Gov. Matt Bevin said Saturday that America is at a fork in the road and if something isn’t done soon to protect religious and conservative values, people might have to physically fight for them.
“I want us to be able to fight ideologically, mentally, spiritually, economically, so that we don’t have to do it physically,” Bevin said during an impassioned speech at the Value Voters Conference in Washington D.C. Saturday. “But that may, in fact, be the case.”
That comment came after Bevin spoke about the “degradation” of society.
“It’s a slippery slope,” Bevin said. “First, we’re killing children, then it’s ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’ now it’s this gender-bending kind of ‘don’t be a bigot,’ ‘don’t be unreasonable,’ ‘don’t be unenlightened, heaven forbid,’ ‘just keep your mouth shut.’”
In his fifteen minute, off-the-cuff speech, Bevin compared conservatives sitting silently to Martin Niemöller, a Nazi imprisoned protestant minister who wrote a famous poem about how people remained silent as the Nazis persecuted different groups.
If Democrat Hillary Clinton is elected president, the cost could grow further down the road, he said.
“Whose blood will be shed?” Bevin asked. “It may be that of those in this room. It might be that of our children and grandchildren. I have nine children. It breaks my heart to think that it might be their blood is needed to redeem something, to reclaim something that we, through our apathy and our indifference, have given away. Don’t let it happen.”
Daniel Lowry, communications director for the Kentucky Democratic Party, criticized Bevin’s rhetoric.
“The only coherent thought the governor made in those videos was that freedom of religion does matter,” Lowry said in an email. “On that point I agree. Let’s remember the principle of the separation of church and state. Without that, we lose the freedom of religion.”
When asked Monday to clarify his comments, Bevin indicated they were about military sacrifice.
“Today we have thousands of men and women in uniform fighting for us overseas and they need our full backing,” Bevin said in a statement. “We cannot be complacent about the determination of radical Islamic extremists to destroy our freedoms. Nor can we allow apathy and indifference to allow our culture to crumble from within. We need strong leadership at every level of government to defend our Constitution and our republic. We must fight to preserve the exceptionalism and the promise of America, because America is worth it.”
In his speech, Bevin shared a story from when he was in college and a professor made an analogy between Christianity and a Native American tribe’s origin story. Bevin said when he told his professor that the analogy offended him, his professor mocked him.
He used the story to illustrate the need to defend religious and conservative principles while advising young people in the audience to be informed.
“Be bold. There’s enough Neville Chamberlains in the world, be a Winston Churchill, for crying out loud.” he urged. “There are quite enough sheep already. Be a shepherd, be somebody who’s bold and who leads.”
The conference is billed as a conservative forum, “to help inform and mobilize citizens across America to preserve the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life and limited government that make our nation strong.”
Bevin spoke there before heading to the Republican Party of Kentucky’s Lincoln Dinner Saturday night in Lexington.