On Monday, Fox News' resident anti-gay mouthpiece Todd Starnes posted an article about a proposed city ordinance in Hutchinson, Kansas which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment, and public accommodations.
Rather than focus on the specifics of the ordinance, or Kansas' history of supporting anti-LGBT discrimination, Starnes chose to depict the measure as an assault on churches:
In typical Starnes fashion, the article was little more than an excuse to promote the talking points of anti-gay activists – including Liberty Counsel's Matthew Staver – who warned that churches would be forced to host gay weddings and “drag parties”:
“It is a collision course between religious freedom and the LGBT agenda,” Staver said. “This proposed legislation will ultimately override the religious freedom that is protected under the First Amendment.”
He argued that churches cannot be forced by the government to set aside their religious convictions and their mission. And, he warned, some churches could even be forced to rent their buildings for drag parties. [emphasis added]
In reality, the ordinance includes specific exemptions for religious organizations that don't offer their services to the general public. According to an official Hutchinson Human Relations Commission (HRC) FAQ Sheet (which Starnes even links to in his article):
Religious based groups, non-profit institutions controlled by religious associations or societies and non-profit private clubs that are not open to the public are exempt from the requirements of Chapter 3 now and would continue to be exempt should the proposed amendment become law. There is an exception to this exemption, if any of these groups open their services to the general public.
For example, if a church has a parish hall that they rent out to the general public, they could not discriminate against a gay couple who want to rent the building for a party. If the church only rents the building to their parishioners, they can continue to do so. [emphasis added]
Starnes also falsely claimed that the ordinance would “have a major impact” on business owners who would be “required to provide special bathrooms” for transgender people – an assertion that's also debunked in the HRC FAQ Sheet.
Despite being riddled with inaccuracies, Starnes' article has been picked up and touted by organizations like the Family Research Council (FRC), National Organization for Marriage (NOM), and Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH).