Traditional Values Coalition

Presbyterian minister Lou Sheldon founded the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) in 1980 to spread a “moral code and behavior based upon the Old and New Testaments” and to warn Americans of the rising “gay threat.” The traditional values the TVC fights for include: the right to life (opposition to abortion and euthanasia), chastity and patriotism, along with opposition to homosexuality, pornography, the teaching of evolution in public schools and illegal immigration.

Sheldon also opposes gambling, except when he doesn’t — in 2000, he helped kill the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act after the TVC received a $25,000 check from eLottery, a client of now-disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The TVC, whose president is Sheldon’s daughter, Andrea Lafferty, claims to represent over 43,000 Christian churches across the United States. Lafferty, who served in the Reagan and Bush administrations, is married to James “Jim” Lafferty, the chairman of the Coalition of Religious Freedom. The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed TVC as a hate group since 2010, based on its consistent spreading of lies about LGBT people.

In Its Own Words:

“As homosexuals continue to make inroads into public schools, more children will be molested and indoctrinated into the world of homosexuality. Many of them will die in that world.”
—Rev. Louis Sheldon, “Homosexuals Recruit Public School Children,” special report, Vol. 18, No. 11

“LGBT activists are doing a victory dance over conquering our U.S. military – but this is only a skirmish in a long battle to homosexualize our entire culture. I expect to see an effort down the road to include ‘transgenders’ in the military. That should be an interesting debate.”
—Traditional Values Coalition, press release, 2010

“Shariah law is the worst form of license for its practitioners, and the vilest sort of tyranny for shariah’s victims. The rights of conscience, as they pertain to the preservation of liberty as understood in the context of the U.S. Constitution, stand in stark contrast… .”
—Andrea Lafferty, “NRO The Shariah Court of Pennsylvania,” TVC website, 2012

“The hate crimes language passed in the House is a threat to free speech, freedom of religion, and association. Homosexuality is a behavior, not a fixed identity. It is similar to smoking or drug use, not an immutable characteristic like race or ethnicity. There are no ‘former’ Blacks, but there are ex-homosexuals. The existence of ex-homosexuals is clear evidence that homosexuality is behavior-based, not an unchangeable characteristic. It should not receive special minority rights protections in federal law.”
—Rev. Louis Sheldon, “Prohomosexual Hate Crime Legislation is Back!,” Traditional Values Coalition Report, 2005

“Americans should understand that their attitudes about homosexuality 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.”
—Rev. Louis Sheldon, “Homosexual Propaganda Campaign Based on Hitler’s ‘Big Lie’ Technique,” special report, Vol. 18, No. 10

Background:

Louis P. Sheldon founded the Traditional Values Coalition in Anaheim to focus on California politics. It was initially named the American Liberties Institute and later, the California Coalition for Traditional Values, before establishing its headquarters in Washington, D.C. Sheldon is a protégé of Christian Right televangelist Pat Robertson and already was a long-standing opponent of gay rights when he founded the TVC in 1980. Sheldon claims that homosexuality is a “deathstyle” and that child molestation is the real “homosexual agenda” — a claim that has been thoroughly debunked by all the relevant major professional and medical associations.

In 1985, Sheldon suggested forcibly rounding up AIDS victims into “cities of refuge,” like leper colonies, to protect the general population. After a hate crime bill was signed into law in the 1990s, Sheldon told a reporter that the new law would “protect sex with animals and the rape of children as forms of political expression,” which was completely false. The law did no such thing and could not legally.

In 1992, columnist Jimmy Breslin reported that Sheldon told him that “homosexuals are dangerous. They proselytize. They come to the door, and if your son answers and nobody is there to stop it, they grab the son and run off with him. They steal him. They take him away and turn him into a homosexual.” Sheldon later denied making those comments, but his website contains strikingly similar language: “[S]ince homosexuals can’t reproduce, they will simply go after your children for seduction and conversion to homosexuality.” Elsewhere, it claims that “[t]he effort to push adult/child sex … is part of the overall homosexual movement.”

Three years later, in 1995, Sheldon successfully lobbied for a congressional hearing on gay activists’ alleged infiltration of public schools in an attempt to garner support for Senator Jesse Helms’ bill to cut federal funds for public schools “encouraging or supporting homosexuality.” The hearing, however, was a disaster for Sheldon and his supporters. The hearing’s main witness was Claire Connolly, a lesbian who falsely accused gay male activists of using federal AIDS funds to host orgies.

Like her father, Andrea Lafferty, now TVC’s president, has also made a number of LGBT-bashing remarks over the years. In February 2013, Lafferty compared homosexuality to drunk driving after U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) changed his views on gay marriage when his son came out as gay. After the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June of that year, Lafferty lamented that a “great darkness” had overtaken the country. When the House of Representatives held a historic hearing on transgender discrimination in the workplace in 2008, Lafferty called it a “freak show,” and insisted transgendered individuals were “deeply disturbed individuals who need therapy not coddling and affirmation by a liberal majority in the House of Representatives.”

After Congress introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in 2013, the TVC released a slew of anti-transgender press releases attacking ENDA with allegations that the bill would force every school district to hire transgender teachers and bring “gender confusion” into schools. One such press release likened school-aged children to “human shields” who were being used in the attempt to “force the acceptance of transgenders and transsexuals into mainstream culture.” After California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the School Success and Opportunity Act, a bill that allows students to participate in activities, sports teams, programs, and locker room and restroom facilities that match their gender identities, the TVC released a memo labeling transgender children “psychologically unhealthy.”

In spite of their homophobic and very often flatly false remarks and claims, Sheldon and Lafferty have enjoyed considerable political access.  During the George W. Bush administration, Sheldon and Lafferty visited the White House a combined 69 times, meeting personally with President Bush in eight of those visits.

In June 2014, state Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam (R-N.C.) distributed a TVC flier that compared being lesbian or gay to mental disorders such as apotemnophilia (sexual arousal associated with an amputee's stump) and coprophilia (sexual arousal associated with feces). The same language was included in Scott Lively’s 2009 book Redeeming the Rainbow: A Christian Response to the “Gay Agenda.” Lively is best known for an infamous book wrongly blaming gay men for the Nazi Holocaust.

The TVC also has adopted Islamophobia in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. In 2008, Sheldon claimed “Islamists” want to destroy America and western civilization by “conquering nation after nation” and imposing Shariah religious law upon them. In 2010, Lafferty publicly opposed the planned Park51 mosque in Lower Manhattan, stating: “We cannot allow the standard for decision-making to become whether or not an action disappoints violent Muslim fanatics. We cannot give the homicide bombers a veto over the lives of free people.” Lafferty’s husband founded an anti-Muslim organization, the Virginia Anti-Shariah Law Task Force (VAST).

In 2011, the TVC started a grassroots campaign called “The Task Force to Stop Shariah Law.” It was intended to raise over $3 million to educate and mobilize Americans against Shariah law, launch a website for the campaign, train pastors and activists to confront the “Shariah threat,” and cover Lafferty’s travel expenses so that she can lobby against Shariah law across the country. In its campaign mailings, the TVC falsely claimed “Shariah Law trumps the law of any land – including our own Constitution” and that Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan “believes in Shariah Law and has actively worked to advance it the United States” because she allegedly pushed for the establishment of the “The Islamic Legal Studies Program,” funded with Saudi oil money, while she was the dean of Harvard Law School. Later in 2011, the TVC co-hosted a conference called “The Constitution of Sharia – Preserving Freedom Conference” in Nashville, Tenn., with other far-right groups.

In 2012, VAST and the TVC launched a smear campaign against the Islamic Society of North America Convention (ISNA), an important event in the American Muslim calendar. Both organizations published an article titled “ISNA Convention Offers Two Views of Islam – the Manufactured Public Persona and the Truth.” VAST and TVC have jointly tried to portray ISNA as a subversive organization on the basis of “several key briefings and meetings.” They claimed that ISNA discourages fellow Muslims from talking to the FBI. VAST and the TVC also attacked immigration lawyer Rabia Chaudry, a member of the ACLU board of directors and president of the Safe Nation Collaborative, for talking about the negative impact of the New York City Police Department’s controversial spying on the Muslim community.

That same year, Jim Lafferty pushed the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in Virginia to reject the proposed renewal of the Islamic Saudi Academy’s building lease. Lafferty said the Islamic Saudi Academy, an elite college prep school, is an “incubator for a new generation of domestic terrorists,” funded and owned by the Saudi government. (The valedictorian of the school’s 1999 class was convicted on charges of supporting Al-Qaeda in 2005. Local residents began protesting the renewal of the Islamic Saudi Academy’s building lease in 2010.) The Saudi government, according to Lafferty, has shown “no interest in cleaning up the pro-violence, anti-Semitic, and anti-Christian teaching and textbooks.”

In 2013, VAST and other “pro-freedom organizations” hosted a press conference at a Muslim cemetery in Caroline County, near Richmond, the burial site of Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. At the conference, Lafferty said Tsarnev’s burial at the cemetery was “an awful sneak attack on the people of Virginia.”

Jim Lafferty is also the executive director of the Christian Seniors Association (CSA), a front group started by the TVC as a “strong conservative Christian alternative to the ultra-left AARP,” formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons. The CSA has a longstanding history of producing fear-mongering fundraising letters, some of which resemble government documents. In 2006, for instance, the CSA mailed out fake “U.S. Taxpayer Census” forms, which included a survey about Social Security and ominous warnings about politicians who promote a far-left agenda that hurts seniors. Two years later, the CSA again sent out these bogus forms, which many seniors believed were actual government documents. In 2010, the CSA sent out a survey with a letter asking for donations to combat the AARP and Obama’s “socialist” agenda. In 2011, the CSA mailed a fundraising letter to its members alleging the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, which made sexual orientation a protected class under federal hate crime legislation, “makes the Bible illegal hate literature.” Although other religious right groups have made similar claims, or at least said the federal hate crime statute could have such an effect, the claims are universally false.

In 2014, Lafferty said Hobby Lobby’s challenge to the contraception coverage mandate in Obamacare was essential in stopping the Obama administration and Planned Parenthood’s “agenda of population control.” She claimed that that effort was part of a larger attack by “Islamic Shariah law both at home and abroad.”