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Religious conservatives unite against Hillary Clinton at summit

Hillary Rodham Clinton is the one figure uniting U.S. religious conservatives frustrated by a leaderless Republican Party that’s divided over foreign policy, immigration and social issues.

The prospect of another Clinton White House stirred anguish at the Values Voter Summit over the weekend. Hundreds of conservative activists debated the Republican Party’s future and warned that the acknowledged but unannounced 2016 Democratic front-runner would cement what they see as President Barack Obama’s attack on religious freedom.

“Never forget she will be Barack Obama’s third and fourth term as president of the United States,” Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, an unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate in 2012, said.

She was among the high-profile Republicans, including past and prospective White House contenders, at the annual conference attended by some of the most prominent social conservatives and hosted by the Family Research Council, well known for its opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. FRC is popular with Christian right voters but considered a hate group by some civil rights organizations.

This year’s gathering expanded its focus to religious freedom — or the persecution of Christians and their values at home and abroad. It was a message that Republican officials hope will help unify a fractured party and appeal to new voters ahead of November’s elections and the next presidential contest.

But it was Clinton’s name that was as much a rallying cry as the theme of religious liberty.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a prospective presidential candidate, challenged Clinton to “spend a day debating” the Denver nuns who run nursing homes for the poor, called the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged, and have challenged the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that some religious-affiliated organizations provide insurance that includes birth control.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a once and perhaps future contender, described Clinton as “tenacious.”

“She’s got all the skills and would be an incredibly formidable candidate,” Huckabee told reporters, suggesting that Clinton is politically vulnerable. “She’s got to go out and defend Barack Obama and her record in the first four years she was secretary of state.”

Clinton would be the overwhelming favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination, while the Republican’s field is large and lacks a clear front-runner. Two Republican establishment favorites, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, were not invited to the conference.

As he did last year, Cruz won the summit’s symbolic presidential preference straw poll with 25 percent of the vote, followed by conservative firebrand Ben Carson and Huckabee. Clinton earned one vote among more than 900 cast, although Family Research Council president Tony Perkins joked that even Mickey Mouse would have gotten a vote if listed on the ballot.

He said Clinton pursued a liberal agenda “in complete contrast to what values voters care about.”

“She’s going to have a more difficult time this go around than she did last time,” Perkins said.

A CNN poll this summer found that four different would-be Republican candidates earned between 10 percent and 15 percent of support from self-identified conservatives: Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Cruz and Huckabee. The same poll found that 73 percent of conservatives said Clinton doesn’t generally agree with them on issues they care about.

Christian right holds homecoming weekend in D.C.

The Values Voter Summit that took place Oct. 11–13 was something of a homecoming for right-wing leaders.

For the progressives who gathered to protest, it was something of a fright fest.

“This event is put on by hate groups with really scary ideas about American values and no respect for equality and justice,” said Joshua Alcorn of Baltimore, who demonstrated outside the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 11, the first day of the three-day summit and the 11th day of the partial federal government shutdown.

“I would have hoped our elected officials would have had something better to do than to be here, stoking the fires,” said demonstrator Shawnee McMurphree of Washington.

The summit theme was “Standing for Faith, Family and Opportunity for All” and, in keeping with tradition, the event featured a straw poll for the next presidential election. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, won the poll with 42 percent of the vote. Ben Carson and Rick Santorum followed with 13 percent each.

Before the summit speeches began, the right-wing Liberty Counsel legal defense group hosted the Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition breakfast.

Opening day ceremonies featured Cruz and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky. The first day also featured “The Future of Marriage” panel led by Tony Perkins, of the ultra-right Family Research Council, and Brian Brown, of the National Organization for Marriage.

Paul described a “war on Christianity” that U.S. foreign policy must address and Rubio said, “We can’t stop talking about the importance of our values and our culture. We can’t stop talking about them because the moral well-being of our people is directly linked to their economic well-being.”

Cruz told those gathered that the nation is on the edge of a cliff —— he was heckled during the speech, leading right-wing media to speculate operatives for President Barack Obama had infiltrated the event.

The Oct. 11 schedule did require some adjustment for speakers who did not attend, including U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who sent a video message explaining that as chair of the House budget committee “things are a little busy up here on Capitol Hill these days.”

In the message, he told conservative activists that he too is a “values voter” and what sets “us apart is our beliefs.” Ryan said those beliefs include rethinking “government’s role in our lives” and that includes ending the Affordable Care Act.

Many speakers, with the shutdown imposed and a deadline to act on the debt ceiling approaching, focused on money issues on the mainstage, but outside the spotlight there was plenty of focus on marriage, abortion and the other hot-button issues that drove the so-called “values voters” to D.C.

Throughout the event there were breakfast gatherings, worship sessions, banquets, luncheons, book-signings, workshops, receptions and speeches, including by U.S. Reps. Jim Bridenstine, Louie Gohmert, Jim Jordan and Steve Scalis, as well as Fox personalities Allen West, Mike Huckabee, Todd Starnes and others.

Program topics included “What is Marriage … Really?” “Getting America Back to Great,” “The Erosion of Religious Liberties in the Public Square,” “Responding to the Tough Questions on Marriage, Religious Liberty and More,” “The Hispanic Community: Messaging and Mobilizing,” “Values and Obamacare,” “Standing up to the Assaults on our Faith,” “Is it too Late to Reclaim America?” “The War on Football: Saving America’s Game” and “Challenging Tyranny.”

In the days before the summit, civil rights activists launched a campaign aimed at persuading scheduled speakers to skip the summit. FRC has a history of demonizing gays, portraying gays as sick, evil, incestuous, violent and perverted threats to the nation.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, Human Rights Campaign, NAACP, National Council of La Raza, GLAAD, People for the American Way Foundation and Faithful America all called on lawmakers to skip the summit.

“Elected officials shouldn’t lend the prestige of their office to hate groups that have a long history of telling incendiary lies about the LGBT community and spreading other forms of bigotry,” said a statement from the SPLC.

A letter signed by representatives from civil rights group that went to Ryan and others said, “Last year, RNC chairman Reince Priebus said that ‘people in this country, no matter straight or gay, deserve dignity and respect.’ The question before you today, therefore, is where the party of Lincoln stands in 2013 on vilifying the LGBT community. You can help answer that question by saying no to bigotry and declining the invitation to speak at the Values Voter Summit.”

Defying civil rights activists, Ryan appears before hate groups

To reach the Washington, D.C., hotel where he delivered a speech to right-wing extremists, Paul Ryan had to pass demonstrators waving signs that read, “The TV cameras are on. Fold the white sheets” and “Value love not hate.”

Inside the Omni Shoreham Hotel, the Wisconsin congressman and Republican vice presidential nominee hammered at Barack Obama on foreign affairs, health care, abortion, religious freedom and gay marriage before about 2,500 disciples of the Values Voter Summit, which was co-hosted by the Family Research Council and the American Family Association.

Both organizations have been labeled as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and a coalition of civil rights groups had urged Ryan and other public officials to skip the summit.

Civil rights leaders have characterized the annual event that began in 2006 as an extremist affair promoting hate rhetoric and recycling lies about Jews and Muslims, gays and Latinos – and also Democrats.

But for a Republican Party pitched to the right, the summit is seen as a must-do event on the political calendar, something of a second convention.

For civil rights activists outside the Omni, the issue was less about what Ryan said – which was predictable – and more about his appearance at a hate-group event.

“Congressman Ryan has long been on the very edge of the con servative Republican party,” said Nicole Safar, public policy director for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin.

“American Jews will feel a sense of profound disappointment that two of the most important Republicans in the country have chosen to address – and thus court and legitimize – some of America’s most extreme and deeply disturbing social conservatives at today’s Values Voter Summit,” said National Jewish Democratic Council CEO David A. Harris, referring to Ryan and U.S. Rep Eric Cantor of Virginia, who promoted “traditional marriage” in his remarks.

Harris noted FRC’s “infamous history of gay bashing, (as well as) anti-Muslim and intolerant statements, including disgustingly and directly linking homosexuality to the Holocaust. But equally concerning is the history of hate-filled toxic rhetoric that flows from many of its participants year after year. This is above and beyond one of the summit’s organizers’ calls for Jews to be converted to Christianity.”

FRC was launched in 1981 by James Dobson, who created it as a lobbying group tied to Focus on the Family, his early Christian right group formed to block LGBT civil rights efforts and reproductive freedoms.

FRC became its own entity in the early 1990s, with Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana legislator, at the helm. Today FRC is a right-wing powerhouse that lobbies Congress and makes PAC contributions, including to Wisconsin’s Sean Duffy and Mark Neumann. According to Perkins, the group had enough influence to be given the job of writing the anti-gay marriage provisions that are contained in the Republican Party’s national platform.

But political positions didn’t earn FRC its hate group status, according to SPLC president Richard Cohen. The classification is based on the organization’s demonizing of LGBT people, spreading lies and misinformation about a class of people, to incite prejudice and hatred.

FRC “isn’t some policy shop that attempts to find constructive solutions to problems facing our society,” said Human Rights Campaign vice president Fred Sainz. “Tony Perkins wants you to believe that FRC is a family-focused advocacy organization, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The only thing FRC advocates for is the demonization of those who do not fit into their narrow worldview. They are a hate group that actively spreads blatant lies about LGBT people – with absolutely no regard for the impact of their harmful rhetoric.”

Both FRC and AFA, for example, advocate therapy to turn gays straight – a treatment that’s not supported by any credible medical or mental health organization.

At the 2011 Values Voter Summit, the AFA’s Bryan Fischer said the “homosexual agenda” is the nation’s “greatest immediate threat.” Perkins, opening this year’s summit, compared homosexuality to drug abuse. He also has said pedophilia is a “homosexual problem” and others at FRC have called for recriminalizing homosexuality.

In early September, the SPLC and HRC, along with People for the American Way, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, National Black Justice Coalition, National Council of La Raza and Faithful America, called on public officials not to attend the Values Voter Summit.

“Our message is a simple one,” Cohen said. “Public officials should not lend the prestige of their office to groups that spread demeaning and false propaganda about other people.”

‘waiting list’

The news events of the week – the killing of U.S. diplomats in Libya and escalating anti-American violence in the Middle East sparked over an anti-Islam video – dictated the substance of higher-profile speeches. Traditionally, the summit is devoted to challenging reproductive freedom, marriage equality and immigration reform.

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, speaking mid-morning on Sept. 14, focused her ire on “radical Islamists … who seek to impose their set of beliefs on the rest of the world.” In an address about foreign affairs and national security, she remembered the Alamo and quoted Gen. Douglas Macarthur.

Ryan spoke during the same session, focusing much of his speech on the Obama administration’s handling of foreign affairs. But he also nodded at domestic issues. He boasted of Mitt Romney’s pledge to repeal the Affordable Care Act on day one if he’s elected and said Barack Obama has sought to dictate Catholic Church policy on contraception.

To cheers, Ryan attacked Obama’s support for the right of women to terminate their pregnancies. “‘We’re all in this together’ – it has a nice ring,” he said. “For everyone who loves this country, it is not only true but obvious. Yet how hollow it sounds coming from a politician who has never once lifted a hand to defend the most helpless and innocent of all human beings, the child waiting to be born.”

In his only reference to LGBT issues, Ryan, who has a consistent anti-gay record, said, “We can be confident in the rightness of our cause, and also in the integrity and readiness of the man who leads it (Mitt Romney). He’s solid and trustworthy, faithful and honorable. Not only a defender of marriage, he offers an example of marriage at its best.”

The remarks rang familiar to those who have heard Ryan’s stump speech in recent weeks, and to those in the congressman’s home state.

Safar said that Ryan “would rather appeal to a narrow conservative political view than address the issues that women are facing every day in this country.”

She added, “To be clear, Congressman Ryan believes that politicians should ban abortion access – no exceptions, even when a woman will die or is the victim of rape or incest. This is a view that over two-thirds of voters consistently reject. President Obama is clearly on the side of the majority of voters and frankly the side of women when he says that politicians should not be involved in women’s medical decisions. Congressman Ryan is out of touch with what women in our country know: We don’t consult politicians when it comes to advice about mammograms or cancer screenings or treatment. Politicians should not be involved in a woman’s personal medical decisions about her pregnancy.”

In the week before the conference, the Values Voter website contained a long list of speakers – many confirmed, but some not, including Mitt Romney. Late in the week, after organizers indicated to the press that the candidate’s wife would speak, the Romney campaign said she had no such plan. Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who delivered prayers at both the Republican and Democratic national conventions, also was a listed speaker but said he never planned to attend.

The summit did feature Ryan, Bachmann and Cantor, as well as:

• U.S. Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Jim DeMint of South Carolina and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum.

• TV actor Kirk Cameron.

• U.S. Reps. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, Steve King of Iowa and James Lankford of Oklahoma.

• Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona.

• U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz of Texas.

American Family Association leaders Tim Wildmon and Buddy Smith also had microphones, as did retired Lt. Col. Oliver North of Iran-Contra Affair fame and anti-choice activist Lila Rose, who has called for abortions to be performed in the public square.

Perkins said the summit is so popular with Republican officeholders that “we have a waiting list of those who want to speak. We’ve had to turn away members of Congress.”

Paul Ryan’s prepared remarks to right-wing Values Voter Summit

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican nominee for vice president, addressed the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 14.

Civil rights groups had urged public officials not to attend the forum, which is sponsored by the Family Research Council, a group that has long circulated lies and misinformation about LGBT people and is called a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The following is the text of Ryan’s prepared remarks:

Thank you all very much. I appreciate your kind hospitality, and I count it a special honor to be introduced by my mentor and friend Bill Bennett.

It’s good to be part of the Values Voter Summit once again, and this time around I bring greetings from the next president of the United States, Governor Mitt Romney.

In this election, many millions of Americans count themselves as values voters, and I am one of them. In 53 days, we have a choice between two very different ideas about our country – how we were meant to live, and what we were meant to be.

It’s the kind of choice that can never be taken for granted. Peace, freedom, and civilized values have enemies in this world, as we have been reminded by events in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen.

We have all seen images of our flag being burned and our embassies under attack by vicious mobs. The worst of it is the loss of four good men, including our ambassador to Libya. They were there for the most peaceful purposes in service to our country. And today our country honors their lives and grieves with their families.

All of us are watching events closely, but we know who America is dealing with in these attacks. They are extremists who operate by violence and intimidation. And the least equivocation or mixed signal only makes them bolder.

Look across that region today, and what do we see?

– The slaughter of brave dissidents in Syria.

– Mobs storming American embassies and consulates.

– Iran four years closer to gaining a nuclear weapon.

– Israel, our best ally in the region, treated with indifference bordering on contempt by the Obama administration.

Amid all these threats and dangers, what we do not see is steady, consistent American leadership.

In the days ahead, and in the years ahead, American foreign policy needs moral clarity and firmness of purpose. Only by the confident exercise of American influence are evil and violence overcome.

That is how we keep problems abroad from becoming crises. That is what keeps the peace. And that is what we will have in a Romney-Ryan administration.

In the all-important election of 2012, values voters are also economic voters. This election will hold the incumbent accountable for his economic failures, and affirm the pro-growth agenda of Mitt Romney.

It is true that President Obama had a lot of problems not of his own making. But he also came in with one-party rule, and the chance to do everything of his own choosing. The Obama economic agenda failed, not because it was stopped, but because it was passed.

And here is what we got: Prolonged joblessness across the country. Twenty-three million Americans struggling to find work. Family income in decline. Fifteen percent of Americans living in poverty.

The record is so uniformly bad that maybe you’ve noticed something: President Obama himself almost never even uses the word “record,” – that is, except when he’s trying to trade on the record of Bill Clinton. In his convention speech, the President never once said that simple word, “record.”

He didn’t say the word “stimulus,” either, because he wasted $831 billion of borrowed money. At a time of mass unemployment, he didn’t even say “unemployment,” because we’re in the slowest recovery since the Great Depression. And by the way, he didn’t use the word “recovery,” either – never mind that recovery was what all America expected from Barack Obama.

He wants us to forget all of these things, and lately he’s been trying out a new tactic. It’s a classic Barack Obama straw man: If anyone dares to point out the facts of his record, why then, they’re just being negative and pessimistic about the country. The new straw man is people hoping for the decline of America.

It’s pretty sad, but this is the closest President Obama can come these days to sounding positive himself. But we have to face up to all that has gone wrong these past four years, so that the next four can be better. Ladies and gentlemen, this nation cannot afford to make economic failure a two-term proposition.

Lately, the President has also been trying out sports comparisons. He compares this fourth year of his term to the fourth quarter of a basketball game.

You can expect more of this, because if there’s anything the man can do, it’s talk a good game. The only problem is, the clock is running out and he still hasn’t put any points on the board.

His whole case these days is basically asking us to forget what he promised four years ago, and focus instead on his new promises. That’s a fast move to get around accountability. He made those ringing promises to get elected.

Without them, he wouldn’t be president. And now he acts as if it is unfair to measure his performance against his own words. But here’s the question: If Barack Obama’s promises weren’t good then, what good are they now?

If we renew the contract, we will get the same deal – with only one difference: In a second term, he will never answer to you again.

In so many ways, starting with Obamacare, re-electing this president would set in motion things that can never be called back. It would be a choice to give up so many other choices.

When all the new mandates of government-run healthcare come down, the last thing the regulators will want to hear is your opinion. When the Obama tax increases start coming, nobody in Washington is going to ask whether you can afford them or not.

When all the new borrowing brings our national debt to 20 trillion dollars, and then 25 trillion, nobody’s going to ask you about the debt crisis, or even help you prepare for it. But we the people need to think ahead, even if our current president will not, to avoid that crisis while there is still time.

Everyone knows that President Obama inherited a bad economy. And four months from now, when Mitt Romney is sworn in as president, he will inherit a bad economy.

But here’s the difference. When a Romney-Ryan administration takes office, we will also take responsibility. Instead of dividing up the wealth, our new president will get America creating wealth again.

We’re going to revive free enterprise in this country – to get our economy growing faster and our people back to work.

On the path this president has set, by the time my kids are my age, the federal government will be far bigger and more powerful even than it is today. At that point, this land of free men and women will have become something it was never intended to be.

We are expected to meekly submit to this fate, but I’ve got a different idea, and I’m betting that most Americans share it. I want my children to make their own choices, to define happiness for themselves, and to use the gifts that God gave them and live their lives in freedom.

Say things like this, and our opponents will quickly accuse you of being, quote, “anti-government.” President Obama frames the debate this way because, here again, it’s the only kind of debate he can win – against straw-man arguments.

No politician is more skilled at striking heroic poses against imaginary adversaries. Nobody is better at rebuking nonexistent opinions. Barack Obama does this all the time, and in this campaign we are calling him on it.

The President is given to lectures on all that we owe to government, as if anyone who opposes his reckless expansion of federal power is guilty of ingratitude and rank individualism.

He treats private enterprise as little more than a revenue source for government. He views government as the redistributor and allocator of opportunity.

Well, the results are in for that, too. Here we are, after four years of economic stewardship under these self-proclaimed advocates of the poor, and what do they have to show for it?

More people in poverty, and less upward mobility wherever you look. After four years of dividing people up with the bogus rhetoric of class warfare, just about every segment of society is worse off.

To see all this played out in any country would be bad enough. To see it becoming the daily experience of life in the United States is utterly contrary to everything we are entitled to expect.

Mitt Romney knows that this country, and all the millions who are waiting for their working lives to begin again, were made for better things.

To borrow the words of another mentor of mine, Jack Kemp, Mitt and I understand that “No government in history has been able to do for people what they have been able to do for themselves, when they were free to follow their hopes and dreams.”

Under the current President, we are at risk of becoming a poor country, because he looks to government as the great benefactor in every life.

Our opponents even have a new motto. They say, quote, “Government is the only thing that we all belong to.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never thought of government as something I belong to. As a matter of fact, on the seven occasions I’ve been sworn in as a Member of Congress, I have never taken an oath to the government.

The oath that all of us take is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, under which government is limited and the people are sovereign.

In the experience of real life, the most important things we belong to have a very different hold on us. I am a Catholic, not because anyone has ordered me to accept a creed, but because of the grace and truth revealed in my faith – and that’s how we all feel about the faiths we hold.

In the same way, we Americans give ourselves to every kind of good cause. We do so for the simple reason that our hearts and conscience have called us to work that needs doing, to fill a place that sometimes no one else can fill.

It’s like that with our families and communities, too. The whole life of this nation is carried forward every day by the endless unselfish things people do for one another, without even giving it much thought.

In books, they call this civil society. In my own experience, I know it as Janesville, Wisconsin – a place, like ten thousand others, where a lot of good happens without government commanding it, directing it, or claiming credit for it.

That’s how life is supposed to work in a free country. And nothing undermines the essential and honorable work of government more than the abuse of government power.

In the President’s telling, government is a big, benevolent presence – gently guiding our steps at every turn. In reality, when government enters the picture, private institutions are so often brushed aside with suspicion or even contempt.

This is what happened to the Catholic Church and Catholic Charities this past January, when the new mandates of Obamacare started coming. Never mind your own conscience, they were basically told, from now on you’re going to do things the government’s way.

Ladies and gentlemen, you would be hard pressed to find another group in America that does more to serve the health of women and their babies than the Catholic Church and Catholic Charities. And now, suddenly, we have Obamacare bureaucrats presuming to dictate how they will do it.

As Governor Romney has said, this mandate is not a threat and insult to one religious group – it is a threat and insult to every religious group. He and I are honored to stand with you – people of faith and concerned citizens – in defense of religious liberty.

And I can assure you, when Mitt Romney is elected, we will get to work – on day one – to repeal that mandate and all of Obamacare.

Finally, when he tries to make big government sound reasonable and inclusive, President Obama likes to say, “We’re all in this together.” And here, too, he has another handy straw man.

Anyone who questions the wisdom of his policies must be lacking in compassion. Who else would question him but those mean people who think that everybody has to go it alone and fend for themselves.

“We’re all in this together” – it has a nice ring. For everyone who loves this country, it is not only true but obvious. Yet how hollow it sounds coming from a politician who has never once lifted a hand to defend the most helpless and innocent of all human beings, the child waiting to be born.

Giving up any further pretense of moderation on this issue, and in complete disregard of millions of pro-life Democrats, President Obama has chosen to pander to the most extreme elements of his party.

In the Clinton years, the stated goal was to make abortion “safe, legal and rare.” But that was a different time, and a different president. Now, apparently, the Obama-Biden ticket stands for an absolute, unqualified right to abortion – at any time, under any circumstances, and even at taxpayer expense.

When you get past all of the President’s straw men, what we believe is plain to state: These vital questions should be decided, not by the caprice of unelected judges, but by the conscience of the people and their elected representatives. And in this good-hearted country, we believe in showing compassion for mother and child alike.

We don’t write anyone off in America, especially those without a voice. Every child has a place and purpose in this world. Everyone counts, and in a just society the law should stand on the side of life.

So much of our history has been a constant striving to live up to the ideals of our founding, about rights and their ultimate source. At our opponent’s convention, a rowdy dispute broke out over the mere mention of that source.

For most of us, it was settled long ago that our rights come from nature and nature’s God, not from government.

A disregard for rights … a growing government and a static economy … a country where everything is free but us: This is where it is all tending.

This is where we are being taken by the present administration. This is the road we are on. But my friends, that road has an exit, just ahead, and it is marked “Tuesday, November 6, 2012.”

We can be confident in the rightness of our cause, and also in the integrity and readiness of the man who leads it.

He’s solid and trustworthy, faithful and honorable. Not only a defender of marriage, he offers an example of marriage at its best.

Not only a fine businessman, he is a fine man, worthy of leading our country, and ready to lead the great turnaround we have spent four years waiting for.

I’m not the only one who has told Mitt that maybe he needs to talk more about himself and his life.

It wouldn’t hurt if voters knew more of those little things that reveal a man’s heart and his character. This is a guy who, at the height of a successful business, turned the entire company into a search and rescue operation the moment he heard that a colleague’s young daughter was missing.

He’s a man who could easily have contented himself with giving donations to needy causes, but everyone who knows him will tell you that Mitt has always given himself.

He’s one of those guys who doesn’t just exhort and oversee good works, but shows up and does the work.

Mitt Romney is the type we’ve all run into in our own communities, the man who’s there right away when there’s need, but never first in line when praise and credit are being handed out. He’s a modest man with a charitable heart, a doer and a promise-keeper.

He’s the kind of person every community could use more of, and he’ll be the kind of president who brings out the best in our country.

When he asked me to join the ticket, I told Governor Romney, “Let’s get this done.” That’s been my message ever since, and now I’m asking all of you the same.

We know what we are up against. We know how desperate our opponents are to cling to power. But we are ready, and I hope you are too, because I know that we can do this.

Whatever your political party, let’s come together for the sake of our country. Let’s put these divisive years behind us. Let’s give this effort everything we have. Let’s get this done, and elect Mitt Romney the next president of the United States.

Thank you very much.

UPDATED: Ann Romney scheduled for far-right summit, but she’s not going

Ann Romney and Paul Ryan are two of the top speakers listed on the schedule for the Values Voter Summit set for Sept. 14-16 and hosted by the extremist Family Research Council. The Romney campaign, however, says Ann Romney will not be attending.

The event will take place at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The FRC, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has called a “hate group” for its lies and extremist positions on homosexuality, has listed many high-profile “invited guests” who may or may not attend the summit. But the event program shows a number of those guests with scheduled speaking engagements, including Ann Romney, wife of the Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the vice presidential nominee.

Earlier this week, a coalition of civil rights group urged politicians and public officials not to attend the summit.

The schedule, as of Sept. 10, includes:

• Sept. 14 morning remarks by U.S. 
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, TV actor 
Kirk Cameron, U.S. Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas and James Lankford of Oklahoma, U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, 
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, Romney and Ryan.

However, Romney’s campaign said this morning that Ann Romney doesn’t plan to attend the summit, and never did.

• A luncheon sponsored by the American Family Association with AFA leaders Tim Wildmon and Buddy Smith and Fox News contributor Sandy Rios.

• Sept. 14 afternoon remarks by 
Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa, American Values president Gary Bauer, U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz of Texas and U.S. Rep. Allen West of Florida.

• Sept. 14 evening remarks by retired Lt. Col. Oliver North and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

The Sept. 15 schedule lists a breakfast with the leaders of the Heritage Foundation, with remarks by Edwin Meese II; a morning plenary session with remarks by representatives from the Liberty Counsel, Center for Urban Renewal and Education, Preserve Marriage Washington, Maine Family Policy Council, Minnesota Family Council, Center for Arizona Policy, Maryland Marriage Alliance, Arizona 
Gov. Jan Brewer, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and former U.S. 
Sen. Rick Santorum.

The Sept. 16 program only involves a morning worship service with the FRC’s Tony Perkins, who claims he authored the anti-gay marriage provisions in the Republican Party’s platform.

Discussion sessions during the summit will focus on abortion, immigration, relgious freedoms and gay marriage, according to the schedule.

Coalition calling on Paul Ryan, others to skip far-right Values Voter Summit

A coalition of civil rights groups is calling on politicians and others invited to speak at this weekend’s Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., to skip the event. The summit is hosted by the Family Research Council, with sponsorship from the American Family Association.

Both of those groups demonize gays, says a letter from the coalition to potential VVS speakers, including including Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.

The letter, which is below, was signed by J. Richard Cohen, president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center; Michael Sherrard, director of Faithful America; Herndon Graddick,president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation; Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign; Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks, executive director and CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition; Janet Murguía, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza; Michael B. Keegan, president of the People For the American Way Foundation.

The coalition was scheduled to hold a press briefing mid-morning Sept. 11.

The letter to those invited to address the Values Voter Summit:

We understand that you’ve been invited to speak at the Values Voter Summit being held in Washington, D.C., from Sept. 14-16. The host of the event, the Family Research Council (FRC), has consistently spread demonizing lies about the LGBT community, and one of its co-sponsors, the American Family Association (AFA), has linked homosexuality to the Holocaust. Given the FRC’s and AFA’s public statements, we urge you not to lend the prestige of your office to the summit.

The FRC is far outside of the mainstream. It has engaged in repeated, groundless demonization — portraying LGBT people as sick, vile, incestuous, violent, perverted,

and a danger to the nation. One of its officials has gone so far as to say homosexuality should be criminalized. (See www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/groups/

family-research-council.)

Perhaps the FRC’s ugliest lie is its claim that gay men molest children at a far higher rate than heterosexual men — that pedophilia “is a homosexual problem,” in the words of Tony Perkins, the FRC president. All credible scientific authorities, including the American Psychological Association, reject the claim. The FRC, on the other hand, has gone so far as to claim that “[o]ne of the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the ‘prophets’ of a new sexual order.”

The FRC’s extremism is vividly illustrated by the fact that it has invited the AFA to co-sponsor the Summit at which you have been invited to speak. Here is what Bryan Fischer, the AFA’s Director of Issue Analysis, wrote in 2010: “Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and 6 million dead Jews.” He once said that welfare rewards black people who “rut like rabbits.”

The FRC’s extremism is also illustrated by its recent hiring of retired Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, a radical anti-Muslim propagandist and conspiracy theorist, as its executive vice president. Last year, Mr. Boykin stated that “Islam is not a religion and does not deserve First Amendment protections”— a statement that is antithetical to American ideals. In the Affordable Care Act, he literally sees a plot to create a shadow police force that he compares to Hitler’s “Brownshirts.” Yet, the FRC has not only hired Mr. Boykin, it has given him a prominent speaking slot at the Summit.

Because of their repeated defamation of the LGBT community — not because of their opposition to gay marriage or belief that homosexuality is a sin — the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the FRC, as well as the AFA, a hate group. You may disagree with the SPLC’s characterization. But we find it hard to believe that you would stand with an organization that knowingly spreads demeaning and false propaganda about any group of people. FBI data demonstrate that gay men and lesbians are among the most likely group to be victimized by violent hate crimes. Defaming them publicly day after day — lying about them — only throws fuel on the fire.

We urge you to decline the FRC’s invitation and not share the stage with and lend your credibility to an organization that spreads demonizing falsehoods about other people.

Thank you for your consideration.

Summoned

The anti-gay Family Research Council put out the call for headliners at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. Who responded? Presidential GOP hopefuls Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and Mike Pense, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachman, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and American Family Association issues director Bryan Fischer, who has said gays should be disqualified from holding public offices and “gay sex is a form of domestic terrorism.” Not on the fall getaway list.