On June 3rd and 4th, the 2011 Faith and Freedom Conference and Strategy Briefing took place at the Renaissance Washington D.C. Hotel. Sponsored by Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition, the conference was a high-energy gathering for right-wing political figures. With speakers such as Tony Perkins, Rep. Michelle Bachmann, and Rick Santorum, as well as afternoon breakout sessions with titles such as "Fighting Anti-Christian Bigotry" and "Combating the Liberal Media Bias," the conference included a significant Religious Right presence.
C-SPAN posted recordings of the Faith and Freedom Conference, allowing those of us who could not attend to listen to the speeches. To be fair, several speakers addressed legitimate and pressing issues, such as jobs and deficit spending. However, the event also featured copious Religious Right rhetoric, and I have featured several quotes below for your reading pleasure.
First, at the 37:05 mark of the first video, Rep. Allen West (R-Florida, 22nd District) repeated the trope that America is allegedly a Christian nation, condemning those who endorse a secular state.
"Our American cause was and is grounded in a faith heritage, a Judeo-Christian faith heritage ... The attack on our Judeo-Christian faith heritage is an attack on our American cause. Their aim is not just about separation of church and state. Their aim is to separate faith from the individual, and that is why the title of this gathering is so important, because where there is no faith, there certainly will not be freedom. Our founding fathers knew that, and this move to develop a secular state in America is the antithesis to the traditions and foundations of our America."At the 1:12:40 mark, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins accused government, the reproductive rights movement, and the LGBT movement of undermining the family.
"Government from the time of the Great Society has devised even more laws and programs that enable and encourage father absence. Other decisions, from Roe v. Wade to the lawsuits against Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage act have undermined personal responsibility and have sown mutual mistrust between men and women. Remember how we were urged to believe that the new freedoms of choice would give us happier families and would have us have fewer abandoned children? Well, something terrible happened on the way from the courthouse to the cradle. We forgot duty and honor. We asked less of men and now writers like Hanna Rosin say that we have reached the end of man. Government does not need to put millions more dollars into the changing of this course in this area. In fact, it can and should spend billions less. It need to encourage work, embrace the complimentary nature of men and women, honor marriage, and celebrate the family."Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minnesota) told the audience about her work on a ballot measure for a Minnesota constitutional amendment that would limit marriage to heterosexual couples. After encouraging activists in other states to do the same, Bachmann claimed that marriage was "under siege" at the 1:23:52 mark.
"We need to do this, because how many of you know that marriage is under siege like no time in recent history? Just recently in USA Today and in other magazines, we got the census data out that said that married couples have dropped below half of all American households for the first time according to the census bureau. It's a milestone in our nation's history. Did you know that back in 1950, 78% of all households represented a married couple, and today we're at 48%? That has created a profound difference in America."
At the 1:33:26 mark, Bachmann demonized Planned Parenthood by referencing an earlier controversy in which LiveAction accused the organization of allegedly abetting trafficking. (See here and here for background.) She criticized government funding of Planned Parenthood and urged its defunding.
"In a time when President Obama is calling on the Congress to give him authority to increase borrowing money that we don't have, so ... raise the debt ceiling by borrowing another $2.4 trillion, and we're giving more to corrupt organizations like Planned Parenthood that are committing crimes and enabling young minor girls and covering up issues -- I don't even want to talk about it because its so disgusting. But this organization has, by their own records, performed 324,008 abortions in 2008 and 2009, and that's in addition to the trafficking of underage girls that has gone on under Planned Parenthood's nose. Do you think maybe we can start here by defunding this organization? [Applause] I think so too. It couldn't come soon enough."During an anti-abortion panel, Wisconsin Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch praised Governor Walker's new budget, which would undermine funding for reproductive health care. Celebrating cuts in contraceptive funding as a means of supposedly "protecting" young men and women, Kleefisch expressed delight at the prospect of defunding Planned Parenthood in her state at the 2:15:56 mark.
"In this budget, in the biennial budget that right now our joint committee on finance is voting on, Governor Walker has rolled back some very important things that we need to talk about this morning. He's rolled back the mandate that both public and private insurance need to pay for contraceptives. That's unacceptable. Government mandates are unacceptable, but it is also unacceptable that we the taxpayers, we the people pay for contraceptives. In addition to that, Governor Walker's budget has defunded Title V. What that means to you and me is that no longer we will give $2 million a year in state and federal matching funds directly to Planned Parenthood. Last, I want to tell you that Governor Walker's budget has also eliminated men, men, fifteen through age forty-four on the family planning waiver. Why do men need family planning coverage, I ask you? He's eliminated that because you know what? Taxpayers were paying for fifteen, sixteen, seventeen year-old boys to get condoms. We need right now in the state of Wisconsin for our legislature to stand in lock-step with Governor Walker and our budget and and ask the federal government for a waiver so that we protect our teenage girls in the same way that Governor Walker has protected teenage boys."Finally, at the 1:23:45 mark of a later C-SPAN installment, Rick Santorum claimed that America was based on Judeo-Christian ideas of divinely-endowed rights (failing to acknowledge the Enlightenment origins of those ideas).
"Social conservatives understand that America was a great country because it was founded great. Our founders, calling upon in the Declaration of Independence the Supreme Judge, calling upon divine providence, said what was at the heart of American exceptionalism. In the Declaration of Independence, it said we hold these truths to be self-evidence that all men are created equal and endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. You see, our founders understood that we were going to take the principles, Judeo-Christian principles that had been out there for centuries, and we were going to do something radical. We were going to actually found a government on those principles."To watch the 2011 Faith and Freedom Conference on C-SPAN, click here. For more information on the conference, visit secure[dot]ffcoalition[dot]com/civicrm/event/register?reset=1&id=7.
For additional news and commentary on the 2011 Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference, visit the following links.
Right Wing Watch: At Ralph Reed Confab, Obama Portrayed as Enemy of Faith and Freedom
Religion Dispatches: Showdown Over Shari'ah at Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference
Huffington Post: Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference: GOP Presidential Hopefuls Try to Court Christian Conservatives
CNN: GOPers hit up Faith and Freedom Coalition
Minnesota Independent: At religious right confab, Bachmann praises anti-gay marriage amendment