Mat Staver vs. the Anti-Immigrant Right

Mat Staver, the dean of Liberty University Law School, gave one of the strangest, mixed-up speeches at the Values Voters Summit this morning: veering from a cosmic battle for Western Civilization, to his legal battle against “Obamacare,” to why America should “support” Israel and fight “radical Islam,” the “same radicalism that hates Israel is the same radicalism that hates America.” From there, he went on to an excoriation of sex researcher Alfred Kinsey (“this issue of destroying the family, destroying the idea of God, was paramount in Kinsey’s mind,” resulting in “sexual anarchy”) to a rant against John Dewey, who he charged with being bent on “destroying our faith and our Judeo-Christian values,” and with bringing the ideas of the Frankfurt school to America. His next pivot? To the argument that “we need to enlist” the Latino community in “our culture war.”

Staver fretted that he was “very concerned about the future of the Latino population… concerned we will push them into a liberal political leftist machine.” Not to leave any dangling threads in his speech, a significant portion of which was devoted to the special relationship between the United States and Israel, Staver insisted that there is a special “synergy” between the U.S. Latino community and Israel.

This focus on Latino support is not a first for Staver; his Freedom Federation, launched in 2010, was focused on bringing more Latinos into the religious right. But he’s facing the very visible anti-immigrant contingent in the conservative movement, the same contingent that has opposed Rick Perry’s support for in-state tuition for children of undocumented immigrants, so much so that Perry felt compelled to soften his “you don’t have a heart” accusation at the recent debate in Florida. Another sponsor, along with Liberty University, of the Values Voters Summit, is the American Family Association, which also bankrolled Perry’s prayer rally The Response (which attracted significant Latino support). The AFA has been vitriolically anti-immigrant. For a movement that presents issues as black and white, the religious right is having difficulty deciding whether the Latino community is its ally or its target in the culture war.

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email