An open letter asking GOP congressional leaders to ignore social issues and focus on economic freedom and limited government represents only the letter's signers, not the tea-party movement as a whole, say several tea-party leaders.
The letter, released Monday by Politico, was written by the chairman of GOProud, a homosexual activist organization, and a Tea Party Patriots leader from Maine.
"GOProud is not a tea-party group and they are not a particularly conservative group," said Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation, one of the three major national tea party organizations. "Any tea-party group that says 'ignore the social issues' is making a big mistake. They're running the risk of alienating a large section of their base."
Even the Tea Party Patriot who co-wrote the letter, Andrew Ian Dodge of Maine, acknowledged that the letter does not represent the entire tea party.
"We're not speaking for the entire tea-party movement, this is just an collection of individuals who believe this is the appropriate thing to say," Dodge told WND. "Get the fiscal mess sorted out first."
One of the Tea Party Patriot signers of the letter also acknowledged that it does not represent the tea-party movement as a whole.
"We don't represent even the whole state of Idaho," said Pam Stout of Sandpoint Tea Party Patriots. "I signed for our group, which represents the two northernmost counties in Idaho."
Stout, who describes herself as "prolife with certain exclusions," does not oppose tea-party social activism.
"Local groups focus on things that are pertinent to them," Stout explained. "The national group must stick to the broad issues, and the biggest issue is not spending what we don't have."
The letter defines the tea party as "a non-partisan movement, focused on issues of economic freedom and limited government."
"We're not going to let someone else define us," Daniel Cortez, media coordinator for the Northern Virginia Tea Party, told WND.
"You can't paint the tea party with a broad brush," Cortez emphasized. "The tea party is a conglomeration of many different groups. We don't agree with each other on every issue, and nobody tells each other what to do."
Nor does the letter represent the views of every group in the Tea Party Patriots, one of the largest tea-party organizations in the nation.
"They're only speaking for their own chapters, not for the tea party as a whole," said David Beaupre, head of the Independence Tea Party, a Tea Party Patriots-affiliated group based in Massachusetts.
Beaupre, whose chapter is heavily involved in abortion and family issues, said he "disagreed vehemently" that Congress should focus exclusively on economics and limiting the size of government.
"There's social conservatism right in our founding documents," said Beaupre. "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights."
Beaupre noted that his tea-party chapter received a recent boost in membership because a neighboring tea-party organizer went back on her word to address social issues "after the election."
"Eighteen or 19 people walked out of her meeting when she made it clear she wasn't going to talk about life and homosexuality," Beaupre told WND.
Beaupre added that several neighboring Massachusetts Tea Party chapters also emphasize social issues.
"Are tea-party leaders destroying the movement?," asked First Things blogger Joe Carter in a comment on the letter.
"There are more than 2,300 local tea-party groups across the nation yet leaders from only 12 of them signed the document," wrote Carter.
"They don't seem to realize that they are out of touch with their own movement," wrote Carter. "A recent survey has shown that nearly half (47 percent) of tea-party supporters consider themselves to be part of the conservative Christian movement. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of tea partiers say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, and only 18 percent support same-sex marriage."
"In our post-election poll, when asked to name the biggest issue facing future generations, 62 percent of voters said it is the moral decline of our nation," wrote Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America.
"Now is not the time for Republicans to back away from their own party's foundational social issues," wrote Nance, who dismissed the open letter as the "GOProud letter."