Fox News contributor Marc Thiessen says criticism of anti-LGBTQ positions is “anti-Catholic bigotry”

Thiessen’s comments perpetuate a false dichotomy that suggests that religion and LGBTQ rights are at odds

Marc Thiessen and a purple background

Citation Ceci Freed / Media Matters

After Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh met with extreme anti-LGBTQ figure Brian Brown, Fox News contributor Marc Thiessen said criticism of the meeting amounted to “anti-Catholic bigotry.” Brown has suggested that accepting same-sex marriage could “normalize pedophilia” and has bragged about his work helping craft Russia’s “gay propaganda” law, which has resulted in violence and the imprisonment of LGBTQ people there.

In late October, Brown met with the two justices and held meetings with White House officials, Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), and Rep. Greg Pence (R-IN). Given Brown’s extreme anti-LGBTQ history, Alito and Kavanaugh faced criticism for meeting with him while the justices are currently considering three cases that will decide whether the Civil Rights Act protects LGBTQ employees. Brown’s group has submitted amicus briefs in all three cases.

Image of Brian Brown's tweet of a picture of him with Justice Alito and Kavanaugh

Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups and right-wing media have a history of conflating criticism of anti-LGBTQ positions with anti-Christian hostility, including claiming that Democratic senators have anti-Christian bias for questioning federal judicial nominees’ anti-LGBTQ statements or ties to bigoted groups. For example, a Washington Times editorial accused Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) of establishing “an anti-Catholic religious test” after they asked about a judicial nominee’s ties to an anti-LGBTQ religious organization, and PJ Media released a list of senators supposedly “pushing anti-Christian bigotry.” This tactic perpetuates a false dichotomy that suggests that religion and LGBTQ rights are at odds, despite a majority of religious groups believing that homosexuality “should be accepted.”

During the November 7 edition of Fox News’ The Story with Martha MacCallum, anchor Martha MacCallum identified Brown as the president of “a pro-traditional marriage group,” which whitewashes the extreme anti-LGBTQ positions of his organization, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).

In the segment, Thiessen dubiously suggested that criticism of Brown was “a form of anti-Catholic bigotry” that perpetuates a “150-year-old stereotype which says that Roman Catholics can't be trusted because they put the pope above the Constitution.” He further suggested that LGBTQ advocates believe that Kavanaugh and Alito “can’t rule because they’re Catholic,” ignoring potential conflicts of interest their meeting creates and Brown’s history of extremism.

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Citation From the November 7, 2019, edition of The Story With Martha MacCallum

MARTHA MACCALLUM (HOST): Now this week, you’ve got a photo of Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh with Brian Brown, who’s the president of a pro-traditional marriage group, and it's igniting calls for these two justices to recuse themselves from any LGBT cases that come before the court, and there are a couple pending. Now, Take Back The Court is a liberal judicial activist group that is demanding in a letter, quote, “The credibility and impartiality of the current Supreme Court is in tatters," they write. “Posing for photographs with the president of an advocacy organization that has filed briefs in matters pending before the court makes a mockery of Justice Roberts' assertion that a judge’s role is to impartially call balls and strikes.”


MARC THIESSEN (AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Look, the fact is, this is a form of anti-Catholic bigotry that has gotten Democrats in trouble earlier. You remember Sen. Diane Feinstein got Democrats into deep trouble when she challenged Amy Coney Barrett over her Catholic beliefs. She said, “The dogma lives deeply with you. I’m very concerned about that.” And you know, that was basically a bigoted comment because it's 150-year-old stereotype which says that Roman Catholics can't be trusted because they put the pope above the Constitution, and that is not what these justices do.

There are tons of conservative justices, Catholic — in fact, I think there is a Catholic majority on the court. And you had people like Catholic justice like Anthony Kennedy, who was the deciding vote to create the right to same-sex marriage. You have Catholic justices — the pope has basically said that Catholics cannot support the death penality. Yet, Catholic justices vote all the time to uphold capital cases. So the idea that these justices can’t rule because they’re Catholic is absurd.

Brown’s group NOM was instrumental in banning marriage equality in California in 2008 through the Proposition 8 ballot initiative, and it has also engaged in other anti-LGBTQ advocacy. He also heads the World Congress of Families (WCF) and its parent organization the International Organization for Family.

WCF is a U.S.-based international alliance that works to impose a narrow, conservative Christian definition of “family” as an international norm. WCF promotes the idea of a “demographic winter,” which suggests that European populations “are in decline because of homosexuality, abortion, feminism, women in the workplace, and a variety of other things that deviate from the ‘natural family,’” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Brown and WCF also helped craft Russia’s “gay propaganda” law, which was tied to a “ratcheting up of homophobic rhetoric in state media and an increase in homophobic violence around the country,” according to Human Rights Watch. WCF has also advocated against marriage equality in Romania and Taiwan, and Brown has protested an LGBTQ pride event in the country Georgia. Brown has also cultivated ties to far-right European politicians, including Italy’s Matteo Salvini and Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban. In 2018, WCF held its conference in Moldova, and a Russian speaker told the audience to resist sex education in schools because it is meant to impose a tolerance of “perversions.”

Brown has also said that a consequence of same-sex marriage could be “a serious push to normalize pedophilia,” and he has expressed support for harmful conversion therapy, including by falsely claiming that there was “scientific verification” supporting changes in same-sex attraction.