Washington, D.C. — Not everyone here was a veteran culture warrior, such as Gary Bauer or Tony Perkins, and there were plenty of other, perhaps more representative, social conservatives in attendance.
Some come because they’re worried about such perennial topics as same-sex marriage and abortion, and now the HHS mandate. Some, such as former U.S. Congresswoman Linda Smith (R-Wash.), are deeply concerned about social-justice.
Smith, who served in Congress from 1995-98, founded Shared Hope International, a Northwest-based nonprofit that fights domestic human trafficking.
While she was invited to speak by Perkins, she hopes to get people who oppose abortion to care, too, about those abused and neglected as adults, and become interested in other social-justice causes as a result.
Addressing a small crowd during one of the afternoon “break-out” sessions, she said that efforts to stop the sell and trade of minors in the sex industry should be an extension of the “pro-life” cause.
“Believers and conservatives should put this issue in its proper position,” and not treat it as tangential, she said.
Tucked in a sunny exterior hallway, Jim Castello sat smiling and handing out DVD’s from a group called Catholics Called to Witness.
Castello’s says their mission revolves around the “laity educating laity” about anti-abortion-related issues, especially the “religious liberty” concerns they have about the HHS mandate.
“This is the biggest thing I’ve seen for Catholics” in a generation, he said, even more so than abortion (when taken in isolation).
A self-described “evangelical and charismatic” Catholic, Castello said that he occasionally faces ambivalence, or outright opposition, from more progressive Catholics, but that the mandate has provided a “good moment” and a “tremendous opportunity” for getting people involved and talking, at last, about their faith and why it matters.
In the end, though, “this is a grassroots movement,” he said, “and I hope the spirit blesses it.”
Around the corner, deeper in the hall lined with conservative groups’ booths, Onye Umerah and Allen Morris faithfully waited for people to approach and talk to them at their table.
Morris, who helps edit the newsletter for the Concerned Methodists, a conservative group within the United Methodist Church, was excited to be out on what he called the “conference circuit.” This year, the atmosphere is different than in the past.
Conservative believers have been “jazzed,” he said, and eager to jump into the issues they care most about.
“People feel like this is the most important election at least of their lifetimes.”