"May God cause this year's VVS to have a profound impact in informing Christian and conservative leaders, and in shaping the 2014 elections for righteousness!" This is the official prayer request that the Family Research Council, this year's sponsor of the Values Voter Summit, submitted to attendees. This pretty much sets the tone for the conference.
The conservative political conference is expected to cater to the religious right-wing in upholding views against LGBT rights, reproductive rights, and the like. And it delivered on that Friday with a morning line up of GOP Tea Party advocates, with the first three being Senators Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul. As journalist Peter Montgomery stated, "The Values Voter Summit makes clear how completely the religious right's leaders are working to merge their activists' anti-abortion and anti-gay zeal with the anti-government extremism of the Tea Party." That much was made clear by Friday's remarks.
In Sen. Mike Lee's opening speech he stated "We don't want just smaller government, we want bigger citizens … [with] family at the core. Protecting it is the most important thing." Of course, Lee didn't elaborate on how gay marriage threatens heterosexual families.
Ted Cruz followed the same vein directly after, peppering his speech full of biblical references ("as Esther said …") and taking a turn for the unprofessional by inferring President Obama was the devil. Cruz also argued Democrats are refusing to cooperate with the GOP, reinforcing a "us and them" mentality.
Following Cruz, Rand Paul took to the stage to discuss the supposed "War on Christianity" being hidden by the media and accused the Obama administration of providing "aid and comfort" to Al-Qaeda and its supporters. Paul's went on to claim that religious liberty is in danger within the United States.
Essentially, the senators pushed the view that if evangelical Christian views on society are not being actively pushed by the government, Christianity as a whole must be under attack.
A shrinking GOP is hoping to expand its voter base, but its party leaders are still using rhetoric describing America as a Christian-only nation that merely tolerates "others." Furthermore, the GOP is deliberately ostracizing the LGBT community and its supporters and ignoring women's rights issues by focusing only on a one-sided view of abortion as a religious and moral evil. The speakers are the Values Voter Summit are implying to not be Christian is synonymous with not being American and that those who do not believe in the same religious convictions are immoral. Their half-hearted attempts to showcase diversity within the GOP with the inclusion of minority Senators Marco Rubio and Tim Scott as well as Dr. Ben Carson was not reflected in the faces of their supporters in the crowd.
So far there has not been any mention of marginalization due to race, gender, religion, nationality, and sexual orientation, merely bitter claims about the nonexistent war on Christianity. And the docket the Values Voter Summit has prepared does not show any such speakers to come. This is not a priority for the GOP. Similarly, the speakers only talk about economic issues in relation to dismantling the federal government. There has been very little discussion of what action the government can take to support the economy.
All in all, the Values Voter Summit seems to be going out of its way to cater to religious extremism while ostracizing the rest of us.