Tuesday, September 29, 2015

No Fear Panel Champions "Religious Freedom" at 2015 Values Voters Summit

The Values Voters Summit took place on September 25-27 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C. As discussed in a prior post, much of this year's conference content focused on imagined threats to the "religious freedom" of conservative Christians. A perfect example of such thinking was the "No Fear" panel, featuring Family Research Council president Tony Perkins and three young champions of the Religious Right. As I watched a video of the panel discussion at the Values Voters Summit video archive, I realized how narrow their understanding of religious freedom really was.

Tony Perkins promoted his new book, No Fear: Real Stories of a Courageous New Generation Standing for Truth, which shares the stories of right-wing young people standing up for "God's truth" against "oppression". Perkins praised millennial members of the Religious Right for their convictions.
 "We're told that millennials are walking away from their faith, walking away from the church, and clearly some of that is happening, but what I have found is that there are young people in this country, in this upcoming generation that are more committed to their faith than those of my generation ever thought they'd be, because they understand the cost of discipleship."
Perkins reminded listeners that the Religious Right seeks to foment piety, not rebellion against authority. The irony of his statement in the wake of Religious Right defiance of the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision made me chuckle.
"What we're not trying to do is create a generation of rebels or even feed this strain of libertarianism that just is rebellious against authority. That's not what we're about. But there is a time and there is a place when we have to choose whether or not we have a greater fear of God than a fear of man. I believe we're living in such a time ... [when] all of us, as followers of Jesus Christ are going to have to choose between following faith in Jesus Christ and stepping out, or shrinking back in fear."
Among the "No Fear" panel lineup was Live Action's Lila Rose, an anti-abortion activists best known for secretly filming abortion clinic employees. Also on the panel was the Radiance Foundation's Ryan Bomberger, an anti-abortion activist who landed in legal trouble with the NAACP when he referred to them as the "National Association for the Abortion of Colored People". The third member of the panel was Roy Costner, the 2013 Liberty High School valedictorian who tore up an approved speech and recited a prayer at his graduation. The Freedom from Religion Foundation -- which Perkins referred to as the "atheist Taliban" -- criticized Costner's speech as unconstitutional proselytizing to a captive audience, according to Raw Story.

Rose wasted no time lambasting Planned Parenthood, assuring the audience that the health care provider would be defunded. "I don't think it's a matter of if Planned Parenthood will be defunded; it's just a matter at this point of when Planned Parenthood will be defunded," she said. Rose depicted her anti-abortion activism as a righteous crusade against evil, arguing that it was an unfolding of God's plan.
"We need to expose the evil. As long as the evil is hidden, as long as the evil is quiet behind the serial abortion facility doors, it can continue. It can keep happening. And these children are at risk of this incredible injustice, and women are being lied to, so we need to expose it."
Costner urged listeners to stand up for Biblical values, warning them that their religious liberty was in jeopardy. Costner seemed to see his graduation prayer as a small victory for religious freedom in a politically correct society, rather than an inappropriate stunt.
"I encourage all of you: stand up for what you believe in. Our liberties are being taken away. We've got to wake up and realize this. We can't be fearful of what others may think of us, of what politicians may say, of what implications we may have. We've got to take a stand for what's Biblically correct, not politically."
Throughout the panel discussion, Perkins spoke warmly of people who are "standing boldly and courageously" for their Christian faith. The implication, it seemed, was that fighting abortion and bringing religion into secular spaces were acts of courage. Along this line of thought, respecting other people's boundaries and heeding the wall of separation must therefore be acts of cowardice. The Religious Right's lionization of activists such as Rose, Bomberger, and Costner thus serves a two-fold purpose: it encourages right-wing Christians to encroach on the secular realm, and it demonizes their opponents as cowards who are ashamed of Christ.

The "No Fear" panel reminds us that the Religious Right still hasn't learned anything. Religious Right activists still refuse to respect the wall of separation between church and state, the LGBTQ community's right to equal treatment, and women's right to control their reproductive destinies. Any attempt to compel the Religious Right to respect these things is interpreted as an attack on their faith and freedom. Thus, in their minds, fanatics become valiant heroes, and those who respect secular spaces and their fellow citizens become cowards.


  1. the wall of separation between church and state, the LGBTQ community's right to equal treatment, and women's right to control their reproductive destinies

    In their eyes, that's the evil trinity which constitutes Satan. Of course they refuse to respect it.

    1. Infidel -- These people are going into the future kicking and screaming. It's so absurd.

  2. I've seen Millennial Mormons either leave the church all together or become fundamentalists. I'm hoping the young people educate themselves. I'm fine with living a faith based life- but leave it out of our laws.

    1. Heather -- Yeah. Separation of church and state was put in place for a good reason.

      I'm optimistic about millennials educating themselves and leaving fundamentalism behind, given all the information that is at our fingertips now.


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