the FRC and the AFA. Barton’s books on the history of America (which he contends was meant by the Founding Fathers to be a religious state) have been riddled with egregious falsehoods. His 2012 book about Thomas Jefferson was recalled by its publisher after actual historians pointed out its gross inaccuracies.

Also at the summit, the longtime political and religious-right activist Gary Bauer, a former FRC president, will lead a session called “Tearing Down Our History & Our Country.” A synopsis on the VVS website says that “[c]ultures and societies memorialize their heroes in statues and monuments so future generations can remember and reflect on their accomplishments.” Bauer will also explain “why the left’s repeated assaults against America’s history and memorials are really attacks on America itself.”

One might wonder what Confederate “accomplishments” Bauer has in mind. We also wonder how seeking to remove statues of Confederate generals – generals who literally launched attacks on America to maintain the enslavement of millions of Black people – is somehow an attack on “America itself.”

But these essential questions haven’t stopped Bauer, who at the 2017 VVS warned: “We’re seeing the left now turn into the American Taliban declaring war on our monuments.”

Sadly, such hysterical fearmongering isn’t a surprise – not from an event led by the FRC. It was the FRC’s Perkins who in 2010 said pedophilia “is a homosexual problem.” And it was Perkins who described the “It Gets Better” project – an initiative aimed at helping LGBTQ youth facing bullying and other traumas – as “disgusting” and “part of a concerted effort to persuade kids that homosexuality is okay and actually to recruit them into that lifestyle.”

The FRC has announced that President Trump, who in 2017 was the first sitting president to speak at the conference, will address it again this year for the third time in four years. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Senate President Mitch McConnell also are confirmed speakers. Attorney General William Barr has also been asked to join a host of right-wing politicians and personalities addressing the summit.

The FRC, the AFA and their supporters have been on the wrong side of history all these years by promoting vicious lies about the LGBTQ community. Now, they’re on the wrong side of history again by portraying BLM as a dire threat, rather than acknowledging and confronting the systemic racism in this country that continues to cost people their lives.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images