Trump speech at Values Voter Summit draws criticism


President Donald Trump listens as he is introduced to speak with winners from the National Minority Enterprise Development Week Awards Program, in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Jack Deorio

President Donald Trump became the first president to attend the Values Voter Summit earlier this month, a summit that has been criticized by organizations nationwide for connections to anti-LGBT and white nationalist groups.

Held annually since 2006, the Values Voter Summit is a conference which focuses on traditional Judeo-Christian ideals in relation to national politics and attracts a high number of evangelical conservative voters.

The Values Voter Summit claims to “preserve the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life and limited government.”

While speaking there, Trump focused on religious values that he said were pinnacle in the founding of the United States.

“I pledged that in a Trump administration, our nation’s religious heritage would be cherished, protected and defended like you have never seen before,” he said. “That’s what’s happening, and you see it every day.”

Rula Thabata, president of the Loyola Society of Civic Engagement, said that not a president — but rather the Constitution — determines how religion is defended in the United States.

“My opinion is that our country has progressed the way it has for a reason, through people fighting for equality and equity. The Constitution protects the separation of church and state, which is a foundational principle of this nation’s creation,” she said.

Patricia Boyett, director of the Women’s Resource Center, is concerned that such language from the president is encouraging individuals to go against the bedrock of the Constitution.

“We are witnessing efforts to undermine the First Amendment. To sustain a representative democracy, it is vital that we engage in a free exchange of ideas, that we protect the right of all people to practice any faith or no faith at all and that we always honor the ‘right of the people to peacefully assemble and to petition’ our governing bodies,” she said. “I consider America’s diversity its greatest strength; it protects us from becoming a dictatorship. The founding fathers considered religious freedom vital to a republic. Consequently, they articulated that right in the first two clauses of the First Amendment.”

The Family Research Council hosted the summit this year. The group has come under fire for use of anti-LGBT language in the past, with the Southern Poverty Law Center condemning the group in a recent article that labeled the organization as a hate group.

“The FRC is an organization that has relentlessly vilified LGBT people – portraying them as sick, vile, incestuous, violent, perverted and a danger to children and the nation,” the Southern Poverty Law Center said in the article. “Because of its demonizing lies about the LGBT community, it has been named as a hate group by the SPLC.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, has publicly denounced homosexuality in the past.

“Homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large and can never be affirmed,” Perkins said.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Perkins has questionable history in Louisiana. It was reported back in 2005 that he paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,500 for his constituent mailing list.

A 2004 article from the Southern Poverty Law Center claimed that Perkins spoke at the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens in May 2001, which it labels a white nationalist group. The Council of Conservative Citizens explicitly states in its statement of principles: “We oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called ‘affirmative action’ and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races.”