What Is The Values Voter Summit?

What is it?

An annual political conference bringing together some of the most extreme groups on the religious right.

When was it founded?

2006

Who hosts it?

The event is hosted by the Family Research Council (FRC), listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center because it spreads demonizing falsehoods about the LGBT community.

The FRC bills itself as “the leading voice for the family in our nation’s halls of power,” but its real specialty is defaming gays and lesbians. The FRC often makes false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science. The intention is to denigrate LGBT people in its battles against same-sex marriage, hate crimes laws, anti-bullying programs and the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

Tony Perkins has served as FRC president since 2003. Since joining the FRC, he has taken the group in a harder anti-LGBT direction, using it to publish false propaganda about that community. He has repeatedly claimed, for instance, that pedophilia is a “homosexual problem.” He has called the “It Gets Better” campaign “disgusting” and an effort to “recruit” children into the gay “lifestyle.” In July 2014, Perkins suggested that LGBT rights advocates intend to round up Christians in “boxcars.”

Who are the co-sponsors?

This year, the co-sponsor is the American Family Association, a virulently anti-LGBT hate group.

Methodist minister Donald E. Wildmon formed the National Federation for Decency in 1977, changing its name to the American Family Association (AFA)in 1988. Today, the group, which was taken over by Tim Wildmon after his father’s 2010 retirement, claims a remarkable 2 million online supporters and 180,000 subscribers to its AFA Journal. It also broadcasts over nearly 200 radio stations.

The AFA seeks to support “traditional moral values,” but in recent years it has specialized in “combating the homosexual agenda.” In 2009, it hired Bryan Fischer, the former executive director of the Idaho Values Alliance, as its director of issue analysis for government and public policy. Fischer has used the group’s website and radio network to promote outrageous and false claims about LGBT people, Muslims, Native Americans and African Americans. Taking a page from the anti-gay fabulist Scott Lively of Abiding Truth Ministries, Fischer claimed in a 2010 blog post that “[h]omosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and 6 million dead Jews.”

Who speaks at the Summit?

Each year, speakers include some of the country’s most prominent GOP politicians -- many of them hard-right allies of these extremist groups and others who hope to bolster their standing with the Christian right. This year’s confirmed speakers include U.S. Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz as well as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Leading up to the 2008 and 2012 elections, all of the Republican presidential candidates attended. The event also attracts a variety of far-right pundits and celebrities such as Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Oliver North.

Why does it matter?

It matters because GOP politicians are legitimizing the false propaganda and bigotry of the extremist groups that host and co-sponsor the Values Voter summit -- encouraging hate and violence against the LGBT community. FBI statistics show that LGBT people are the group most targeted in violent hate crimes.

Is there a precedent for the GOP to renounce these groups?

Yes. In 1999, GOP Chair Jim Nicholson called on party members to avoid the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) because of its “racist views.” His action followed revelations that Georgia Congressman Bob Barr had given a keynote address to the group’s national convention and that Mississippi Senator Trent Lott had spoken to the group five times. Afterward, senior members of Congress no longer appeared before the white supremacist group. Now the CCC, which routinely denigrated black people as "genetically inferior" and complained about "Jewish power brokers,” is recognized as the hate group that it is.

Still, however, GOP politicians find it acceptable to speak before groups that vilify and defame LGBT with discredited science and extremist language. The FRC and the AFA are increasingly out of step with the American public, and the politicians who associate with them will find themselves on the wrong side of history.

We call on the Republican Party leadership to recognize this fact and move to shun the Values Voter Summit and its organizers.

Cover photo was taken by Gage Skidmore.