Conservative media figures are touting a far-right coalition's sensationalist claim that the U.S. military is rife with anti-Christian hostility, ignoring the lack of evidence to substantiate the charge and allowing anti-LGBT hate groups to drive coverage of the issue.
Restore Military Religious Freedom (RMRF) - a coalition of right-wing organizations including Liberty Counsel, the Heritage Foundation, and Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)-designated hate groups the Family Research Council (FRC) and American Family Association (AFA) - is leading the charge with this bogus claim. In early November, RMRF released a video featuring interviews with current service members making sweeping statements about the alleged anti-Christian bias permeating the armed forces. The video listed a few examples of apparent attacks on religious liberty in the military, but those examples don't withstand scrutiny.
Hinting at the real motives behind the RMRF's effort, the video includes a soldier complaining about the new wave of "tolerance" sweeping the military - a not-so-thinly-veiled reference to the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) policy. For years, the organizations behind RMRF have crusaded against open service by gay and lesbian soldiers, often using vitriolic language. Depicting the armed forces as anti-Christian has been central to the right's attack on the post-DADT military.
Anti-LGBT hate groups decided long ago that their ultimate solution must be the end of open service, but it was a solution in search of a problem. In its Christian persecution narrative, social conservatives have managed to manufacture that problem, despite that it consists of made-up anti-LGBT horror stories. Right-wing media are happy to take the hate groups' bait.
On the November 11 edition of Fox & Friends, FRC President Tony Perkins sat down with co-hosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Brian Kilmeade to promote RMRF's campaign. While he didn't cite a single example of anti-Christian retaliation by the military, Perkins asserted that "all evidence would suggest" that the Obama administration is "on a search-and-destroy mission as it pertains to religious liberty." Hasselbeck didn't ask Perkins to back up his claim, but she did make sure viewers knew about RMRF's website:
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes urged listeners to donate money to two anti-gay hate groups that routinely accuse gay men of being pedophiles.
The Family Research Council (FRC) and American Family Association (AFA) are two of the most extreme anti-gay hate groups in American politics. They regularly peddle smears about LGBT people, including the myths that gay men are more likely to engage in pedophilia and are responsible for the Holocaust. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC):
Together, the Family Research Council (FRC) and the American Family Association (AFA) may comprise the most important anti-gay lobby in this country... The FRC and the AFA are certainly among the most powerful groups on the American religious right.
They are also among the chief purveyors of lies about LGBT people. They have both regularly pumped out propaganda asserting that gay men molest children at far higher rates than their heterosexual counterparts -- a claim that has been debunked by virtually all the recognized scientific authorities in the field. The FRC has claimed that gay activists "work to normalize sex with boys," seek to "abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the 'prophets' of a new sexual order," and support anti-bullying programs solely in order to promote homosexuality. The AFA has declared that "homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler ... the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews," suggested that gay sex be punished like heroin use, and said that the "homosexual agenda" endangers "every fundamental right" in the Constitution, including religious freedom. Both groups have enthusiastically promoted "reparative therapy," which claims against the bulk of the evidence that it can "cure" gay men and lesbians and make them heterosexual, but in fact has left a string of people behind who were badly hurt by the process. [emphasis added]
On the October 23 edition of FRC's Washington Watch radio program, FRC president Tony Perkins invited Starnes on to once again falsely accuse the military of persecuting Christian groups because of their opposition to homosexuality. At the end of the segment, Starnes - who has acted as a de facto mouth piece for AFA and FRC on Fox - encouraged listener to "pick up that phone and throw a few dollars into the cause" by donating to the notorious anti-gay groups:
STARNES: Tony, I want to thank American Family Radio. This is a share-a-thon.There's a reason why we need groups like Family Research Council, why we need folks like American Family Radio. Get the word out there, airing my daily commentaries. So folks, pick up that phone and throw a few dollars into the cause.
This isn't the first time a Fox News employee has solicited donations for an anti-gay group. In August, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson encouraged his supporters to give money to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a group working to criminalize homosexuality abroad.
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes continued to shill for the extremist American Family Association (AFA), allowing the anti-gay hate group to bill itself as "a mainstream, evangelical, pro-family group" and baselessly asserting that the military is waging a campaign of "retribution and reprisals" against conservative soldiers who support the AFA.
In an October 15 column for FoxNews.com, Starnes assailed the U.S. Army for including the AFA in a presentation on domestic hate groups. Much as he did in an appearance on Fox & Friends earlier on October 15, Starnes whitewashed the AFA's record of anti-gay hate, describing the organization as a "well-respected Christian ministry" that simply supports "traditional family values" (emphasis added):
The Pentagon has admitted that information used in an Army briefing that labeled the American Family Association (AFA) as a domestic hate group was not acquired from official sources and does not reflect Army doctrine.
Meanwhile, the president of the well-respected Christian ministry says his organization may file a defamation lawsuit against the military.
"We are probably going to be taking legal action," said Tim Wildmon, president of one of the nation's most prominent Christian ministries. "The Army has smeared us. They've defamed the American Family Association."
The AFA was listed alongside domestic hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam during a briefing last week at Camp Shelby in Mississippi.
A soldier who attended the briefing recently sent me a photograph of a slideshow presentation that listed AFA as a domestic hate group because of their support of traditional family values and their opposition to homosexuality.
"For a taxpayer-funded organization like the military to use a politically-motivated group's hate group list is problematic," Wildmon said. "One way or another, we're going to get this changed."
And he strongly rejects accusations that AFA is a hate group.
"We are a mainstream, evangelical, pro-family group," he said. "We don't hate anybody. We have strong feelings on moral values. We oppose the gay and lesbian social and political agenda. We always have. We always will, but that doesn't mean we hate anyone."
Bryan Fischer, director of issues analysis at the American Family Association (AFA), praised Fox News for its "very friendly" coverage of his organization, which has been designated an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
On the October 15 edition of American Family Radio's Focal Point, Fischer lauded the network for providing Fox News Radio reporter and hate group mouthpiece Todd Starnes a "very friendly venue" to attack a military training session on domestic hate groups, including the AFA:
Right-wing media erupted in outrage over New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's decision on August 19 to "reluctantly" sign into law a bill banning "conversion therapy" for gay, lesbian, and bisexual minors, attacking Christie's decision as an affront to religious freedom, the epitome of government overreach, and a boon to child molesters.
As Christie noted in signing the law, the American Psychological Association (APA) opposes "ex-gay" therapy as harmful and scientifically unsound. Reports have exposed the cruel, degrading, and disturbing tactics employed by "ex-gay" therapy organizations, and a staggering 92 percent of former "ex-gay" patients report that they experienced harm as a result of the treatment.
On his radio program, Sean Hannity ignored the fraudulent quackery of "ex-gay" therapy to frame the debate as a matter of religious freedom. "Is there freedom of religion anymore, or is that banned in New Jersey?" Hannity asked, before concluding that it "sounds like" the answer is the latter:
Right-wing media outlets are criticizing the Washington attorney general for enforcing non-discrimination laws against a florist who refused to offer her services for a same-sex wedding.
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit on April 9 against Arlene's Flowers and Gifts, a florist that refused to supply flowers for the wedding of a same-sex couple due to her religious beliefs. According to the lawsuit, the florist violated the state's Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits businesses from discriminating against customers on the basis of sexual orientation.
Right-wing media outlets have jumped on the story, touting it as evidence of the gay community's hostility towards religious freedom.
American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer cited the incident as an example of "homofascism":
Anti-gay groups and LGBT activists alike have spent the past few days arguing over a new study which allegedly finds that children of gay parents are worse off than the children of married, heterosexual parents. The study – conducted by associate sociology professor Mark Regnerus – has been the subject of intense criticism because of its deeply flawed methodology and misleading conclusions.
Lost in the debate, however, has been a discussion of what proponents of the study are actually suggesting about same-sex parents. If the study is correct, what do anti-gay activists believe it proves about gay people in general?
One of the study's most disturbing findings is that children with gay parents reported significantly higher rates of sexual abuse – including rape – by parents or adult figures as kids than children raised by married, heterosexual parents. It's unclear why rates of abuse differ between the two groups, but anti-gay activists have touted the finding as evidence of the long-disproven "gays are pedophiles" myth.
American Family Association (AFA) spokesman Bryan Fischer cited the study as evidence that allowing gay couples to adopt is "a form of sexual abuse." Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH) referenced the study while arguing "you're more likely basically to get molested in a household led by two lesbians."
The claim that gays and lesbians are more likely to molest children than heterosexuals is one of the oldest and most damaging myths about homosexuality in American politics. It's the kind of homophobic propaganda that usually distinguishes typical anti-gay organizations from actual anti-gay hate groups. It's not all that surprising, then, that groups like AFA and AFTAH are so eager to promote the Regnerus study.
What's disturbing about the reaction to the study, though, is how widely it's been embraced by "moderate" anti-gay activists and organizations that have typically shied away from this kind of rhetoric. The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has offered its enthusiastic endorsement of the study, as have Fox News' Dr. Keith Ablow, National Review Online's Ed Whelan, Focus on the Family, the New Jersey Family Policy Council, and others.
The biggest problem with Regenerus' study isn't just that it's junk science – it's that it gives mainstream conservatives a license to promote one of the most extreme anti-gay smears imaginable under the guise of advancing legitimate scientific inquiry.
When all is said and done, Regnerus' study won't end up providing any useful information about the impact of same-sex parenting. It will, however, reveal volumes about those who are so aggressively championing it.
Fox News' Todd Starnes has never shied away from aligning himself with some of the more extreme and fringe elements of right-wing politics. He's flirted with "birtherism," made inflammatory comments about Muslims and African-Americans, and accused the Obama administration of launching a war against Christianity.
Over the past few months, it appears that Starnes has taken up a new cause – using his position as a Fox News Radio reporter to give a voice to some of the country's worst anti-gay hate groups
Last December, Starnes appeared on the American Family Association's (AFA) "Today's Issues" radio show to promote his Fox News website, ToddStarnes.com. He was joined by Tony Perkins, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated anti-gay "hate group" Family Research Council (FRC). During the segment, Starnes claimed that his website would act as a hub of "culture war stories" that would depict hate groups like FRC and AFA in a positive light:
STARNES: This is sort of a place in the Fox family, the Fox News family, that folks can go and find those culture war stories that we cover.... These are stories that resonate with patriotic, God-fearing, God-loving Americans. And I think when people see the stories in one spot, they really understand what's at stake and how thankful we are that there are organizations like the Family Research Council and American Family Radio that cover these issues. [emphasis added]
Perkins was thrilled, to say the least. He said he was "encouraged" by Starnes' reporting, praising him for "giving voice" to social conservatives who believe that Christianity is under attack:
PERKINS: That's the kind of stuff we like to see. And, this is what I think happens when these issues are talked about. Because in isolation, people think 'oh well, we're all by ourselves" and so they usually back down... But when people realize 'hey, this is a connected effort,' and 'we're not alone,' and people are standing up, it has an encouraging effect to it. And that's why I appreciate the work that you're doing, Todd. I know you're just reporting, but what you're doing is you're giving voice to a lot of Americans out there who are deeply concerned about the direction of this country and in particular this attack on Christianity. And I for one am encouraged by that. [emphasis added]
Starnes was serious about his pledge to mainstream and promote FRC. Since his AFA radio appearance, Starnes has frequently included comments from FRC spokespersons – including Perkins, Peter Sprigg, and Ken Klukowski – in his reporting.
A post on Andrew Breitbart's BigPeace today tops the blog's long history of demonizing Muslims, republishing an essay by Danish psychologist Nicolai Sennels, titled, "The connection between Muslim inbreeding and terrorism":
If there are two things that characterize Islamic culture, they are terrorism and inbreeding. The latest research shows that these two things might be closely connected.
The concept of Islamic terror does not need any introduction. Not everyone might know, however, that seventy percent of Pakistanis and forty percent of Turks are inbred (Jyllands-Posten, 27/2 2009 "More stillbirths among immigrants"). Research shows that the same goes for close to half of all Arabs (Reproductive Health Journal, 2009 "Consanguinity and reproductive health among Arabs").
First cousin marriages have been the tradition in many Muslim families for innumerable generations. Such marriages increase the risk of negative mental and physical consequences. My article "Muslim inbreeding: Impacts on intelligence, sanity, health and society" details extensive research data on the subject. In brief, inbreeding through consanguineous marriages increases the risk of depression (Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 2009 "Relationship between consanguinity and depression in a south Indian population") and schizophrenia (American Psychiatric Press, 1982 "The role of genetic factors in the etiology of the schizophrenic disorders").
The risk of serious illnesses or handicaps increases by up to 1800 percent (BMJ, 1994 "Infant death and consanguineous marriage"). Risk of mental retardation increases with 400 percent (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 1978 "Effect of inbreeding on IQ and mental retardation"). Research shows that the IQ is 10-16 points lower in children born from blood related parents and that abilities related to social behavior and empathy develops slower in inbred babies (Indian National Science Academy, 1983 "Consanguinity Effects on Intelligence Quotient and Neonatal Behaviours of nsari Muslim Children" [pdf]). Such facts might make several pieces fall into place for many people. [Big Peace, 12/20/10]
To further support his odious claims, Sennels goes on to cite -- poorly -- a study by Yusuf Yadgari of the Medical University of Kabul that found, based on the autopsied remains of suicide bombers, "that close to ninety percent [of them] were suffering from severe illness such as blindness, cancer, missing limbs or leprosy."
Actually, if you click through to the 2007 NPR report on Yadgari's study, the number is 80 percent. More importantly, only 20 percent of bombers were found to have mental illnesses in this study, while 60 percent were suffering from physical illness, like the aforementioned "cancer, missing limbs, [and] leprosy." While genes play a role in some physical ailments, like cancer, it's not terribly scientific to conclude from autopsies that all these maladies were caused by "inbreeding."
So who is this not-so-scientific scientist?
The American Family Association's Bryan Fischer is still mad at Glenn Beck for not being sufficiently anti-gay. Remember, Beck recently told his Fox News colleague Bill O'Reilly that there are "bigger fish to fry" than same-sex marriage.
Yes, Beck has a long history of pushing anti-gay misinformation, but Fischer wants more out of the right-wing host. Fischer scolds Beck in a post filled with homophobic lies and misinformation, writing:
Glenn, Glenn, wake up and smell the arsenic, my friend.
[Marriage equality is] a threat to freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of association, and worst, represents a clear and present danger to children. What were you thinking?
Glenn, Glenn, Glenn: if special rights are given to people just because they want to use the alimentary canal for sexual purposes, no social conservative will be able to criticize homosexual behavior on biblical or moral grounds without running the risk of legal punishment.
Goodbye freedom of speech and goodbye freedom of religion. You, Glenn, will have aided and abetted those who are out to destroy two of the inalienable rights God has given to men, and you don't think that's a threat to this country? Wake up and smell the toxins, my friend.
Glenn, Glenn, Glenn: what about vulnerable children who are deliberately being stuck in households headed by people who engage in unnatural sexual behavior and in households where they are going to grow up missing either the love of a mother or a father or both? Your laissez-faire view of marriage consigns such children to a deprived childhood. Do you not care about that? Do you not believe the state has a legitimate interest in their welfare? How can children suffer such damage without harm to our republic and its values?
This of course comes from the AFA and Fischer who think too many Indian-Americans are winning spelling bees and wants to deport all Muslims. Seriously.
Beck must be shaking in his boots -- imagine if he really did become a champion of LGBT equality (he hasn't) -- Fischer's head just might explode.
This is just too funny.
Apparently right-wing pundit Ann Coulter and Fox News host Glenn Beck aren't sufficiently anti-gay for the fringe American Family Association (AFA).
In a blog post titled "Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck go AWOL in the culture war" the AFA's Bryan Fischer makes the case:
Count Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck as the latest deserters in the culture war and in the battle for sexual normalcy. They have flinched at "precisely that little point which the world and the devil....are attacking," and so have forfeited the right to consider themselves any longer culture warriors.
Ann Coulter is the headliner at "Homocon 2010," a September 25 gathering of so-called gay "conservatives." And Glenn Beck has folded his hand and cashed in his chips on the issue of gay marriage. Even Rush Limbaugh, who supports counterfeit same-sex marriages in the form of civil unions, won't go that far.
Coulter justifies her Benedict Arnold impersonation by saying she speaks all the time in hostile environments, such as Harvard. Okay, Ann, how exactly is this a hostile environment? You're being welcomed as a heroine, as the Joan of Arc of homosexuality, literally the poster child for "Homocon 2010." You are the goddess of gayness for the moment.
Glenn Beck has completely and shamelessly surrendered on the issue of gay marriage, and did so on Bill O'Reilly's program, only the most watched cable news program in all TV land.
Beck said "we have bigger fish to fry" than protecting natural marriage, which, outside of being the bedrock and foundation of any healthy society and the cornerstone of Western civilization, is apparently not that important to Mr. Beck. He's done this even though the members of his church, the Mormon church, were willing to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune to defend natural marriage in California.
You can retract your surrender at your "Divine Destiny" event at the Kennedy Center on August 27. If you do, all is forgiven.
Coulter has also earned the wrath of World Net Daily for agreeing to appear at GOProud's Homocon -- a gathering of gay Republicans promoting Coulter as "the right wing Judy Garland." The right-wing outlet canceled Coulter's keynote address at an upcoming Miami conference.
As I noted when news broke about Coulter headlining Homocon, the right-wing pundit is notoriously anti-gay.
The same goes for Glenn Beck -- he has a long history of anti-gay commentary and has been extremely hostile to marriage equality.
Maybe Coulter and Beck aren't sufficiently nutty for the AFA's Fischer
After the jump, check out some research on the AFA from Political Correction, Media Matters' partner organization.
AgapePress columnist Joe Murray attacked Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) for giving in to the "Buggery Blitzkrieg," claiming that Santorum's initial signing of a sexual nondiscrimination letter from the Gender Public Advocacy Office guaranteed "that Ru-Paul's employment application is welcomed at his office." Santorum later rescinded his signature from the letter.