North Carolina GOP Senate nominee Ted Budd speaks at Christian theocratic group's event

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North Carolina Republicans Ted Budd, the GOP Senate nominee, and Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson were featured speakers at an event sponsored by the right-wing anti-LGBTQ American Renewal Project, whose purpose is to elect pastors to political office.

Ted Budd, the Republican nominee for the North Carolina U.S. Senate seat currently held by retiring Republican Sen. Richard Burr, and the Republican lieutenant governor of the state, Mark Robinson, appeared on Monday at an event Greenville that was organized by an anti-LGBTQ group called the American Renewal Project.

The "Pastor Gathering" and lunch at Greenville's People's Baptist Church was one of a series of such events at churches across the state, with Robinson as their keynote speaker, advertised on the website of the group, which the Southern Poverty Law Center says "is designed specifically to drive evangelical pastors into politics in an attempt to establish a Christian theocracy in America."

According to American Bridge 21st Century Foundation's Conservative Transparency website, the American Renewal Project is organized and funded by the American Family Association, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated an anti-LGBTQ hate group.

The Daily Reflector, a media outlet in Greenville, reported that Budd told the audience: "I look around and I see our freedoms trampled underfoot by the obscene advances of the radical left, whether it be through those open border policies, threats to the Second Amendment or attacks on Christians, churches and schools like this. As believers, we know that's not the path that leads to human prosperity and human flourishing. It's the path instead that leads down the road to destruction."

Robinson repeated complaints about school curriculums and said: "Go to Raleigh and go to that education building and find the people who put that pornography in our schools. You have yet to hold those accountable for showing pictures in our schools that you would not show in your television special." He claimed to be one of the rare speakers of the truth in modern America, including such truths as "men can't have babies" and "there are only two genders."

A story by the Christian Pentecostal media outlet Charisma News posted on the American Renewal Project's website in May quoted the group's founder and president, David Lane: "There's no such thing as the separation of church and state. The First Amendment is to keep the state out of the church. My goal is to restore America to our Judeo-Christian heritage and reestablish a biblically based culture." It said Lane hopes to "restore righteousness in the public square" by recruiting pastors to run in local elections.

Lane has long pressed his anti-LGBTQ views, writing for World Net Daily in 2013, "Those who embrace homosexual marriage and homosexual Scouting – or homosexuality in general – know little and practice nothing of Christianity." According to the opposition research site Right Wing Watch, Lane has called the LGBTQ rights movement a "pagan onslaught" and wrote: "Homosexual desire and marriage is unnatural and—more so—is a symptom of advanced cultural decay and precursor to the collapse of the Republican Party and the nation."

Budd and Robinson have their own long records of anti-LGBTQ extremism.

Budd opposed the Equality Act, a bill that would explicitly ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, stating on Facebook that he agreed with an article he shared along with the post that "The so-called Equality Act is 'the triumph of cancel culture over facts, reason, and empirical knowledge.'" He also pushed to allow discrimination against transgender prison inmates, student athletes, and military service members.

Robinson, whose endorsement Budd highlights on his campaign website, drew bipartisan criticism and calls for his resignation last year after he delivered a sermon saying that it is "child abuse" for kids to be taught about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.

"There's no reason anybody, anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality, any of that filth. And yes, I called it 'filth.' If you don't like it that I called it 'filth,' come see me and I'll explain it to you," he told the congregation.

In November, Robinson asserted that heterosexual couples are better than same-sex couples because they can reproduce: "These people are superior because they can do something these people can't do because that's the way God created it to be."

Budd will face Democratic nominee Cheri Beasley, the former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, in November. Beasley, a strong supporter of LGBTQ rights, has been endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign as "a fierce ally to the LGBTQ+ community."

Recent polls have called the race a toss-up.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.