"Repent that Dumbledore emerged as a homosexual mentor for Harry Potter": Inside the bizarre anti-gay conference featuring Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee & Bobby Jindal

"Death penalty for gays" pamphlets and suggestions that we drown children who read "Harry Potter" filled the event

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published November 9, 2015 9:15PM (EST)

  (AP/Danny Johnston/Reuters/Joe Mitchell)
(AP/Danny Johnston/Reuters/Joe Mitchell)

Pandering to the voters of Iowa used to be represented by the debate on ethanol subsidies but it has become increasingly clear that on the Republican side, the fight for evangelical voters is the fight to win the Iowa caucuses and for extreme right-wing candidates like Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, campaigning at a Christian evangelical conference during which the host cited the Bible as justification to murder gays and lesbians is just par for the course.

The National Religious Liberties Conference was a two-day conference in Iowa this weekend and as Right Wing Watch has extensively covered, attendees were not only treated to speeches from three GOP presidential candidates, but with pamphlets that called for the "death penalty for gays" and a rant about Harry Potter turning America's youth gay.

The conference organizer, Kevin Swanson, is no stranger to controversy, having once said this of the Disney film Frozen: "I think this cute little movie is going to indoctrinate my five year old to be a lesbian or treat homosexuality or bestiality in a light sort of way.” The Daily Beast's Thor Benson has more on the event organizers:

This event is organized by conservative radio host Kevin Swanson, whose greatest hits include advocating for the execution of gay people and support for Uganda’s draconian anti-homosexual laws, (a country where homosexuals experience “corrective rape”). He also thinks God is going to wipe out America over homosexuality and that America’s welfare system goes hand-in-hand with prostituting women.

Another two speakers appearing at the conference have also called for gay people to be executed. Reverend Phillip Kayser has said he would approve of executing gay people, though he thinks it’s unlikely to happen in America. Joel McDurmon, president of the Christian organization American Vision, has written “the homosexual act as a civil crime deserves the death penalty.”

Bob Vander Plaats, the president of the conservative organization The Family Leader, will also be in attendance. He has compared supporting gay marriage to supporting slavery.

Despite hosting at least one top-tier candidate (Ted Cruz is rising), Swanson seemed unable to control his ridiculous right-wing rhetoric this weekend.

“America, repent of Harry Potter. America repent of How to Train Your Dragon. Repent that Dumbledore emerged as a homosexual mentor for Harry Potter,” Swanson inexplicably shouted during one of his speeches "mourning" a culture of homosexuality.

At another point, Swanson vividly described his imagined reaction to a same-sex marriage invitation from his son. "Here is what I would do: sackcloth and ashes at the entrance to the church and I'd sit in cow manure and I'd spread it all over my body. That is what I would do and I'm not kidding, I'm not laughing."

Still, Huckabee, Jindal and Cruz saw fit to visit Swanson's conference to pander to Iowa voters who view Kim Davis as a case of Christian persecution in America.

“Who would have ever thought that an elected county clerk in Kentucky would be put in jail by a federal judge for believing exactly what Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton believed about marriage just three and a half years ago?” Huckabee said, according to the Des Moines Register. "Our religious liberties are under assault."

“Christians are under physical assault all over the world and Christian values are under assault right here at home,” Jindal echoed. “Four more years of these radical left policies, we won't even recognize our country anymore.”

Calling it "the most important question" for any presidential candidate, Swanson asked Ted Cruz "how important is it for the President of the United State to fear God?"

"Any president who doesn’t begin everyday on his knees isn’t fit to be commander-in-chief," Cruz said to thunderous applause and shouts of "amen!"

“We have a responsibility, as scripture tells us, to be watchmen on the walls" Cruz reminded the faithful who had flocked to hear him speak that part of their duty is to vote.

"If another 10 million evangelical Christians vote in 2016 and simply vote our values, we won’t be up at three in the morning wondering what happened in Ohio and Florida," Cruz said. "They’ll call the election at 8:35 p.m. because Christians would have turned this country around."

Watch coverage of the conference, including Ted Cruz's address, via Right Wing Watch:

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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