Fox News' Todd Starnes accused a Georgia elementary school of "confiscating" Christmas cards in an effort to stifle religious expression, prompting outrage from residents and threats of corrective legislation from Georgia lawmakers. But according to the school district, Starnes' allegations are completely false.
In a story posted on his Fox News Radio show titled "Georgia School Confiscates Christmas Cards," Starnes cited the husband of one teacher at the school who claimed many teachers were "disgruntled by the school's decision to confiscate the Christmas cards." Starnes asserted that the Bulloch County Board of Education "cracked down" on the Christmas card display, as well as many other acts of "religious expression in their schools" :
Teachers have been ordered to remove any religious icons or items from their classrooms - ranging from Bibles to Christian music.
Teachers have also been instructed to avoid student-led prayers at all costs. Should they be in a room where students are praying, teachers have been ordered to turn their backs on their students.
Hundreds of outraged residents have joined a Facebook page to protest the crackdown - and many are vowing to attend a school board meeting on Thursday to let school officials have a piece of their mind.
The Board of Education released a statement late Tuesday denying the moving of the Christmas cards had anything to do with the "current open and ongoing discussions that the school system is having with local citizens about religious liberties and expression."
"We don't want this misinformation to derail the positive work we are committed to with our community leaders," Supt. Charles Wilson said in a prepared statement. "I'm appalled by this attack on our school system, and on Brooklet Elementary."
After Starnes' article, right wing media outlets picked up his story adding to outrage in the community. Town Hall reprinted Starnes' article and The Blaze reported that according to Fox News, "administrators reportedly asked teachers to move a group of hallway Christmas cards out of the view of students." Starnes' report even led one Georgia state senator, Judson Hill (R), to denounce the Bulloch County Board of Education and threaten to "explore possible legislation, if needed, to protect religious freedom of GA taxpayers":
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 anchor Martha MacCallum suggested that voters are less likely to blame Republicans for the government shutdown than they did during the mid-90s shutdown because they're watching Fox News.
During an appearance on Fox News Radio, MacCallum, who co-hosts America's Newsroom, referenced comments from colleague Brit Hume to remark that during previous shutdowns, "you didn't have a lot of things." She added, "Fox News Channel was just beginning. People are very -- it's a different world in terms of what people understand about what's going on. In those days, it was much easier to pin the problems in this on the Republicans ... I'm not sure that they're going to punish the Republicans to the extent that they did last time around. I think they get it, and I think that they're very divided on it."
MacCallum's remarks from the October 9 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
MACCALLUM: I thought it was very interesting what Brit Hume said yesterday on our show, and that was that, you know, seventeen years ago, the last time we went through this, you didn't have a lot of things. You know, you didn't have -- you know, Fox News Channel was just beginning. People are very -- it's a different world in terms of what people understand about what's going on. In those days, it was much easier to pin the problems in this on the Republicans. I think that people are very tuned in to this issue and we know that. Because we know they're watching, we know they care about it, and I think that, I'm not sure that they're going to punish the Republicans to the extent that they did last time around. I think they get it, and I think that they're very divided on it.
Members of the media, especially Fox News, have undertaken a campaign of false equivalency by assigning blame to both Republicans and President Obama on the government shutdown. But congressional experts have noted that the Republicans' extreme positions have led to the current government shutdown.
Fox News has reported on a number of alleged cases of Christian persecution in the military, relying heavily on the claims of a San Antonio pastor with a history of peddling misinformation about efforts to protect LGBT people.
On September 30, Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes published an article warning that the Air Force is "punishing evangelical Christians" - a right-wing myth he's been peddling unsuccessfully for months.
His article relied largely on statements made by Steve Branson, pastor of Village Parkway Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas. According to Branson, persecution of Christian service members is on the rise thanks to the growing acceptance of gays and lesbians in the military:
"There is an atmosphere of intimidation at Lackland Air Force Base," said Steve Branson, the pastor of Village Parkway Baptist Church in San Antonio. "Gay commanders and officers are pushing their agenda on the airmen. There is a culture of fear in the military and it's gone to a new level with the issue of homosexuality."
"The religious persecution is happening," the pastor said. "It's getting bigger every day. Gay and lesbian airmen can talk about their lifestyle, but the rest have to stay completely quiet about what they believe."
Starnes primarily relied on the case of Air Force Sgt. Phillip Monk, who baselessly claims he was reprimanded for opposing marriage equality despite repeated denials by the Air Force, to support this conspiracy theory.
Aside from Monk's story, Starnes' only evidence of a military-wide anti-Christian conspiracy is what Branson claimed to have been told at a private meeting with "at least 80 airmen" at his church:
Branson tells me at least 80 airmen attended a private meeting at the church where he heard them voice their concerns about religious hostilities at the Air Force base. It was a standing-room only crowd.
"They're getting mirandized several times a month - but most of the accusations never stick," Branson tells me. "Branson said he's getting email and letters from military personnel across the country - telling him their stories of religious persecution - and asking for help.
From the September 19 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
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Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes repeated the discredited myth that the post-Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) military is persecuting Christians, citing the case of an anti-gay airman who castigated his Air Force superiors to the media as evidence.
In a September 6 column for FoxNews.com, Starnes reported that Sgt. Phillip Monk "is now facing a formal investigation" after inaccurately telling Starnes last month that he was relieved of his duties because he told his openly lesbian commander that he opposed same-sex marriage.
Officials at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio said that Monk and his commander had simply "agreed to disagree," adding "the wing commander said there was no punishment" for Monk's comments. Base officials stated that Monk was relieved of his duties because he was at the end of his assignment - not because of his views on LGBT issues. That didn't stop Monk from blasting the Air Force in his August interview with Starnes:
"I was relieved of my position because I don't agree with my commander's position on gay marriage," Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk told Fox News. "We've been told that if you publicly say that homosexuality is wrong, you are in violation of Air Force policy."
"I was essentially fired for not validating my commander's position on having an opinion about homosexual marriage," he said.
Monk said he is brokenhearted over the way the military has treated him.
"The narrative is that you cannot say anything that contradicts Air Force policy."
He said in essence, Christians are trading places with homosexuals.
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes continued his network's ongoing campaign against a proposed non-discrimination ordinance in San Antonio, relying on a notoriously dishonest anti-LGBT activist to peddle blatant falsehoods about the measure.
On September 5, the San Antonio City Council is expected to vote on a bill that would expand the city's non-discrimination protections to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The measure would:
Right-wing media outlets have spent weeks smearing the measure as an assault on religious liberty and a case of "reverse discrimination." In a September 5 article for Fox News Radio, reporter Todd Starnes peddled a number of blatant, outright falsehoods about the measure, citing Mat Staver, president of the notoriously anti-LGBT group Liberty Counsel.
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes blasted "militant homosexuals" for opposing businesses that discriminate against gay customers, baselessly attacking anti-discrimination laws as assaults on First Amendment rights.
Willamette Week, an alternative weekly based in Portland, Oregon, reported on September 1 that Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a local bakery that came under fire in February for refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, closed its storefront and will instead operate out of an "in home bakery." The move comes after the couple at the center of the controversy filed a complaint against the bakery for violating the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, which prohibits discrimination against LGBT individuals in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
Starnes did not take kindly to the news. In a September 3 column for FoxNews.com, Starnes condemned the "vicious boycott by militant homosexual activists" for "forc[ing]" the business to close its storefront. Even as the bakery owners decried the "sin" of homosexuality and lamented the "LGBT attacks" against their discriminatory business practices, Starnes uncritically noted their assertion that they have "nothing against homosexuals." Starnes then argued that businesses should be allowed to discriminate against gay people, as "God's law" should trump "man's law":
[Co-owner Aaron] Klein tells me he has nothing against homosexuals -- but because of their religious faith, the family simply cannot take part in gay wedding events.
"I believe marriage is between a man and a woman," he said. "I don't want to help somebody celebrate a commitment to a lifetime of sin."
Commissioner Brad Avakian told The Oregonian that he was committed to a fair and thorough investigation to determine whether the bakery discriminated against the lesbians.
"Everybody is entitled to their own beliefs, but that doesn't mean that folks have the right to discriminate," he told the newspaper. "The goal is to rehabilitate. For those who do violate the law, we want them to learn from that experience and have a good, successful business in Oregon."
In other words, Christians who live and work in Oregon must follow man's law instead of God's law. But in a show of benevolence, the state is willing to rehabilitate and reeducate Christian business owners like the Kleins.
Klein said it's becoming clear that Christians do not have the "right to believe what we believe."
In other words, gay rights trump religious rights.
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes suggested President Obama might be secretly gay following statements the president made in support of gay Olympians competing in the 2014 Winter Games.
On August 9, President Obama stated his opposition to Russia's strict anti-gay laws, which could threaten openly gay Olympians and visitors during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. At a press conference, Obama said "nobody's more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and -lesbian legislation that we've been seeing in Russia."
Fox News Radio reporter mocked President Obama for statements he made in support of gay Olympians who might be targeted by Russia's strict anti-gay laws during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
During an August 9 press conference, Obama stated his opposition to Russia's anti-gay laws - including a measure that would criminalize "homosexual propaganda" - saying "nobody's more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and -lesbian legislation that we've been seeing in Russia."
Starnes took to Twitter to mock the president's comments, accusing Obama of discriminating against heterosexual athletes:
He also advanced the bogus right-wing talking point that Obama was prioritizing gay rights over other foreign policy considerations:
Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes, one of the most prominent homophobes in right-wing media, will now also enjoy a platform at The Daily Caller, where he has just been hired as a weekly columnist:
If history is any guide, Starnes will also provide Daily Caller readers with a steady stream of anti-LGBT commentary.
From the August 7 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
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"Ludicrous." That's how San Antonio City Councilman Diego Bernal described the effort by right-wing media outlets - including Fox News - to smear a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance aimed at combating bias against LGBT people.
On July 23, the right-wing website OneNewsNow published an article criticizing an effort by the San Antonio City Council to update its non-discrimination policy to include discrimination against LGBT people.
The updated policy would prohibit the city government and its contractors or vendors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation in employment. In addition, it would also prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in housing and places of public accommodation. It would also allow City Council members to consider a person's history of anti-LGBT bias when making appointments to boards and commissions, stating:
No person shall be appointed to a position if the City Council finds that such person has, prior to such proposed appointment, engaged in discrimination or demonstrated a bias, by word or deed, against any person, group or organization on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age, or disability.
That provision drew the ire of conservatives, who claimed that the ordinance was an attempt to limit Christians' freedom of speech.
Before long, several right-wing media outlets picked up on the controversy, with each new iteration of the story presenting even wilder claims about the ordinance's supposed threat to religious liberty.
Right-wing media outlets have smeared a proposed measure in San Antonio to expand the city's non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity, falsely claiming that the revised measure would limit free speech and religious liberty.
Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes is outraged that a Manhattan barbecue joint will no longer rent space to an anti-gay church and vows to boycott the popular restaurant. Starnes' strong condemnation of a private business's actions contrasts sharply with his spirited defense of Chick-fil-A, which faced boycotts over anti-gay statements last summer.
In a July 24 post for FoxNews.com and in a series of tweets on July 25, Starnes denounced Hill Country Barbecue for its decision to stop allowing The Gallery Church to conduct services in the restaurant. Hill Country Barbecue's action followed mounting pressure in the neighborhood for the restaurant to stop renting space to the church after Pastor Freddy Wyatt gave a sermon series on same-sex attraction.
Starnes blasted Hill Country Barbecue's decision as "[a]nti-Christian," vowing that he'd never set foot in the restaurant again: