By Tony Perkins
It hasn’t always been easy, but the organizers at the annual CPAC conference finally put the “conservative” back in Conservative Political Action Conference. And fortunately for the movement, the more pronounced emphasis on life, marriage, and religious liberty seemed to be contagious. To a man, the GOP’s presidential candidates seemed to welcome the discussion on values that past leaders have avoided.
In a refreshing change from past years, Republican hopefuls tried to verify their conservative credentials on the full-portfolio of issues. Leaders like Governor Scott Walker (R-Wisc.), who’s been criticized for shunning social issues, put on a full-court press for non-negotiables like life. The shift was so palpable that reporters tried to explain it. The New York Times called it a short-term strategy. Others wondered if it was the genuine conversion that the Governor (who won second place in the straw poll) says it is. “My views have changed,” Walker explained.
Others, like Governor Jeb Bush, who I had the opportunity to meet privately with at CPAC, have some work to do persuading social conservatives on issues like marriage and Common Core. That said, the former Florida leader was very willing to listen — especially on issues like religious liberty and same-sex “marriage.” Although social issues may not be his first priority, I sensed he was genuinely interested in learning how to effectively work those themes into his overall messaging.
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On Saturday morning, I took my turn on the stage on a panel, “Religious Freedom in America: Would the Pilgrims Still Be Welcome Here?” with Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, and radio host Dana Loesch. In stark contrast to the Obama administration, Neugebauer defended America’s freedom of belief in all walks of life. “We want free ability to express our faith as Christians not just one hour on Sunday but the rest of our week as well,” he said. “It’s freedom of religion, not from religion. It says render unto Caesar, not surrender unto Caesar.”
And as FRC’s new polling shows, the American people agree. Eighty-one percent think the government should leave people alone to exercise their faith as they see fit. That goal will be made more difficult in June, the panelists recognized, if the U.S. Supreme Court invents a constitutional right to same-sex “marriage.”
“The court — if it tries to impose this on the nation — will not solve it,” Neugebauer warned. “In fact, I believe it would move us into one of the most tumultuous cultural times we have ever seen. We don’t have to look back far in history to see how that works out when the court imposes a one-size-fits-all (solution). We go back to 1973 when the court said, ‘We’re going to solve this issue of abortion.’ Forty-two years later, abortion is an issue in every election.
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.
(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)
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