"Open season on Christians": Hate group leader Tony Perkins says LGBTQ activists are "targeting" Christian wedding vendors
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FRC and its president Tony Perkins have long fought LGBTQ equality abroad, including supporting Uganda's "Kill the Gays" bill
Tony Perkins, president of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council (FRC), was appointed commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal government commission dedicated to the “right to freedom of religion or belief abroad” that “makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.” Over the years, FRC has worked to push its anti-LGBTQ extremism in other countries, including Perkins personally defending an anti-gay bill in Uganda that could have punished sodomy by death. FRC has also spoken out against the LGBTQ-inclusive actions by the State Department under the Obama administration and has a long-established relationship with newly-confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who similarly has a record of anti-LGBTQ advocacy.
There’s new reporting about anti-LGBTQ hate group leader Tony Perkins’ role in crafting the latest White House policy banning transgender troops from serving in the military -- and that’s only the most recent reminder that we should be very, very worried about the Trump administration’s coziness with anti-LGBTQ hate groups and extremists.
Hours after the White House released an updated policy banning transgender service members from serving in the military, Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern reported that “behind the scenes, a ‘panel of experts’” crafted a report justifying the ban. The so-called experts included Perkins, president of anti-LGBTQ hate group the Family Research Council (FRC), and the virulently anti-trans Ryan Anderson from the Heritage Foundation, who wrote an entire book dedicated to discrediting the transgender experience. Stern also reported that Vice President Mike Pence, who has a long history of anti-LGBTQ animosity and is a longtime friend of Perkins’, “played a leading role in the creation of this report.” This is yet another disturbing example of anti-LGBTQ extremists’ influence on White House policy and close relationships with the administration.
Just one day before Trump announced the new policy, Tyson Langhofer, director of the Center for Academic Freedom at the anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), spoke at an official youth outreach event at the White House. During the event, Justice Department Office of Public Affairs Director Sarah Isgur Flores praised ADF as a “great organization” and thanked Langhofer for its work.
Here are just some of the ways ADF and other anti-LGBTQ hate groups and extremists are directly influencing White House policy beyond the newly released ban:
After consulting with ADF, Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions released religious exemptions guidance making it easier for individuals and businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
ADF is reportedly in “negotiations” with the Trump administration to undo protections for incarcerated transgender people.
Perkins has bragged about how many times he has visited the White House.
Trump is nominating attorneys with ties to ADF for federal judgeships.
Former ADF legal counsel Matt Bowman works in the Health and Human Services Department (HHS), which has been employing more right-wing religious activists and has started a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division that makes it easier for health care providers to deny services to LGBTQ people, among others.
Former Family Research Council Chief of Staff Shannon Royce has emerged “as a pivotal player” at HHS as director of its Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
ADF client Sara Hellwege spoke at the HHS announcement of its anti-LGBTQ rule granting religious exemptions for health care providers to deny services to LGBTQ people.
At least four people who have worked for the Family Research Council were on Trump’s transition team.
These groups spent years under the Obama administration pushing anti-LGBTQ policies through municipalities and states and fighting equality in court while also strategizing over how to undo the progress that has happened over the past decade at the national level. Now the current administration is welcoming them to the table and fulfilling their wish lists. Trump made a clear play for these groups and their supporters' votes when he chose Pence as his running mate, and so-called “values voters” like Perkins have repeatedly abandoned their morals to defend Trump -- and reaped the rewards in policy.
We are witnessing a massive effort to roll back LGBTQ equality at all levels of government and on nearly every issue affecting the lives and rights of community members, and these groups are at the forefront of it. And there are repercussions outside of the policy realm: Their attacks are creating a more hostile, anti-LGBTQ environment in society at large. For the first time in four years, acceptance of LGBTQ people has decreased, and violence against the community is surging without many Americans even being aware of it.
The trans military ban was just the latest win for anti-LGBTQ hate groups. There will certainly be more. If you haven’t been alarmed by this yet, it’s time to be now.
Adult film actress and director Stephanie Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels, recorded an interview about her alleged affair with President Donald Trump, which is scheduled to air tonight on CBS’ 60 Minutes. Since she first came forward, some conservative media figures have chosen to attack her or to minimize her story.
According to Daniels, she and Trump had an affair in 2006. She first gave an interview about the affair in 2011 with In Touch Weekly, but it was only published in full earlier this year. While Trump has denied the affair took place, one of his lawyers, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 just a month before the 2016 presidential election to keep her from speaking publicly about it. Trump and Daniels have recently sued one another over the 2016 agreement.
Trump’s lawyers reportedly considered legal action to stop the broadcast of Daniels’ pre-recorded 60 Minutes interview, which will air tonight on CBS. And in recent weeks, some conservative media figures have also run defense for the president.
Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft: Daniels is a “washed up porn star.”
[Gateway Pundit, 3/6/18]
CNN conservative political commentator Jason Miller: “I think it is clear that Ms. Clifford is trying to essentially launch a second act to her career now.”
CNN guest Michael Caputo: “Let's not forget, this is a woman who gets paid for sex wanting more money.”
Fox host Sean Hannity dubbed CNN president Jeff Zucker the “‘porn king’ of cable news” for coverage of Daniels. Fox prime-time host Sean Hannity lashed out at CNN for covering Daniels’ allegations against Trump, calling CNN president Jeff Zucker the “porn king” of cable news. He also called CNN’s “non-stop coverage of Stormy Daniels” a “new obsession” of “basically soft-core pornography.” [Hannity.com, 3/23/18]
Fox media critic Howard Kurtz suggested other media outlets were devoting too much coverage to Daniels and accused them of being “rather gleeful in covering these stories.”
Conservative talk radio host Mark Simone: “Media [are] now in collusion with DNC to influence the next election” by covering Daniels.
DNC analysis showed Trump did 11% better with women voters then other Repubs and it helped him win. That’s why they are pushing Stormy Daniels so hard (and Rob Porter) they want to hurt him with women. Media now in collusion with DNC to influence the next election.
— MARK SIMONE (@MarkSimoneNY) March 11, 2018
Pro-Trump writer Jacob Wohl pointed to one photo to claim Daniels’ reported polygraph test was fake. NBC News acquired a report of a 2011 polygraph test Daniels took about her relationship with Trump, which came with a sworn declaration from the examiner about its authenticity. According to NBC, “the examiner found there was a more than 99 percent probability she told the truth when she said they had unprotected sex in 2006.” Jacob Wohl of The Washington Reporter used an image taken from a video of the polygraph test to claim it was fake.
BUSTED: Stormy Daniels' Polygraph test was FAKE! She doesn't have finger cuffs to measure her galvanic skin response. Also, the blood-pressure cuff on her arm should be on her upper arm.
This test WAS NOT compliant with the American Polygraph Association and was RIGGED!!! pic.twitter.com/bcJMY9NOTX
— Jacob Wohl (@JacobAWohl) March 22, 2018
Fox News contributor Marc Thiessen: Conservative Christians will stand by Trump because he keeps his promises to them. Fox News contributor and Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen defended conservative Christian supporters of President Trump from accusations of hypocrisy for violating their espoused values because he “does have one moral quality that deserves admiration: He keeps his promises.” From Thiessen’s March 23 FoxNews.com column:
During the 2016 campaign, Trump pledged to defend religious liberty, stand up for unborn life and appoint conservative jurists to the Supreme Court and federal appeals courts. And he has done exactly what he promised. The abortion-rights lobby NARAL complains that Trump has been "relentless" on these fronts, declaring his administration "the worst .?.?. that we've ever seen." That is more important to most Christian conservatives than what the president may have done with a porn actress more than ten years ago.
No one upholds Trump as moral exemplar. He is not the most religious president we have ever had, but he may be the most pro-religion president. Christian conservatives are judging Trump not by his faith, but by his works. And when it comes to life and liberty, his works are good. [FoxNews.com, 3/13/18]
National Religious Broadcasters president Jerry Johnson: “People knew the accusations against the president” but didn’t care about them. In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) about Daniels upcoming 60 Minutes interview, National Religious Broadcasters president Jerry Johnson said conservative Christians just don’t care that Trump allegedly cheated on his wife Melania:
"Christians want the president to be pastoral. We like that but that isn't really the job assignment," National Religious Broadcasters president Jerry Johnson told CBN News. "People knew the accusations against the president before he was elected and they said, 'Actually, we care about security. Actually, we care about the economy.' "
Johnson added that Christians "should identify with Christ" before any politician and called his vote in the 2016 election a "prudential" one. "You've got to vote. You have a choice. Who are you going to vote for?" Johnson said. "I voted for Mr. Trump. I don't regret that vote. I don't think Christians who voted for him regret that vote. We knew this was in the past, but his job is to keep us safe and to keep the government out of the way of business so the economy can grow and I think he's doing that." [CBN, 3/23/18]
Anti-gay hate group Family Research Council leader Tony Perkins: Trump’s behavior was in the past. Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay Family Research Council, also told CBN that Trump’s past behavior doesn’t matter because he’s keeping political promises he made to conservative Christians:
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, echoed the same sentiment to CBN News and said Trump should be judged on his behavior and accomplishments in office.
"To date, what has the president done?" Perkins asked. "The president has not engaged, to our knowledge, and I think we would know, in any of the behavior that he did in the past, prior to the election. What he has done is he's actually followed through on political promises." [CBN, 3/23/18]
In early through mid-March, Fox News barely mentioned Daniels’ story. The news explainer website Vox examined cable news transcripts and found Fox News has barely even mentioned Daniels’ name, especially compared to its main competitors.
Media Matters looks back at some of the worst smears, lies, and liars attacking the transgender community in 2017
Right-wing media figures and anti-LGBTQ hate group representatives have a long history of spreading anti-trans hatred and lies, and 2017 was no different. From hate groups attacks on trans children and students to Alex Jones’ anti-LGBTQ extremism, Media Matters rounded up some of 2017’s most transphobic misinformers and their lies.
Right-wing conspiracy theorist and ally to President Donald Trump Alex Jones has cemented his place as an anti-trans extremist this year as he repeatedly used the slur “tranny,” dehumanized trans people's existence, and spread vile rhetoric about them. Though Jones has repeatedly said he is “not against gay people,” Media Matters has documented a pattern of extreme anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that proves otherwise.
In one segment on his show, for example, Jones said that transgender women may be gay men who want “to go pick up more guys” by getting “breast implants” and trying to “doll [their] hair up.” On another episode, Jones compared a transgender man who had a baby to Jones deciding that he is a “50-foot, red, purple, striped giraffe” that “give[s] birth to leprechauns.” In other segments, Jones has said that accepting transgender people is a slippery slope to “brain chips” and suggested that former first lady Michelle Obama has a penis and may have killed late comedian Joan Rivers, saying that he was “not putting trannies down” with the comments.
Jones accused transgender women of being gay men who want “to go pick up more guys” by getting breast implants and dolling up their hair.
[Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 7/10/17]
Jones compared a pregnant transgender man to a “50-foot, red, purple, striped giraffe” that gives “birth to leprechauns.”
[Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 8/3/17]
Jones said that accepting transgender people is a slippery slope to “brain chips.”
[Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 8/7/17]
In 2017, hate group leaders and right-wing media personalities continued their fight against LGBTQ equality in schools, attacking transgender students and children, their parents, and teachers who teach trans-inclusive lessons. These attacks are also happening on a policy level, with hate group Alliance Defending Freedom spending much of the year trying to block transgender student equality by inserting itself in debates at local school districts and in state legislatures about transgender students’ access to restroom facilities that align with their gender identity.
In July, anti-LGBTQ hate group American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) President Dr. Michelle Cretella asserted that parents accepting their transgender children's’ gender identity is “child abuse” and spread myths and junk science about transgender people during an episode of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight. ACPeds is a small, deceptively named hate group with only a few hundred members that is meant to be confused with the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics. In another example, right-wing media figures attacked a California elementary school teacher for reading two children’s books about gender identity to her kindergarten classroom after a transgender student brought one in to share. Right-wing website PJ Media suggested that parents “move out of [their] community” if they feel it is necessary to protect their children from being turned into “mind-numbed robots who nod affirmatively in the face of lies,” and anti-LGBTQ FoxNews.com contributor Todd Starnes called the events “an example of how schools have been indoctrination grounds for the LGBT agenda” and “activist bullies.”
Anti-LGBTQ hate group ACPeds’ Cretella called accepting transgender children “child abuse.”
[Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 7/24/17]
Right-wing figures and anti-LGBTQ hate groups continued to reinforce the debunked “bathroom predator” myth, which asserts that policies allowing trans people to use restrooms that align with their gender identity will create an opening for sexual predators to assault women. That myth has been long debunked by experts and government officials in more than a dozen states, school administrators, and sexual assault and domestic violence prevention experts, but pundits and anti-LGBTQ figures continued to push the lie in 2017.
On February 15, Tony Perkins, the president of anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council (FRC), dubiously claimed that Target’s trans-inclusive bathroom policy gives people a “good chance” of seeing a “live rendition of CSI … because increasingly you’ve had crime scenes in their restrooms and in their changing rooms.” Similarly, on an episode of a special panel show on Houston’s Fox 26, president of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Conservative Republicans of Texas (CRTx) Jared Woodfill said that “registered sex offenders who somehow believe that they’re a woman” would be “allowed to go into the restroom where our wives, our daughters, and our mothers are going to be.” In yet another example, Charmaine Yoest, a right-wing political commentator who is now in a top communications post at the Department of Health and Human Services, asserted that “the real issue” with trans-inclusive policies “is the opening that it provides for sexual predators … who might be using this as a way to get access to young girls and women.
FRC’s Perkins claimed that Target’s trans-inclusive restroom policy gives people a “good chance” of seeing a “live rendition of CSI … because increasingly you’ve had crime scenes in their restrooms and in their changing rooms”
[Fox Business, Varney & Co., 2/15/17]
CRTx’s Woodfill claimed that “registered sex offenders who somehow believe that they’re a woman” would be “allowed to go into the restroom where our wives, our daughters, and our mothers are going to be” with trans-inclusive restroom policies.
[Fox 26, What’s Your Point, 5/22/17]
Former right-wing pundit Yoest said that “the real issue” with trans-inclusive policies “is the opening that it provides for sexual predators … who might be using this as a way to get access to young girls and women.”
[CNN, CNN Newsroom, 2/23/17]
When Trump announced he would ban transgender people from the military, right-wing media and hate groups pushed misinformation about transgender service members and called them “mentally ill.” (The ban has so far been paused by the courts.) Other right-wing lies about the ban included the claim that the cost of medically necessary health care for transgender service members would be in the billions, that allowing transgender members to serve would interfere with military readiness and cohesion, and that a majority of transgender people are unable to be deployed due to their health care needs. Analysts have found minimal additional costs involved in providing health care to transgender service members and no negative impacts on military cohesion or readiness.
Right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro responded to the ban by saying that “the military should not accept mentally ill soldiers.” Shapiro tweeted that “no one has the ‘right’ to serve in the military,” and again implied that transgender people have a “mental illness.” Retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, who is the vice president of anti-LGBTQ hate group FRC, similarly pushed the myth that transgender people have some “kind of physical or mental illness” and claimed that their inclusion in the military was part of “a test bed for nothing but social experiments.” According to the American Psychological Association, “Identifying as transgender does not constitute a mental disorder.” Other leading medical organizations agree.
FRC’s Boykin pushed the lie that transgender people are mentally ill, saying, "We shouldn't recruit people with any kind of physical or mental illness."
[Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 8/24/17]
Shapiro claimed that “no one has the ‘right’ to serve in the military. People are 4F [unfit to serve] for a variety of reasons. Mental illness can be such a reason.”
No one has the "right" to serve in the military. People are 4F for a variety of reasons. Mental illness can be such a reason.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) July 26, 2017
Shapiro said that “The military should not accept mentally ill soldiers,” but Trump’s announcement “should not have been done by tweet.”
1. The military should not accept mentally ill soldiers.
2. This should not devalue the heroism of those who want to serve. (/1)
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) July 26, 2017
Over the past year, right-wing media figures attacked transgender people with offensive language, anti-trans slurs, and even the denial of trans existence. In addition to the steadfast slandering of transgender people by Alex Jones, other right-wing media figures employed transphobic rhetoric that can have severe consequences on transgender people and youth. Calls from transgender youth to the Trevor Project’s suicide hotline increased this year, and the project cited “anti-transgender rhetoric” coming from elected officials and others as “putting lives at risk.”
In a November rant lamenting the surge of LGBTQ victories in 2017 elections, right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh used the anti-trans slur “tranny” and insisted that LGBTQ people be referred to only as “homosexual,” saying, “the word is homosexual.” On Fox, Carlson hosted a transgender guest and insulted her by accusing transgender people of “faking” and repeatedly pushing the myth that people can just “decide” to be transgender on a whim. This kind of rhetoric places doubt on transgender existence.
After trans candidates won 2017 elections, Limbaugh insisted that all LGBTQ people be referred to as “homosexual” and used the anti-trans slur “tranny.”
[Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 11/9/17]
Carlson insulted a transgender guest and accused transgender people of "faking."
[Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 2/24/17]
Groups including Family Research Council have largely stayed silent, defended Moore after Washington Post report
Anti-LGBTQ hate groups and their representatives who endorsed anti-LGBTQ extremist and Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore have largely rushed to defend him or remained silent in the day following reports in The Washington Post that he engaged in sexual misconduct in his 30s with a 14-year old.
On November 9, The Washington Post reported on a woman’s story that Moore molested her when she was 14 years old and he was 32. The Post interviewed three other women who also went on the record saying that he pursued them when they were teenagers “and he was in his early 30s.” Moore is a known anti-LGBTQ extremist, who has said that “homosexual conduct should be illegal” and that being queer is “a criminal lifestyle,” and as such has received the endorsements of a number of anti-LGBTQ hate group leaders. These figures include Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, Brian Brown (who endorsed Moore representing his extremist organization National Organization for Marriage (NOM) but also runs hate group World Congress of Families), Tim Wildmon of American Family Association (AFA), Peter Labarbera of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality (AFTAH), and Tony Perkins and Jerry Boykin of Family Research Council (FRC).
Between 12:30 p.m. EST on November 9, shortly before the Post published the piece, and 12:30 p.m. EST on November 10, only AFA and AFTAH commented on the report. AFA repeatedly defended Moore across social platforms. On Facebook, AFA Action refused to withdraw its endorsement, writing: “AFA Action believes Justice Roy Moore to be a truthful man and a solid Christian. Based on his statement of denial we are proud to stand by our endorsement of Justice Roy Moore.” The group also retweeted four of Moore’s tweets defending himself, including one saying, “Our children and grandchildren’s futures are on the line.” AFTAH's Labarbera, however, tweeted a CNN article about a White House statement that Moore should "step aside" if the stories are true.
FRC Action leaders Perkins and Boykin endorsed Moore in September but have not commented on the report. The group’s Twitter account tweeted about Moore’s lead in the race shortly before the Post broke the news but has made no statements about Moore afterward. Liberty Counsel and NOM have failed to release any statement regarding Moore in the wake of the story.
Media Matters reviewed the available Twitter accounts and Facebook pages of Liberty Counsel, NOM, AFA, AFTAH, and FRC, as well as the accounts of individual figures Mat Staver, Brian Brown, Peter Labarbera, Tony Perkins, and Jerry Boykin between 12:30 p.m. EST on November 9, shortly before the Post story was published, and 12:30 p.m. EST on November 10. We also reviewed the groups’ websites and press releases, and Google News searches for each figure and group within the same time frame.
Rebecca Damanate contributed research to this report.
Update: After this post's publication, FRC's Perkins tweeted, "The allegations reported by the media against Roy Moore are beyond disturbing and, if true, would disqualify him or anyone else engaged in such behavior from holding a position of public trust." In addition, Liberty Counsel's Staver was quoted defending Moore as "a man of integrity who respects women."
ADF has coordinated with more than a dozen hate and right-wing groups to whitewash anti-LGBTQ hate as the group heads to the Supreme Court this fall
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is the largest anti-LGBTQ hate group in the nation and is representing plaintiff Jack Phillips in the upcoming Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission Supreme Court case. The case may determine whether businesses serving the public have the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the guise of “religious” or “artistic freedom.” ADF is also currently part of a joint effort, alongside a number of other anti-LGBTQ groups and hate groups, to undermine the “hate group” designation made by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). As such it has co-signed two letters opposing the designation and formally joined an “SPLCexposed” campaign.
The group has supported a number of extreme, anti-LGBTQ positions, including criminalizing homosexuality. ADF (then called the Alliance Defense Fund) formally supported the criminalization of sodomy in the U.S. in 2003 when it filed an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas defending state sodomy laws in which it called “same-sex sodomy … a distinct public health problem.” When the court struck down anti-sodomy laws, ADF called the ruling “devastating” and continued its work supporting the criminalization of gay sex abroad, including in Jamaica, Belize, and India.
According to SPLC, ADF representatives regularly slander and demonize LGBTQ people, including by pushing the myth that pedophilia and “homosexual behavior” are “often intrinsically linked.” An affiliated lawyer has also called marriage equality a sign of the “degradation of our human dignity” that has “led to a deification of deviant sexual practices.” The group is also leading the national campaign for “bathroom bills” targeting transgender youth.
The legal powerhouse raked in more than $50 million in revenue in 2015 and has what it refers to as a “powerful global network” of over 3,100 ADF-trained “allied attorneys.” ADF’s influence is widespread. It has played a role in dozens of Supreme Court cases, including regarding abortion, religion, tuition tax credits, and LGBTQ issues; it has special consultative status at the United Nations; it has at least 55 affiliated lawyers serving in influential government positions at the state and federal levels; and it has attempted to sway local school policy across the country, often successfully.
ADF has worked relentlessly to whitewash its image, joining a number of other anti-LGBTQ groups and hate groups to attack the “hate group” designation. Here is a list of ADF’s anti-LGBTQ allies in their coordinated effort to mainstream hate:
FRC is one of ADF’s official “allied organizations” that co-signed both letters attacking the “hate group” designation, and is part of the “SPLCexposed” campaign with ADF.
The Family Research Council (FRC) is another anti-LGBTQ hate group that has partnered with ADF and others to whitewash their extremism and cast doubt on their hate group status. FRC joined ADF in the “SPLCexposed” campaign as an official supporting partner. It also co-signed two letters with ADF, one attacking nonprofit database Guidestar for labeling them as hate groups and another asking the media to drop the “hate group” label. ADF also promotes FRC as an allied organization on its website, and FRC submitted an amicus brief in support of legalizing discrimination against LGBTQ people in the Masterpiece case.
FRC’s official position is that “homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large” and “is by definition unnatural,” and the organization promotes the idea “that people can and should try to change their sexual orientation” or “just not act on it.”
According to SPLC, former FRC Vice President Rob Schwarzwalder accused gay youth of joining the Boy Scouts of America “for predatory purposes,” and various FRC representatives and publications have repeatedly compared homosexuality to pedophilia. Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at FRC, asserted that LGBTQ youth suicide rates would drop if the teenagers were “discourage[d] from self-identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual” and urged others “not to create a positive social environment for the affirmation of homosexuality.” In a 2010 appearance on MSNBC, Sprigg also said that “there would be a place for criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior,” a statement not out of step from FRC’s 2003 filing of an amicus brief supporting anti-sodomy laws. In 2011, FRC called for its supporters to pray for countries that had laws criminalizing sodomy and were being pressured by the U.S. to remove them, and it suggested that homosexuality “has had a devastating impact upon Africans,” citing the AIDS crisis as an example.
FRC has a budget of tens of millions of dollars and wields significant influence in the current administration. Its senior fellow, Ken Blackwell, was officially appointed to President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which critics have described as a voter suppression effort. FRC President Tony Perkins embraced and endorsed Trump as a presidential candidate (and met with him at the White House in June). And at least four people who are affiliated with FRC, including Blackwell, were a part of Trump’s transition team.
Liberty Counsel co-signed both letters with ADF and joined it in the “SPLCexposed” campaign.
Liberty Counsel is an anti-LGBTQ hate group founded by Mat Staver, former dean of Liberty University School of Law, that “shares a close affiliation with Liberty University.” Liberty Counsel partnered with ADF in the “SPLCexposed” campaign and co-signed both letters with the group.
Liberty Counsel filed an amicus brief in support of ADF’s client in the Masterpiece case, and it has expressed support for criminalizing homosexuality, filing a 2003 amicus brief in support of anti-sodomy laws. In 2012, the organization signed on to defend an anti-LGBTQ extremist who “allegedly played an instrumental part in the Ugandan parliament’s adoption of a draconian anti-LGBT bill that originally included the death penalty in some instances.”
Staver has called LGBTQ History Month a "sexual assault on our children," repeatedly warned that the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage would trigger a revolution and could lead to civil war, and claimed nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people will result in the "death of some individuals." Staver has also compared LGBTQ people to pedophiles, once saying that allowing gay youth and adults in the Boy Scouts will cause “all kinds of sexual molestation” and create a “playground for pedophiles to go and have all these boys as objects of their lust.”
Former Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Barber said LGBTQ people “know intuitively that what they are doing is immoral, unnatural, and self-destructive,” adding that they have “tied their whole identity up in this sexual perversion.” In a column for WorldNetDaily, Barber called “disease, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide … consequences” of being gay.
In 2014, Liberty Counsel brought in more than $5.5 million in revenue. The organization famously represented Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis in litigation after she refused to issue marriage licenses to same and opposite-sex couples in 2015; Talking Points Memo reported that Staver “compared Davis’ plight to that of Jews in Nazi Germany” during a radio interview.
PJI is one of ADF’s official “allied organizations” and co-signed a letter with ADF asking the media to drop the “hate group” designation.
Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) is an anti-LGBTQ hate group that also filed an amicus brief in the Masterpiece case. ADF lists PJI as an allied organization on its website, and PJI co-signed the letter along with ADF asking media outlets to drop the “hate group” designation. Notably, PJI has a history of fabricating stories to advance anti-LGBTQ narratives. The group led a smear campaign against a transgender teenager that led to her getting harassed and receiving death threats after her name was leaked to the public; as a result, the teenager was put on suicide watch. PJI relied on debunked claims to defame the student and accuse her of harassing other students, and a few news outlets retracted their stories about the matter after PJI’s claims were determined false. PJI also pushed a bogus story about a California mom who claimed that an REI sporting goods store kicked her out for complaining about a man frightening her daughter in the women’s restroom. It has also pushed fabricated stories about anti-LGBTQ students being bullied in California
PJI’s president, Brad Dacus, has compared stopping marriage equality with stopping Nazis. In 1993, Dacus represented a baptist minister in court after he was removed from the city’s Human Rights Commission for suggesting that he agreed with the biblical punishment of stoning gay men to death; Dacus defended his client’s statement under the guise of so-called “freedom of religion.” Dacus claimed in 2012 that overturning the Defense of Marriage Act could create an “open heydey” for “polygamy” and “perhaps adult incest.” In 2015, PJI brought in $2 million in revenue, and the group conducts outreach on multiple international fronts, including to Slavic countries, China, and Korea.
NOM is one of ADF’s official “allied organizations” and is an official supporting partner of the “SPLCexposed” campaign.
National Organization for Marriage (NOM) was founded in 2007 to fight same-sex marriage. ADF touts NOM as an allied organization on its website, and NOM is an official supporting partner of the “SPLCexposed” campaign.
NOM ran its first anti-LGBTQ campaign in 2008 as one of the leading groups pushing Proposition 8 in California, a successful ballot initiative that invalidated marriage equality in the state before it was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2013. Early this month, NOM submitted an amicus brief in support of ADF’s client in the Masterpiece case.
Though NOM’s influence and finances have decreased significantly in the years since marriage equality spread throughout the country, the group has significant ties to other prominent anti-LGBTQ groups. The Ruth Institute, a hate group, began as an arm of NOM, and NOM President Brian Brown also runs the World Congress of Families, an anti-LGBTQ hate group that worked closely with Russian lawmakers, activists, and officials as the country shaped its “gay propaganda” law. That law “has been seen as effectively criminalizing any public expression of same-sex relationships,” according to Mother Jones, and it has led to the arrests of activists and increased violence against LGBTQ people in Russia.
In 2012, NOM became the subject of controversy in the U.S. when secret documents by the group were discovered attempting to pit minority groups against LGBTQ people. The documents outlined a strategy to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks” by “fanning the hostility” between the two groups. They also said it aimed to “interrupt this process of assimilation” for Latino people “by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity - a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation.” According to SPLC, the group has repeatedly pushed the work of anti-LGBTQ extremists attempting to connect LGBTQ people to pedophilia, and Brown has said that marriage equality could lead to “normalizing pedophilia.” According to the Human Rights Campaign, Brown has been actively involved in anti-LGBTQ activism in Russia, including by advocating against gay adoption, telling Russians to “defend your values” and “protect our children.” Additionally, NOM was fined more than $50,000 in 2014 for violating campaign finance laws.
The late D. James Kennedy was a key founder of ADF, and he also founded D. James Kennedy Ministries, one of ADF’s official “allied organizations.” The group also co-signed the letter to media asking outlets to drop the “hate group” label.
D. James Kennedy Ministries, formerly known as Truth in Action, is an anti-LGBTQ hate group. The group is an official allied organization of ADF and co-signed the letter to media asking outlets to drop the “hate group” label in their coverage. The late D. James Kennedy, who founded the Ministries, was one of the key founders of ADF in 1993.
The group has produced a series of anti-LGBTQ films, including one opposing allowing gay kids to join the Boy Scouts and saying that they would put “boys at serious risk.” It has a weekly radio program that regularly hosts anti-LGBTQ figures, giving them a platform to spread vitriol.
According to Right Wing Watch, the group has repeatedly suggested that America is becoming Nazi Germany because of advancements in LGBTQ rights, once linking the Day of Silence -- a “student-led national event organized in thousands of schools, bringing awareness to the silencing effects of anti-LGBTQ name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools” -- with “Adolf Hitler’s birthday.” As Truth in Action, D. James Kennedy Ministries also released a film that displayed “images of the September 11 attacks, bombings, drug abuse, Adolf Hitler…and a married lesbian couple and the kiss between characters Kurt and Blaine on Glee” as a narrator discussed “everything that is evil in this world.” One of the group’s representatives asserted that “about 75 percent of those who struggle with homosexual or lesbian feelings were molested as children.” The group also said in 2012 that the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell would “jeopardize the military’s health and blood supply, since homosexual men are far more likely to be promiscuous and to have STDs, including HIV/AIDS.” In 2013, the group pushed a made-up story that a high school athlete was disqualified from competing at state level because he made a religious gesture, eventually scrubbing it from its website.
In 2015, D. James Kennedy Ministries brought in nearly $5 million in revenue.
ACPeds co-signed both letters with ADF attacking the “hate group” designation, and ADF attorneys have filed multiple briefs in court alongside and on behalf of ACPeds.
The American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) is a small anti-LGBTQ hate group of a few hundred members whose name is meant to be confused with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) -- a 60,000-member group comprising “leaders in the professional field.” ACPeds President Dr. Michelle Cretella co-signed both letters along with ADF attacking the hate designation. ADF attorneys have filed multiple briefs in court on behalf of ACPeds. The latter group has also filed an amicus brief in support of ADF’s clients in the Masterpiece case.
According to SPLC, ACPeds hides “under the veneer of its professional-sounding name and claims” in order to “defame and discredit LGBT people, often by distorting legitimate research.” ACPeds began when a “small group of anti-LGBT physicians and other healthcare professionals broke away” from AAP after it began supporting the right of same-sex couples to adopt and foster-parent children. ACPeds has been relentless in its claim that it’s dangerous for children to identify as LGBTQ; its blog has suggested that “P for pedophile” should be a part of the LGBT acronym, and, in 2010, the group’s then-president sent a letter to more than 14,000 school district superintendents advocating for conversion therapy and outlining the so-called “health risks” of “claim[ing] a ‘gay’ identity.” Conversion therapy is a dangerous practice that has been “rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades.”
Former AFA President Donald Wildmon was a key founder of ADF. AFA is one of ADF’s official “allied organizations” and co-signed both letters attacking the “hate group” designation.
American Family Association (AFA) is an anti-LGBTQ hate group that filed an amicus brief in support of ADF’s client in the Masterpiece case. AFA is an official allied organization of ADF and co-signed both letters with ADF attacking the hate group designation. Former AFA President Donald Wildmon was a key founder of ADF, which was formed in 1993 when “a coalition of 35 Christian Right groups” joined together to found it. Wildmon’s son, Tim Wildmon, now runs the organization, which according to SPLC consists of a “200-station radio network, about 100 employees and a monthly AFA Journal sent to 180,000 people — largely on the basis of anti-gay appeals.”
SPLC reported that, in early 2000s, AFA sent a mailer saying that it “must OPPOSE the spread of homosexual activity! Just as we must oppose murder, stealing, and adultery," adding that LGBTQ people “RECRUIT” children. The group ran a multi-year “ex-gay” campaign called “Truth In Love” that advocated for curing LGBTQ people. The campaign included an AFA film that claimed that “80% of homosexual men have a sexually transmitted disease.” The film also featured a man who had been a prominent “ex-gay” activist and who was later found to be “hosting orgies, taking drugs and having unprotected sex with other men without disclosing his HIV status” while he traveled around the country condemning “the homosexual lifestyle.” The film is still listed on AFA’s website, which claims it has been shown in “thousands of churches.”
According to SPLC, AFA’s Bryan Fischer has repeatedly pushed a myth that the Nazi party was formed by LGBTQ people, saying that Nazism was “rooted in the homosexual movement” and “formed in a gay bar.” Fischer has said that Nazi Germany tried “homosexuality in the military” before asking, “How did that experiment work out?” He also claimed that “homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.” According to SPLC, these discredited assertions came from “the Holocaust revisionist work of Scott Lively,” who claimed that “because of the ‘savage nature’ of gay men, they were able to instigate and carry out the Holocaust.” As recently as September 23, Fischer expressed support for criminalizing homosexuality, tweeting, “If injection drug abuse is contrary to public policy, homosexual conduct should too. And for the same reasons.”
AFA brought in nearly $30 million in revenue in 2014, and the notorious “One Million Moms” campaign is an offshoot of the group. It urges campaigns against and boycotts of what its members call “filth” in the entertainment media.
C-Fam and ADF have worked together on multiple international initiatives. C-Fam has hired some of ADF’s Blackstone Legal Fellows for summer positions, and the group co-signed the letter to the media attacking the “hate group” designation.
The Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam), formerly known as the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, is an anti-LGBTQ hate group run by Austin Ruse. C-Fam and ADF have worked together and supported and promoted each other’s work on a number of causes. Ruse spoke before more than 100 of ADF’s Blackstone Legal Fellows and C-Fam hosted fellows for summer internships. Ruse co-signed the letter to media with ADF that asked media outlets to drop the “hate group” designation in their coverage. According to its website, C-Fam was founded “in order to monitor and affect the social policy debate at the United Nations and other international institutions” and focuses its work internationally.
Ruse was the subject of controversy in 2014 when he said that “the hard left, human-hating people that run modern universities” should “all be taken out and shot.” He later had to apologize for the statement. Ruse also mocked a 15-year-old transgender activist, using the word “trannies” and employing her image in a post about HIV rates in the transgender community. He also denies that the 1998 anti-gay hate crime murder of Matthew Shepard was a hate crime, publishing multiple pieces on Breitbart saying that “homosexuality had little or nothing to do with his murder” and that Shepard “was not killed by gay bias, gay hatred.” Ruse has said that all countries should pass laws against homosexual behavior “even if unenforced,” in order to "help society to teach what is good" and “prevent such truly harmful practices as homosexual marriage and adoption.” According to GLAAD, Ruse has also claimed that, rather than bullying and social stigma, LGBTQ people and activism are the real cause of LGBTQ teen suicide and alcoholism. C-Fam brought in more than $1.8 million in revenue in 2015 and was granted special consultative status to the United Nations in 2014.
TVC co-signed both letters with ADF attacking the “hate group” designation.
Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) is an anti-LGBTQ hate group founded by Lou Sheldon and currently run by his daughter Andrea Lafferty. Lafferty co-signed both letters alongside ADF attacking the “hate group” designation.
Sheldon has pushed the myth that LGBTQ people are pedophiles, claiming, “As homosexuals continue to make inroads into public schools, more children will be molested and indoctrinated into the world of homosexuality.” According to SPLC, TVC has also asserted that “homosexuals molest children at a far greater rate than do their heterosexual counterparts.” Lafferty, too, has pushed the myth, telling Breitbart News Daily that trans-inclusive bathroom policies at Target and Hershey Park made them “pedophile magnets and pervert magnets.” Lafferty also called transgender kids “psychologically unhealthy and unstable” and said that it’s the “ultimate act of child abuse” to affirm a transgender child’s identity. Lafferty also believes that transgender people should be banned from teaching.
According to SPLC, Sheldon has also compared homosexuality “to smoking or drug use, not an immutable characteristic like race or ethnicity,” suggested forcibly placing AIDS victims into “cities of refuge,” and said in the 1990s that a newly passed hate crime law would “protect sex with animals and the rape of children as forms of political expression.” Similar to other anti-LGBTQ extremists, Sheldon has compared queer activists to Nazis, saying that attitudes about LGBTQ people “have been deliberately and deceitfully changed by a masterful propaganda/marketing campaign that rivals that of Adolph [sic] Hitler. In fact, many of the strategies used by homosexuals to bring about cultural change in America are taken from Hitler’s writings and propaganda welfare manuals.” In 2014, the group brought in more than $4.1 million in revenue, and it was granted remarkable access to the White House during President George W. Bush’s administration.
The Ruth Institute is one of ADF’s official “allied organizations” and co-signed the letter to media asking outlets to drop the “hate group” designation. Its founder has given a lecture to ADF Blackstone fellows.
The Ruth Institute is an anti-LGBTQ hate group that began as an arm of NOM and split off in 2013. The Ruth Institute is an official allied organization of ADF and co-signed the letter with ADF asking media outlets to drop the “hate group” designation in their coverage. The group's founder and president, Jennifer Morse, has given a lecture to ADF Blackstone fellows in which she compared resisting the “sexual revolution” to standing up against Nazis.
The group used to hold an annual student conference to prepare college students and recent graduates to defend “natural marriage.” According to SPLC, Morse “has mostly steered clear of the kind of vicious anti-LBGT rhetoric employed by some on the religious right,” but the group highlights a “Circle of Experts” on its website. These so-called “experts” spread vicious lies about LGBTQ people, including connecting LGBTQ activism to Nazism, pushing junk science that “children of same-sex couples fare worse,” and connecting them to pedophilia.
Morse has said that LGBTQ people should stay celibate and has said that being gay is a “completely shameless activity,” according to GLAAD. She has repeatedly pushed a debunked connection between Nazis and LGBTQ people, saying that “the parallels are really quite chilling because the Nazis were able to scare people into being silent, and they scared people by threatening their jobs, and they scared people by creating an atmosphere of intimidation. I hate to say it but it is happening to us.” In another speech, Morse said that same-sex marriage is part of a “pagan ideology” that Christians should avoid like Nazism.
NTFTE and Equality and Justice for All’s Christopher Doyle co-signed both letters with ADF lamenting the “hate group” designation and received legal representation from ADF.
“Ex-gay” activist Christopher Doyle runs The National Task Force for Therapy Equality (NTFTE) and is a consultant for Equality and Justice for All. Doyle and his group advocate for harmful reparative therapy under the guise of “therapy equality.” Doyle signed both letters along with ADF lamenting the “hate group” label, and ADF has previously provided legal representation for Doyle. NTFTE filed a report in May to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) attacking human rights organizations for what NTFTE called a “hate campaign” to ban reparative therapy. In the report, NTFTE described its purpose as to “secure therapy equality for clients that experience distress over unwanted same-sex attractions and gender identity conflicts.” According to The Washington Post, the complaint accused human rights groups “of committing ‘mass fraud’ and ‘actively distorting the scientific research by promoting the ‘Born Gay’ hoax.’” Doyle’s group Equality and Justice for All attempts to incorporate the harmful myth that LGBTQ people can change their orientation in the “formation of public policy.”
IFI’s website says it has a “working relationship” with ADF, as well as FRC and AFA, and it co-signed both letters attacking the “hate group” designation.
Illinois Family Institute (IFI) is an anti-LGBTQ hate group active in Illinois. It’s Executive Director David Smith co-signed both letters along with ADF lamenting the “hate group” label. At the bottom of its website, IFI notes that it has a “working relationship” with ADF, FRC, and AFA.
IFI has pressured school boards across Illinois to rescind policies that protect LGBTQ people and urged its supporters to get involved in school board elections. Additionally, according to SPLC, IFI has regularly pushed debunked data about LGBTQ people, including that “the median age of death of the homosexual man is 42. Only 9% live past age 65.”
According to GLAAD, Smith has called homosexuality “depraved” and “unnatural” and equated LGBTQ couples with “incestuous couples” and pedophiles. One of IFI’s most extreme figures is Laurie Higgins, who once wrote a blog post published on the website opposingviews.com called “Church Should Fight Homosexuality Like It Did Nazism.” The piece compared the “failure of the church to oppose the extermination of Jews and the government usurpation of control of the church in Nazi Germany” to the “American church’s failure to respond appropriately to the spread of radical, heretical, destructive views of homosexuality.” Higgins claimed that Opposing Views changed the title of her article, and the article has since been removed for the website. In 2014, she attacked gay media personality Dan Savage as “repugnant” and said that she needed to “expose the dark realities of this pernicious movement” just as we must “view photos from Auschwitz” and “of lynchings.” Higgins called it “illuminating the necessity of occasionally viewing the evil in our midst.” She has also said that “there was something profoundly good for society about the prior stigmatization of homosexual practice … when homosexuals were ‘in the closet.’” Higgins has also repeatedly expressed support for Russia’s “gay propaganda” law, saying it “protects minors from homosexuality-affirming propaganda” and suggesting that “perhaps we need an anti-propagandizing-to-minors law” in the United States.
American Values President Gary Bauer co-signed the letter with ADF asking media outlets to drop the “hate group” label.
American Values President Gary Bauer served as FRC’s second president from 1988 through 1999. Bauer co-signed the letter along with ADF calling on media to drop the “hate group” label. According to SPLC, Bauer’s work “raised the FRC’s profile, increased its effectiveness, and built a national network of ‘concerned citizens’ during the Clinton Administration.” He also “brought in several anti-gay researchers who pumped out defamatory material about the LGBT community” during his time at FRC. In a 1998 appearance at Harvard Kennedy School, Bauer expressed support for anti-sodomy laws, saying that “states have a right to, in their laws and in their codes, to decide which sexual activity they want to discourage in a variety of ways.” During that appearance, he also said that “it would be a terrible mistake to add conduct to civil rights codes” in a question about legal discrimination against LGBTQ people at workplace. Bauer said, “It would be a disaster to take something like conduct, homosexual conduct, and attempt to fold it into the rubric of civil rights laws that we have.” He continued to say that he believes landlords should be able to refuse housing to LGBTQ people.
Bauer served in President Ronald Reagan’s White House, where he fought to prevent Reagan from appointing a “known homosexual” to his commission on AIDS, instead suggesting a “reformed” ex-gay who is “not currently living a gay life style.” In 2012, Bauer similarly called former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s decision to hire an openly gay staffer a “disappointment” and attacked the staffer for being “an outspoken advocate of redefining normal marriage.” Bauer has also attempted to link the Obama administration’s support for same-sex marriage and crime in Chicago, asking how “the radical idea of men marrying other men” is “going to help the black family?”
Right-wing media figures have helped promote a series of myths about transgender service members in the U.S. military in response to President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would ban them from serving. These debunked myths include the claim that the cost of medically necessary health care for transgender service members would be in the billions, that allowing transgender members to serve would interfere with military readiness and cohesion, that a majority of transgender people are unable to be deployed due to their health care needs, and that being transgender is a mental illness that makes people unfit to be in the military.
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Anti-LGBTQ hate groups are calling on the media to drop their hate designation because they're not "neo-Nazis and the KKK"
Anti-LGBTQ hate groups have been attacking the media and others for citing the hate group designation conferred by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and trying to distance themselves from what they characterize as the “true hate” of well-known hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and neo-Nazi groups.
On September 6, a number of anti-LGBTQ and other hate groups signed onto a letter asking for the media to stop using the “hate group” label when discussing them, saying, “To associate public interest law firms and think tanks with neo-Nazis and the KKK is unconscionable, and represents the height of irresponsible journalism. All reputable news organizations should immediately stop using the SPLC’s descriptions of individuals and organizations based on its obvious political prejudices.”
But the line for what makes a hate group does not begin at violence, Nazism, or white supremacy; anti-LGBTQ hate groups and others are designated as such for spreading dangerous lies and hateful rhetoric about the queer community that do real harm. The designation is also conferred for attempting to criminalize the existence of LGBTQ people both in the United States and internationally by pushing legislation like anti-sodomy laws. These anti-LGBTQ groups have a pervasive history of attacking and slandering queer people and pushing for policies that negatively impact their mental and physical well-being -- and that’s enough to label them with the word “hate.”
Anti-LGBTQ hate groups such as the Family Research Council (FRC), Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), and Liberty Counsel have launched a coordinated, ongoing campaign against media outlets for accurately citing their hate group designation in reports. Each of those groups signed a September 6 letter -- along with the conservative Media Research Center and numerous hate groups from other extremist ideologies such as the anti-Muslim Center for Security Policy and the anti-immigrant Immigration Reform Law Institute -- asking media not to use the label and lamenting that their groups were associated “with neo-Nazis and the KKK.” These groups and their allies in right-wing media have previously made a concerted effort to raise the bar for what should be counted as a hate group, often relying on that same argument that they should not be lumped in with neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and the KKK.
Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver recently posted a video on YouTube criticizing his group’s SPLC-conferred hate designation, noting that the SPLC also “lists some organizations like the KKK and other real, violent organizations as hate groups, and certainly they are hate groups.” Staver also noted that organizations including Liberty Counsel were lumped “right in with violent organizations,” citing that fact as a reason to discredit the designation. In a June post, ADF wrote that “true hate is animosity toward others, and it often takes the form of violence” and called its own efforts to limit transgender people’s access to restrooms “really just a disagreement.” Additionally, ADF’s Casey Mattox wrote in a September 5 op-ed that “a list of KKK, Neo-Nazi, and other violent groups could be a non-partisan service to the public.” But he attacked SPLC’s inclusion of other types of hate groups, writing, “The Southern Poverty Law Center has no problem lumping Nazis together with ordinary pro-family Christian policy and legal organizations like Alliance Defending Freedom.”
Since it was named a hate group in 2010, FRC has criticized the SPLC for “lumping us together with neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan” and attempted to set itself apart from what it calls “genuine” hate groups like the KKK. Hate group American Family Association (AFA) published a post in August decrying the fact that groups that believe “that homosexual practice is sinful or that gays can change or that Bruce Jenner is not a woman” are considered anti-LGBTQ and that such groups appear on SPLC’s “hate list side by side with the KKK, neo-Nazis,” and others.
Anti-LGBTQ hate groups’ allies in the media have also pushed this line. Mark Kellner of the “conservative-leaning ‘Get Religion’ website” asserted, “One may or may not like the legal advocacy of the Alliance Defending Freedom, but they’re not a bunch of hooded-sheet Klanners burning crosses,” according to The Washington Post. While interviewing an ADF representative, Fox News’ Martha MacCallum said there was a “pretty broad understanding of” the SPLC’s inclusion of groups like the KKK and Westboro Baptist Church in its hate group list before casting doubt on the inclusion of ADF. She called SPLC “a group well-known for their partisan designation of so-called hate groups” and said that though SPLC “sort of had a credible background” in the past, “they have swayed and gotten a lot of negative attention in the recent years.” Right-wing newspaper The Washington Examiner and anti-abortion outlet LifeSite also echoed the talking point.
Unsurprisingly, white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups also engage in anti-LGBTQ extremism and spread the same kind of myths and hateful rhetoric that the anti-LGBTQ groups do, including that gay people can be “cured” or that they are more likely to molest children. Though neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups are often violent, SPLC does not consider violence the only measure of a hate group. According to SPLC, its hate group designation applies to white supremacist groups that “range from those that use racial slurs and issue calls for violence to others that present themselves as serious, non-violent organizations and employ the language of academia.”
SPLC has said that its designation of anti-LGBTQ groups is “based on their propagation of known falsehoods — claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated, groundless name-calling.” These myths have real consequences for LGBTQ people, who are often at increased risk for violence, sexual assault, and mental illness.
SPLC designated ADF a hate group because its leaders and allied lawyers have “regularly demonized LGBT people, falsely linking them to pedophilia, calling them ‘evil’ and a threat to children and society, and blaming them for the ‘persecution of devout Christians.’” Former ADF President Alan Sears called pedophilia and “homosexual behavior … often intrinsically linked.” Similarly, FRC’s Tony Perkins has pushed the myth that gay men are linked to pedophilia, and another FRC representative similarly accused gay youth of joining the Boy Scouts of America “for predatory purposes.” Liberty Counsel’s Staver called LGBTQ History Month a "sexual assault on our children" and has also compared LGBTQ people to pedophiles, once saying that allowing gay youth and adults in the Boy Scouts will cause “all kinds of sexual molestation” and create a “playground for pedophiles to go and have all these boys as objects of their lust.”
The myth that LGBTQ people are linked to pedophilia has been repeatedly debunked, and according to SPLC, “depicting gay men as a threat to children may be the single most potent weapon for stoking public fears about homosexuality.” The American Psychological Association found that “fears about children of lesbian or gay parents being sexually abused by adults … have received no scientific support.” SPLC also called the myth “probably the leading defamatory charge leveled against gay people.”
Anti-LGBTQ groups’ extreme rhetoric expands well beyond pushing the dangerous myth that gay men are pedophiles. Liberty Counsel’s Staver has said that same-sex relationships are “destructive to individuals and … destructive to our very social fabric.” A Liberty Counsel attorney said that LGBTQ peoples’ lives are “controlled by this lust, this passion, that has kind of overwhelmed them, and so you have kind of the essence of a lack of self control.” Former Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Barber said that LGBTQ people “know intuitively that what they are doing is immoral, unnatural, and self-destructive,” adding that they have “tied their whole identity up in this sexual perversion.” Barber has also said that homosexuality is “always and forever, objectively and demonstrably wrong. It is never good, natural, right or praiseworthy.”
FRC’s Perkins said that it’s “disgusting” to tell queer youth that their lives will get better. Though Perkins criticizes the SPLC for using “hate group” label for his organization, he has used similar language against LGBTQ activists, calling them “hateful, vile, … spiteful” and saying that they are the “height of hatred” and engaged in “an agenda that will destroy them and our nation.” When talking about the “homosexual agenda,” ADF’s then-President Sears once said, “There is no room for compromise with those who would call evil ‘good.’” One ADF allied-attorney said that same-sex marriage is a sign of the “degradation of our human dignity” and that it has “led to a deification of deviant sexual practices.” And ADF’s senior counsel said in 2014 that “the endgame of the homosexual legal agenda is unfettered sexual liberty and the silencing of all dissent.”
Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that demonizes LGBTQ people by, for example, comparing them to pedophiles, poses a danger to an already at-risk community. An August report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that anti-LGBTQ “hate-violence-related homicides” have increased from 2016, including a sharp increase in trans women of color being murdered in America. Suicide rates for lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are four times higher than that of their straight peers, and 40 percent of transgender adults “reported having made a suicide attempt.” The Trevor Project noted that “each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.” Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that “compared with other students, negative attitudes toward LGB persons may put these youth at increased risk for experiences with violence,” also noting the “greater risk for depression, suicide, [and] substance use.” The CDC added:
“For youth to thrive in schools and communities, they need to feel socially, emotionally, and physically safe and supported. A positive school climate has been associated with decreased depression, suicidal feelings, substance use, and unexcused school absences among LGB students.”
Despite the CDC calling for safe and supportive spaces to address the mental health crisis among LGBTQ people, Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at FRC, asserted that "the most effective way of reducing teen suicide attempts [among LGBTQ youth] is not to create a positive social environment for the affirmation of homosexuality. Instead, it would be to discourage teens from self-identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual." Liberty Counsel’s Barber has called “disease, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide … consequences” of being gay.
Anti-LGBTQ hate groups have advocated for anti-sodomy laws, which effectively criminalize homosexuality, both in the United States and abroad. Many of these groups filed briefs in support of anti-sodomy laws as part of the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case before the Supreme Court, which declared it unconstitutional to outlaw sodomy. The groups also condemned the court’s decision after it was announced. ADF formally supported the criminalization of sodomy in the U.S. when it filed its amicus brief in Lawrence, which called “same-sex sodomy … a distinct public health problem.” Liberty Counsel and FRC also filed briefs in support of anti-sodomy laws. In a 2010 appearance on MSNBC, an FRC representative agreed that the United States should “outlaw gay behavior” and said, “The Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned the sodomy laws in this country, was wrongly decided. I think there would be a place for criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior.” Many states still have anti-sodomy laws on the books, and gay men have been arrested as recently as 2015 for “crimes against nature.”
After they failed in their attempts to criminalize homosexuality in the United States, many anti-LGBTQ organizations turned to working to criminalize gay sex abroad. ADF called the Lawrence ruling “devastating” and has used the decision to raise money for its work abroad. In 2012, ADF officials spoke at a conference in Jamaica in support of its anti-sodomy law, which is still in effect and can punish LGBTQ people with “10 years of hard labor.” ADF has also provided “advice, legal assistance and strategy” to efforts to defend a law in Belize that criminalizes gay sex and has applauded a 2011 decision in India that restored a criminalization statute that could punish gay sex with up to 10 years in prison. There is still a pending court challenge to that case.
Liberty Counsel has also defended the criminalization of homosexuality abroad. In 2012, Liberty Counsel signed on to defend American anti-LGBTQ extremist Scott Lively, who “allegedly played an instrumental part in the Ugandan parliament’s adoption of a draconian anti-LGBT bill that originally included the death penalty in some instances.” Lively was being sued for his “involvement in anti-LGBT efforts in Uganda, which included his active participation in the development of anti-LGBT policies aimed at revoking rights of LGBT people, [and which] constituted persecution." The lawsuit against Lively was dismissed, but the judge in the case noted that “Lively proposed 20-year prison sentences for gay couples in Uganda ‘who simply lead open, law-abiding lives.’” LGBTQ rights activists in Uganda called the bill “essentially his creation.” In 2011, FRC, too, showed its support for criminalizing homosexuality abroad when it called for its supporters to pray for countries that had laws criminalizing sodomy and were being pressured by the U.S. to remove them. FRC suggested that homosexuality “has had a devastating impact upon Africans” and cited the AIDS crisis as an example.
ADF has pushed for other harmful anti-LGBTQ policies that have been ruled human rights violations abroad. In 2015, ADF International filed an intervention (like an amicus brief) in the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) regarding a case against “mandatory sterilization” for transgender people who are trying to change their names or gender on government IDs. According to SPLC, ADF attorneys “argued that European member states should have the right to determine what sorts of medical treatments and diagnoses they require of transgender citizens seeking new documentation, including sterilization.” ECtHR ruled in favor of the transgender plaintiffs and against sterilization requirements after activists “argued for years that the sterilization requirement was an institutionalized violation of human rights,” according to The New York Times.
Anti-LGBTQ hate groups frequently push the myth that LGBTQ people can “change” and advocate for harmful “reparative therapy,” which the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) calls “a range of dangerous and discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.” HRC noted that though those practices “have been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades,” the practice is legal and being used in many places across the United States. HRC compiled the positions of more than a dozen medical and counseling organizations against “reparative therapy.” For instance, the American Academy of Pediatrics said that the practice “can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.” Similarly, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) said that the so-called therapy’s potential risks “include depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.”
Despite this universal condemnation, hate groups have explicitly endorsed “reparative therapy” and have even defended it in court. ADF represented a licensed psychotherapist who claimed he could help LGBTQ people get rid of “unwanted same-sex attractions” in Maryland, according to The Baltimore Sun. The therapist hired ADF to determine whether he could file a defamation case against a Maryland lawmaker who “introduced a bill … that would have banned licensed clinicians from providing [reparative] therapy to minors.” An ADF-allied attorney also represented a plaintiff in New Jersey who was challenging the state’s ban on ex-gay therapy. An FRC “Washington Update” post said that “gay-conversion therapy … has been hugely successful at steering young people toward their natural expression of sexuality.” FRC’s Sprigg has written a number of posts in support of reparative therapy on FRC’s website, and he has even accused medical groups like the APA of not being “immune to political and ideological bias, particularly on the issue of homosexuality.” Similarly, Liberty Counsel has also showed support for reparative therapy, with Staver submitting a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court and testifying before Congress on what he called “the attacks on religious freedom of licensed mental health professionals, minors, and their parents.” Liberty Counsel also launched a “Change is Possible Campaign” in 2006, which encouraged students “to start Gay to Straight Clubs, and ask that the ex-gay viewpoint be included in all diversity day presentations that discuss homosexuality.”
The bar for what is considered hatred cannot be so high that only the KKK and neo-Nazis are considered hate groups, despite repeated attempts by anti-LGBTQ hate groups to set the standard there. These groups’ attempts to criminalize homosexuality in the U.S. and abroad and to demonize and slander LGBTQ people have had real, harmful effects on the community. Hatred has many forms and should be denounced on all levels, whether it is physical violence from neo-Nazis or attempts by anti-LGBTQ groups to criminalize the very existence of queer and transgender people.
In response to the violent August 12 white nationalist and neo-Nazi protests that occurred in Charlottesville, VA, a number of regional and national media outlets published pieces that informed their readers about regional and national hate groups from various extremist ideologies. Anti-LGBTQ hate groups and their allies in right-wing media responded to these stories by attacking the media outlets that published them, some of which have since deleted their stories.
Anti-LGBTQ extremists successfully lobbied for Trump to ban transgender people from the military. Now they’re promising action on so-called “religious freedom” guidance.
In an August 9 report, the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson detailed the growing influence of anti-LGBTQ hate groups in setting federal policy, including their “intense lobbying” that influenced President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military and their push for a potential anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” order.
Last month, Newsweek’s Tom Porter wrote about the hate groups that “fiercely lobbied” for a reinstatement of the ban on transgender service members, which Trump announced via Twitter on July 26. The announcement stated that transgender people would not be allowed “to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” Among the groups mentioned by Porter was the Family Research Council (FRC), whose leaders have bragged that they “have big communications channels with the Trump administration,” he wrote. FRC senior fellow Ken Blackwell was a member of Trump’s transition team and now sits on Trump’s so-called “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity,” which has been called the “voter suppression dream team.”
On August 2, The New York Times wrote that FRC President Tony Perkins had spent months pressuring Trump to make a statement about transgender service members. The article included a quote from Perkins saying, “I’ve been to the White House I don’t know how many more times in the first six months this year than I was during the entire Bush administration.” Perkins has also boasted that he “was not surprised” by Trump’s announcement because FRC had been “working with the White House” on the issue.
Johnson’s August 9 report in the Washington Blade highlighted “intense lobbying” by anti-LGBT lawmakers and hate groups such as FRC and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) for Trump to sign a religious freedom executive order, a draft of which was leaked to The Nation in February. Johnson added that although Trump hasn’t yet signed the order that the groups are floating -- which would “enable sweeping anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of ‘religious freedom’” -- he has empowered Attorney General Jeff Sessions “to issue guidance ensuring religious liberty.” He noted that Perkins, speaking on his radio show last month, “said action would come soon” on religious freedom guidance. In a speech to ADF, Sessions also promised that the Justice Department is “finalizing” guidance on “federal religious liberty protections.” From the Washington Blade:
Prior to his August vacation, Trump announced his intent to ban transgender people from the U.S. military “in any capacity,” unilaterally instituting the anti-LGBT policy after the U.S. House — under Republican control, no less — rejected a narrower measure to undermine transgender service by denying military funds for transition-related health care.
Trump’s declaration came after intense lobbying by anti-LGBT lawmakers and groups, who threatened to withhold support from major defense spending legislation unless the White House acted. That bill includes funds for Trump’s wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in a statement after Trump’s announcement on transgender service his organization would withdraw its opposition to border wall payments.
“Now that we are assured that the Defense Department has its fiscal priorities in order, Family Research Council withdraws our opposition to increasing the budget of the Department of Defense through the ‘Make America Secure Appropriations Act’ and looks forward to seeing that legislation pass,” Perkins said.
Although Trump — despite entreaties from social conservatives — hasn’t signed an executive order circulating among federal agencies and advocacy groups that would enable sweeping anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of “religious freedom,” he did pen his name to a directive empowering U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to issue guidance ensuring religious liberty.
Critics say that’s a red herring that could lead the U.S. government to give the OK for discrimination among federal contractors, private employer denial of family and medical leave to same-sex couples and federal workers refusing to process paperwork for LGBT people. Sessions had already stated the directive would be based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 law meant to preserve the rights of religious minorities that’s now used as an excuse for anti-LGBT discrimination.
It remains to be seen when the administration will issue the guidance and the nature of the policy. On his weekly radio show late last month, Perkins said action would come soon and the U.S. government will be “on notice that they have to respect religious freedom” — code for social conservatives to mean anti-LGBT discrimination.
Far-right hate groups across extremist ideologies have united to attack and discredit their hate group designation by Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in an attempt to regain legitimacy and rehab their images. Many hate groups have attempted to delegitimize the SPLC’s hate group label over the years, but their efforts have dramatically ramped up in 2017 in reaction to a series of escalating events including SPLC designating anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and anti-immigrant group Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) hate groups and media outlets accurately labeling these organizations as such in their reporting.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is the largest anti-LGBTQ hate group in the nation, and, according to Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), it “specializes in supporting the recriminalization of homosexuality abroad, ending same-sex marriage, and generally making life as difficult as possible for LGBT communities in the U.S. and internationally.” ADF operates on $48 million-plus annual budget and has what it refers to as a “powerful global network” of over 3,100 ADF-trained “allied attorneys.” SPLC designated ADF a hate group because ADF’s leaders and its affiliated lawyers have “regularly demonized LGBT people, falsely linking them to pedophilia, calling them ‘evil’ and a threat to children and society, and blaming them for the ‘persecution of devout Christians.’” ADF’s influence is widespread. It has played a role in dozens of Supreme Court cases, including regarding abortion, religion, tuition tax credits, and LGBTQ issues; it has special advisory status at the United Nations; it has at least 55 affiliated lawyers serving in influential government positions at the state and federal levels; and it has infiltrated local school boards across the country.
ADF formally supported the criminalization of sodomy in the U.S. in 2003 when it filed an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas defending state sodomy laws which called “same-sex sodomy … a distinct public health problem.” ADF has also worked to criminalize gay sex abroad, including in Jamaica, Belize, and India, and is leading the national campaign for “bathroom bills” targeting transgender youth. One ADF attorney peddled the myth that Matthew Shepard’s violent murder in 1998 was not an anti-gay hate crime. SPLC designated ADF a hate group on February 15, but it wasn’t till early June that ADF started challenging the designation, attacking Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard’s mother, for penning an op-ed about groups like ADF that “bullying LGBTQ children.” Since then, ADF and its allies have successfully pressured the nonprofit database GuideStar to reverse its decision of putting the SPLC hate group label on 46 nonprofit groups on its website. In a series of media appearances, ADF has also relentlessly attacked ABC and NBC for accurately labeling it a hate group in news reports regarding Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ speech at an ADF event.
The Family Research Council (FRC) is another anti-LGBTQ hate group that wields significant influence in the current administration; its senior fellow, Ken Blackwell, was officially appointed to President Donald Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which critics have called a voter suppression effort. FRC President Tony Perkins embraced and endorsed Trump as a candidate during the presidential election cycle (and met with him at the White House earlier this month). And at least four people, including Blackwell, who are affiliated with FRC were a part of Trump’s transition team. FRC has a budget of tens of millions of dollars and promotes the idea “that people can and should try to change their sexual orientation” or “just not act on it.” According to SPLC’s extremist file, FRC “often makes false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science” in order to “denigrate LGBT people.” FRC’s official position is that “homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large” and “is by definition unnatural.” Former FRC Vice President Rob Schwarzwalder accused gay youth of joining the Boy Scouts of America “for predatory purposes,” and various FRC representatives and publications have repeatedly compared homosexuality to pedophilia. Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at FRC, asserted that LGBTQ youth suicide rates would drop if the teenagers were “discourage[d] from self-identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual” and urged others “not to create a positive social environment for the affirmation of homosexuality.” In a 2010 appearance on MSNBC, Sprigg also said that the United States should “outlaw gay behavior.” In 2011, the FRC called for its supporters to pray for countries that had laws criminalizing sodomy and were being pressured by the U.S. to remove them, and it suggested that homosexuality “has had a devastating impact upon Africans,” citing the AIDS crisis as an example.
FRC has fought against its hate group designation since SPLC gave it the label in 2010. In that same year, the group launched a “Start Debating, Stop Hating” campaign in response to the label, which it called “slanderous.” FRC also took out a full-page ad in Politico as part of the campaign. After a gunman shot a security guard at FRC headquarters in 2012, Perkins blamed SPLC’s “reckless rhetoric” for the shooting and asserted that the shooter was “given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations” such as the SPLC. More recently, FRC joined other hate groups in sending a letter to GuideStar’s president demanding that he remove the hate group labels from its database and praised GuideStar when it decided to do so. FRC also led the “#SPLCexposed” hashtag campaign on Twitter, which attempted to delegitimize the hate group label and drew a number of hate groups to the campaign.
Liberty Counsel is an anti-LGBTQ hate group founded by Mat Staver, former dean of Liberty University School of Law, that “shares a close affiliation with Liberty University,” according to SPLC. Staver has called LGBTQ History Month a "sexual assault on our children," repeatedly warned that the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage would trigger a revolution and civil war, and claimed nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people will result in the "death of some individuals."
Liberty Counsel also famously represented Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis in litigation after she refused to issue marriage licenses to same and opposite-sex couples in 2015; Talking Points Memo reported that Staver “compared Davis’ plight to that of Jews in Nazi Germany” during a radio interview. Staver has also compared LGBTQ people to pedophiles, once saying that allowing gay youth and adults in the Boy Scouts will cause “all kinds of sexual molestation” and create a “playground for pedophiles to go and have all these boys as objects of their lust.” Liberty Counsel has called gay sex “harmful sexual behavior” and pushed the myth that LGBTQ people “can change.” Former Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Barber said that LGBTQ people “know intuitively that what they are doing is immoral, unnatural, and self-destructive,” adding that they have “tied their whole identity up in this sexual perversion.” Barber has also called “disease, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide … consequences” of being gay.
Staver signed the letter that asked GuideStar to remove hate group designations and accused SPLC of using the label as part of its “aggressive political agenda.” On June 28, Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit against GuideStar, saying it and SPLC “are intent on destroying pro-family organizations,” and accused GuideStar’s CEO of “using GuideStar as a weapon to defame, harm, and promote his liberal agenda.” Liberty Counsel’s blog post on the subject also linked to the personal Twitter account of the CEO and his wife. GuideStar’s decision to remove hate group labels was reportedly in part because of “harassment and threats directed at our staff and leadership.”
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is a lobbying hate group founded by white nationalist John Tanton. Tanton is currently editor and publisher of the quarterly journal The Social Contract, which, according to SPLC, has “claimed that multiculturalists are trying to replace ‘successful Euro-American culture’ with ‘dysfunctional Third World cultures.’" During his time at FAIR, Tanton wrote a series of memos that warned of a “Latin onslaught” and “depicted Hispanics as hyperactive breeders,” which caused many high-level conservatives to flee his orbit. FAIR has ties to a number of other extremists, including white supremacists Peter Brimelow and Jared Taylor and Holocaust denier Kevin MacDonald.
Tanton currently sits on FAIR’s board but has retired from the limelight. He was replaced by current President Dan Stein, who frequently appears in right-wing and mainstream media to promote anti-immigrant policies and smear immigrants. In one such interview, Stein claimed that “many [immigrants] hate America, hate everything that the United States stands for.” Stein has defended Tanton and, according to SPLC, “celebrated a new ‘disdain’ in the media and among intellectuals for ‘the political agenda of those who openly attack the contributions of Western Civilization.’"
In 2009, FAIR published a report titled “A Guide to Understanding the Tactics of the Southern Poverty Law Center in the Immigration Debate,” which smeared SPLC as a discredited entity and claimed that journalists have an unfavorable view of the organization. Since then, FAIR has attacked SPLC on Twitter. Dale Wilcox, president and general counsel of FAIR’s legal arm, the Immigration Reform Legal Institute (IRLI), signed the letter calling on GuideStar to remove its hate group labels. Wilcox also wrote an op-ed in Breitbart titled “Why the Mainstream Media Must Stop Citing ‘Anti-Hate’-Crusader Southern Poverty Law Center,” and his group has attacked GuideStar on Twitter for including the SPLC’s hate group labels.
Tanton also founded FAIR’s sister organization, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). SPLC labeled CIS a hate group in 2017 for peddling work by discredited white nationalists and eugenicists. CIS works as the research arm of what SPLC has dubbed “the nativist lobby,” the anti-immigrant lobbying effort spearheaded by groups Tanton founded, including FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA. CIS frequently publishes skewed research meant to denigrate immigrants and promote anti-immigration policies, claiming, for example, that immigrants are taking jobs away from native-born Americans and disproportionately using welfare benefits.
CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian has actively disputed the hate group label by defending white nationalists and eugenicist pseudoscience. In an op-ed in The Washington Post in March, Krikorian complained that the SPLC “made a hate figure of John Tanton” and downplayed a CIS contributor’s assertion that Hispanic immigrants may never “reach IQ parity with whites” as merely “contentious.” He also called the “hate group” label “an attempt to delegitimize and suppress views regarding immigration held by a large share of the American public.” Krikorian and other CIS employees have repeatedly sought to smear SPLC, and Krikorian has used his platform to attack GuideStar for using SPLC’s hate group labels.
ACT for America has transformed into “the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in America,” according to SPLC, which labels it a hate group. The group’s founder, Brigitte Gabriel, has been fearmongering that Muslim immigrants and refugees from the Middle East have transformed Europe into “Eurabia” and has declared that a practicing Muslim “cannot be a loyal citizen of the United States.” ACT often organizes conferences that convene anti-Muslim leaders and groups, including Frank Gaffney, head of hate group the Center for Security Policy. In 2008, ACT launched a campaign called Stop Shariah Now to fearmonger about Sharia “creeping” into western culture and, according to SPLC, “worked closely” with Gaffney “to push anti-Shariah legislation at the state level.”
Gabriel has attacked SPLC as biased against conservatives, and she was also one of the hate group leaders who signed the letter blasting GuideStar for using SPLC’s hate group labels. She has also penned her own letter to GuideStar defending her group and other hate groups.
February 15: SPLC included ADF and CIS in its list of active hate groups in 2016. ADF did not immediately respond.
March 17: The Washington Post published an op-ed by CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian, who condemned the SPLC list and wrote that the “blacklist” was “an attempt to delegitimize and suppress views regarding immigration held by a large share of the American public.”
April 18: After more than two months, ADF issued a statement in which it responded to the SPLC designation by not responding to it: “ADF doesn't have time to respond to organizations who do nothing more than call names, create division and incite violence across the country in order to raise money."
May 15: Judy Shepard, the mother of 22-year-old Matthew Shepard, who was killed in anti-gay homicide, wrote an op-ed in Time magazine about “multimillion-dollar ‘hate groups’” such as ADF “bullying LGBTQ children” in an attempt to ban transgender people from using the restrooms that align with their gender identity.
May 17: The Federalist published an attack on SPLC’s hate group designation, comparing it to the “burn book” from the movie Mean Girls. The post accused SPLC of using the hate group label “to manipulate the lives of others, smear reputations, control personal relationships, and reap the spoils,” as well as calling it an attempt to “control all speech.” Numerous hate group representatives, including Krikorian, and accounts tweeted out the story. In fact, retweeting this story became one of ADF’s first official attacks on SPLC’s designation.
June 7: Time magazine updated Shepard’s op-ed with a response from ADF defending its work and bringing up her son’s death:
True hate is animosity toward others, and it often takes the form of violence. Sadly, Ms. Shepard knows what that is. She lost her son to senseless violence. We at ADF condemn all such manifestations of true hate. They have no place in our society. We remain steadfast in affirming basic human rights and dignity through debate, dialogue, and principled advocacy.
June 9: ADF published a full response to Shepard’s op-ed on its blog, which more forcibly attacked Shepard and accused her of “name-calling and slander” and spreading a “lie.” The post also spread myths about transgender people and said that allowing them to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity “compromises the privacy and dignity of young students who do not want to share overnight facilities, locker rooms, showers, and restrooms with the opposite sex.”
June 21: Hate groups united to pen a letter to GuideStar asking the nonprofit to remove the hate group labels, writing that the designation is “a political weapon targeting people it deems to be its political enemies” and calling SPLC’s list of hate groups “ad hoc, partisan, and agenda-driven.” Co-signers of the letter included representatives from IRLI, FRC, Liberty Counsel, ACT for America, ADF, and numerous others.
June 21: On the day the hate groups sent the letter to GuideStar, The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by The Weekly Standard’s Jeryl Bier attacking GuideStar and accusing the SPLC of “besmirching mainstream groups like the FRC.” Bier has appeared on FRC President Tony Perkins’ radio show. In the op-ed, Bier asserted that “SPLC’s work arguably contributes to the climate of hate it abhors” and lamented that journalists are citing SPLC’s designation.
June 26: A Washington Post report on GuideStar’s reversal quoted a number of hate groups sharing talking points about the designation, including that it was linked to the shooting at FRC and “the recent shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.” The report highlighted the hate groups’ letter accusing the designation of being “partisan” and wrote that Christians “said they’d been targeted as hateful for opposing same-sex marriage.”
June 27: Vice published a profile about ADF “stealthily seizing power in the nation's public school systems,” its “unmistakable effort to make schools hostile to queer students,” and its hate group designation. ADF refused to speak to Vice for the article.
June 28: Politico magazine published a lengthy article questioning whether SPLC’s hate group designation is “overstepping its bounds.” The article specifically lent credibility to hate groups CIS, which the report noted has “been invited to testify before Congress more than 100 times,” and FRC, which it called “one of the country’s largest and most established Christian conservative advocacy groups.” The right-wing Media Research Center highlighted the piece on its website the same day it was published.
June 28: Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit against GuideStar, saying it and SPLC “are intent on destroying pro-family organizations” and accused GuideStar’s CEO of “using GuideStar as a weapon to defame, harm, and promote his liberal agenda.” Liberty Counsel’s blog post on the subject also linked to the personal Twitter account of the CEO and his wife.
July 11: Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a closed-door speech to ADF at its “Summit on Religious Liberty” in California.
July 13: ADF demanded a retraction and apology from ABC for its report, calling it “defamatory” and “journalistic malpractice.”
July 13: Sessions’ speech, which the Department of Justice refused to release, was leaked to anti-LGBTQ website The Federalist. In the speech, Sessions compared the so-called battle for “religious freedom” to Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington.
July 14: ADF began an aggressive media strategy, with its representatives appearing on Fox News’ Fox & Friends, The Story with Martha MacCallum, and Tucker Carlson Tonight to attack the SPLC and attempt to discredit ABC and NBC. ADF’s representatives either repeated the “journalistic malpractice” line during the interview or called the outlets’ reporting “unethical” or “fake news.” Meanwhile, right-wing media also rushed to ADF’s defense.
July 16: FRC also launched a counteroffensive against the hate group designation aiming to “expose” the SPLC as “a left wing smear group who has become exactly what they set out to fight, spreading hate and putting targets on people's backs.” FRC urged supporters to use the hashtag #SPLCexposed. Hate groups such as white nationalist website VDARE, ACT for America, CIS, and FAIR, or their representatives, all joined FRC on Twitter using the hashtag.
July 19: The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Edwin Meese, who has worked with FRC and other groups, calling ADF “a respected civil-rights law firm.” In the op-ed, Meese also repeated ADF’s “journalistic malpractice” charge against ABC and NBC for giving “credence to the SPLC’s recklessly defamatory hate list” in their reporting. Meese wrote that their reporting “is a prime reason” for Americans’ distrust of the media and called on reporters to “stop spreading malignant propaganda.”
July 19: Forbes published an op-ed by Brian Miller of the Center for Individual Rights attacking ABC and NBC’s use of the “hate group” label and arguing that the use of the label was an attempt to “shut down conversation.” Miller concluded that “the very security that is necessary for diverse people to contribute to our social fabric” is at stake “in our climate of heated rhetoric.”
In reporting on President Donald Trump's "religious liberty" executive order last week, some outlets highlighted important anti-LGBTQ details while others failed to acknowledge activists' extremism. The Washington Post fact-checked a Trump speech, exposing that it included a lie peddled by the hate group Family Research Council. Local papers The Orange County Register and Portland Business Journal exposed anti-LGBTQ hate groups Alliance Defending Freedom and Traditional Values Coalition in their coverage. National outlets -- including CNN, CBS, and USA Today -- spoke with anti-LGBTQ hate groups about the order but failed to identify the groups’ extremism, merely describing them as “conservative,” “evangelical,” and “faith” groups. Separately, NPR continued its streak of hosting hate group leaders without context.
President Donald Trump just signed an executive order purporting to protect so-called religious freedom, in part by weakening tax code restrictions on churches and religious groups, allowing them to actively engage in political activity without losing their nonprofit status. While the order falls short of directly targeting LGBTQ people -- as many expected it would do -- it’s still a victory for anti-LGBTQ hate groups, which have been lobbying for such a shift for years.
On May 4, Trump signed an executive order allegedly protecting religious freedom. The order directs the IRS to use “maximum enforcement discretion” to “alleviate the burden of the Johnson Amendment.” The Johnson Amendment is a 1954 law stating that churches and other tax-exempt organizations are "are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office." Despite the claims by anti-LGBTQ hate groups that the amendment stifles “free speech” by pastors and churches, it is rarely enforced. As NPR noted earlier this year, opposition to the amendment isn’t really about “free speech” -- it’s about “money and politics.” Last August, The Atlantic explained the effects of overturning the Johnson Amendment:
Pastors would be able to endorse candidates from the pulpit, which they’re currently not allowed to do by law. But it’s also true that a lot more money could possibly flow into politics via donations to churches and other religious organizations. That could mean religious groups would become much more powerful political forces in American politics—and it would almost certainly tee up future court battles.
The group leading the national push for repealing the Johnson Amendment -- the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) -- has been designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for working to criminalize LGBTQ people, both domestically and abroad, as well as disseminating “disparaging propaganda and falsehoods” to advance its extremist agenda.
ADF, which has previously explained that it “seeks to recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries,” has led an annual “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” in opposition to the Johnson Amendment since 2008. The Washington Post reported that ADF’s “Pulpit Freedom” initiative has encouraged over 2,000 clergy members -- mainly evangelical Christians -- to “deliberately” violate the law since 2008 -- and none of the 2,000 were punished by the IRS. Yet the hate group’s efforts are sweepingly out of step with public opinion, as 90 percent of evangelical leaders do not think pastors should endorse politicians, and nearly 80 percent of Americans think it is inappropriate for pastors to endorse a candidate in church.
Despite little public support to repeal the Johnson Amendment, ADF and other anti-LGBTQ hate groups have redoubled their efforts against it since Trump won the election. Some of those actions included:
Today, ADF senior counsel Gregory Baylor released a statement saying that Trump’s order does not go far enough to "protect" religious freedom. Baylor advocated for a full repeal of the Johnson Amendment through legislative action, as did FRC general counsel for government affairs Mandi Ancalle and ADF legal counsel Christiana Holcomb at a congressional hearing today titled “Examining A Church’s Right To Free Speech.” Baylor also lamented that the order didn’t include “specific relief” for business owners who hold “a religious point of view on marriage that differed from that of the federal government,” i.e. no license to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
Anti-LGBTQ hate groups have so far been successful in furthering their desired policies under Trump, thanks to having representatives and alumni deeply embedded in his administration. FRC senior fellow Ken Blackwell served as the domestic policy chair on the Trump transition team, along with former FRC staffer Ken Klukowski, who was the team’s “constitutional rights” leader and claimed to have helped draft today’s order. FRC's Perkins -- who was at the Rose Garden signing today -- came to embrace Trump as a “teachable” candidate whom Perkins could “shape.”
Recently, Trump appointed Charmaine Yoest -- former vice president of FRC -- as assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In January, Trump appointed former ADF senior counsel Matt Bowman as an HHS special assistant.
Anti-LGBTQ hate groups will, in all likelihood, continue to use their high-level connections to push for a broad legislative repeal of the Johnson Amendment, as well as another “religious freedom” executive order that would allow for government employees and contractors to discriminate against LGBTQ people and their families.
Image by Dayanita Ramesh.