Donald Trump will join a who’s who of the religious right Friday at the Values Voter Summit, as he becomes the first sitting president to address the event, sponsored by the anti-LGBT Family Research Council.
Trump is scheduled to speak during Friday’s opening plenary session, which runs from 8:45 a.m. to noon. “Values voters are coming to our nation’s capital thankful to hear from a president who is fulfilling the promises that he campaigned on,” FRC president Tony Perkins said in a press release this week. “Since the early days of the campaign, President Trump allied himself with values voters, promising to put an end to the eight years of relentless assault on the First Amendment.”
Perkins praised the Trump administration’s issuance last week of a “religious freedom” order, which is actually a broad license to discriminate in both the public and private sectors without repercussion. For instance, a company with a federal government contract could cite religious objections in refusing to hire LGBT people or members of different faiths without the contract being revoked. Federal employees could refuse to process paperwork for same-sex spouses’ Social Security or veterans’ benefits without facing discipline.
Perkins also lauded the granting of broad religious exemptions to the Affordable Care Act mandate for contraceptive coverage, allowing virtually any nonprofit or for-profit employer to opt out of the mandate by citing faith-based opposition. This and the religious liberty order show that Trump “is committed to undoing the anti-faith policies of the previous administration and restoring true religious freedom,” Perkins said.
Trump had spoken at the summit as a candidate in 2015 and 2016. The summit has been going on annually since 2006; The Advocate inquired if either George W. Bush or Barack Obama was ever invited to address the gathering but has yet to receive an answer from the FRC.
Others scheduled to speak at the opening plenary are former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka, current Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway, religious right activist brothers David and Jason Benham, former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, and some current members of Congress: Mark Meadows, Mark Walker, Chris Smith, and Vicky Hartzler — the latter being an author of anti-transgender legislation.
Speakers scheduled throughout the conference, which continues through Sunday at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., include Roy Moore, the anti-LGBT, anti-abortion former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, now the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate from the state; Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House; Steve Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart and a former Trump campaign chairman and White House adviser; Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson; longtime religious right leader Gary Bauer; Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel; Fox News host Laura Ingraham; Fox News contributor Todd Starnes; Edwin Meese, U.S. attorney general in the Reagan administration; and former Army officer Oliver North, known for his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s.