(Photo: Screenshot/USA Today)
Conservative Christians have expressed approval of Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus' recent remarks on abortion and gay marriage.
In remarks released Sunday, Priebus expressed support for the GOP maintaining its conservative position on the social issues. Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, told The Christian Post that it was "gratifying to hear the chairman unequivocally reaffirm the party's commitment to natural marriage."
"The challenge for the GOP is to actually behave in a way that's consistent with its expressed values," said Wildmon. "If party leaders abandon these values and continue to support socially moderate candidates, they will alienate their base and guarantee permanent minority status for the GOP."
In an interview with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network, Priebus stated that the GOP's views on abortion and gay marriage were "foundational" to the party.
"I do believe, and I still will tell you that our party believes, that marriage is between one man and one woman. Our party believes that life begins at conception," said Priebus.
"I think those are foundational issues that aren't going anywhere, but what I have said … [is] that our principles have to be draped in the concepts of grace, love and respect and that's not code language."
Tom McClusky, vice president for Government Affairs for the Family Research Council, told The Christian Post that he wondered about how this message will remain.
"I have met with the chairman before and I believe he personally is pro-life and pro-family; the proof will come of course when actual outbreaks of disagreement occur," said McClusky.
"We also have to remember, he was speaking to a largely Christian audience in Iowa. When he is speaking to liberal groups like GOProud, will he give them the same message or remain silent?"
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, told CP that the GOP still has "a challenge on its hands."
"Reince Priebus is correct to say that marriage and abortion are 'foundational issues' for the Republican Party. As such, they cannot be jettisoned," said Donohue.
"The GOP … must assure young people that its support for traditional marriage is not an attack on gays; rather, it is an affirmation of the one social unit that is capable of rendering a family, namely, the union of a man [and] a woman in marriage."
After the 2012 presidential election, many within the Republican Party debated the merits of holding a socially conservative platform in light of an increasingly socially liberal electorate. Some Republicans have argued that the social issues cost the GOP the election and will continue to cost them future elections at the national level.
According to the RNC's "Growth & Opportunity Project" report, issues like gay marriage need to be taken with caution.
"For the GOP to appeal to younger voters, we do not have to agree on every issue, but we do need to make sure young people do not see the Party as totally intolerant of alternative points of view," reads the report in part.
"Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays – and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be."
According to a recent poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution, social conservatism is more important to the Republican base and holds a greater opportunity for expanding the Republican base than economic conservatism.
The poll found that 38 percent of Americans are theological conservatives, 29 percent are social conservatives, and only 25 percent are economic conservatives.