The dust has yet to settle over the disagreement with the aborted decision by the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to extend an invitation to an atheist group to participate in this year’s conference. In an exclusive interview with Breitbart, prominent conservative Brent Bozell is demanding that the group sponsoring the event explain why they offered the invite in the first place and vowing to take more action.
Bozell, the President of the Media Research Center–hosts of the popular website NewsBusters.org–is the son of the founder of the American Conservative Union (ACU), the group that hosts CPAC, so he has a big stake in how the whole enterprise is perceived by the conservative movement. Bozell feels that the ACU has discredited itself with this incident.
On Monday, February 25, only two weeks before the conference was to open, the ACU announced that it had accepted the application for a booth made by the American Atheists. The group is headed by president David Silverman, a man well known as a guest on various TV talk shows where he can be seen delivering direct, frontal attacks on Christians and Christianity.
Almost as soon as the announcement of the atheist group’s inclusion was made, a CNN report featured Silverman claiming that Christians should “fear” his atheist organization. Then, hours after the CNN report went live, CPAC rescinded its invitation to American Atheists.
CPAC spokesperson Meghan Snyder said the reason for revoking the invitation was, “American Atheists misrepresented itself about their willingness to engage in positive dialogue and work together to promote limited government.” The CPAC spokesperson also said that the atheist group had engaged in “divisive and inappropriate language.”
But the rejection of the atheist’s booth hasn’t satisfied several high profile conservatives.
Bozell immediately criticized the ACU for the invitation, saying, “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?”
David Bossie of Citizens United said on Monday that Bozell’s decision to pull out of the conference was evidence that “the conference has lost its way.” Bossie also said that CPAC seemed to have forgotten the “three-legged stool of conservatism” of which religion constitutes an inviolable leg.
By Wednesday, Bill Donohue, President of The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, waded into the controversy to say that CPAC is a “disgrace.”
“It took Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center, to set off the alarms at CPAC,” Donahue said in an email statement. “But it is too late: Bozell is right to say that it makes no difference that the ACU and CPAC have backed down. I have my own reasons for agreeing with him.”
Donahue criticized the ACU for ignoring American Atheists’ past “hate speech” against Christians and noted, “There is more than incompetence at work here. CPAC is a disgrace. They should have learned by now that big tents have a way of collapsing in the middle.”
Breitbart spoke to Mr. Bozell about why he decided to be so vocal about this incident.
“The things the ACU is doing,” Bozell told Breitbart, “are destructive to the conservative movement in the name of conservatism.” He went on to say, “This thing by far is the ugliest thing they’ve ever done.”
Bozell noted that historically CPAC has been the guiding political light for the conservative movement, a “gathering of the clan” as he put it. He did note that there have always been little skirmishes on policy or candidates in the past but said that those fights were “never a significant battle of this nature.”
It would have been unheard of, Bozell said, “simply unimaginable, that the conservative movement would ever entertain anything along the lines of an invitation to an atheist group.”
“The soul of the conservative movement is grounded in a belief in God,” Bozell insisted. “The conservative movement saw the atheist movement as a direct attack on God himself. So, for an organization that purports to be conservative to condone an atheist group is stunning. Simply stunning.”
“And therefore I think ACU and its board have some explaining to do because CPAC has lost all credibility,” he said.
Speaking of the American Atheists, Bozell said, “This is an organization that relishes attacking people of faith. It relishes attacking people who believe in God, which is the vast majority of conservatives. It relishes doing that. And so, CPAC and ACU invited that organization to be a participant in a gathering of the clan. It’s a nauseating proposition.”
Bozell is not necessarily calling for a boycott of CPAC, though. He said that he understood that this incident has occurred at “a late hour” and that many organizations have already spent their money for airfare, hotels, and conference expenses. But he feels that any organization that calls itself a conservative group will “have to make a decision on where they stand” over this atheist controversy.
“I think that the correct move is to stand down. I think that conservative organizations should choose not to participate. But at this late hour I’m not going to call for a boycott,” he said.
Breitbart asked why he is still upset since CPAC did rescind its invitation to the atheist group.
“The excuse that CPAC gives in disinviting this group is nonsense,” Bozell said. “Their suggesting was that this group had said things that were inappropriate. In fact this group said nothing that is different than what it says on a daily basis.”
“The real question is why was ACU putting out press releases praising this group?” he explained. “And that is what ACU has to answer for to the conservative movement. Until they can answer that, the ACU should be disinvited from the political conversation.”
Bozell also said that his current statement isn’t the end of his actions. Perhaps as early as Monday, he vowed further action was to come on this issue.