Fox News hyped a far-right organization's trumped-up charges of Christian persecution in the military, asserting that the country could be witnessing the beginning of a “reverse Don't Ask Don't Tell” policy in which gays and lesbians can openly serve but “Christians now have to be closeted.”
On the August 16 edition of Fox & Friends, the network's Shannon Bream began a segment on a case brought by the extremist Liberty Institute where she reported the organization's allegations as fact. The segment, titled “The Fight For Faith,” opened to ominous music:
BREAM: Well he served 19 years in the Air Force and has an impeccable record. But when a senior master sergeant refused to agree with his openly gay commander about gay marriage, he was relieved of his duties and reassigned. So is this a reverse Don't Ask Don't Tell? Do Christians now have to be closeted in order to serve?
While Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk claims his anti-marriage equality views led him to be relieved of his duties, there's no evidence, besides the sensationalistic coverage of far-right news outlets, that that's actually the case. After devoting four minutes to touting the Liberty Institute's claims, Bream briskly noted that officials at Lackland Air Force Base said Monk was at the end of his assignment. A spokesperson for the base told Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes that while Monk and his lesbian commander did disagree on marriage equality, they “agreed to disagree,” adding “the wing commander said there was no punishment.”
That the Liberty Institute has taken Monk's case should raise red flags for any responsible news organization. The group has a long history of making hyperbolic assertions about the impending end of religious freedom. For example, in the last two years, the Liberty Institute has:
- Pushed A Debunked Story That A Texas Track Team Was Disqualified “For Praising God.” In May, the Liberty Institute promoted the myth that a Texas track student had been disqualified after appearing to point skyward to thank God. But as the student's own father admitted, his son was not making a religious gesture and the student acknowledged that he did not feel as though his “religious rights or freedoms were violated.”
- Declared That Health Care Reform Indicated That The U.S. Was Becoming “Totalitarian.” In August 2012, the Liberty Institute's Kelly Shackelford proclaimed the end of religious freedom as a result of the Affordable Care Act, which, he said, ushered in the “totalitarian” idea that “citizens [cannot] have allegiance to one higher than the government.”
- Compared IRS Rules On Churches To Nazi Germany. In May 2012, Shackelford suggested that an IRS prohibition on church endorsement of political candidates was the work of “Satan,” and could lead to Nazi Germany-like conditions.
This time, apparently, the Liberty Institute really means it: It's only a matter of time before open Christians are tossed out of the military. Further demonstrating that it has not, in fact, “gone gay,” Fox is perfectly content to broadcast unsubstantiated accusations in order to depict LGBT people as trying to oppress people of faith.