The values and first amendment rights of devout, conservative Christians are presently under attack in the United States, at least according to the Family Research Council (FRC) and friends. Speaker after speaker pounded home this message with vicious redundancy this past weekend at FRC’s 2012 Values Voter Summit.
“Yes!” boomed the crowd in unison after FRC president, Tony Perkins, asked, “Is Christianity being singled out?”
No disagreement existed either among the 57 groups whose tables and booths lined a large room and hallway across from the convention room. One booth sold t-shirts that read, “OMG: Obama Must Go.” Another handed out red bumper stickers that in large white-block letters read, “REAL MEN MARRY WOMEN.” As is typical of any such conference, the exhibiting groups all foreground some strain, if not all, of FRC’s anti-LGBT, anti-choice, and virulently anti-Muslim platform that underpinned the whole spectacle.
There was one surprise amongst those 57 exhibitors, though. In a melding of nativist efforts to preserve the English language from extinction at the hands of multiculturalists and progressives with FRC’s broader platform, the anti-immigrant group ProEnglish showed up to table.
In allowing ProEnglish space alongside others, FRC did no less than allow a group staffed with individuals who have been personally active in the organized white nationalist movement to represent themselves via FRC’s political brand.
Robert Vandervoort, executive director of ProEnglish, formerly ran the Chicagoland Friends of American Renaissance, a group he organized in direct support of the work and efforts of white nationalist thinker Jared Taylor and his group American Renaissance. Vandervoort has also attended events held by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, an organization that, among other conservative efforts, distributes books by Sam Francis, a major intellectual benefactor to the modern white nationalist movement who argued for “white racial consciousness.”
Researchers in Maryland say that Vandervoort attended the conference of the HL Mencken Club last year, where ProEnglish’s presence was heavy. The HL Mencken Club hosts speakers such as mainstay nativist Pat Buchanan, and Richard Spencer, founder of the online magazine Alternative Right and executive director of the National Policy Institute. Both of the aforementioned organizations frequently argue for the genetic superiority of white, European-descended peoples, as well as promoting equivocal examinations of extremist political movements like fascism.
White nationalist “intellectuals” Peter Brimelow and John Derbyshire, both of the virulently racist website VDARE.com, where writer Brenda Walker recently called for a ban on all Muslim immigration to the United States, are regular speakers at HL Mencken Club events. In response to the killings of Sikhs by a neo-Nazi in Wisconsin, Brimelow posed on VDARE.com, “What are Sikhs doing in Wisconsin anyway?” Derbyshire was not long ago fired from the Conservative magazine National Review Online for a racist article on another site, which urged White and Asian parents to protect their kids from Blacks.
ProEnglish’s director of government relations, Susan Bibby, who was also present behind the group’s table, had a blog published on VDARE twice this year.
In addition to Vandervoort is Phil Tignino, ProEnglish’s director of communications. Tignino was the former head of the Washington State University chapter of Youth for Western Civilization (YWC), a far right student organization with leader- and membership that overlaps white nationalist-to-supremacist and neo-Confederate circles of activists—e.g. the Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC) and League of the South respectively. Former US Congressman Tom Tancredo, who was scheduled to speak at this year’s CofCC National Conference, is YWC’s Honorary Chairman.
Last week, though, Tignino’s profile, which contained mention of his leadership role within YWC, disappeared from ProEnglish’s web page—perhaps in an attempt to distance the organization from another former YWC leader, Matthew Heimbach, who recently attracted mainstream media attention by calling for the establishment of a White Student Union on the campus of Towson University (more on Tignino’s connections to Heimbach his profile’s deletion here), and for apparently booking Jared Taylor to speak on campus.
The creating of distance is null-and-void, though, as Tignino and Vandervoort spent time seated behind ProEnglish’s table at the Values Voter Summit. If he is no longer gainfully employed by the group, that hasn’t stopped Vandervoort from apparently allowing Tignino to represent the group in a public forum.
Odd as ProEnglish’s appearance might be, Tony Perkins own past dealings with the organized white nationalist scene perhaps offers some explanation. According to RightWingWatch.org, Perkins himself has twice spoken before Council of Conservative Citizens gatherings. Also according to that site, quoting magazine The Nation, Perkins “paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,500 for his mailing list. At the time, Perkins was the campaign manager for a right-wing Republican candidate for the US Senate in Louisiana.”
Allowing ProEnglish to table at the Value Voters Summit represents Tony Perkins most recent indulging of individuals who represent the overlap between worlds of organized white nationalists and organized anti-immigrant activists–which just further underscores the more all-encompassing bigotry that fuels the efforts of seemingly separate groups. Certainly, as well, ProEnglish’s presence at the Values Voter Summit shows that this melding of platforms adds another overlap of organized extremism to FRC’s resume, one that flows easily into the two aforementioned movements.