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This week I want to talk about the politics of family values. The 2011 Voters Value Summit was held over this past weekend in Washington, D.C. It’s become one of the most celebrated political conferences in the nation. Hosted by the Family Research Council’s political arm, the summit is an essential stop on the road to the White House for nearly every Republican presidential candidate. Not surprisingly, the only Republican candidate missing was Utah’s Jon Huntsman, who still must be struggling with the “complexities” of his faith.

This year, the summit featured a straw poll on the 2012 presidential candidates. Texas Governor Rick Perry was expected to win hands down but was trounced by libertarian Ron Paul and bested by Rick Santorum and Herman Cain. Mitt Romney got pounded too. But let’s not forget that this conference was the place that evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a “cult.”

You might be wondering why libertarian Ron Paul won the presidential straw vote with 37 percent. It turns out that 600 people registered for the conference for one day only – the day of the straw poll vote! Ron Paul won with 732 votes. Oh well, these folks do believe in free markets, so what’re they going to say?

I had spent many years inside what we call the “pro-family movement” prior to taking the helm of Sutherland Institute and focusing all of my attention on Utah. I can tell you, in a nutshell, that the “pro-family movement” was a mess then and still is a mess. It’s full of self-righteous bigots who couldn’t articulate a cogent argument in favor of real marriage if their closeted dysfunctional lives depended on it. It’s no small bit of irony that the so-called “cult” of Mormonism has saved their electoral bacon at every turn in the modern culture war. If you want to stop “gay marriage,” you better call the Mormons and not a bunch of imprudent, issue-illiterate hayseeds.

These folks are also the reason traditional Americans are losing the culture war. An October 5, 2011, Gallup Poll reports that “Americans’ once-prevailing view that government should do what it can to promote traditional values in society has weakened in the past decade. Today 48 percent hold that view, while nearly as many, 46 percent, say government should not favor any particular set of values.”

Perhaps explaining in part Ron Paul’s victory at the Values Voter Summit, Gallup goes on to report that “[t]he recent decline in support for government advancement of traditional values in society comes primarily from Republicans.”

I think what makes me most irritable, perhaps even sick to my stomach, is how political charlatans use the word “values” to empower ideas and practices that reflect anything other than true human values. Saving America, often from ourselves, is a value-driven proposition – our laws and political culture must reflect not only true personhood but our better natures as well. I think most Utahns, fortunately, understand this. Unfortunately, the people of the so-called “cult” might be the last Americans standing who do.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero.

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