Don’t let Values Voters determine our values (or play the victim)

President Donald Trump arrives to speak to the 2017 Value Voters Summit, Friday, Oct. 13, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump recently addressed the Values Voters Summit, an annual political conference for far-right Christian conservatives hosted by the Family Research Council (FRC). While the name certainly sounds innocuous enough, the FRC (not to be confused with the totally awesome FIRST Robotics Competition) is a strongly anti-LGBT organization that has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Its leaders have issued a number of lies about the LGBT community, including that gay men are more likely to molest children and that “homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed.”

One would think that an event hosted by a group that regularly demonizes U.S. citizens for no better reason than who they are sexually attracted to would be boycotted by the vast majority of one our nation’s major parties. Unfortunately, the Religious Right is too much of an important voting bloc for Republicans to lose, and so many do attend the conference. President Trump became the first sitting president to address the summit, which disappointingly lends the legitimacy of his office to the outdated beliefs expressed by the organizations behind them.

During his speech, Trump spoke about some truly important issues, like the War on Christmas. Perhaps no other issue causes my eyes to so quickly roll of their own accord. Nothing highlights the secular Left’s attacks on Judeo-Christian values like encouraging people to say “Happy Holidays,” so that well-wishers can include both those who do and do not celebrate Christmas.

I honestly do not understand how groups like this ever get away with playing the victim, as if their brand of Christianity is under attack. Essentially every president has been a Christian (including Obama in case anyone still doubts it). And while Christians make up a little over 70 percent of the population of the United States, more than 90 percent of the current Congress ascribes to some form of Christianity. This includes all but two members of the Republican Party in Congress.

Despite Christians having an overwhelming and disproportionate presence in government, research has shown they still perceive themselves as being discriminated against. In fact, 57 percent of white evangelicals said Christians faced a lot of discrimination in America, while only 44 percent said the same of Muslims. Last I checked, the President was banning people from predominantly Muslim countries and excluded Christian minorities in those same countries. But I suppose being told “Happy Holidays” and having to live in a country with the scourge of homosexuality is worse than being banned from an entire country because of your religion.

It would seem the problem these far-right Christian conservatives have is not that their voices are being silenced, but that others’ are being amplified. Christianity no longer has absolute dominion over American society. Nowadays it is not unusual to be someone who never attends church, someone who belongs to a different religion or someone who simply does not believe in God. None of these changes are necessarily intended to force out Christianity, but now that we are more religiously diverse, it is not as common for every public display to be rooted in religion.

This is why, in recent years, there have been efforts to, for example, remove the Ten Commandments from a public courthouse. In a diverse society, governmental institutions should not show favoritism to any one set of particular beliefs. If officials had taken down the Ten Commandments and replaced them with Muslim scripture, then these groups would have an argument. But simply taking them down promotes a sort of fairness, that no matter one’s religion, one will be treated equally by the government.

Perceived discrimination against Christians is analogous to the perceived discrimination against white men for the past 150 years or so. Giving the rights that white men have always had to women and racial minorities was about bringing these other people up, not pulling white men down. Putting other belief systems on the same footing as Christianity is likewise not persecution but equality.


Jacob Kowalski is opinion editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at jacob.kowalski@uconn.edu.