(Photo: REUTERS/Scott Audette)
The Republican National Convention may not be officially opening until Monday, but the hard work of finalizing the GOP platform – often referred to as its mission statement – is now under way in Tampa, Fla. Christians are paying particular attention to this year's committee meetings given the fact that the Democrats have voted to include same-sex marriage in their platform for the first time in history.
"Overall it's been smooth sailing for Christians and social conservatives," J.P. Duffy, V.P. of Communications at the Family Research Council, told The Christian Post on Tuesday.
Duffy, along with Tony Perkins, who heads up the FRC, is in Tampa keeping a close eye on what committee members are proposing and voting on. The behind-the-scenes dance takes place every four years and even the smallest amendment could alter the outcome or meaning of an issue.
"What happens over these next two days could dramatically impact the direction of – not just the presidential campaign – but the entire Republican Party and the country," wrote Perkins in an email update to supporters. "We've already witnessed the power of the platform on the Democrats' side, as they wrestle with the fallout of making same-sex "marriage" an official party goal. Unlike the Left, conservatives aren't interested in straying from the GOP's roots – but that doesn't mean Left-leaning groups won't try."
Perkins, who resides in Louisiana and was a former state legislator in the Bayou state, is also an official delegate to the RNC and therefore can serve as a sitting member of the platform committee and subcommittees.
Two of the issues the committee addressed on Monday were the Obama administration's decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act that bars recognition of same-sex marriage and supporting a federal amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman. The Restoring Constitutional Government subcommittee and the Health, Education and Crime subcommittee passed both amendments.
The Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative group that supports gay rights offered language that included the words "respect and dignity" that were adopted by the subcommittee.
"We embrace the principle that all Americans have the right to be treated with dignity and respect," the head of the Log Cabin Republicans, R. Clarke Cooper told a reporter.
However, gay rights groups quickly criticized Cooper's attempt to include the generic language as "meaningless rhetoric."
Jerame Davis, who heads up the National Stonewall Democrats, accused the RNC of simply changing the wording of statements that have been included in the party's platform for several years.
"What's even more ridiculous is the idea that this language is something new. The Republican Party platform has included similar language since at least 1996. This is just a rewording of a generic principle that few Republicans would construe to include LGBT equality. While the GOP gives lip service to the principle of dignity and respect for all, the reality of that ideal clearly escapes them."
Nonetheless, pro-family organizations have no issues supporting respect for all Americans but draw the line on language that violates biblical principles.
"We are a pro-life organization and therefore we certainly believe in respect and dignity for everyone," said Duffy. "However, that does not mean in any way that we agree that homosexuality or immoral behavior is acceptable."
On Tuesday, the Republican platform committee approved language calling for a constitutional ban on abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest. The language is expected to be voted on by the full convention on Monday.
Perkins is also submitting an amendment Tuesday afternoon that will restore language from 2008 that opposes funding school health clinics that promote, participate or refer for abortion (in June a Los Angeles high school allowed Planned Parenthood to set up a clinic on school property.)
There was also stronger language adopted yesterday opposing any funding of embryonic stem cell research and calling for a ban on research that harms or destroys human embryos.
Language was added yesterday (because of the HHS mandate) defending the conscience rights of religious organizations and individuals as it relates to the health care plans that they purchase.
The platform committee is expected to wrap up its business by late Tuesday evening.