AFA's Wildmon proposed a hypothetical tour of gay bathhouses, repeated misinformation on average gay incomes

In response to gay rights organization Soulforce's Equality Ride -- a bus tour aimed at confronting religious schools and military academies that ban the enrollment of GBLT students -- the American Family Association's Don Wildmon proposed his own hypothetical trip to “the homosexual bathhouses,” saying, "[W]e're going to confront these people ... for what they're doing."

On the March 8 edition of the AFA Report, Donald E. Wildmon, founder and chairman of the American Family Association (AFA), responded to the Equality Ride, a seven-week bus tour of 32 young adults organized by gay rights organization Soulforce “to confront nineteen religious schools and military academies that ban the enrollment of GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender] students.” Wildmon proposed his own hypothetical trip to “the homosexual bathhouses,” saying, "[W]e're going to confront these people ... for what they're doing." In a discussion with Ed Vitagliano, news editor of the American Family Association Journal, Fred Jackson, AFA news director, and Rusty Benson, Journal associate editor, Wildmon also repeated misinformation about average gay incomes -- while falsifying his own -- claiming, "[T]he average homosexual makes four times more than I do." The AFA Report is broadcast daily on the AFA-operated American Family Radio.

From the March 8 broadcast of American Family Radio's AFA Report:

WILDMON: What does -- what does [Equality Ride co-director] Jacob Reitan say? He's one of the spokesmen. “We must cut off the suffering at its source. The source is religion-based opposition -- the religion-based oppression -- and it's taken place for centuries.” In other words, we must get rid of the Christian faith. Let's go to these Christian schools. What if we had organized a tour and said, “We're going to the bathhouses in -- in 24 cities -- the homosexual bathhouses -- and we're going to confront these people, you know, for what they're doing,” etc. -- etc. -- how would the media play that?

JACKSON: And demand that these bathhouses give us a forum to have our say.

WILDMON: Make them and bring 'em out there and give us -- set us up and -- yeah.

JACKSON: Yeah. Well, we know where the media would have its sympathies in that case. Of course, and it wouldn't be done, anyway. But these people, it just reinforces as you say, Don, what you just said. They regard Christianity, they regard biblical teaching, as the source of their problems. And what they're demanding is no less than you Christians stop teaching that homosexuality is a sin.

WILDMON: Stop -- stop -- stop preaching from the Bible.

JACKSON: That's right.


BENSON: Yeah, I mean, this is -- this is what you call -- what? -- chutzpah. This is -- this is --

WILDMON: That's a Jewish word, right? Be careful.


WILDMON: The spokesman [Equality Ride spokesman] says, the source for our -- “We must cut off the suffering.” That is, the homosexual suffering. You know, I saw yesterday how much -- how much money the homosexual community has. I mean, good gracious, the average homosexual makes four times more than I do, Ed. Goodness gracious!


WILDMON: I mean, we could take a professional homosexual salary all four of us --

VITAGLIANO: We could live pretty well on it.

WILDMON: -- and split it up four ways and all of us would get pretty good raises. I mean, they're not -- these people are not in poverty or hurting or denied or anything else.

Though Wildmon did not state specifically “how much money the homosexual community has,” according to the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, the AFA has, for many years, based its statements on average gay incomes on a discredited 1988 survey by the Simmons Market Research Bureau, which listed the average gay income as $55,430 -- well above the mean income for heterosexuals ($32,286). According to the Ontario group's website, the survey's findings were reported in a 1991 Wall Street Journal article and subsequently repeated by anti-gay conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation, Focus on the Family, and the AFA.

The survey's findings, however, did not reflect a representative sample of the national gay population. The Simmons survey polled only readers of popular gay-oriented magazines and those who filled out sign-up sheets for the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. As the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals Inc. (NOGLSTP) noted, “People who buy and read newspapers and magazines tend to have more education and higher incomes. Gay events attract people who can afford to travel or pay an entrance fee.” Indeed, as NOGLSTP also noted, a 1989 study by Simmons found that readers of African-American-oriented magazines like Jet, Ebony, and Essence earned 41 to 82 percent more than the average African-American.

A December 1998 study commissioned by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Policy Institute titled "Income Inflation: The Myth of Affluence Among Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Americans," by M.V. Lee Badgett, a University of Massachusetts associate professor of economics, paints a decidedly different picture of gay incomes than does the Simmons survey. Relying on U.S. Census Bureau statistics, exit polls conducted at 300 polling stations on election day in 1992 and 1996 -- which inquired about sexual orientation and family status -- sexual partner questions in the National Opinion Research Center's 1988 General Social Survey, and four other sources, Badgett concluded that gay men earn as much as 25 percent less than their heterosexual counterparts. Further, she reported that gay and lesbian households earn only 4 percent more than heterosexual households.

Yet even if the Simmons survey were accurate, Wildmon's assertion that “the average homosexual earns four times more than I do,” would not be. According to the AFA's 2004 990 filing -- the Internal Revenue Service's return for organizations exempt from income tax -- Wildmon paid himself $58,010 plus $13,787 in benefits and a housing allowance of $39,200. He paid his son, Tim, who is president of AFA, $79,000.