WASHINGTON – Two more big guns of the conservative movement confirmed today they are not participating in the Conservative Political Action Conference next month because of the continued participation of the homosexual activist organization GOProud.
The Heritage Foundation, the largest think tank in Washington and not known as part of the religious right, confirmed that it is not taking part in what has been the largest annual gathering of conservatives in the country. Heritage has been an active participant in CPAC every year for the last 10.
“We have withdrawn,” said Mike Gonzalez, vice president of communications for the Heritage Foundation. “We have been there for many, many years at the highest level of participation.
“We believe in the traditional definition of the family,” Gonzalez explained. “We believe in defending the family against any threats that come against it. We’re not for gay marriage. We don’t think institutions that have existed for millennia can be done away with at the drop of a hat.”
Gonzalez emphasized that the “three pillars” of conservatism – economic liberty, national defense and social conservatism – are “indivisible.”
In addition, the Media Research Center, led by Brent Bozell, a longtime associate of the hosting organization, the American Conservative Union, announced it was dropping out.
“We’ve been there 25 years, since our inception,” said Bozell. “To bring in a ‘gay’ group is a direct attack on social conservatives, and I can’t participate in that.”
A member of the CPAC board of directors put the revolt in perspective.
“This is a huge blow to CPAC,” said Floyd Brown, president of the Western Journalism Center and founder of Citizens United. “It shows the CPAC leadership needs to do a full evaluation of their decision to allow this homosexual group to be a participating organization.”
Some of the groups dropping out aren’t looking back, making plans for participation in other conferences that could eventually rival CPAC in size and prestige.
“It damages their credibility that the Heritage Foundation has pulled out and stayed home,” said Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis for the American Family Association, which withdrew from CPAC when GOProud was first invited last year. “You’re losing any shred of credibility that you represent the conservative movement at this conference. We believe in truth in advertising. They should call themselves the Libertarian Political Action Conference.”
Fischer said AFA does not intend to return to CPAC, and plans to help make the Values Voters Summit the definitive conservative political action conference.
“They [CPAC] have cast their lot with the homosexual lobby and they’re not looking back.”
Brown, the head of several organizations that have sponsored CPAC over the years, said he also has decided not to sponsor CPAC in 2011.
“I decided not to sponsor CPAC because I think these problems need to be resolved,” he said. “I voted against [GOProud's] participation, and while they don’t want to have a roll call vote because many of the people voting don’t want to be put on the record, I’m more than willing to tell the public why I voted.
“The conservative movement as envisioned by Frank Meyer is a coalition between economic conservative, social conservatives and defense and foreign policy conservatives. GOProud’s participation in CPAC undermines the coalition envisioned by Meyer, the philosopher at National Review that developed the framework on which the modern American conservative movement was built. It’s heartbreaking to me as a member of the board to see myself so out of step with other board members.”
The Christian ministry American Vision and related businesses Vision for America and Patriot Depot also said they have dropped out of CPAC because of GOProud.
“Homosexuals can get involved in the conservative movement any way they want, but to come in and push an agenda that’s contrary to biblical values, traditional values and rational moral values, that’s another thing,” said Gary DeMar, president of American Vision and Vision for America. “We wouldn’t exclude adulterers from participating, but if there were a group of adulterers who said ‘we want adulterers’ rights,’ we’re going to say no.”
Bozell said GOProud is not a genuine conservative organization, and suggested inviting homosexual activist groups into the conservative movement could drive social conservative activists to the political sidelines.
“They attack the Family Research Council, they attack Concerned Women for America, they are proponents of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” he said of GOProud. “If you don’t believe in the traditional family, you’re not a conservative.”
GOProud declined to comment for this story.
“I didn’t know WorldNetDaily had any reporters on staff. We don’t have any interest in speaking to you about that. Bye,” said the person who answered the call identifying himself only as “Jimmy.” GOProud’s executive director is named Jimmy LaSalvia.
Bozell continued: “The people running CPAC need to have a conversation with themselves as to why they are inviting a circular firing squad here. The reality is that the libertarians can’t win without social conservatives, and social conservatives can’t win without libertarians. For the record, I’m in neither camp, I’m a conservative. The successes of the conservative movement have been evident when those wings join with the national security conservatives into a strong coalition. That’s what CPAC used to be about. If you want to guarantee a victory for Barack Obama in 2012, just kick the social conservatives out of the room. It’s stupid, from a political perspective. It’s just the dumbest of dumb politics, and it’s terrible policy, too. This is what I mean by a circular firing squad.”
The AFA’s Fischer agreed: “It’s suicidal. Social conservatives are the ones who provide the foot soldiers for the conservative movement. They’re the ones that make the phone calls, distribute the literature, and rally their friends to put conservative candidates in office. If you alienate them you’re losing the infantry, and you can’t win elections without the infantry. They’re telling them ‘we don’t want you, we don’t like you, we want you to go away.’ It’s suicidal, very short-sighted on their part.
“Right after the elections GOProud sent a letter urging the GOP to stay completely away from social issues,” Fischer said. “They were essentially calling for a truce in the culture war. Then they immediately turned around and spent the lame-duck session urging Congress to overturn the ban on homosexuals in the military. We’re not about to surrender and lay down arms. The reality is, the other side in the culture war is never, ever going to declare a truce. They are never going to lay down their arms. If conservatives adopt a truce, it’s not a truce, it’s a surrender. In our judgment CPAC has already surrendered by giving a place at the table to GOProud, which is pushing the radical homosexual political agenda. Giving a place to GOProud is aiding and abetting our enemies in the culture war, and we’re just not going to support that. CPAC has chosen sides, and they’ve chosen the wrong side.
Fischer concluded by saying CPAC “cannot call themselves a conservative organization any more.”
CPAC and ACU officials have steadfastly refused to comment on the controversy to WND.
Other social conservative groups will continue to participate in CPAC, at least for this year.
“We’re committed for this year, we have been very involved in planning,” said Tom Minnery, a senior vice president at Focus on the Family, who believes CPAC needs more input from social conservatives. Minnery added, however, “CPAC definitely made a mistake by inviting GOProud. They encouraged us to stay in CPAC because GOProud was participating at a reduced level. We think more progress has to be made. If there is not more improvement our future with CPAC is in grave doubt.”
There are rumblings from other groups as well.
“I have not withdrawn and asked for our money back but I certainly share the concerns of the other social conservative organizations,” said Colin Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring. Hanna suggested GOProud should have been permitted to exhibit at the conference, but not to be a “participating organization,” which confers the right to participate in conference planning.
“The problem arises when an organization is accepted as a full cosponsor and is in fact philosophically incompatible with a large portion of the conservative movement,” Hanna continued. “The issue of agenda is often brought up and the point is made that there is an agenda aspect to GOProud that is hostile to roughly a third of the conservative movement. Of course the conservative movement is open to divergent views, and CPAC has provided a forum to allow divergent views to be debated. That’s not the issue. The issue is whether it’s appropriate to bring inside the circle of the conservative movement an organization whose goals are incompatible with some of the primary goals of the conservative movement.”
Hanna said he would “certainly reconsider” participating in CPAC in the future.
The American Center for Law and Justice is staying with CPAC, according to ACLJ spokesman Gene Kapp:
“CPAC is one of many forums we utilize to advance our global mission of defending liberty, standing up for religious and constitutional freedoms,” he said. “Whether it’s at CPAC or any other event that we participate in, we engage key issues while implementing an effective strategy of advocacy, education, and litigation, all in an effort to defend the constitutional freedoms that make America unique. Our plans to staff an exhibit booth at CPAC this year have not changed.”
Angry as they are, even CPAC’s strongest critics are not willing to sever their ties to the conference irrevocably.
“I want to be in CPAC again. I want them to come to their senses,” Bozell told WND. “I’ve always endorsed CPAC. They’ve done great, great work for the conservative movement. I am hoping this is just a bad dream.”
Fischer said AFA would rejoin CPAC “when they become conservative again.”
“The only hope I see is the considerable division on the CPAC board. Wiser heads on the board see this is a self-inflicted wound.”