10/2011

The Anti-Gay Lobby: The Family Research Council, the American Family Association & the Demonization of LGBT People

Together, the Family Research Council (FRC) and the American Family Association (AFA) may comprise the most important anti-gay lobby in this country. Since 2006, the FRC has hosted the Values Voter Summit, an annual conference for social conservatives that attracts numerous public figures — and whose latest edition opens today in the nation’s capital. Equipped with a $12 million budget and led by a former Louisiana state representative, the FRC is politically powerful, with its spokesmen appearing regularly in the national media and many friends on Capitol Hill. The AFA, a sponsor of the FRC’s Values Voter Summit, has a $20 million budget and a network of about 200 radio stations, is regularly quoted in the press, and has worked to organize grassroots Christians to lobby for its goals. 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.

Words have consequences. While the FRC and the AFA would certainly deny it, it seems obvious that their regular demonizing of members of the LGBT community as child molesters and the like creates an atmosphere where violence is all but inevitable. And that violence is dramatic. A study by the Southern Poverty Law Center found, based on an analysis of 14 years of FBI hate crime data, that LGBT people were by far the American minority most victimized by such crimes. They were more than twice as likely to be attacked in a violent hate crime as Jews or black people and more than four times as likely as Muslims. And that doesn’t include the anti-gay bullying that has resulted in so many teen suicides.

Based on the foregoing and other evidence, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) last year began listing the FRC and the AFA as hate groups. The listings, as was said at the time, were based on the groups’ use of known falsehoods to attack and demonize members of the LGBT community — not, as some have gratuitously claimed, because the groups are Christian, or because they oppose same-sex marriage, or because they believe the Bible describes homosexuality as a sin.

Many thoughtful Christian commentators have said as much. Warren Throckmorton, a respected professor and past president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association, wrote last December that “the newly labeled hate groups” were seeking to “avoid addressing the issues the SPLC raised, instead preferring to attack the credibility of the SPLC.” Reviewing an SPLC list of myths propagated by anti-gay religious-right groups, he said many are “provably false” and “rooted in ignorance.”

The SPLC’s criticisms, Throckmorton concluded, are “legitimate and have damaged the credibility of the groups on the list. Going forward, I hope Christians don’t rally around these groups but rather call them to accountability.”

We hope public figures will do the same.

 

About the Report

This report was researched and written by Heidi Beirich, Evelyn Schlatter and Robert Steinback, and edited by Mark Potok. It was designed by Russell Estes.