- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2016

All eyes will be on Donald Trump this weekend as he attempts to shore up support among social conservatives heading into the final stretch of the presidential race.

The Republican presidential nominee is headlining the 2016 Values Voter Summit in the nation’s capital on Friday evening — the first day of the three-day annual conference hosted by the Family Research Council. Mr. Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, will address the gathering of faith-based voters the following evening.

Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council Action, praised the Trump campaign for reaching out to social conservatives.

“The fact that this is the first GOP presidential ticket to attend since the Summit’s inception in 2006, demonstrates an understanding of the importance of values voters in the general election and a desire to work with them in addressing the critical issues facing our nation,” Mr. Perkins said in a statement.

“I am certain that Donald Trump and Mike Pence will underscore not only the importance of this election, but the important role conservative Christian voters have in influencing the outcome of the November election,” Mr. Perkins added.

But Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said that Mr. Trump is an odd standard-bearer for the issues social conservatives care about.

Pointing to the twice-divorced businessman’s infidelity and questionable religious commitment, Mr. Barry said support from faith-based voters would be “inconceivable” if someone of Mr. Trump’s character were running for president as a Democrat.

“This election season has exposed the leadership of the Religious Right for the hypocrites that they are,” Mr. Barry said in a statement. “What tiny bit of moral authority the Religious Right had left disappeared when they tossed the moral values they supposedly treasure under the Trump campaign bus before jumping aboard.

“Donald Trump has made hay with right-wing evangelicals by posing as an anti-abortion, Bible-loving politician who will compel people to say ‘Merry Christmas’ and change law to allow church-based partisan politicking — views he never said a word about a few months ago,” he added.

The Values Voter Summit was created in 2006 to ensure a political platform for family values, such as religious freedom, preserving traditional marriage and protecting life, as well as economic and national security issues.

The summit is sponsored by a host of traditional values and conservative groups, including the American Family Association Action, American Values, the First Liberty Institute, The D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship, United in Purpose, 2nd Vote, Oklahoma Wesleyan University and the Family Research Council.

The Washington Times is again the summit’s media partner.

On Saturday the Faith, Family & Freedom Gala dinner will present the Vision and Leadership Award to former education secretary and drug czar Bill Bennett.

Confirmed speakers for the Friday-Sunday conference include Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Tim Scott of South Carolina and James Lankford of Oklahoma; Govs. Doug Ducey of Arizona and Matt Bevin of Kentucky; and Reps. Diane Black of Tennessee and Louie Gohmert of Texas.

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, child psychologist James Dobson, actor Kirk Cameron, conservative leader Star Parker, Lt. Col. Oliver North, “Duck Dynasty“‘s Alan Robertson and former lawmakers Allen West, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum are among many other speakers scheduled to address attendees.

The summit, which will be held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Northwest Washington, includes an exhibit hall, book signings and Radio Row.

• Bradford Richardson can be reached at brichardson@washingtontimes.com.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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