Religious conservatives will meet this weekend in Washington, DC for the sixth annual Values Voter Summit, a meeting which brings together elected officials, church leaders and pundits to discuss agenda items leading up to the November general election.
The controversial meeting has garnered even more attention than usual this year as presidential politics and a recent attack on the event's sponsor have thrown voter sentiment on the issues into stark contrast.
The summit is sponsored by the DC-based Family Research Council (FRC), a Christian nonprofit classified as a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) since 2010.
The group defines itself as an organization aimed at passing legislation and advancing policy that coordinates with its "faith, family and freedom in public policy and the culture from a Christian worldview."
The SPLC, meanwhile, says the group "knowingly spread[s] false and denigrating propaganda about LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people."
This year's meeting will be attended by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's running mate Paul Ryan but not Romney himself.
FRC staff confirmed Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, who came under fire for claiming a women could biologically avoid pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape," and Ann Romney will not be in attendance.
The event has become the "must attend" summit for conservative political candidates in recent years, with speeches given by Sarah Palin in 2008, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney in 2009 and Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum in 2011.
This year's speech schedule boasts the likes of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.
Several other current congressional Republicans are also confirmed to attend as is former presidential candidate and Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.
If this list of conservative leaders wasn't enough to shine the spotlight on this year's summit, an attack on the FRC DC headquarters earlier this year no doubt emphasized the divisive nature of the organization and its ethos.
In mid-August, a gunman posing as an intern entered the FRC HQ in Chinatown and shot a security guard while railing against the group's conservative leaders. That same day, the FRC said criticism of the council by the SPLC encouraged the violence.
The gunman, pro-LGBT activist Floyd Lee Corkins II, "was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center," FRC President Tony Perkins said.
"I believe the Southern Poverty Law Center should be held accountable for their reckless use of terminology," Perkins added. Corkins, who reportedly entered the HQ with dozens of rounds of ammunition and 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches, has since pleaded not guilty.
The SPLC denied the FRC blame, condemning the violence while calling for the SPLC to "stop the demonization [of LGBT people] and affirm the dignity of all."
Meanwhile, in the run-up to this year's summit, human rights groups have issued a letter to political leaders calling for them to boycott the event co-hosted by the GRC and the American Family Association.
In 2010, the AFA's Director of Issue Analysis Bryan Fischer stated, "Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and 6 million dead Jews."
"Given the FRC's and AFA's public statements, we urge you not to lend the prestige of your office to the summit," the SPLC letter read. It was co-signed by several other organizations including the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the National Black Justice Coalition and the National Council of La Raza.
The Values Voter Summit will be held Sept. 14-16 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC. Breakout session topics include "Understanding Radical Islam 101," "Repealing Obamacare" and "Preparing for the Coming Economic Earthquake."
by RTT Staff Writer
For comments and feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org