On Tuesday it was announced that the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) had decided to allow the group American Atheists to have a booth at this year’s event, but nearly as soon as it was announced, CPAC officials pulled the invitation.
Regardless, the original invitation was enough to spur prominent conservative Brent Bozell to pull out of the longtime conservative event, charging that CPAC is “destroying the conservative movement.”
On February 25, CNN’s Dan Merica reported that the American Atheists were triumphantly announcing that the folks at CPAC had approved their application for a booth at the 2014 conference to be held in the first week of March.
In the CNN report, American Atheists president David Silverman said that his CPAC booth would be a “first step of many” in reaching out to conservatives because he was positive that there were many “closeted atheists” among them.
However, also in that same report, Silverman revealed more bellicose language that likely contributed to the retracted invitation.
The CNN article pointed out that the American right is very typically associated with religious Christians, but Silverman said he wasn’t worried about all that.
“Conservative isn’t a synonym for religious,” Silverman said. He went on to taunt Christians, saying, “I am not worried about making the Christian right angry. The Christian right should be angry that we are going in to enlighten conservatives. The Christian right should be threatened by us.”
It wasn’t long after the article was published that CPAC reversed its decision to allow the American Atheists to host its booth.
Breitbart contacted the American Conservative Union, host of CPAC, and spokesperson Meghan Snyder said, “American Atheists misrepresented itself about their willingness to engage in positive dialogue and work together to promote limited government.”
“We spoke with Mr. Silverman about his divisive and inappropriate language. He pledged that he will attack the very idea that Christianity is an important element of conservatism. People of any faith tradition should not be attacked for their beliefs, especially at our conference. He has left us with no choice but to return his money,” she said.
Despite having their invite rescinded, that the atheists were approved in the first place did not sit well with Brent Bozell, President of the Media Research Center and an influential conservative leader. Bozell announced that he was pulling out of the conference because of the invitation:
The invitation extended by the ACU, Al Cardenas and CPAC to American Atheists to have a booth is more than an attack on conservative principles. It is an attack on God Himself. American Atheists is an organization devoted to the hatred of God. How on earth could CPAC, or the ACU and its board of directors, and Al Cardenas condone such an atrocity?
It makes absolutely no difference to me that CPAC and ACU have backed down and removed the booth. I am sick and tired of these games.
I will continue to denounce CPAC, ACU and Cardenas. No conservative should have anything to do with this conference. If you do, you are giving oxygen to an organization destroying the conservative movement.
Reacting to Bozell’s statement, David Bossie, President of Citizens United, told Breitbart that CPAC had “lost its way.”
“When you have a conservative stalwart like Brent Bozell pulling out of CPAC because of the mismanagement of a conference that is supposed to be about conservatism, not republicanism, the conference has lost its way,” Bossie said. “It truly is a shame that every year it seems we have drama surrounding this conference because ACU leadership forgets the three-legged stool of conservatism, which is a strong national defense, belief in the free market, and traditional family values. CPAC is supposed to be a conference for the conservative movement guided by its core principles. If we lose those principles, the conservative movement is dead.”
This isn’t the first controversy raised by a group trying to gain entry to CPAC. Over the past few years, CPAC has been a representation battleground between different factions of the center-right coalition. Other groups that raised the ire of one or another faction are GOProud, the John Birch Society, and various sects of libertarianism.
Last year, CPAC’s exclusion of several individuals and groups also sparked controversy. A group of anti-amnesty and national security conservatives – including, among a long list of others, NumbersUSA’s Rosemary Jenks and Atlas Shrugs’s Pam Geller – also found themselves on the CPAC chopping block. As a result, Breitbart News hosted a separate conference within the conference – titled “The Uninvited” – to give these groups a platform to air their views.