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At the Values Voter Summit, Wing-Nut Christian Right Plots Its Comeback

Religious conservatives, safely out of the public eye, let loose a string of shocking diatribes at the Values Voter Summit.

Religious right activists frequently assert that communists in the Soviet Union invented the idea of separation of church and state.

But according to a speaker at the recent "Values Voter Summit," that's all wrong: It was really Adolf Hitler's doing.

Furthermore, Hitler also came up with the idea that churches should stay out of politics, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association told the crowd.

"Politics do not belong in the church, the church must be separate from the state -- these two mottos, these two slogans … came directly from the mind of Adolf Hitler," Fischer told an eager crowd of right-wing fundamentalists at Washington's Omni Shoreham Hotel, shoving aside the views of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. "Those two mottos, those two slogans, were official mottos, official slogans of the Nazi Party."

But Fischer was just getting warmed up. He also asserted that no state, city, township or political subdivision below Congress has to abide by the First Amendment, a proposition that would surprise just about any federal judge -- except possibly Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Fischer's over-the-top rant was just one of many extreme speeches at the Sept. 18-19 summit. Sponsored by the Family Research Council and other religious right organizations, the 2009 confab -- now the religious right's largest national political gathering -- was little more than an extended rally for the Republican Party, with several speakers plotting openly about how best to recapture Congress for the GOP in 2010 and the presidency in 2012.

But one big difference set this year's summit apart from years past: Barack Obama, a Democrat, is sitting in the White House. He ended up there after receiving more votes than Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in November.

And the religious right is furious about that.

Thus, Obama became a piñata over the course of two days. While plenty of speakers complained about his pro-choice stance on abortion, an interesting dynamic unfolded: By far the most-berated topic was health care reform. Few speakers failed to rail against it at least once, and many focused on it almost entirely.

Speakers also blasted Obama for pushing the stimulus package through Congress, for bailing out banks and even for the popular "cash for clunkers" program.

These are not normal topics for a religious right gathering, so what's going on here?

Two dynamics are likely at play: One, far-right anger over health care reform has fueled a growing conservative backlash. It's the biggest game in town right now, and the religious right is eager to hop aboard for the ride. The thinking is, "We are all tea partiers now."

Second, the religious right's loathing of Obama is palpable and intense. Health care dominates the political discourse, and for a religious right eager to bash the president, that issue is a bright and shiny stick.

During a "town hall" forum on health care, three right-wing members of Congress emphasized familiar conservative talking points -- most of which have been debunked.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., insisted that health care reform will lead to tax-funded abortions. He added, "I do believe 'Obamacare' represents the greatest threat since Roe v. Wade itself." Smith went on to call Obama "the abortion president."

Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., portrayed health care reform as a government takeover, a line parroted by Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn. Like several other speakers, both warned darkly of "socialism" at the gates.

Claims of government takeovers were a constant at this meeting. Obama was repeatedly tarred as a socialist, and more than one speaker implied that he doesn't really love America, opposes God's will and kowtows to foreign enemies.