By a show of hands, how many of you business people out there invite the competition to your office and collaborate on advertising strategies? Probably not a single one.
Executives at Coke would never give Pepsi 20 seconds of their minute-long commercial or a third of their billboard space. No one who is paying to promote a message would be foolish enough to promote a contradictory one at the same time. No one, I suppose, but the conservative movement.
Next month, for the 38th time, people will make their way to Washington, D.C. for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Many of them are in for a surprise when they arrive. For the last few years, the conference--which used to embody the core of the conservative movement--has pulled up a chair at the family table for people working to advance the policy goals of the radical Left. Lobbyists for amnesty, the ACLU, legalized marijuana, same-sex "marriage," and Internet gambling have called CPAC home for the last several years. For more than a decade, FRC was a cosponsor of the conference--leading well-received panels on life and marriage. But every year, we had to push a reluctant American Conservative Union (ACU), the founder of CPAC, to continue those panel discussions despite their popularity. In 2007, we finally opted out of the event after deciding that the annual tussle with CPAC officials was a waste of time and energy when we were busy fighting a liberal takeover of both chambers of Congress (who, ironically, were propelled to power by Republicans who had drifted from their conservative roots).
This was not an easy decision, because we understand the importance of coalitions and a unified conservative movement. And we continue to believe in the founding principles behind CPAC--even if some of its organizers seem to have forgotten. In fact, this dilution of key social issues was one of the motivations behind our own Values Voter Summit, which we launched in 2006 so that these values--along with fiscal and foreign policy issues--would continue to be advanced coherently in the conservative movement.
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That said, we are not "boycotting" CPAC. We're simply not participating. FRC has chosen not to partner with a "conservative" event that places the protection of marriage on the same plane as redefining it. Would CPAC team up with the Brady Campaign which fights to restrict--if not abolish--the Second Amendment? Would it collaborate with groups who promote doubling capital gains taxes? Regardless of what CPAC organizers may believe, conservatives and homosexual activists cannot coexist in a movement predicated on social values. This has nothing to do with whether individual homosexuals should be allowed to attend CPAC, or whether they are capable of holding conservative positions on some issues. We recognize that some organizations represented at CPAC are silent on the issue of homosexuality. But organizations whose whole reason for existence is to promote the forced public affirmation of homosexual conduct should not be welcomed at CPAC, because that is not-by any stretch of the imagination-a "conservative" agenda. By allying itself with liberal social organizations, ACU is abandoning at least a third of the conservative movement.
Our participation in CPAC--or lack of it--has absolutely no bearing on our ability to love and dialogue with people who disagree with us. As I've said before, we'll debate the other side on issues like marriage anytime--anywhere. But the suggestion that conservatives should debate marriage on our own turf is demeaning and downright deceptive. This is a fundamental principle that shouldn't be up for debate in any conservative gathering. If the policy is not up for discussion, why foster the impression? If it is, then make that clear upfront. This is a matter of basic integrity. Other coalition members, who question the wisdom of our stand, should realize that this is a fight for more than social values. If marriage is fair game at CPAC, which issues are not? Limited government? National security? Social, economic, and defense conservatism form an integrated and indivisible whole.
Reaching out to new allies is a worthy goal, but not at the cost of driving a deep wedge in the movement that was unified to bring change to Washington this fall. Some of our friends have criticized FRC's decision by drawing the scriptural parallel of Jesus eating with sinners. But this isn't Jesus eating with sinners--it's Jesus partnering with them to open a restaurant! My friend, the late Adrian Rogers, said it best: " It is not love and it is not friendship if we fail to declare the whole counsel of God. It is better to be hated for telling the truth than to be loved for telling a lie... It is better to stand alone with the truth than to be wrong with a multitude."