by Colleen Dabrowski
“In America, we don’t worship government — we worship God,” declared Donald Trump, President of the United States, at the 2017 Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., on October 13. Trump was a speaker at the summit and delivered a speech that, according to the transcript released on the White House website, lasted around thirty minutes. In the speech, Trump stated, “I am honored and thrilled to return as the first sitting President to address this incredible gathering of friends — so many friends.” This is true. Trump is the first sitting President to attend the summit since its start in 2006. Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and Bill O’Reilly have attended the summit as guest speakers. This year’s summit was not the first time Trump has spoken; he attended and spoke at both the 2015 and 2016 summits during his presidential campaign.
The Values Voter Summit, according to their website, was created to “help inform and mobilize citizens across America to preserve the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life and limited government.” The summit is hosted by the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian lobbying organization that has the self-proclaimed mission to “advance faith, family and freedom in public policy and the culture from a Christian worldview.” The group opposes and lobbies against LGBTQ issues such as same-sex marriage and civil unions and adoption, as well as abortion, stem-cell research, divorce, pornography and civil rights laws that include sexual orientation and gender as illegal bases for discrimination. They believe in abstinence-only sex education, intelligent design and prayer in schools and oppose climate change and deny any human involvement in it. In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center classified the Family Research Council as an anti-LGBTQ hate group and in 2017, described the Values Voter Summit as “an annual political conference bringing together some of the most extreme groups on the right, including multiple designated hate groups.”
The Values Voter Summit is made up of different sessions that one can sign up for and purchase tickets to attend. Some examples of sessions at this year’s summit are as follows: “The Day Christians Changed America: How Conservative Christians Put Trump in the White House and Redirected America’s Future,” “Transgender Ideology in Public Schools” and “Radical Islamic Supremacism: Threat to the West.” Registration for this event came at the price of $119 for regular admission and $50 for students. The summit had a special event for students called the “student mixer” in which students could discuss “topics of interest” with “cutting-edge leaders.” Two topics offered in this mixer were “sexuality” and “violence for a cause.” No information was disclosed as to what was discussed at these sessions. Drew’s Women’s Concerns house issued a statement declaring, “We’re disgusted by their hate and how they can pretend not to be a hate group.”
In his speech, Trump touched on his faith and the faith of American Christians frequently, discussing the actions he and his administration are taking and have taken towards promoting Christian values—values that he said are “under attack.” Trump touched on the steps he’s taken towards “protect[ing] religious liberty,” such as reinstating the Mexico City Policy—the policy that bars NGOs that provide abortions from receiving US government aid—declaring a National Day of Prayer and stopping the “horrendous” Johnson Amendment from “interfering with your First Amendment rights.” Trump continued to make the statement that “the Department of Justice issued a new guidance to all federal agencies to ensure that no religious group is ever targeted under my administration. It won’t happen.” Many have pointed out the irony of this statement as Trump’s administration pushed for a Muslim Registry and continues to push for “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” commonly known as the Muslim Ban. Drew students expressed concern about Trump’s attendance at the summit. Andrew Dugan (‘21) said, “LGBT people have a difficult time feeling any comfort with someone who could express opinions of hate. Look at how far we’ve come. We’ll survive this administration, but at what cost?”
His speech and attendance at this event have many questioning if Trump understands that being part of the U.S. government demands a separation between church and state. In his speech at the event, he said rather ominously, “The American Founders invoked our Creator four times in the Declaration of Independence — four times. How times have changed. But you know what, now they’re changing back again. Just remember that.”