I’m at a loss.
What is the point of a social conservative movement that remains on the sidelines for the toughest and most important fights?
What good are social conservative donors when they appear to concede the most important battles for religious liberty?
One of the most significant races in the country — the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race — is happening right now. Yet, so far, the social conservative movement has paid it little attention. Why is this race important? The leading Republican candidate in the race, Scott Wagner, openly supports so-called SOGI “non-discrimination” legislation — code for discrimination against Christians — and opposes religious liberty. He even voted down an amendment that would have provided protections to people of faith and protected girls and women’s privacy in showers, locker rooms, battered women’s shelters, and bathrooms.
Elections have consequences. If Scott Wagner wins, the GOP will permanently shut down on religious liberty and transgender extremism. The Human Rights Campaign will roll, unopposed, with its plan of creating an America in which it is unacceptable to oppose gay marriage or transgender ideology.
Not all elections are equal. This one is key. The transgender extremists understand this, which is why the LGBT donor network — including infamous LGBT megadonor Tim Gill — is supporting Wagner.
And yet social conservatives appear to be sitting this one out. Where’s the cavalry?
Wagner is the favorite to win and the social conservative movement is twiddling its thumbs. Meanwhile, Wagner’s numbers are dropping because of his support for transgender extremism. But the media doesn’t want voters to hear about it. Wagner is straight up lying about what the bill he has supported actually does. That’s the only way he can win — he needs GOP primary voters to either never hear about it, or never have enough information to know the truth.
Understand this: if Scott Wagner wins the Pennsylvania GOP primary, the fight for religious liberty is over. We’ve seen this movie before.
When social conservative donors removed themselves from active politics, the Republican Party abandoned them on the marriage issue. The same thing is now happening on the gender ideology and religious liberty issues.
We saw it with McCrory in North Carolina when he was savagely attacked by the Left and their corporate allies. He got little to no support from the social conservative movement relative to the importance of his race, which begs the question, is a movement that refuses to defend its strongest advocates a movement at all?
Establishment Republicans point to the McCrory defeat as proof that Republicans must concede on religious liberty issues. If Scott Wagner can win in a Republican primary in a socially conservative state like Pennsylvania, the establishment will see that as confirmation that nobody on the right even cares about the issue anymore. Religious liberty will be dead as a political issue.
Social conservative donors, movement heads, thought leaders: do you recognize the significance of this moment? The Left is waging a public campaign against the Second Amendment and a stealth campaign against the First Amendment. Everything we stand for — everything America stands for — is at risk. And you’re sitting on the sidelines. Why?
We can fight the court battles. We can fight for our exceptions. We can fight in our institutions, which are already dominated by the Left. But ultimately, we can’t win if we remove the fight from politics. By removing religious liberty as a legitimate issue from the public square, the Supreme Court will respond in kind. Don’t tell me the Republican Party’s refusal to publicly defend traditional marriage wasn’t a key part of why Obergefell happened. We all know that played a role.
Maybe you don’t take this threat seriously. After all, this is America. It could never happen here. But it is. It’s happening in Maine. In California. In Illinois. In Michigan. And yes, in Pennsylvania.
While the “movement” twiddles its thumbs, the city of Philadelphia, using its city SOGI law as justification, just announced it is kicking two Christian adoption agencies to the curb: Catholic Social Services and Bethany Christian Services. If you don’t place babies with gay couples (or transgender couples?), you are a pariah who must be shut down.
This is what SOGI bills do. This is what Scott Wagner’s “Fairness Act” would do — it would take Philadelphia’s abhorrent policy statewide.
Can we win in Pennsylvania? Yes.
Scott Wagner has introduced SOGI laws three times and voted against an amendment that would provide protections for privacy and religious liberty. His opponent, Paul Mango, a strong social conservative, has attacked him for placing both our children and our religious liberty at risk.
We conducted a poll earlier this month showing this race in a dead heat. It’s winnable. Just like McCrory’s race was. Or Jeanne Ives’ near-victory in Illinois. It’s right there for the taking. But if we continue to stay disengaged and hope for the courts to save us, religious liberty in America will be lost. Not in some distant theoretical future, but right now. In 2018.
Pennsylvania is ground zero. We either fight there or we lose everywhere.
Frank Cannon is the president of American Principles Project. Follow him on Twitter @FrankCannonAPP