Conservative media figures are touting a far-right coalition's sensationalist claim that the U.S. military is rife with anti-Christian hostility, ignoring the lack of evidence to substantiate the charge and allowing anti-LGBT hate groups to drive coverage of the issue.
Restore Military Religious Freedom (RMRF) - a coalition of right-wing organizations including Liberty Counsel, the Heritage Foundation, and Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)-designated hate groups the Family Research Council (FRC) and American Family Association (AFA) - is leading the charge with this bogus claim. In early November, RMRF released a video featuring interviews with current service members making sweeping statements about the alleged anti-Christian bias permeating the armed forces. The video listed a few examples of apparent attacks on religious liberty in the military, but those examples don't withstand scrutiny.
Hinting at the real motives behind the RMRF's effort, the video includes a soldier complaining about the new wave of "tolerance" sweeping the military - a not-so-thinly-veiled reference to the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) policy. For years, the organizations behind RMRF have crusaded against open service by gay and lesbian soldiers, often using vitriolic language. Depicting the armed forces as anti-Christian has been central to the right's attack on the post-DADT military.
Anti-LGBT hate groups decided long ago that their ultimate solution must be the end of open service, but it was a solution in search of a problem. In its Christian persecution narrative, social conservatives have managed to manufacture that problem, despite that it consists of made-up anti-LGBT horror stories. Right-wing media are happy to take the hate groups' bait.
On the November 11 edition of Fox & Friends, FRC President Tony Perkins sat down with co-hosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Brian Kilmeade to promote RMRF's campaign. While he didn't cite a single example of anti-Christian retaliation by the military, Perkins asserted that "all evidence would suggest" that the Obama administration is "on a search-and-destroy mission as it pertains to religious liberty." Hasselbeck didn't ask Perkins to back up his claim, but she did make sure viewers knew about RMRF's website:
The Washington Times marked the U.S. Senate's historic vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) by publishing a column from an anti-LGBT hate group leader who baselessly asserted that the legislation permits "reverse discrimination" and doesn't truly exempt religious employers.
On November 8 - one day after the Senate voted 64 to 32 to ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity - the Times granted Tony Perkins, president of the hate group Family Research Council, a platform to smear ENDA as "a major threat to liberty." Perkins attacked the bill's religious exemption as inadequate and claimed that the legislation promotes "reverse discrimination" against social conservatives:
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act contains a very narrow "religious exemption," but previous experience with similar laws and similar "exemptions" at the state and local level give little confidence that they will fully protect conscience when the law is applied. Sometimes, the enforcers will seek to limit the exemption to actual clergy but insist that church employees who do not proclaim the faith are not exempt. Some will exempt all employees of actual churches, but leave nonprofits and parachurch ministries unprotected. Sometimes, religious nonprofits are protected, but not if a significant part of their work is "secular" in nature (such as feeding the poor or educating children). In any case, any exemption is unlikely to apply to any profit-making entity -- even a religious publishing house or radio station.
Unfortunately, the mere language of a legislative "exemption" is inadequate to predict how liberal activists on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or in the courts will interpret it.
Even more alarming than the lack of a strong religious exemption, however, is the prospect that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act would lead to a form of reverse discrimination, whereby anyone who expresses or promotes a view of family or morality that can be interpreted to be a disapproval of homosexual conduct or disagreement with elements of the homosexual political agenda (such as the redefinition of marriage) will be subject to retaliation and discrimination.
Despite Perkins' eagerness to frame ENDA as an unprecedented assault on religious freedom, Section 6 of ENDA explicitly exempts religious organizations, affirming that the same religious organizations exempt under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are also exempt under ENDA. Since Senate debate began on the bill, the right of religious organizations to discriminate against LGBT individuals has only been reaffirmed. On November 6, the Senate adopted by voice vote an amendment from ENDA supporter Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) prohibiting retaliation against religious organizations.
Moreover, businesses required to comply with ENDA's non-discrimination requirements won't see any loss of religious liberty. There's a stark difference between personal religious views against homosexuality and discriminatory public business practices against LGBT people. Just as civil rights protections for racial minorities don't punish private racist thoughts, ENDA won't deploy the thought police to go after religious conservatives.
As the Senate prepares to take its first vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in over a decade, prominent social conservatives and right-wing media outlets have begun peddling long-debunked myths about the measure, which would protect employees from mistreatment on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes urged listeners to donate money to two anti-gay hate groups that routinely accuse gay men of being pedophiles.
The Family Research Council (FRC) and American Family Association (AFA) are two of the most extreme anti-gay hate groups in American politics. They regularly peddle smears about LGBT people, including the myths that gay men are more likely to engage in pedophilia and are responsible for the Holocaust. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC):
Together, the Family Research Council (FRC) and the American Family Association (AFA) may comprise the most important anti-gay lobby in this country... The FRC and the AFA are certainly among the most powerful groups on the American religious right.
They are also among the chief purveyors of lies about LGBT people. They have both regularly pumped out propaganda asserting that gay men molest children at far higher rates than their heterosexual counterparts -- a claim that has been debunked by virtually all the recognized scientific authorities in the field. The FRC has claimed that gay activists "work to normalize sex with boys," seek to "abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the 'prophets' of a new sexual order," and support anti-bullying programs solely in order to promote homosexuality. The AFA has declared that "homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler ... the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews," suggested that gay sex be punished like heroin use, and said that the "homosexual agenda" endangers "every fundamental right" in the Constitution, including religious freedom. Both groups have enthusiastically promoted "reparative therapy," which claims against the bulk of the evidence that it can "cure" gay men and lesbians and make them heterosexual, but in fact has left a string of people behind who were badly hurt by the process. [emphasis added]
On the October 23 edition of FRC's Washington Watch radio program, FRC president Tony Perkins invited Starnes on to once again falsely accuse the military of persecuting Christian groups because of their opposition to homosexuality. At the end of the segment, Starnes - who has acted as a de facto mouth piece for AFA and FRC on Fox - encouraged listener to "pick up that phone and throw a few dollars into the cause" by donating to the notorious anti-gay groups:
STARNES: Tony, I want to thank American Family Radio. This is a share-a-thon.There's a reason why we need groups like Family Research Council, why we need folks like American Family Radio. Get the word out there, airing my daily commentaries. So folks, pick up that phone and throw a few dollars into the cause.
This isn't the first time a Fox News employee has solicited donations for an anti-gay group. In August, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson encouraged his supporters to give money to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a group working to criminalize homosexuality abroad.
Fox News host Shannon Bream invited the hate group Family Research Council's (FRC) Peter Sprigg to confirm her baseless belief that a proposed non-discrimination ordinance would ban Christians from holding public office in San Antonio, marking her third failed attempt to smear the measure.
On the August 27 edition of America Live, Bream and Sprigg peddled unfounded right-wing attacks on the proposal - which adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the city's existing non-discrimination ordinance - as an assault on the rights of Christians. Bream opened the segment by echoing critics who claim the ordinance could be "the first step to banning Christian conservatives from holding public office":
BREAM: New developments today with a controversial proposal in San Antonio that critics say could be the first step to banning Christian conservatives from holding public office. The city council proposing an ordinance that disqualifies anyone who has ever, quote, demonstrated a bias against a person based on race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. That appears to include people who have spoken out against things like gay marriage and in support of traditional marriage.
Fox News hosted a spokesman from an anti-gay hate group to continue the network's ongoing assault on a California bill that will allow transgender students to have access to school facilities and teams that correspond with their gender identity.
Following Gov. Jerry Brown's signing of a law that prohibits California public schools from discriminating against transgender students, Fox News invited Peter Sprigg, spokesman for the Family Research Council (FRC), to appear on the August 13 edition of America's Newsroom.
Sprigg - whose history of extreme anti-LGBT commentary includes suggesting that gay people should be exported from the U.S. - asserted that the law would ignore "biological reality" while pandering to students' "transient feelings and emotions":
Fresh off of unsuccessful scare-mongering about the dangers of marriage equality, right-wing media are turning the clock back even further and attacking a highly qualified judicial nominee to the important D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals because of her academic writings on established sex equality law.
Started by Ed Whelan of the National Review Online and continued by anti-gay hate group leader Tony Perkins, a whisper campaign against veteran litigator and law professor Cornelia T.L. Pillard, President Obama's pick for the D.C. Circuit, has been spreading through right-wing media.
Whereas Whelan at least attempted to engage the legal arguments of a 2007 law review article in which Pillard explored how decades-old sex equality law is relevant to reproductive rights, other right-wing media are making even wilder and more inaccurate claims to smear the nominee as extreme when she is in fact solidly in the mainstream.
Perkins of the notorious Family Research Council, for example, made numerous errors in his attack on Pillard that, along with Whelan's rhetoric, is circulating on anti-choice websites and right-wing blogs.
Falsely ascribing a quote of conservative former Chief Justice William Rehnquist to Pillard in which he wrote for the Supreme Court that family leave policies not equally provided to both sexes are a "self-fulfilling cycle of discrimination," Perkins inaccurately described it as Pillard's condemnation of "celebrating motherhood." Where Pillard has observed that the anti-choice personhood movement could be exposed as unconstitutional by increasing awareness of the equal protection ramifications for pregnant women, Perkins fabricated the charge that Pillard "criticizes" the ultrasound. Resorting to spreading the ridiculous myth that Pillard would "declare" abstinence-only education "unconstitutional," Perkins managed to debunk such a silly charge in his very next sentence by quoting her accurate observation that a sex education class that stereotypes and disadvantages women could theoretically be "vulnerable to an equal protection challenge" under established precedent.
Finally, Perkins selectively quoted Pillard to characterize as "militant feminism" her argument that for women to have equal rights in the workplace, they need to be valued for more than their ability to bear children. From the actual full quote in Pillard's 2007 article:
A society in which women lack control to plan when they have children is one in which women must remain second-class citizens. We already know, and the Court recognized in Hibbs, that many employers assume that to be a mother is to be a primary caregiver with correspondingly less job commitment than a man, who is presumed to be an unencumbered "ideal worker." If impaired access to contraceptives hinders women's ability to exercise choice about when and whether to have children, it also reinforces broader patterns of discrimination against women as a class of presumptive breeders rather than reliable breadwinners and citizens.
More than 32,000 people have signed a petition asking CNN to stop hosting anti-gay hate group leader Tony Perkins to speak on behalf of America's Christians following Perkins' appearance on the network to discuss the Supreme Court's recent marriage equality decisions.
Just minutes after the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on June 26, CNN invited Perkins - president of the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council (FRC) - to peddle lies about the decision's impact on religious liberty. No other Christians were interviewed during the segment, despite the fact that a majority of Christians oppose DOMA:
As Congress prepares to once again consider the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), media outlets should avoid giving platforms to hate mongers who have made careers manufacturing blatant falsehoods about the bill.
On July 10, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will vote on ENDA - a bill that would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. ENDA has been introduced in every Congress since 1994 except for the 109th. The measure already has 52 Senate co-sponsors, though its prospects in the House remain to be seen.
An overwhelming majority of Americans support ENDA, including a strong majority of Republicans, Catholics, and senior citizens. Even among people who identify themselves as having unfavorable feelings towards homosexuality, half favor workplace protections for LGBT people. In fact, nine out of ten voters incorrectly believe a federal law like ENDA already exists.
With the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee poised to vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) on July 10, anti-LGBT activists are ramping up their misinformation campaign against the legislation, which would prohibit employers from discriminating against employees and job applicants based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Less than an hour after the Supreme Court struck down a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), CNN invited anti-gay hate group leader Tony Perkins to comment on the decision and allowed him to promote damaging myths about marriage equality.
During the June 26 edition of CNN Newsroom, host Wolf Blitzer invited Perkins - president of the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council (FRC) - to comment on the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor v. United States, which struck down a provision of DOMA that prohibited the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages.
Perkins responded by peddling a number of blatant falsehoods about marriage equality, none of which Blitzer challenged:
PERKINS: What we're going to see happen over time as this plays out in the jurisdictions that have adopted same-sex marriage, you're going to see a loss of parental rights as children are taught in school morals that are contradictory to their parents', religious liberty loss from business owners, bakers, florists and others who are forced to comply with a different view of marriage, as well as even churches - in some places religious organizations losing their tax exemption because they fail to comply with the force of the state in terms of redefining marriage.
Fox News radio host Todd Starnes used a story about a soldier disobeying lawful orders to falsely claim that the military is persecuting Christian service members for their beliefs, continuing his misguided campaign against nonexistent "culture wars."
Master Sgt. Nathan Sommers was charged and found guilty of three Article 15 charges after he disobeyed lawful orders by making political statements while in uniform. Sommers was counseled on separate occasions for bumper stickers and tweets that attacked President Obama and reading political literature while in uniform. Starnes used the case to claim that the military is prosecuting service members for their religious beliefs in an article titled, "Army Reprimands Soldier Under Fire for Religious Beliefs." Starnes then used his platform to allow Sommers' lawyer John Bennett Wells and Family Research Council's Jerry Boykin to push the same deceptive claim. Wells claimed that the timing of the prosecution seemed strange and suspicious, adding that "it looks like a graduated attempt to build a case against him on some really ridiculous charges." FRC's Boykin went further:
Boykin said the issue is whether the chain of command would be doing this if it were not for his outspoken Christian faith and his unwillingness to compromise on what he believes.
"It seems to me that the chain of command has failed to deter him from his beliefs and has resorted to this step now," he said.
From the June 3 edition of Cumulus Media Networks' The Mike Huckabee Show:
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Right-wing media outlets are criticizing the Washington attorney general for enforcing non-discrimination laws against a florist who refused to offer her services for a same-sex wedding.
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit on April 9 against Arlene's Flowers and Gifts, a florist that refused to supply flowers for the wedding of a same-sex couple due to her religious beliefs. According to the lawsuit, the florist violated the state's Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits businesses from discriminating against customers on the basis of sexual orientation.
Right-wing media outlets have jumped on the story, touting it as evidence of the gay community's hostility towards religious freedom.
American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer cited the incident as an example of "homofascism":
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes criticized an email from a U.S. Army officer condemning anti-gay hate speech, suggesting that the email was a sign of "the end of days" and warning his audience that "your military is being turned against you."
In an April 9 article for Fox News Radio, Starnes reported that an email from Lt. Col. Jack Rich instructed subordinates to be on the lookout for behaviors that are "inconsistent with Army Values," including showing support for a number of "hate groups" operating in the U.S.
The email included a list of anti-gay groups like the Family Research Council (FRC) and American Family Association (AFA), stating:
The religious right in America has employed a variety of strategies in its efforts to beat back the increasingly confident gay rights movement. One of those has been defamation. Many of its leaders have engaged in the crudest type of name-calling, describing LGBT people as "perverts" with "filthy habits" who seek to snatch the children of straight parents and "convert" them to gay sex. They have disseminated disparaging "facts" about gays that are simply untrue assertions that are remarkably reminiscent of the way white intellectuals and scientists once wrote about the "bestial" black man and his supposedly threatening sexuality.
Rich's depiction of the hate speech stemming from the anti-gay movement is entirely accurate. Both FRC and AFA have been listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center due to their long histories of defaming LGBT people, including peddling the myth allowing for openly gay soldiers would cause a spike in sexual assaults and HIV infections in the military.
Starnes - who acts as Fox News' resident mouthpiece for anti-gay hate groups - chose to depict the email as an assault on Christianity, interviewing several employees of FRC who, not surprisingly, condemned the email:
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told Fox News he was disturbed by the contents of the email.
"It's very disturbing to see where the Obama Administration is taking the military and using it as a laboratory for social experimentation -- and also as an instrument to fundamentally change the culture," he said. "The message is very clear - if you are a Christian who believes in the Bible, who believes in transcendent truth, there is no place for you in the military."