Thursday, April 25, 2013

Protesting the American Family Association

Carla Hale (Photo Credit: Brooke LaValley, Columbus Dispatch)
Joining the ranks of the recently unemployed is Carla Hale. She was fired from Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus, Ohio after 19 years for the crime of listing her lesbian partner as one of the survivors in an obituary for her mother.

The American Family Radio's Bryan Fischer is proud of the school district for taking this action. He believes it's time to "reclaim the D-word" - discrimination. 

“They were absolutely right to do it…. It is right to discriminate against people who engage in aberrant sexual behavior, we should discriminate against people like that.”

He compared this form of discrimination to the way we discriminate against shoplifters, as though listing your life partner in an obituary for your mother was criminal.

Fischer has a long history of bigotry against the gay community, which is why a small group of us recently protested the American Family Association. On April 19, 2013, we gathered outside the AFA headquarters in downtown Tupelo, Mississippi. 
AFA Protest on April 19, 2013.

One of our members informed the general manager that we were there to protest Bryan Fischer's inflammatory and often inaccurate remarks about gay people. Specially mentioned was the discredited research that Fischer uses to give weight to his claims.

One part of that discredited research is the so-called "ex-gay" movement, led by Evangelicals who believe homosexuality can be cured. One of those leaders was John Paulk, the former chairman of Exodus International, who has just released a statement apologizing for his misguided efforts to "cure" gay people.

Paulk says:

"For the better of ten years, I was an advocate and spokesman for what’s known as the 'ex-gay movement' where we declared that sexual orientation could be changed through a close-knit relationship with God, intensive therapy and strong determination. At the time, I truly believed that it would happen. And while many things in my life did change as a Christian, my sexual orientation did not. Today, I do not consider myself 'ex-gay,' and I no longer support or promote the movement. Please allow me to be clear: I do not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to many people."

The whole point of our protest was exactly this: Anti-gay bigotry "does great harm to many people."

I asked the general manager why, if he was so concerned about the family and the moral fabric of society, they didn't target fornicators and adulterers, and murders and thieves on their radio programs. I received little more than an embarrassed smile.

If gay people are fair game because of what the AFA considers sinful sexual behavior, why not target fornicators, couples living in sin, adulterers? Fornication and adultery are clearly sinful, according to the scriptures that the AFA claims to follow.

If Bryan Fischer is allowed to rejoice that an older lesbian woman was fired from her job for listing her partner in the obituary for her mother, why not "out" known adulterous teachers and have them fired? What sort of moral example are they setting for school children?

Why is it okay to target one group of "sinners" and not others? Why the hypocrisy?

Consider the following:

The AFA was listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for its "propagation of known falsehoods and demonizing propaganda."
  • The SPLC says: "For years, until 2010, the AFA had a section on its website that supposedly exposed 'The Homosexual Agenda.' There, a reader could find articles and other AFA publications that claimed LGBT people were trying to force the acceptance of homosexuality on children through sex education programs in schools; condemned companies like Disney for supporting LGBT rights and programming; and, also until 2010, featured a particularly noxious booklet the AFA had published in 1994. That booklet, Homosexuality in America: Exposing the Myths, included the bogus research of thoroughly discredited psychologist Paul Cameron as a source. One of the publication’s authors, Richard Howe, used Cameron’s 'research' to claim that LGBT people don’t live as long as heterosexuals, that they’re more promiscuous and that the 'disgusting details of the homosexual lifestyle explain why so many diseases are present in the homosexual community.' Another claim was that '[p]rominent homosexual leaders and publications have voiced support for pedophilia, incest, sadomasochism, and even bestiality.'"
Previous statements by Bryan Fischer and the AFA:
  • “Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.” — Bryan Fischer, AFA director of issue analysis for government and public policy, 2010
  • "Now the Bush Administration is opening its arms to homosexual activists who have been working diligently to overthrow the traditional views of Western Civilization regarding human sexuality, marriage and family… AFA would never support the policies of a political party which embraced the homosexual movement. Period."— Don Wildmon, AFA Press Release, April 16, 2001
  • "Over the years, AFA has consistently addressed the homosexual movement's obsession with infiltrating the public school system. Its eye-opening video 'It's Not Gay', which presents a heartbreaking look at the physical and emotional consequences of the homosexual lifestyle, has been the most popular video ever produced by AFA." ("Homosexuals push for control of schools," May 2001)
  • "Nothing disappointed the [American Family Association] more than Disney's enthusiastic embrace of [the homosexual] movement that rejects everything that is sacred to Christians about human sexuality, marriage and family." ("Why the Disney Boycott Shouldn't Go Away," April 2001)
  • "Under homosexual activists' political agenda, our children would face a future in which traditional marriage and families have been legally devalued, while state government— despite the severe threat it poses to personal and public health— not only legally endorses but uses our tax dollars to subsidize deadly homosexual behavior."— Gary Glenn, Director of AFA Michigan (Press Release, February 17, 2001)
Wikipedia says:
  • "In May 2010, Bryan Fischer, the AFA's director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy, wrote a blog post on the AFA website detailing purported allegations that Adolf Hitler was a homosexual, and concluded by claiming that the Holocaust (which actually included gay victims of Nazi persecution) was caused by homosexuals in the Nazi German military: "Nazi Germany became the horror that it was because it rejected both Christianity and its clear teaching about human sexuality. These are mistakes no sane culture should ever make again."
  • "In August, 2012, AFA Director of Issue Analysis Bryan Fischer compared the children of gay parents to slaves, tweeting that "we need an Underground Railroad to deliver innocent children from same-sex households".
  • "The Southern Poverty Law Center, through its Teaching Tolerance program, had encouraged schools across the U.S. to hold a "Mix It Up" day in order to encourage children in schools to break up the cliques that tend to dominate children's school lives and to prevent bullying. The program, started 11 years ago, has been held in more than 2,500 schools. But in the autumn of 2012, the AFA falsely branded the project "a nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools," even though the program makes no mention of homosexuality, and urged parents to keep their children home from school on October 30, 2012, and to call their children's schools to protest the event. "I was surprised that they completely lied about what Mix It Up Day is," Maureen Costello, the director of the center's Teaching Tolerance project, which organizes the program, told The New York Times. "It was a cycnical, fear-mongering tactic." Severson, Kim (2012-10-14). "Seeing a Homosexual Agenda, Christian Group Protests an Anti-Bullying Program". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
  • "Former AFA California leader Scott Lively is a co-author of The Pink Swastika, which claims that many leaders in the Nazi regime, including Adolf Hitler himself, were homosexual, which drew criticism from historians. He has since co-founded Watchmen on the Walls.
  • "Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), in a 2005 report, stated that the AFA, along with other groups, engaged in hate speech to "help drive the religious right's anti-gay crusade." Mark Potok of the SPLC determined that the turning point was 2003's Lawrence v. Texas, in which the Supreme Court struck down Texas's anti-sodomy laws. After that, the Christian right spent millions on advertisements, and on pastor briefings organized by activists such as born-again Christian David Lane. Lane helped AFA put constitutional opposite-sex marriage amendments on the ballots of 13 states.
  • "In November 2010, the SPLC changed their listing of AFA from a group that used hate speech to the more serious one of being designated a hate group. Potok said that the AFA's "propagation of known falsehoods and demonizing propaganda" was the basis for the change." 
I've listened to Bryan Fischer on the radio myself. One day he stated that there was absolutely no scientific evidence whatsoever to suggest that homosexuality was anything but a choice. He was quite clear: There is absolutely no scientific, genetic, medical or biological evidence to suggest that homosexuality is anything but a choice. Therefore, because it's a "choice" and not a matter of genes and biology, it is perfectly okay to discriminate against homosexuals just as we would discriminate against drug addicts or murderers who make the choice to take drugs or murder other people.

This is astonishing ignorance. Contrary to Fischer's claims, there are mountains of evidence to suggest that homosexuality is NOT a choice. There are millions of gay people Fischer might have spoke to who would tell him quite convincingly that no one makes a choice to be gay. And there are numerous studies and copious amounts of research in all sorts of fields suggesting that homosexuality is a natural condition that occurs quite consistently in a small percentage of any population, anywhere in the world, at all times throughout human history.

How can someone go on the radio and make such blatantly false statements? Has Fischer never heard of "Thou shalt not bear false witness"?

The general manager of the AFA was quick to point they take no responsibility for Fischer's statements. He reminded us that they run a disclaimer at the end of his radio program stating that the AFA is not responsible for the content of Fischer's program.

While they may not take responsibility for his statements, they seem to have no trouble using his homophobia and falsehoods to prop up ratings and earn money.

Doesn't seem very Christian to some of us.


There were only about a dozen of us at the AFA protest, which included LGBT activists, family members, and heterosexual supporters of LGBT rights.

The only media attention we received was this report by the Daily Journal, which noted:

Activist Amelie Hahn of Tupelo chose AFA as the site for the demonstration on the claim that the organization is one of the biggest bullies toward the gay community.
“AFA is a religious organization and that’s fine, but they shouldn’t be able to discriminate,” she said.

She accused AFA of using debunked studies and falsified reports to back up its claims against homosexuals. Among them are claims that same-sex parenting is a detriment to children and the Nazi war machine of Adolph Hitler was made up of gay officers.

“More than anything I hope we can impact the listeners of AFA’s programs and encourage them to check the facts, not just take in what they hear,” she said. “Because these people say they are Christian, listeners can’t believe they would lie.”

Like other protesters that day, I expressed the idea that the AFA has every right to its spiritual beliefs concerning homosexuality. I told them as much that day. This is not, and has never been, in dispute. If they believe the Bible speaks against homosexuality, they are completely free to hold that belief. No one is suggesting they abandon their beliefs. What we are suggesting is they get the facts straight and stop knowingly and willingly misleading their listeners with myth and misinformation.

We are suggesting they stop using discredited research and needlessly inflammatory statements, such as comparing homosexuality to shoplifting, or suggesting that the children of gay couples should be kidnapped and spirited away to "save" them. It was for these sorts of statements that the AFA was classified as a hate group. It is these sort of statements we will continue to protest until the AFA gets the message.

And we will protest the AFA again. Next time, I hope many more people show up to tell the AFA that their bigotry and falsehoods are disgraceful and will not go unchallenged. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Long live Boo Boo the Magnificent

Boo Boo and Baby Puppy.
Boo Boo is the household cat, a fine white specimen with orange spots like the one on his nose. He arrived at our door quite young and was soon joined by Squirt, a feisty brown-haired puppy who was also quite young.

These events occurred over Christmastime. My niece got them as pets for her two-year-old daughter, who loved on them a great deal, you can be sure.

They were housed on the back porch in a single dwelling furnished with ample blankets and soft toys to chew on. Kitten and puppy spent many cold nights huddling together in their house as winter gave way grudgingly to spring.

They are protected from the other family dogs by a fence. They are small enough to sneak under the fence and explore, but the other dogs are too big to do so.

It was a joy to watch them play together as they both grew in size. They seemed quite evenly matched. When Squirt became too aggressive and feisty  his pal Boo Boo jumped up on a chair or the play slide to escape, leaving Squirt quite frustrated by his short legs. Boo Boo had tricks up his sleeve that did not require brute strength.

While Squirt soon discovered the hole under the fence and made peace with the other dogs, Boo Boo wisely remained inside the fence. One of the other dogs, Scotty, would be happy to eat him alive, and Boo Boo knows it.

Recently Squirt went on an unfortunate escapade to a neighbor's house. He apparently got into some poison set out for mice and rats. He came home throwing up something awful, and died very soon afterward, leaving his friend Boo Boo alone in the backyard.

On the day Squirt was buried, the gate to the backyard fence was left open and Scotty rambled through it, making a beeline for Boo Boo, who promptly ran up a tree and remained there until we could persuade Scotty to move along.


These events reminded me quite powerfully that bigotry is a learned behavior. Boo Boo and Squirt were as different as two friends could hope to be. Yet, raised together as they were, they saw each other as friends and they enjoyed their friendship. They ate together, played together, slept together, seemingly unaware that one was a dog and the other was a cat. According to the "natural order of things," they should have been enemies. They should have hated each other. But they did not see themselves in that light.

Even after Squirt made the acquaintance of Scotty and the others, he returned to his home on the back porch with Boo Boo and they carried on just the same, their friendship undisturbed by whatever Squirt might have learned at the paws of his elders.

While I was busy anthropomorphising the pets, an opportunity came along to test my conclusions.

Not quite knowing what to tell her two-year-old daughter about the demise of Squirt, my niece promptly got another puppy and put him under Boo Boo's care in the backyard.

Boo Boo is an old hand now at raising puppies, and he has taken to Baby Puppy quite naturally. Baby Puppy has learned that the large white creature stalking around the back porch is friendly and will not hurt him, and so this particular circle of life will go on.

The old fellows on the other side of the fence stare through its chain links disapprovingly, of course. Perhaps they are concerned about the welfare of Baby Puppy being raised in such an unnatural state. Perhaps they are biding their time and waiting for an opportunity to teach Boo Boo a thing or two about How Things Are. Or perhaps they're just bored and have nothing better to do.

No matter.

What they don't understand is that a force larger than themselves in is in control of the situation. Human hands put up that fence that separates them. Human hands feed all of them, without fear or favor. Human hands watch out for those times when the gate is left open, ready to intervene if things get out of hand. They have their own ways of doing things, but there is a greater intelligence out there that sees far more than they do, an intelligence that watches out for the Boo Boos of the world, an intelligence that has its own opinions on How Things Are.

Long live Boo Boo the Magnificent.

You will not find a finer cat in these parts.

And may Squirt rest in peace.