Today at noon, a group of the nastiest gay-bashers in America plans to hold a press conference in front of the Montgomery, Ala., offices of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which publishes this blog. Claiming that the SPLC is engaged in a “campaign to demonize adherents of traditional Judeo-Christian morality,” the white organizers of the press conference are bringing along a set of black pastors in a presumed bid to embarrass the SPLC, a 40-year-old anti-racist civil rights organization.
The irony is that SPLC has named five of the participating organizations as hate groups precisely because they demonize LGBT people, using a series of well-worn lies to paint gays and lesbians as perverts, pedophiles and worse. Despite the claims of the groups, the SPLC is not attacking anyone’s morality. Instead, our hate group listings reflect the fact that they regularly propagate known falsehoods.
Take the press conference’s chief organizer, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH), and its leader, Peter LaBarbera. In 2007, LaBarbera claimed that there was “a disproportionate incidence of pedophilia” among gay men — a devastating accusation, but one that is entirely false, according to all the relevant scientific organizations. LaBarbera has compared the alleged dangers of homosexuality to those of “smoking, alcohol and drug abuse” and the AFTAH website describes it as a “lethal behavior addiction.” AFTAH has also claimed that an anti-bullying bill in California promoted cross-dressing and sex-change operations, among other things, to kindergartners and other children.
Here are some facts about the other organizations participating in today’s press conference that are listed by SPLC as hate groups:
Abiding Truth Ministries: Represented today by Rachel Conner, this group is headed by Scott Lively, who is the originator of the most remarkable smears of gay people of all — the completely false claims that Hitler was gay, that “the Nazi Party was entirely controlled by militaristic homosexuals,” and that gays were especially selected for the SS because of their innate brutality. Meeting with Ugandan lawmakers who would later push the so-called “Kill the Gays” bill in that country, Lively told them that the gay rights movement is “an evil institution” that seeks to replace a healthy society with “a culture of sexual promiscuity.” Before starting Abiding Truth, Lively headed a failed effort to pass an Oregon referendum that would have listed homosexuality, along with pedophilia, as “abnormal behavior.”
Illinois Family Institute (IFI): The IFI’s Laurie Higgins will not be at the press conference, but plans to issue a statement of support. In 2006, IFI’s then executive director Peter LaBarbera — now with AFTAH — demanded the closing down of all “homosexual establishments” and the repeal of all “sexual orientation laws,” shorthand for statutes that ban discrimination against gay people. When another religious right organization, Focus on the Family, toned down some of its anti-gay rhetoric in 2010, Higgins wrote that it was displaying “surprising naivete,” using the same language as pro-gay “homosexualists” and failing to confront “the pro-homosexual juggernaut.” She also attacked McDonald’s for running a gay-friendly TV ad, saying it was “hell bent on using its resources to promote subversive moral, social, and political views about homosexuality to our children.”
Mass Resistance: Mass Resistance leader Brian Camenker has claimed that groups that back anti-bullying school programs actually want to lure children into homosexuality and, very possibly, sadomasochism. In 2006, he said that gay people were trying to pass legislation that would allow sex with animals. Camenker has falsely claimed that no gay people died in the Holocaust and that the pink triangle that the Nazis forced imprisoned gay people to wear actually signified Catholic priests. He has also repeatedly linked homosexuality and pedophilia despite the falsity of that claim. In 2008, he claimed without any evidence that “skyrocketing homosexual domestic violence” since same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts had cost that state increasingly large sums of money.
Other groups participating in the press conference but not listed by SPLC as hate groups include Liberty Counsel, whose director of cultural affairs, Matt Barber, is scheduled to speak. Barber has argued that it would be “criminally reckless for educators to teach children that homosexual conduct is a normal, safe and perfectly acceptable alternative.” Linda Harvey of Mission America is also scheduled to issue a supporting statement. Harvey has argued that employers should not hire gay people and that parents should keep their kids away from gay doctors.
Many of these groups were involved in another effort to push back the SPLC’s 2010 decision to list a number of anti-gay organizations as hate groups. Some signed a full-page newspaper advertisement late that year accusing the SPLC of “maligning” Christians and refusing to debate the issues surrounding homosexuality. The truth, of course, is entirely different. In fact, it is the anti-gay groups that have refused to withdraw false claims about LGBT people that have no other purpose than to smear them.