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  Conservative Evangelical Leader Tony Perkins Sours on the GOP
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ContributorArmyDem 
Last EditedArmyDem  Feb 07, 2009 12:08pm
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CategoryInterview
MediaMagazine - US News and World Report
News DateFriday, February 6, 2009 06:00:00 PM UTC0:0
Description February 06, 2009 12:04 PM ET | Dan Gilgoff | Permanent Link | Print

By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

Doing some reporting on how the religious right is greeting the election of Michael Steele—who's been portrayed as squishy on some social issues—as Republican Party chairman, I called Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, perhaps the most influential Christian conservative activist in Washington.

I was surprised by how critical he has become of the Republican Party and that he extended qualified compliments to the Obama administration. I'm used to hearing such talk from moderate evangelicals like Rev. Joel Hunter, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference's Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, or former National Association of Evangelicals lobbyist Richard Cizik, but not from a proud right winger like Perkins.

Here's our interview:

Some Christian conservatives portrayed Michael Steele as a social moderate during the RNC chairman's race. So, how do they greet his election?

With caution. He's made statements that are of concern regarding the efforts to protect marriage by amending the constitution. He made some comments that are less than encouraging about what happened in California [where voters recently reversed a court's decision to legalize gay marriage]. The Republican Party platform has the strongest language ever [on marriage and abortion]. So, if he's supportive of that platform, he'll be fine.

Does Steele need to proactively reach out to his party's social conservative base?

It's a good way to put it. Given the present standing of the Republican Party among social conservatives, the bridge building is going to have to be from the party out. Social conservatives are not going to be banging the door down to establish a relationship with the GOP. The party leadership is going to have to show a good-faith effort.
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