Toxic Talk

Speakers At Religious Right’s ‘Values Voter Summit’ Spew Radical Rhetoric

More violence will help in Iraq, global warming is a crock and Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks.

Voicing off-the-wall opinions like this might win you at the very least some strange looks and at the worst a heated argument. At the Religious Right’s recent “Values Voter Summit” in Washington, D.C., none of these views was considered odd or controversial. In fact, they were welcomed with applause.

Former Education Secretary William Bennett called for escalating the Iraq conflict and even suggested extending the warfare to civilians. He recommended leveling whole cities to bring them under control – “When four Americans are take out Fallujah. You flatten the city!” – and endorsed military action against Iran as well.

Bennett also labored to tie Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to the al-Qaeda terror network’s Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Numerous intelligence experts have said there was no connection, but Bennett apparently believes differently. Hussein, he charged, invited al-Qaeda operatives into his country and sought to work with them.

Rhetoric on other issues was equally reckless. Several speakers ridiculed the idea of climate change. U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) asserted that global warming is a United Nations plot and a scheme by animal-rights activists to shift people’s focus away from God.

Climate change, Inhofe said, is a natural phenomenon unrelated to human activity. He attacked Richard Cizik, a staffer at the National Asso­ciation of Evangelicals who has been urging conservative Christians to take the issue more seriously.

“It was started really by the United Nations, the same group that starts almost everything else that’s bad…,” Inhofe said. “In 1970, the United Nations came up with something called the IPCC – the International Panel for Climate Control. And they came up with one guy who said he was a scientist. They had this thing called the hockey stick that said this is what the temperature had been and now it’s like the end of the hockey stick. Global warming is coming and we’re all going to die.”

The goal of the movement, Inhofe said, “is to try to shut down this machine called America – stop building, stop us from driving around and all these things.”

Other speakers were equally florid. The Rev. Jerry Falwell called Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo and other moderate evangelicals “stooges for the left. They’re not evangelicals.”

During a panel on the movie industry, former Boston Herald columnist Don Feder went off on an extended rant.

“If you are a Christian, Hollywood hates you,” he said. “I mean Hollywood hates you – the way Hamas hates Jews, the way George Clooney hates George W. Bush.”

This hatred, Feder opined, comes because Christians stand in the way of Hollywood’s effort to promote free love, homosexuality, militant feminism and “radical secularism.”

Addressing a session on the role on state attorneys general in formulating policy, former Virginia Attorney General Mark Earley, now with Charles Colson’s Prison Fellowship, attacked Americans United for winning a court decision ending public funding of a prison program in Iowa that even Earley admits is “Bible-based.” Earley accused the judge of bias toward Christians.

Phill Kline, current attorney general of Kansas, lauded the Ten Com­mandments as “the foundation of Western jurisprudence,” bashed the ACLU and outlined his plan to im­prison doctors who perform abortions.

Charles Pickering, a former federal judge who was unable to win Senate confirmation after his nomination by President Bush, backed adoption of a constitutional amendment that would bar federal judges from “changing, altering or modifying” the Constitution from the time it was adopted – a vague standard that could be used to block nearly any court ruling disliked by the far right.

How did the crowd react to these extreme views? Most often with loud applause and cheers and sometimes standing ovations. The event was a stark reminder of just how far outside the mainstream these “values voters” can be.