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New Conservative Manifesto

Conservatives sign a statement on their shared values; plus, the American Family Association raises eyebrows over its discussion of Muslim soldiers, capital punishment, and Pepsi.

Political Advocacy Tracker is a roundup of what Christian activist organizations have been talking about over the past week.

What the Right Believes

Leading up to an annual conservative gathering in Washington, D.C., political advocacy groups signed a new manifesto affirming core principles.

The Mount Vernon Statement was signed by scores of conservative groups that agreed on basic values including limited government, individual liberty, free enterprise, strong national security, and the "defense of family, neighborhood, community, and faith."

The document comes as groups ready for the Conservative Political Action Conference, organized annually by the American Conservative Union. Signatories included representatives from socially conservative groups such as the Family Research Council (FRC), Concerned Women for America, and Focus on the Family Action, as well as groups representing libertarians, tea party organizers, and national security hawks.

"This is a significant moment as social, fiscal, and national security conservatives come together to declare the importance of partnering to defend our nation's founding principles," said Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council.

Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family Action explained his support, saying "government has grown way outside its proper sphere by getting into moral and spiritual realms, such as redefining marriage [and] encouraging women to leave their children at home and go into the work force."

"As a nation, a people, and a culture, in so many ways it seems we are floundering. We have lost our sense of our American identity," said Erica Wanis of the Center for a Just Society.

But not all conservative advocates were excited about the document. "Writing and signing statements is all the rage in conservatism today, "wrote Elijah Friedeman on the American Family Association blog. "But Americans don't want or need more words that will soon be forgotten. Americans want action. … Unfortunately, too many conservatives wax eloquent on their values and principles rather than actually changing America."

Not That There's Anything Wrong with That

Opponents of same-sex marriage found themselves in a tricky rhetorical position as they tried to criticize some unique gay rights proponents without overtly criticizing them.  

Last week, the San Francisco Chronicle reported the "biggest open secret" of the court case over California's Proposition 8—which defines marriage as between one man and one woman—that Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker is gay. Walker offered no comment on this to the Chronicle. According to the story, he has not hidden nor advertised his sexual orientation.

Proponents of Prop. 8 reacted by avoiding the issue; rather than saying Judge Walker was unfit to rule because he is gay, they said he has been biased, perhaps because he is gay.

Mario Diaz of Concerned Women for America said, "I know that the judge's sexuality is not really important legally. His biased, activist and unlawful decisions are the real problem and not his motives. But it sure helps to explain a lot. The 'appearance of impropriety' is just too strong."

Bruce Hausknecht, judicial analyst for Focus on the Family Action, said that Walker's rulings in the trial "have all revealed a bias in favor of the anti–Prop. 8 plaintiffs. … [T]he source of that bias could be the judge's sexual orientation. At this point, that's just speculation. The fact that the bias exists is what's important."

Tony Perkins of FRC also had to strike a balance as he critiqued former Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney told ABC's This Week that it was time to reconsider the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy. "When the chiefs come forward and say, 'We think we can do it,' then it strikes me that it's … time to reconsider the policy," said Cheney.

Perkins, who liked everything else Cheney said in the interview, said that his "facts were wrong" because only one member of the Joint Chiefs said that changing the policy would be the right course, and he expressed this view as a personal belief. Perkins said that other Joint Chiefs have said that changing the policy "would be 'disruptive,' and could lead to weakenened national security."

Hope for Deficit Reduction?

Most advocacy groups agreed that the federal deficit needs to be reduced, but few expressed the slightest hope that it will.

Tom McClusky of FRC Action pointed out that neither party has learned how to control spending. Like most conservatives, McClusky opposed the stimulus, but he agreed with some recent criticism from Democrats who note that Republicans who opposed the stimulus take credit for stimulus-funded projects in their districts.

"I can certainly understand why any politician, seeing a very large pile of cash sitting there for the states to grab, wants to bring home some bacon to their constituents," said McClusky. "But that cash belongs to the taxpayers in the first place, and that type of thinking … shows [that the Republicans] learned nothing."

President Barack Obama is the real problem, according to Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coaltion.

"What America needs is tax cuts, a halt to binge spending, and a reduction in the control that the federal government has over our economic well-being," said Lafferty. She has little hope that this will occur, as she sees President Obama as someone "whose vision is for a federal government that controls literally every aspect of our lives."

Chuck Colson also saw little reason to expect a change in policy.

"Something has to give," Colson said. "My fear is that this 'something' will be the sanctity of life. Absent a political solution, the responsibility will fall on the elderly to get out of the way—either voluntarily or by restrictions on medical care for which they are deemed, by some government agency, to be eligible—or not."

Leaders of Sojourners agreed that the deficit must be reduced, calling budgets "moral documents" and saying reducing the deficit is "a moral imperative." Military spending is one area that could be cut, according to the Sojourners blog.

Muslim solidiers and a murder trial attract attention

The American Family Association (AFA) cannot be accused of shying away from controversial statements that may irritate or offend those who disagree. This week was no exception.

Bryan Fischer reiterated his call to ban all Muslims from the U.S. military, this time focusing on Shari'ah law, saying it requires them to kill non-Muslims in Muslim countries.

"American Muslim soldiers have no problem killing people unless they happen to be Muslim people," said Fischer. "We cannot allow soldiers to decide when they will destroy America's enemies and when they will destroy American soldiers instead."

Fischer also weighed in on the case of Amy Bishop, a professor who was arrested for killing three colleagues at the University of Alabama. Prosecution later discovered that had she killed her brother in 1986 but was not charged for the murder; Fischer said she should have received the death penalty then.

"The fact that [the prosecutor] failed to do his Christian, legal and civic duty then resulted in the murders of three more innocent victims in 2010," he said.

The AFA also ended its boycott of Pepsi Co., which began in 2008 when Pepsi donated $500,000 to Human Rights Campaign and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

Odds & Ends

Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA) alerted its members of controversies over defense contractor Blackwater, which has been accused of hiring sex workers under euphemisms such as "morale welfare recreation." ESA encouraged members to contact their representatives and to support organizations that work with victims of sex trafficking.

FRC's Ken Blackwell wrote in an op-ed that the U.S. is enforcing an anti-Christian pogrom, which he defined as "anti-Jewish raids by Cossacks and others in czarist Russia." Christians are being systematically attacked, Blackwell argued (albeit by liberals, not by Cossacks). He said President Obama is not protecting their rights.

Doug Carlson of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission describes Dawn Johnsen, the newly appointed head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, as a "rabidly pro-abortion law professor" who will not work for common ground.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's claim this week that his nation is capable of making a nuclear weapon did not sit well with some advocacy groups. The American Center for Law and Justice said in a petition that Iran has repeatedly threatened the U.S. and Israel and has continued its nuclear program despite international sanctions, and that the U.S. should not dialogue with the country.

Richard Land of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission agreed, saying President Obama should "lead the world in implementing strict and harsh sanctions" against Iran.

Related Elsewhere:

Earlier Political Advocacy Trackers are available on our site. Christianity Today also follows political developments on the politics blog.

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