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:
The Washington Times marked the U.S. Senate's historic vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) by publishing a column from an anti-LGBT hate group leader who baselessly asserted that the legislation permits "reverse discrimination" and doesn't truly exempt religious employers.
On November 8 - one day after the Senate voted 64 to 32 to ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity - the Times granted Tony Perkins, president of the hate group Family Research Council, a platform to smear ENDA as "a major threat to liberty." Perkins attacked the bill's religious exemption as inadequate and claimed that the legislation promotes "reverse discrimination" against social conservatives:
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act contains a very narrow "religious exemption," but previous experience with similar laws and similar "exemptions" at the state and local level give little confidence that they will fully protect conscience when the law is applied. Sometimes, the enforcers will seek to limit the exemption to actual clergy but insist that church employees who do not proclaim the faith are not exempt. Some will exempt all employees of actual churches, but leave nonprofits and parachurch ministries unprotected. Sometimes, religious nonprofits are protected, but not if a significant part of their work is "secular" in nature (such as feeding the poor or educating children). In any case, any exemption is unlikely to apply to any profit-making entity -- even a religious publishing house or radio station.
Unfortunately, the mere language of a legislative "exemption" is inadequate to predict how liberal activists on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or in the courts will interpret it.
Even more alarming than the lack of a strong religious exemption, however, is the prospect that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act would lead to a form of reverse discrimination, whereby anyone who expresses or promotes a view of family or morality that can be interpreted to be a disapproval of homosexual conduct or disagreement with elements of the homosexual political agenda (such as the redefinition of marriage) will be subject to retaliation and discrimination.
Despite Perkins' eagerness to frame ENDA as an unprecedented assault on religious freedom, Section 6 of ENDA explicitly exempts religious organizations, affirming that the same religious organizations exempt under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are also exempt under ENDA. Since Senate debate began on the bill, the right of religious organizations to discriminate against LGBT individuals has only been reaffirmed. On November 6, the Senate adopted by voice vote an amendment from ENDA supporter Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) prohibiting retaliation against religious organizations.
Moreover, businesses required to comply with ENDA's non-discrimination requirements won't see any loss of religious liberty. There's a stark difference between personal religious views against homosexuality and discriminatory public business practices against LGBT people. Just as civil rights protections for racial minorities don't punish private racist thoughts, ENDA won't deploy the thought police to go after religious conservatives.
Obsessed with an uncontroversial 2007 academic article she wrote on reproductive rights, National Review Online continues to smear judicial nominee Cornelia Pillard, whose approval vote before the Senate Judiciary Committee is today.
Nominated to the second-most important court in the nation, Pillard should be voted out of committee on her way to a Senate confirmation vote based on her stellar qualifications for the U.S. Court of Appeals. Because of right-wing media attacks started by National Review Online and repeated almost verbatim by GOP Senators on the committee, the vote is expected to be straight down party lines.
In anticipation of the vote, last night the editorial board of the NRO regurgitated the same smears.
Pivoting off of a sliver of her academic work while misrepresenting it, right-wing media have attacked Pillard for her mainstream support of family planning, comprehensive sex education, and overall adherence to established sex equality law.
Right-wing media have been so desperate to pretend her legal writings are "extreme" that not only have they dismissed the inconvenient fact that half of the Supreme Court agreed with her perspectives on reproductive rights and abortion, but her invocation of the relevance of "sex stereotypes" that NRO and others like Tony Perkins condemn was endorsed by arch-conservative former Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
But the attacks are not really about Pillard.
Rather, they are a reflection of how much the right-wing apparently loathes the decades-long development of sex equality under Fourteenth Amendment law. Make no mistake- most of these Pillard smears have nothing to do with fidelity to precedent. Right-wing media like NRO apparently desire nominees who don't support civil rights precedent.
Cornelia "Nina" Pillard is President Obama's pick for one of three vacant seats on the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia Circuit. She is a well-respected professor at Georgetown Law School; co-director of its Supreme Court Institute; a former lawyer at the ACLU, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the Justice Department; and a successful Supreme Court litigator.
She is also a "feminist."
A "feminist" insofar as she has spent part of her career advocating for women's equality (including a successful brief challenging the men-only admissions policy at the Virginia Military Institute, and a successful challenge to gender-biased family leave policies). Pillard's "radical feminism" appears largely to take the form of seeking equality for women, which would certainly be a disqualifying feature of her advocacy work. If it were 1854.
Fresh off of unsuccessful scare-mongering about the dangers of marriage equality, right-wing media are turning the clock back even further and attacking a highly qualified judicial nominee to the important D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals because of her academic writings on established sex equality law.
Started by Ed Whelan of the National Review Online and continued by anti-gay hate group leader Tony Perkins, a whisper campaign against veteran litigator and law professor Cornelia T.L. Pillard, President Obama's pick for the D.C. Circuit, has been spreading through right-wing media.
Whereas Whelan at least attempted to engage the legal arguments of a 2007 law review article in which Pillard explored how decades-old sex equality law is relevant to reproductive rights, other right-wing media are making even wilder and more inaccurate claims to smear the nominee as extreme when she is in fact solidly in the mainstream.
Perkins of the notorious Family Research Council, for example, made numerous errors in his attack on Pillard that, along with Whelan's rhetoric, is circulating on anti-choice websites and right-wing blogs.
Falsely ascribing a quote of conservative former Chief Justice William Rehnquist to Pillard in which he wrote for the Supreme Court that family leave policies not equally provided to both sexes are a "self-fulfilling cycle of discrimination," Perkins inaccurately described it as Pillard's condemnation of "celebrating motherhood." Where Pillard has observed that the anti-choice personhood movement could be exposed as unconstitutional by increasing awareness of the equal protection ramifications for pregnant women, Perkins fabricated the charge that Pillard "criticizes" the ultrasound. Resorting to spreading the ridiculous myth that Pillard would "declare" abstinence-only education "unconstitutional," Perkins managed to debunk such a silly charge in his very next sentence by quoting her accurate observation that a sex education class that stereotypes and disadvantages women could theoretically be "vulnerable to an equal protection challenge" under established precedent.
Finally, Perkins selectively quoted Pillard to characterize as "militant feminism" her argument that for women to have equal rights in the workplace, they need to be valued for more than their ability to bear children. From the actual full quote in Pillard's 2007 article:
A society in which women lack control to plan when they have children is one in which women must remain second-class citizens. We already know, and the Court recognized in Hibbs, that many employers assume that to be a mother is to be a primary caregiver with correspondingly less job commitment than a man, who is presumed to be an unencumbered "ideal worker." If impaired access to contraceptives hinders women's ability to exercise choice about when and whether to have children, it also reinforces broader patterns of discrimination against women as a class of presumptive breeders rather than reliable breadwinners and citizens.
More than 32,000 people have signed a petition asking CNN to stop hosting anti-gay hate group leader Tony Perkins to speak on behalf of America's Christians following Perkins' appearance on the network to discuss the Supreme Court's recent marriage equality decisions.
Just minutes after the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on June 26, CNN invited Perkins - president of the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council (FRC) - to peddle lies about the decision's impact on religious liberty. No other Christians were interviewed during the segment, despite the fact that a majority of Christians oppose DOMA:
With the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee poised to vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) on July 10, anti-LGBT activists are ramping up their misinformation campaign against the legislation, which would prohibit employers from discriminating against employees and job applicants based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
In the wake of the Supreme Court's historic decision to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), anti-gay activists have run out of excuses to explain their ongoing legal defeats in their fight against marriage equality.
Anti-gay activists have a long history of dreaming up wild excuses to explain away embarrassing losses in court:
This rationalization may have bought anti-gay groups time as their cases worked their way up the judicial ladder, but it won't do much to soften the blow of the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor v. United States.
The lead attorney defending DOMA in the Windsor case was Paul Clement, one of the country's most well-known and successful constitutional lawyers. Clement had been dubbed the "LeBron James of law," and his decision to take up DOMA's defense was celebrated by anti-gay groups across the country.
Focus on the Family celebrated Clement's announcement, calling it "really great news":
Ladies and gentlemen, it just doesn't get any better on a Monday than to hear that the House of Representatives has selected Paul Clement as its outside counsel to take on the defense of DOMA after the President and the Department of Justice's rather spectacular failure to do so.
I'm breathing just a little bit easier today. This is really great news. [emphasis added]
Maggie Gallagher, co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), was similarly overjoyed:
Paul Clement is one of the ablest litigators in the country, whose seven years acting as solicitor general is the longest period of continuous service since the 19th century. The solicitor general's job is arguing cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and Clement has argued more than 50 such cases.
As a friend of mine, himself an able litigator, put it: "He's the best. Boehner could not have made a better choice."
And so, thanks to Boehner, Obama's plan to sabotage DOMA's defense has backfired.
For the first time since Obama became president, we will have a legal eagle in the courtroom defending DOMA who actually wants to win the case. [emphasis added]
And Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, stated that Clement's defense would put the Supreme Court "in the best position" to uphold DOMA:
In the American system, everyone is entitled to have a good lawyer to make the best constitutional arguments. This puts the court in the best position to reach the right result. In the case of DOMA, having very good aggressive lawyers on both sides is what will put the courts in the best position correctly to hold that DOMA is perfectly constitutional. [emphasis added]
Less than an hour after the Supreme Court struck down a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), CNN invited anti-gay hate group leader Tony Perkins to comment on the decision and allowed him to promote damaging myths about marriage equality.
During the June 26 edition of CNN Newsroom, host Wolf Blitzer invited Perkins - president of the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council (FRC) - to comment on the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor v. United States, which struck down a provision of DOMA that prohibited the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages.
Perkins responded by peddling a number of blatant falsehoods about marriage equality, none of which Blitzer challenged:
PERKINS: What we're going to see happen over time as this plays out in the jurisdictions that have adopted same-sex marriage, you're going to see a loss of parental rights as children are taught in school morals that are contradictory to their parents', religious liberty loss from business owners, bakers, florists and others who are forced to comply with a different view of marriage, as well as even churches - in some places religious organizations losing their tax exemption because they fail to comply with the force of the state in terms of redefining marriage.
Right-wing media have given Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, a platform to tie reports on increased sexual assaults in the military to the repeal of the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, contradicting studies that have found no link between the two.
In May 2013, the Department of Defense released its "Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military" for fiscal year 2012 which found that 26,000 service members were victims of sexual assault that year, 14,000 of which were male and 12,000 female.
Supporters of DADT cited the report as evidence that the policy's repeal has forced an "embrace of homosexuality" in the military and led to a growing trend in same-sex sexual assault. During an interview with WND, Donnelly continued her campaign against the repeal of DADT by claiming the report proved that the "the military suffers a wave of gay sex assaults." In a Washington Times op-ed, Donnelly added that the increase in sexual assaults reported by men should call into question claims that the repeal of DADT has been successful:
If these estimates are used to justify more funding for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office programs, they also should call into question Pentagon claims that repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy implemented in 1993 has been a complete "success."
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":
Hate group leader Tony Perkins jumped at the opportunity to attack same-sex parents while peddling distortions about a new MSNBC ad on Fox News.
During the April 10 edition of Fox & Friends, host Gretchen Carlson invited Perkins on to criticize a new MSNBC ad in which Melissa Harris-Perry calls on America to think about child-rearing as a community effort. Perkins suggested that Perry's comments are part of the left's desire to move away from family structures headed by "a mom and a dad":
PERKINS: Kids are still born to moms and dads, to women and men. Still takes a man and a woman to create a child. Children aren't born to the neighborhood watch; they are born to a man and woman. There is a reason for that. God gives them to man and woman. And the reality is now we have decades worth of social science that show children do best with a mom and dad who love them, who are married, and care for them. Moving away from that notion, which the left would love to do, will be devastating for society. [emphasis added]
Fox News' Megyn Kelly whitewashed the extremism of one of America's most notorious anti-gay hate group leaders, suggesting that pro-gay activists are actually the intolerant ones.
During the April 8 edition of America Live, Kelly invited Tony Perkins - president of the anti-gay Family Research Council (FRC) - to discuss the reaction to the suicide of right-wing Pastor Rick Warren's son. Kelly condemned "haters" on the Internet who were using the tragedy as an excuse to attack Warren over his anti-gay views.
Near the end of the segment, Kelly asked Perkins how he felt about being "the subject of attacks" over his opposition to marriage equality, suggesting the pro-gay activists are the ones being intolerant:
KELLY: A lot of people thought, think, that Pastor Warren is on the wrong side of the gay marriage issue. You can relate to him in this way - not the being on the wrong side, I'm not passing a judgment on that - but you also oppose gay marriage and have been the subject of attacks, and it seems like some, not all, but some of those who want tolerance and acceptance, in their effort to get it, are very willing to pass judgment, alienate, attack, and go about it in a way that may be undermining the very thing they seek.
PERKINS: Absolutely, I think you're absolutely correct. I mean, just to show a little bit of human compassion to a parent who has lost a child would go a long way in showing that they just want to be accepted and enjoy tolerance. [emphasis added]
The irony of asking a hate group leader if he's bothered by the alleged "intolerance" of his critics seems to be lost on Kelly.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly attempted to whitewash the record of one of the country's most prominent anti-gay hate group leaders, ignoring his history of extreme bigotry towards the LGBT community.
During the April 3 edition of America Live, Kelly hosted Tony Perkins - president of the anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council (FRC) - to discuss the faux controversy surrounding comments made by Reverend Luis Leon during this Easter service attended by President Obama. During his homily, Leon highlighted examples of discrimination that he felt were promoted by the religious right:
It drives me crazy when the captains of the religious right are always calling us back ... for blacks to be back in the back of the bus ... for women to be back in the kitchen ... for immigrants to be back on their side of the border.
Kelly rejected the idea that Perkins and other "captains" of the religious right held bigoted and extreme views about the gay community:
KELLY: Tony Perkins, who is president of the Family Research Council. He is on as a captain of the religious right, who we believe is one of the ones being attacked by the reverend in that sermon.
KELLY: Tony, how alienating is that for you? As somebody who's been openly religious and a Christian conservative, to hear folks who believe as you do, that what you really want is you want blacks on the back of the bus, you want women back in the kitchen, you want gays in the closet, and you want immigrants back on their side of the border?
KELLY: It seems like some have given a pass to those who would criticize Christians, conservative Christians and their views on gay marriage, for example, because they just say, 'look, you are just bigots. That's just all there is to it. You're bigots if you're not behind gay rights and that's the civil rights issue of our time and therefore if you're on the wrong side of it you deserve to be condemned.'
PERKINS: Well, as was stated, he rolled into this statement he made on Sunday some very, very loaded language to portray those who would be against the redefinition of marriage as if they were bigots that wanted to see African-Americans at the back of the bus and women back in the kitchen. As Cal [Thomas] said, I don't know what time capsule he came out of, but clearly he is not able to discern the difference between those issues.
But if Leon's comments apply to anyone on the religious right, it's Tony Perkins.
NBC News correspondent Luke Russert challenged Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins over his views on same-sex parenting, pointing out that research used to back Perkins' claims is deeply flawed.
During the March 27 edition of MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports, guest host Russert invited Perkins to explain his views on the federal Defense of Marriage Act's (DOMA) constitutionality and the supposed harms of legalizing same-sex marriage. Perkins incorrectly asserted that the part of DOMA being challenged in court actually protected states' rights before going on to claim that studies showed children did best when raised by a heterosexual couple:
PERKINS: When you look at the amount of social science research that we have amassed over the last several decades, it's clear that kids do best with a mom and a dad ... The evidence does not suggest that children do best just with two parents or three parents. The evidence says a mom and a dad. So, from a public policy standpoint, our preference is that children have a mom and a dad.
After Russert pushed back against Perkins' claim, the two scuffled over a notorious study on same-sex parenting conducted by University of Texas associate professor Mark Regnerus:
RUSSERT: Yes, but there are studies also, especially from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which suggest that having a two-person home, even if it is a same-sex couple, is actually beneficial for children. So there are questions about your facts on that question. I'd like to ask you, though -
PERKINS: It's interesting that they failed to acknowledge one of the most widespread, deep surveys on that that Mark Regnerus did out of Texas. They completely ignored that, and of course the American College of Pediatricians -
RUSSERT: Right, but on that survey there was real questions about A its funding, which was done by some conservative backers, as well as the questioning methods, and we can have a research methods debate at another time.
When the Boy Scouts announced in late January that it would be reviewing its ban on openly gay members, it should have sparked a national conversation about discrimination against LGBT youth. Instead, mainstream media outlets allowed their coverage to be hijacked by anti-gay conservatives fear mongering that gay scout leaders might sexually abuse young boys.
In the week following the Boy Scouts' announcement that it would be reviewing its ban on gay members, cable news coverage of the story repeatedly forwarded the claim that allowing gay scout leaders would increase the likelihood of child sexual abuse. According to an Equality Matters report, over half of Fox News' and CNN's segments about the story included references to pedophilia: