Today I attended the 2013 Manning Networking Conference as part of Professor David Rayside’s project on religion and political parties. My main interest was to see how religion and social conservatism were incorporated into the discussions alongside other streams of the conservative movement. Generally the results were quite mixed. On the first panel there was a great deal of common ground between social-conservative Andrea Mrozek, Executive Director of the Institute for Marriage and Family, and libertarian Matt Bufton from the Institute of Liberal studies. Both agreed that the state can be harmful for the family, and that a strong family helped to reduce the need for government.
However, this kind of agreement was largely missing on the afternoon panel on ‘Conservatives and Cities.’ On one hand the Manning Foundation’s David Seymour argued that city planning should be replaced with a much-more free market approach. On the other Ray Pennings from the Christian inspired think tank Cardus countered that at least some planning was needed to ensure that cities are inclusive and reflect social values.
Religion and social conservativism were also major themes in Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s discussion of the Conservative party’s efforts to reach out to new immigrant communities. He described his efforts to meet community leaders in religious institutions and show how their values of law, order, and family were Conservative values as well. However, Kenney also highlighted his decision to ban face coverings from citizenship ceremonies, one that clearly has a much larger impact for one religious community than others.
Overall though libertarianism was by far the most dominant variant of conservatism at the event – although the crowd may have been skewed by the many in attendance who said they came specifically to hear Ron Paul. The former congressman received a rock-star like welcome and earned repeated rounds of applause during his speech, including somewhat unexpectedly for his call to legalize hard drugs.