WASHINGTON, May 18 (UPI) — Recently, a meeting took place between the leaders of the pro-family movement and Republican National Committee Chairman Mark Racicot.

It would make sense that Racicot would solicit our input given that some 4 million evangelicals who turned out to vote in 1994 — helping the GOP sweep that year’s off-year election — failed to turn out six years later when George W. Bush was fighting his close battle with Al Gore. Given the closeness of the outcome of that election, the evangelical non-voters, had they turned out, would have turned Bush’s narrow margin into a solid victory.

That election should have taught the Republican Party the importance of the pro-family vote. Unfortunately, the meeting was held instead to protest Chairman Racicot’s failure to understand our importance to the GOP’s chances in 2004.

The centerpiece of the discussion was Racicot’s recent visit with the Human Rights Campaign, the most powerful of the organizations pushing the homosexual agenda. Our group made it clear that we were not against homosexuals as they were created in the image and likeness of God, even though we believe they most likely lead sinful lives.

But we most certainly are against their group’s organized agenda.

Racicot defended his meeting with the Human Rights Campaign by saying, “I meet with everyone and anyone.” Pressed by the Rev. Donald Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, as to whether he would meet with the North American Man Boy Love Association, which advocates consensual sex between men and boys, the chairman indicated he would not meet with such an “aberrant” group.

Many in the group made the point that by meeting with the Human Rights Campaign, Racicot had elevated their stature and helped to legitimize them. Racicot agreed that this idea gave him pause and confessed to a certain naiveté in this respect.

The group also addressed what we felt was a tepid response on the part of the party when Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., talked to the media about his views on an impending Supreme Court decision on the Texas sodomy laws. The chairman insisted that his committee had been stout in its defense of Santorum, yet they had not issued any statement defending him. The chairman said they defended him in phone interviews with the news media.

In many different ways, the group tried to make clear to Racicot that if the Republican Party drifts toward embracing the homosexual agenda, it will alienate millions in the religious right while gaining very little support of consequence from the homosexual community.

Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, emphasized that the flirtation between the GOP and the homosexual community “divides its friends and unites its enemies.”

The Rev. Donald Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, which has a network of approximately 400 owned and affiliate stations in the South and Southwest, said he and his organization’s members were tired of watching the GOP drift in the same direction as the Democrats when it comes to courting the homosexual movement.

As a supporter of the president, I wanted to make clear to Racicot that this issue is one that needs to be taken seriously by the RNC and the White House. Our voters vote their values and they feel very strongly about this issue.

“It won’t matter what we say,” I emphasized to the party chairman, “people will leave in droves.”

That is when Gary Palmer, president of the Alabama Family Council chimed in to recall 2000 and the sudden dampening of support among evangelicals for candidate Bush when in the last week questions were raised about his character. Up until that time, George W. Bush had been working very hard and was succeeding in gaining support from evangelicals.

As president, Bush has done much to support the pro-family agenda, most notably on pro-life legislation. That leads someone like Racicot to believe that conservative Christians see no choice but to support the president, but he fails to fully understand important constituencies.

Southern Baptists, for example, have grave reservations about homosexuality based on their interpretation of the Bible. To them, homosexuality represents a weakening of society. It is their concern for their country’s future and belief in their religion that lead them to this position. They feel this keenly, even above economic issues, and will vote on it.

I would hope that Racicot understood the importance of what we were saying. The meeting may have been contentious, but we were there to be helpful to the president.

We wanted to make clear that the homosexual movement within the Republican Party is loud and vocal, but it certainly does not have many members and its agenda is diametrically opposed to that of the pro-family groups who have not only votes but an agenda fully compatible with conservatism in a broader context.

Racicot is slated to take the helm of the re-election campaign for Bush so it is imperative that he fully understands the concerns expressed by our group. If not, he may end up trading away millions of votes to try wooing the relative handful of homosexual votes.

The significant moral implications aside, the GOP’s flirtation with the homosexual movement is simply bad politics.

So far, the pro-family movement has proven itself to be a reliable supporter of Bush and the GOP, as exemplified by the 2002 mid-term election results. Our support can even help the president surmount a middling economy, and that support for the president would be transferred down the ticket as well, provided the party holds firm by stopping its flirtation with homosexual groups.

President George Herbert Walker Bush failed to heed our warning to stay true to his pledge of “no new taxes” and even the bounce in his popularity after the Gulf War could not sustain him in his reelection year. We knew how keenly the grassroots felt about that pledge.

This is a little different in that it is not yet an issue that draws notice from the mainstream press, who have little understanding of the importance of evangelicals to the GOP base. But evangelicals, Christian radio and Web sites certainly are paying attention to the GOP’s courting of homosexual groups.

Right now, there is anxiety within pro-family circles. I shudder to think of the consequences in fall 2004 if that feeling among the conservative rank-and-file turns to active disgruntlement because the GOP hierarchy failed to heed our cautionary advice that was intended in a helpful context. A great deal of good that has been done over the past few years stands to be undone.

(Paul M. Weyrich is chairman and chief executive officer of the Free Congress Foundation.)

(Outside View commentaries are written for UPI by outside writers on subjects of public interest.)



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