Fox News has reported on a number of alleged cases of Christian persecution in the military, relying heavily on the claims of a San Antonio pastor with a history of peddling misinformation about efforts to protect LGBT people.
On September 30, Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes published an article warning that the Air Force is "punishing evangelical Christians" - a right-wing myth he's been peddling unsuccessfully for months.
His article relied largely on statements made by Steve Branson, pastor of Village Parkway Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas. According to Branson, persecution of Christian service members is on the rise thanks to the growing acceptance of gays and lesbians in the military:
"There is an atmosphere of intimidation at Lackland Air Force Base," said Steve Branson, the pastor of Village Parkway Baptist Church in San Antonio. "Gay commanders and officers are pushing their agenda on the airmen. There is a culture of fear in the military and it's gone to a new level with the issue of homosexuality."
"The religious persecution is happening," the pastor said. "It's getting bigger every day. Gay and lesbian airmen can talk about their lifestyle, but the rest have to stay completely quiet about what they believe."
Starnes primarily relied on the case of Air Force Sgt. Phillip Monk, who baselessly claims he was reprimanded for opposing marriage equality despite repeated denials by the Air Force, to support this conspiracy theory.
Aside from Monk's story, Starnes' only evidence of a military-wide anti-Christian conspiracy is what Branson claimed to have been told at a private meeting with "at least 80 airmen" at his church:
Branson tells me at least 80 airmen attended a private meeting at the church where he heard them voice their concerns about religious hostilities at the Air Force base. It was a standing-room only crowd.
"They're getting mirandized several times a month - but most of the accusations never stick," Branson tells me. "Branson said he's getting email and letters from military personnel across the country - telling him their stories of religious persecution - and asking for help.
From the September 19 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
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Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes repeated the discredited myth that the post-Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) military is persecuting Christians, citing the case of an anti-gay airman who castigated his Air Force superiors to the media as evidence.
In a September 6 column for FoxNews.com, Starnes reported that Sgt. Phillip Monk "is now facing a formal investigation" after inaccurately telling Starnes last month that he was relieved of his duties because he told his openly lesbian commander that he opposed same-sex marriage.
Officials at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio said that Monk and his commander had simply "agreed to disagree," adding "the wing commander said there was no punishment" for Monk's comments. Base officials stated that Monk was relieved of his duties because he was at the end of his assignment - not because of his views on LGBT issues. That didn't stop Monk from blasting the Air Force in his August interview with Starnes:
"I was relieved of my position because I don't agree with my commander's position on gay marriage," Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk told Fox News. "We've been told that if you publicly say that homosexuality is wrong, you are in violation of Air Force policy."
"I was essentially fired for not validating my commander's position on having an opinion about homosexual marriage," he said.
Monk said he is brokenhearted over the way the military has treated him.
"The narrative is that you cannot say anything that contradicts Air Force policy."
He said in essence, Christians are trading places with homosexuals.
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes continued his network's ongoing campaign against a proposed non-discrimination ordinance in San Antonio, relying on a notoriously dishonest anti-LGBT activist to peddle blatant falsehoods about the measure.
On September 5, the San Antonio City Council is expected to vote on a bill that would expand the city's non-discrimination protections to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The measure would:
Right-wing media outlets have spent weeks smearing the measure as an assault on religious liberty and a case of "reverse discrimination." In a September 5 article for Fox News Radio, reporter Todd Starnes peddled a number of blatant, outright falsehoods about the measure, citing Mat Staver, president of the notoriously anti-LGBT group Liberty Counsel.
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes blasted "militant homosexuals" for opposing businesses that discriminate against gay customers, baselessly attacking anti-discrimination laws as assaults on First Amendment rights.
Willamette Week, an alternative weekly based in Portland, Oregon, reported on September 1 that Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a local bakery that came under fire in February for refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, closed its storefront and will instead operate out of an "in home bakery." The move comes after the couple at the center of the controversy filed a complaint against the bakery for violating the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, which prohibits discrimination against LGBT individuals in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
Starnes did not take kindly to the news. In a September 3 column for FoxNews.com, Starnes condemned the "vicious boycott by militant homosexual activists" for "forc[ing]" the business to close its storefront. Even as the bakery owners decried the "sin" of homosexuality and lamented the "LGBT attacks" against their discriminatory business practices, Starnes uncritically noted their assertion that they have "nothing against homosexuals." Starnes then argued that businesses should be allowed to discriminate against gay people, as "God's law" should trump "man's law":
[Co-owner Aaron] Klein tells me he has nothing against homosexuals -- but because of their religious faith, the family simply cannot take part in gay wedding events.
"I believe marriage is between a man and a woman," he said. "I don't want to help somebody celebrate a commitment to a lifetime of sin."
Commissioner Brad Avakian told The Oregonian that he was committed to a fair and thorough investigation to determine whether the bakery discriminated against the lesbians.
"Everybody is entitled to their own beliefs, but that doesn't mean that folks have the right to discriminate," he told the newspaper. "The goal is to rehabilitate. For those who do violate the law, we want them to learn from that experience and have a good, successful business in Oregon."
In other words, Christians who live and work in Oregon must follow man's law instead of God's law. But in a show of benevolence, the state is willing to rehabilitate and reeducate Christian business owners like the Kleins.
Klein said it's becoming clear that Christians do not have the "right to believe what we believe."
In other words, gay rights trump religious rights.
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes suggested President Obama might be secretly gay following statements the president made in support of gay Olympians competing in the 2014 Winter Games.
On August 9, President Obama stated his opposition to Russia's strict anti-gay laws, which could threaten openly gay Olympians and visitors during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. At a press conference, Obama said "nobody's more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and -lesbian legislation that we've been seeing in Russia."
Fox News Radio reporter mocked President Obama for statements he made in support of gay Olympians who might be targeted by Russia's strict anti-gay laws during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
During an August 9 press conference, Obama stated his opposition to Russia's anti-gay laws - including a measure that would criminalize "homosexual propaganda" - saying "nobody's more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and -lesbian legislation that we've been seeing in Russia."
Starnes took to Twitter to mock the president's comments, accusing Obama of discriminating against heterosexual athletes:
He also advanced the bogus right-wing talking point that Obama was prioritizing gay rights over other foreign policy considerations:
Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes, one of the most prominent homophobes in right-wing media, will now also enjoy a platform at The Daily Caller, where he has just been hired as a weekly columnist:
If history is any guide, Starnes will also provide Daily Caller readers with a steady stream of anti-LGBT commentary.
From the August 7 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
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"Ludicrous." That's how San Antonio City Councilman Diego Bernal described the effort by right-wing media outlets - including Fox News - to smear a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance aimed at combating bias against LGBT people.
On July 23, the right-wing website OneNewsNow published an article criticizing an effort by the San Antonio City Council to update its non-discrimination policy to include discrimination against LGBT people.
The updated policy would prohibit the city government and its contractors or vendors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation in employment. In addition, it would also prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in housing and places of public accommodation. It would also allow City Council members to consider a person's history of anti-LGBT bias when making appointments to boards and commissions, stating:
No person shall be appointed to a position if the City Council finds that such person has, prior to such proposed appointment, engaged in discrimination or demonstrated a bias, by word or deed, against any person, group or organization on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age, or disability.
That provision drew the ire of conservatives, who claimed that the ordinance was an attempt to limit Christians' freedom of speech.
Before long, several right-wing media outlets picked up on the controversy, with each new iteration of the story presenting even wilder claims about the ordinance's supposed threat to religious liberty.
Right-wing media outlets have smeared a proposed measure in San Antonio to expand the city's non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity, falsely claiming that the revised measure would limit free speech and religious liberty.
Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes is outraged that a Manhattan barbecue joint will no longer rent space to an anti-gay church and vows to boycott the popular restaurant. Starnes' strong condemnation of a private business's actions contrasts sharply with his spirited defense of Chick-fil-A, which faced boycotts over anti-gay statements last summer.
In a July 24 post for FoxNews.com and in a series of tweets on July 25, Starnes denounced Hill Country Barbecue for its decision to stop allowing The Gallery Church to conduct services in the restaurant. Hill Country Barbecue's action followed mounting pressure in the neighborhood for the restaurant to stop renting space to the church after Pastor Freddy Wyatt gave a sermon series on same-sex attraction.
Starnes blasted Hill Country Barbecue's decision as "[a]nti-Christian," vowing that he'd never set foot in the restaurant again:
From the July 16 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox, broke from Fox News hosts and contributors by tweeting support for the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform bill.
In a July 14 tweet, Murdoch called on House Speaker John Boehner to allow for his chamber to vote on the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform package. Boehner has previously committed not to bring the package up for a vote in the House:
A number of host and contributors of 21st Century Fox's subsidiary Fox News have expressed a view opposite of Murdoch's, either denouncing the Senate plan or calling for House Republican obstruction of any comprehensive immigration reform effort.
On the July 10 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity praised Boehner for not allowing the Senate bill to be voted on in the House, saying, "the decision by the leadership not to take the Senate bill is a good first step" to fixing the immigration system. He also advised that they take their time to get it right.
During the Hannity segment, Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin offered her "qualified applause and praise" of Boehner's commitment to not bring the Senate bill up for a vote.
Additionally, Fox News contributors Laura Ingraham and Bill Kristol have both endorsed Republican obstruction of immigration reform efforts, claiming that any reconciliation of a potential House immigration reform bill and the Senate bill would be disastrous.
Other Fox News figures have staked out a different position, articulating support for the Senate's immigration reform effort. During the July 10 edition of his Fox News show, Bill O'Reilly explained that House Republicans killing the Senate immigration reform bill would "mean the chaotic status quo would remain and the Southern border would not be made more secure." And Fox News contributor Karl Rove said on Fox News Radio that while he doesn't think the Senate immigration reform bill is perfect, he wanted "the process to continue."
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes hyped the story of a Utah National Guard technician who was reprimanded by his superiors after his anti-gay views became the source of repeated insubordination.
In a July 11 story for FoxNews.com, Starnes sensationalized the case of Tech. Sgt. Layne Wilson, who wrote an email in December protesting a same-sex wedding at West Point's Cadet Chapel. Wilson's email prompted the Air National Guard to reprimand him for "fail[ing] to render the proper respect to a commissioned officer." Wilson - a noncommissioned officer - also had his reenlistment contract reduced from six years to one year.
Starnes - who has called military policies protecting gay soldiers a sign of "the end of days" - baselessly framed the story as a tale of stifling Wilson's religious freedom, rather than a stark case of insubordination. Disregarding longstanding military rules, Wilson condemned his superiors for allowing the ceremony to go ahead:
"This is wrong on so many levels," Wilson wrote. "If they wanted to get married in a hotel that is one thing. Our base chapels are a place of worship and this is a mockery to God and our military core values. I have proudly served 27 years and this is a slap in the face to us who have put our lives on the line for this country. I hope sir that you will take appropriate action so this does not happen again."