Spreading lies

December 28, 2010
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center on MSNBC.

At first glance, it seems hyperbolic for the Southern Poverty Law Center to add the Family Research Council and other anti-gay-rights organizations to the list of hate groups it monitors. The label "hate group" evokes the disquieting fringe of virulent bigotry, not highly visible advocacy groups with large constituencies.

But not all hate comes from the fringe. And according to the SPLC—a top authority on hate groups—the term doesn't necessarily imply violence or illegal activity. Instead, the SPLC defines hate groups as those with "beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics."

Do the FRC and the other antigay groups qualify? The SPLC makes a persuasive case that they do. An article in Intelligence Report, the organization's magazine, details how these groups trade in "demonizing propaganda" characterized by widely discredited junk science and "repeated, groundless name-calling." The FRC quickly responded by placing an ad—in the form of an open letter signed by more than two dozen top Republicans—accusing the SPLC of "trying to shut down informed discussion of policy issues."

The SPLC stresses that its objection to these groups is not that they view homosexuality as unbiblical and sinful. Nor is the SPLC opposed to informed discussion of public policy—quite the opposite. The problem is that these groups deliberately spread misinformation.

The Family Research Council has repeatedly argued that gay men are more likely than others to molest children. Bryan Fischer of the American Family Associa­tion has said that Hitler was gay and that homosexuality caused the Holo­caust. To call such claims misinformed is being generous—they have been repeatedly and roundly debunked. Disseminating these claims doesn't promote discussion; it promotes prejudice and hatred.

Neither the Family Research Council nor the American Family Association condones criminal behavior. But by spreading falsehoods and propaganda, such groups lend ideas and credibility to more extremist elements. We live in a time when gays and lesbians are more likely to be victims of a violent hate crime than any other group—more than twice as likely as African Americans. The SPLC has worked tirelessly against hate crimes ever since the term was virtually synonymous with "crimes targeting black people." It makes sense that the SPLC is now targeting hate crimes against gays.

The SPLC has been clear and consistent as to what it means by hate group. Applying the term to high-profile antigay organizations isn't just politics. It's asserting that facts matter, that words have consequences and that hate is hate—regardless of how many people support it.


Overall, the article was good BUT....

I can agree that we live in a time when gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities are more likely to be victims of hate crimes. What I find problematic is continual comparison GLBTQ issues and struggles to that of African-Americans as if it somehow adds legitimacy to the eradication of hate crimes against gays and lesbians. One should want to eradicate hate crimes against anyone simply because it is the right thing to do.
When this false comparison is made, you run risk of alienating potential allies in the African American community.

The comparison is honest

How can we fight any civil rights battle without reference to THE greatest civil rights battle of our times?

White supremacy, while still an issue has been moderated.

Heterosexual supremacy on the other hand is raging to the extent that popular votes in many states support it.

No issue stands in a vacuum, I would rather risk alienating potential allies than be dishonest, or blind to history. The African-American civil rights battle is the text book example, the greatest and most important of our times, it is the blueprint, the prototype, the example.

Hte crimes

All crimes are hateful. we don'tneed to single out crimes against any class of people. All victems are created equal. All motives for crime are equally heinous.

SPLC on FRC--YES, FRC IS a Hate Group

I wrote a blog post about this a few weeks back. I was so disturbed that a Christian group had once again earned this designation. They DO NOT speak for me. Here are the ten lies they tell and my responses. I am a straight Evangelical Christian and have worked in advocacy for GLBT Christians. We, the church , are REALLY messing up here.
The Ten Lies about the GLBT Community from Conservative Hate Groups: A Christian Perspective

Thank you

Thank you to "The Christian Century" for this article and SPLC for the antigay hate groups list. Statements such as these from highly respected organizations is exactly what is needed in the public discussion.
I know first hand the destruction and pain caused by people who have bigoted beliefs against people who are GLBT and were allowed to bring those beliefs into the work place as their religious right.

Thanks and Amen!

As a many year supporter of the SPLC and a many year subscriber to CC, what a joy to see this month's editorial!

Letter from Jim Carstensen

As a subscriber to the Christian Cen­tury and a donor to the Southern Poverty Law Center I want to thank you for the editorial “Spreading lies” (Jan. 11). A democracy such as the U.S. is dependent upon an educated electorate, just as our courts are dependent upon educated juries.

When opinions expressed through the media are not based upon factual information, it is very easy to spread lies. When I believe a lie I am no longer edu­cated. I become prejudicial, fearful and hateful. I then take all of my prejudices into the voting booth. Lies have led America down many prejudicial and hateful roads. Consider the lies of our innocence: that we lived in a land where anyone by hard work could make it, that we had a manifest destiny, that a black person was three-fifths of a human and that homosexuals should be targeted with words that hurt or, worse yet, with physical violence.

Jim Carstensen
Raymond, Miss.

Letter from Al Milligan

Your editorial said that the Southern Poverty Law Center de­fines as hate groups those with “be­liefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” But by the SPLC’s definition, doesn’t that make all religious faiths hate groups, if not for their practices at least for their beliefs?  If I say, for example, that “no one comes to the Father but by the Son,” am I not attacking—based on their “immutable characteristics”—all who don’t hold that belief? Doesn’t the SPLC  fall under the category of a hate group, because it is attacking the “im­mutable characteristics” of those who believe, for instance, that the purpose of marriage is procreation? The saying is still true that in order to point a finger at others you have to be pointing three back at yourself.

Al Milligan
Minburn, Iowa

The editors reply

Being gay, like being black or being a woman, is immutable. Holding certain beliefs—whether about Christianity, sexuality or anything else—is not. Seeking to identify and reduce hate speech and hate crimes does not in any way preclude a robust discussion of religious claims or of homosexuality. It does preclude making demonizing generalizations about a category of people—and it precludes using misinformation to spread such views. As our editorial and the SPLC statement made clear, the focus of the complaint is not the convictions that people hold. It’s the fact that some of them malign and spread falsehoods about a whole group of people—in this case, gays and lesbians.

Letter from Christopher C. Roberts

In replying to a reader’s letter (Feb. 22) about the editorial on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s recent report on hate speech (Jan. 11), the Century editors write, “Being gay, like being black or being a woman, is immutable.”

I object to the premise that sexual preference is fixed and static. “Gay” is not an ontological category. Whether or not it is “immutable” is open to debate by reasonable people. Whether you are a traditionalist reading the ancient and medieval Christian ascetics or a contemporary progressive LGBT theorist reading Foucault, many intelligent people of good will would argue that sex and sexual preferences are plastic.

Traditionalists will find that encouraging, since it means that repentance and change are possible, even if difficult and often mysterious. Progressives might also find that encouraging, since it means that some degree of choice and self-liberation are possible. For both traditionalists and progressives, sexuality’s malleability and contingency are also causes for concern, as all Christians want to be alert to the worldly powers and principalities that might be subtly shaping our sexual imaginations and aspirations. Either way, sexuality is not obviously “immutable.”

Christopher C. Roberts
Philadelphia, Pa.


There is no proof that being homosexual is like being a woman or black or any such trait. Now you are the ones being dihonest and I would say, spreading lies.

Yes, immutable.

Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, reportedly said "99.9 percent" of the ex-gay ministry's clientele remain incapable of altering their sexual orientations, according to an NPR report in July 2012.

We may not know whether sexual orientation exists at birth, but when the most prominent organization telling gays and lesbians to resist the temptation of same-sex attraction acknowledges that those attractions will, in all likelihood, remain unchanged for the rest of their lives, we have to minister to "gay Christians"—not "Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction"—whether that means they can morally act on those attractions or not. To continue treating homosexuality like alcoholism neglects the complexities of human sexuality and identity.