- (Photo: The Christian Post / Amanda Winkler)
In a telephone press conference on Tuesday, the Southern Poverty Law Center and a number of gay rights organizations have called on elected officials such as GOP vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to boycott this weekend's Values Voter Summit being organized by the conservative Family Research Council.
The joint coalition sent a letter to several speakers invited by FRC that read in part:
"The host of the event, the Family Research Council (FRC), has consistently spread demonizing lies about the LGBT community, and one of its co-sponsors, the American Family Association (AFA), has linked homosexuality to the Holocaust. Given the FRC's and AFA's public statements, we urge you not to lend the prestige of your office to the summit."
"The FRC is far outside of the mainstream. It has engaged in repeated, groundless demonization – portraying LGBT people as sick, vile, incestuous, violent, perverted, and a danger to the nation. One of its officials has gone so far as to say homosexuality should be criminalized."
The Values Voter Summit, sponsored by FRC Action, The American Family Association, American Values, The Heritage Foundation and Liberty University, will bring together thousands of pro-family conservatives who attend panel discussions and listen to such speakers as FRC president Tony Perkins, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), conservative leader Morton Blackwell, former GOP presidential candidate Gary Bauer, Gov. Jan Brewer (R-Arizona), actor Kirk Cameron and pro-life activist Lila Rose.
Yet the group's letter did not deter some of those confirmed to speak at the VVS.
Matthew Benson, a spokesperson for Gov. Brewer, issued a statement about her appearance at this weekend's event, saying her comments will focus "upon the larger, shared conservative cause of limited government and traditional values."
"This is arguably the nation's premier event for social conservatives, and Gov. Brewer will be among other prominent and well-respected speakers," Benson said. "Of course, the speakers, attendees and sponsors of the Values Voter Summit will not agree on everything."
Another elected official, Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp, also received the group's letter and was shocked that a group that bills themselves as a civil rights organization would try and intimidate those who don't see eye-to-eye with.
"I'm very alarmed that someone who calls themselves a 'civil rights' organization would call on others they disagree with to not stand up for their own personal beliefs," Huelskamp told The Christian Post. "I believe they are simply trying to intimidate me, Tony Perkins and others but if they have walked around the Kansas State Fair as I recently have, they would get another perspective from 'mainstream' citizens on the values that are important in their own lives, one being traditional marriage."
The relationship between FRC and SPLC – including many of the groups represented on the call – has been strained for years because of SPLC classifying FRC as a "hate group" based on what they call negative and hateful attacks on homosexuals.
When The Christian Post asked if other religious groups such as the predominately white Southern Baptist Convention or the predominately black Church of God in Christ – both of whom hold strong positions that oppose homosexuality – were under consideration for "hate label" status, Richard Cohen of the SPLC said it was not about a group taking a position that opposed homosexuality but rather the tone in which the debate is framed.
"Because of their repeated defamation of the LGBT community – not because of their opposition to gay marriage or belief that homosexuality is a sin – the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the FRC, as well as the AFA, a hate group," said Cohen. He also acknowledged that no church or denomination is on the "hate list" but failed to say if one could be listed in the future.
Just last month an armed intruder shot and injured an employee of FRC as he attempted to enter the organization's Washington, D.C., offices, claiming he was an intern. Police later learned that 28-year-old Floyd Lee Corkins was a volunteer for the U Street NW community center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and intended to harm employees because of the views expressed by FRC. Corkins was arrested and charged with multiple felonies and is still incarcerated.
Nonetheless, the gay rights groups represented on Tuesday's call insisted that FRC's intentions were not simply to think and write about public policy, but also to position themselves as a "victim" after the shooting incident last month and that any intention to debate differences in policy was not pure.
Herndon Graddick, president of Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said that FRC's gathering of conservatives is nothing but "a summit of the demagoguery of hate groups." He also demanded that mainstream media outlets examine the invitation list and speakers that have either confirmed or have been invited to speak.
"It is also a call to the mainstream media to report accurately who the sponsors of this summit are," Graddick said.
Faithful America Director Michael Sherrard took a more direct tone on the issue of religion by saying that Christians can disagree on public policy, but that the teachings and many speakers at the Values Voter Summit "go against the teachings of Jesus."
Sherrard also accused FRC and other groups of "shamelessly exploiting their Christian faith" and called for Ryan and Cantor to "examine their conscience" before deciding to speak at the event.
Besides Perkins, others mentioned often during the call were Gen. Jerry Boykin, a highly decorated, retired Army General who was referred to as "a radical anti-Muslim propagandist and conspiracy theorist" and pro-life activist Lila Rose, whom the group said "called for abortions to be performed in the public square."