Valves Void: Annual Summit Of The Religious Right Encourages Far-Right Voters To Undermine Church-State Separation And Use Religion As A Weapon To Discriminate.

AuthorHayes, Liz

The Religious Right organization Family Research Council (FRC) made clear at its annual Values Voter Summit that it would be promoting an anti-LGBTQ, anti-reproductive-rights, anti-religious-diversity platform heading into the midterm elections.

The Values Voter Summit (VVS) is FRC's annual gathering in Washington, D.C., that aims to motivate white evangelical Christians just before the November general election and encourage them to vote in line with FRC's priorities. Judging by the issues, speakers and candidates showcased during the three-day gathering in September, FRC's agenda continues to be weaponizing "religious freedom" (their narrow version of it) as a means to justify discrimination.

Vice President Mike Pence--the first sitting vice president to address VVS--voiced several of these goals during his headlining speech on Sept. 23. A frequent VVS participant, Pence was the highest-profile elected official on stage this year, since President Donald Trump opted not to speak. (Trump has addressed the group on two prior occasions.)

Pence made several claims that overstated or mischaracterized the administration's efforts to undermine churchstate separation. He spoke of action "to protect the conscience rights" of medical professionals--a reference to the proposed, but not yet finalized, refusal-of-care rule announced in January by the Department of Health and Human Services. The proposal would allow doctors, nurses, other health care workers and medical facilities to use religion as a justification for refusing to serve patients, even in emergencies or when lifesaving care is needed. The proposal would be particularly harmful to LGBTQ people and to women seeking reproductive health care.

Pence also repeated the oft-used, inaccurate claim that he and Trump have "ended the last administration's assault on the Little Sisters of the Poor"--a reference to the organizations that sued over the Affordable Care Act benefit that ensures employees have access to no-cost birth control in employee health insurance plans.

Last fall, the Trump administration announced new rules that would allow employers and universities to cite religious beliefs to deny employees' and students' access to birth control. The rules have been blocked by federal courts from going into effect due to several legal challenges (which include a lawsuit filed by Americans United and allies against the administration and the University of Notre Dame).

All under the guise of...

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