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Social Conservative Group’s Withdrawal from CPAC to Protest Gay Participation Prompts Statement from Organizers

For the second year in a row, social conservatives are riling over the inclusion of gay conservatives at the highly visible Conservative Political Action Conference scheduled to be held this coming February in the nation’s capital.

As reported Tuesday afternoon on Ben Smith’s blog at Politico.com, The American Principles Project uninvited itself this morning from the paramount annual gathering of conservatives, and cited irreconcilable differences with CPAC as their reason. The letter sent to CPAC chairman David Keene by APP president Frank Cannon is void of subtlety; the inclusion of GOProud – an organization for gay conservatives – for the second year is described in hyperbolic language as an intolerable act.

“Last year, of course, the American Principles Project participated in CPAC despite the presence of GOProud. That was a mistake, just as it was, in our opinion, a mistake for CPAC to countenance GOProud’s participation. Having now examined closely GOProud’s mission and its behavior since its inception, we can only conclude that the organization’s purposes are fundamentally incompatible with a movement that has long embraced the ideals of family and faith in a thriving civil society. Needless to say, we are deeply persuaded that a thriving civil society is an indispensable bulwark against the relentless expansion of government, a phenomenon that has gripped much of the Western world and helped to fuel the present fiscal and economic crisis.”

In the lengthy correspondence, Cannon conflated William F. Buckley, Jr.’s dissociation from the ultra-right wing John Birch Society with an expulsion of GOProud, suggesting that the Birch Society’s belief in wild conspiracy theories is tantamount to GOProud’s contention that Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-SC) views on culture are “bizarre.”

This evening, CPAC director Lisa De Pasquale sent a statement in response to APP’s withdrawal.

“Our role at CPAC is to bring conservative groups together on the core issues. We ask that those interested in being participating organizations agree with the ACU statement of principles. To date, we have over 80 groups involved with CPAC. We are pleased that we will continue adding groups over the next several weeks leading up to CPAC. CPAC has the unique opportunity of hosting more than 10,000 conservatives from across the nation and abroad and provides a forum for them to organize and interact on the issues that are important to them. We certainly respect that many conservatives will have to weigh the costs and benefits to joining CPAC as a participating organization. We respect the decision groups come to when deciding whether to participate in CPAC. If they are not able to be at CPAC 2011, we hope they will be at a future conference and will continue to invite them to do so.”

This is not the first time that GOProud’s presence at CPAC has caused a stir. The APP and American Family Association voiced strong disapproval of the gay conservative group’s sponsorship of CPAC 2010, the Liberty University Law School withdrew from the event, and calls for boycotts circulated among social conservatives. The pressure led CPAC to a compromise under which GOProud could attend, but only on the condition that their members would not speak from the podium or debate on issues important to the gay community, such as same-sex marriage or the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

The CPAC kerfuffle comes on the heels of an open letter sent Monday by GOProud and a group of tea party leaders to Republican leaders in Congress urging them to “resist the urge to run down any social issue rabbit holes in order to appease the special interests.”

The APP is the most recent in a long line of groups claiming to possess a unique license to narrowly define conservatism, a circumscription that only serves to dissect conservatives into smaller, less powerful factions. It will almost certainly not be the last, and – since the meaning of conservative still appears to be an open source project – I will offer more thoughts on this issue tomorrow.

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