Top executives from Facebook and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment spoke at a conference for right-wing media personalities that features a number of anti-LGBT groups and Islamophobes and is co-sponsored by a right-wing birther website that has suggested President Obama is secretly gay.
National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is holding its International Christian Media Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, from February 23-26. According to the convention's website:
The NRB International Christian Media Convention is a four-day, jam-packed event that connects, equips, and edifies thousands of Christian communicators.
The bottom line is that when you leave the NRB International Christian Media Convention you will be energized, empowered, and made more effective in reaching the lost for Christ.
In an interview with Radio World, NRB President Jerry Johnson said the conference would focus on training attendees to better use new-media platforms to reach young people with their messages. In the interview, Johnson specifically expressed his concern about “a new tone on the marriage issue, on sexuality, on so-called same-sex marriage and even on Islam” that could supposedly threaten broadcasters' freedom to speak about those topics.
Perhaps in service of the goal of reaching young people, NRB enlisted the help of top executives from Facebook and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Simon Swart is the executive vice president of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and helped launch Fox's "Fox Faith" movie distribution label targeting the Christian community in 2006. On February 23, he spoke at the NRB conference's “Film & Entertainment Summit,” leading a talk on "Successfully Distributing and Marketing to the World."
Katie Harbath is manager for policy at Facebook. On February 25, she spoke at the conference's Digital Media Summit, which Johnson specifically cited as a way to get his organization's message to reach the “current generation.” Habath spoke on a panel led by Eric Metaxas, a conservative author who has written in defense of “ex-gay” therapy and pointed to gay-affirming churches to compare conditions in America to those in Nazi Germany.
Both Swart and Harbath agreed to speak at the conference despite the presence of extreme anti-gay hate groups, Islamophobic figures, and the co-sponsorship of a right-wing publication that has repeatedly suggested that Obama is secretly gay and wasn't born in the United States.
Anti-LGBT Panelists And Speakers
The schedule for NRB 2015 is littered with anti-LGBT speakers, hate-group leaders, and panel discussions.
The anti-gay hate group Family Research Council (FRC) is sponsoring a session on February 26 titled "Defending Free Speech: Our First Amendment Freedoms." The session is scheduled tofeature FRC President Tony Perkins, who has referred to pedophilia as a “homosexual problem” and defended Uganda's extreme “kill the gays” law. The panel will also feature David and Jason Benham, the brothers who lost their HGTV show after the network learned of their extreme anti-LGBT and Islamophobic rhetoric. Alan Robertson, oldest son of Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson, is also slated to speak on the panel.
On February 24, Perkins used the convention as a platform to host a news conference during which he announced new polling highlighting opposition to same-sex marriage. The news conference featured Aaron and Melissa Klein, the Oregon bakers who were fined after refusing to serve a same-sex couple, and Craig James, the former Fox Sports analyst-turned-FRC spokesman who recently said he wasn't sure if gay people should be executed. During the conference, NRB President Johnson said his organization intends to become “what the NRA has been for the Second Amendment”:
JOHNSON: NRB means to become for the First Amendment what the NRA has been for the Second Amendment, and it starts here on this issue of marriage. Government has no right establishing speech codes or business codes on marriage.
Another panel, "Protecting Marriage: How to Get the Media Message Right for This Generation," is scheduled to feature a number of prominent anti-gay activists: Ryan T. Anderson, a fellow at the Heritage foundation who's known for touting “ex-gay” therapy; Penny Nance, president of the anti-gay hate group Concerned Women for America; Eric Teetsel, the executive director for the Manhattan Declaration, who recently suggested LGBT equality might bring about the end times; and Dr. Owen Strachan, president of a group that tells gay people to "repent of all homosexual desires."
A public policy session called “Cultural Controversy Through the Lens of Scripture: What does the Bible say about homosexuality?" features a debate between two LGBT-inclusive Christians, Justin Lee and Brandan Robertson, and three prominent anti-gay and “ex-gay” activists: Michael Brown, a radio host who defended Uganda's extreme anti-gay law as a way to combat AIDS and claimed homosexuality and Game of Thrones had created a "slippery slope" to incest; Janet Parshall, a radio host who believes Satan is behind the fight against ex-gay therapy and oncenarrated a documentary that claims environmentalists want to destroy Christianity; and Anne Paulk, executive director of the Restored Hope Network, a major “ex-gay” organization.
The convention featured at least four sessions dedicated to discussing Islam -- one highlighting “religious persecution and slavery under Islam," one on how to deal with an "increasing Muslim population," one offering a “theological perspective” on the "global rise of Islam," and one on considering Islam from the perspective that government is “ordained by God to use the sword to restrain evil."
NRB's Expo And Sponsors
According to NRB's website, the convention itself "is only half of the attraction." The other half is the event's exposition, which NRB advertised as the “largest marketplace dedicated to Christian media professionals” that is “alive with resources to help expand and enhance your media efforts.” The expo also provided a platform for anti-LGBT activists and hate groups. The American Family Association (AFA) -- an anti-gay hate group that has blamed gay men for the Holocaust -- was joined on the expo floor by fellow anti-LGBT hate group FRC and the Liberty Counsel, an anti-gay right-wing group that has called teaching students about LGBT people "sexual assault."
Another exhibitor was Pure Passion Media, an anti-LGBT group that broadcasts a weekly TV program called Pure Passion -- which covers “problems such as homosexual confusion, child sexual abuse, sexual addiction, masturbation, pornography, transgendered conditions, prostitution, human trafficking, father-wounding, and much more.” Pure Passion Media has also released a two-hour documentary titled Such Were Some of You: For Those With Loved Ones Who Struggle with Homosexuality, which offers advice on “how to more redemptively minister to homosexuals,” incudes “interviews with over two dozen former homosexuals,” and stars Michael Brown.
Another expo exhibitor Charisma Media is the same Christian multi-media company that published God Less America - the book by Fox News' own anti-LGBT mouthpiece Todd Starnes that is largely devoted to peddling the idea that LGBT equality comes at the expense of religious liberty for Christians.
Also garnering a spot at the expo is WND, a right-wing website known for its repeated birther attacks on Obama and the suggestion that he is secretly gay. WND's extremism isn't limited to questioning the president's citizenship -- the site has previously called the LGBT movement a “Trojan Horse for totalitarianism,” and WND founder and editor Joseph Farah has a penchant for making incredibly homophobic statements. WND is also one of the ten "Top Level Sponsors" of NRB's conference, having paid NRB at least $20,000 to become a "Premier Level" sponsor. WND is also sponsoring the conference's closing event, featuring Chuck Norris and former Fox News host Mike Huckabee.
NRB's International Christian Media conference is explicitly aimed at preparing right-wing media figures to better communicate their extreme messages to a broader audience. Given the fringe views of some of the event's speakers and its co-sponsor, it's unclear why Swart and Harbath felt NRB's mission was one worth advancing.