Through all of the cultural ups and downs, country music has always been a place conservatives felt welcome. While so many other celebrities started picking up activist causes and shaming fans who held Christian beliefs, American could always count on Nashville to stay true to their values (or at least tolerate them). Not anymore.
Yesterday, in a letter that rocked the country music scene, Governor Mike Huckabee announced that he was leaving his seat on the board of the Country Music Association (CMA) Foundation — a position he’d occupied for less than 24 hours. Despite an impressive background in music and his record on education (the sole issue of the CMAF), Mike became the instant target of a vicious anti-faith attack. A small but vocal pocket of Nashville’s music industry seized on his involvement with a vengeance, demanding that Huckabee go — or their support of the foundation would.
Jason Owen and his husband — both LGBT activists whose Monument Records and Sandbox Entertainment represents some of the genre’s biggest stars — called the selection of Huckabee a “grossly offensive decision. Owen, who counts Midland, Little Big Town, Kacey Musgraves, Dan + Shay, Faith Hill, and others among his clients, claimed Huckabee’s involvement would harm the very kids the foundation was created to help. “Not to mention,” Owen went on, “how harmful and damaging his deep involvement with the NRA is. What a shameful choice.” Others, like Sugarland’s manager Whitney Pastorek, accused Huckabee (and the 53 percent of Americans with natural marriage beliefs like his) of “bigotry, racism, and sexism.” With breathtaking prejudice, she insists, “While Governor Huckabee’s tenure in Arkansas may have resulted in valuable education reform over a decade ago, I find his choice to spend the past 10 years profiting off messages of exclusion and hatred (not to mention the gun lobby) to be disqualifying.”
Huckabee, who penned a powerful letter to the CMA in response, decided to bow out of the board rather than let it become a distraction to the foundation’s core mission. But in doing so, he wanted to make several things clear, including this: he would never apologize for his views.
“I genuinely regret,” he wrote, “that some in the industry were so outraged by my appointment that they bullied the CMA and the Foundation with economic threats and vowed to withhold support for the programs for students if I remained. I’m somewhat flattered to be of such consequence when all I thought I was doing was voluntarily serving on a nonprofit board without pay in order to [continue] my decades of advocacy for the arts and especially music.” All of us, he went on, “have deep passions about our beliefs. I do about mine. But I hate no one. I wish upon NO ONE the loss of life or livelihood because that person sees things differently than me.”
“If the industry doesn’t want people of faith or who hold conservative and traditional political views to buy tickets and music, they should be forthcoming and say it. Surely neither the artists nor the business people of the industry want that.”
“Until recently, the arts was the one place America could set aside political, geographical, racial, religious, and economic barriers and come together. If the arts community becomes part of the polarization instead of bridging communities and people over the power of civil norms as reflected in the arts, then we as a civilization may not be long for this earth.”
For Nashville, who’s always counted the God-loving, gun-clinging “deplorables” as its strongest base, this is a defining moment. Anyone who underestimates the buying power of patriotic America, especially after the last year and a half, isn’t paying attention. If country music joins Hollywood in its open attack on faithful America — a faithful America mighty enough to send Donald Trump to the White House — they’re sealing their own fate.
Surely the artists aligned with Owen and Pastorek saw what happened to the NFL. Roger Goodell’s refusal to rein in his players and demand respect for the flag cost the league millions of dollars — and even more in brand power and credibility. He lost sponsors, ratings, and worldwide fans when he stood by and let NFL disgrace the anthem and everything it stands for. If country music listens to these fringe voices and walks away from the relationship it’s built with freedom-loving Americans, then look out. They’re about to find themselves on the wrong side of a very determined coalition.
Like so many phony advocates of tolerance, these agents claim they’re battling for “inclusion” while demanding the exclusion of anyone with a different view. Are the artists going to stand by Monumental Records’ attack on the vast majority of Americans who listen to and buy their songs? Reach out to @DanAndShay, @FaithHill, @KaceyMusgraves, @littlebigtown, @MidlandOfficial, @SethEnnis, @zdevin, and @JohnOates and ask.
–Tony Perkins is the president of the Family Research Council.