Monday, January 23, 2012

On Hatred and Bigotry, Again

[Content/trigger warning: Anti-LGBT bigotry]

[Note: This article was also posted at Family Scholars Blog (FSB) and the questions I ask within it are more geared toward that audience, as opposed to regular readers of Fannie's Room who are likely feminists and supports of LGBT equality. Nonetheless, you may still find it interesting, and feel free to share your thoughts here (or at FSB, although please note that it can be an unsafe commenting space for LGBT people at times.)]

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization "dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society."

Unlike some nonprofits, especially those centered around contentious social issues, SPLC publishes its Annual Report, audited financial statements, and Form 990 (which is a nonprofit's "tax return") on its website for public viewing.

Although SPLC engages in a wide variety of progressive activist, anti-racist, and social justice work, it is particularly notorious among those who oppose equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people for its monitoring and labeling of "active anti-gay groups" on its website.

The SPLC's labeling of these organizations as "hate groups" used to be more prominently displayed and explicit on its website. This no longer seems to be the case.

However, in its Winter 2010 Intelligence Report, SPLC listed 13 groups as anti-LGBT hate groups, saying:

"Generally, the SPLC’s listings of these groups is based on their propagation of known falsehoods — claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated, groundless name-calling. Viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups."

That is, according to the SPLC, a belief that homosexuality is wrong or immoral, is not enough to warrant the "hate group" label. Nor is being a religious group that believes homosexuality is wrong enough. What the SPLC looks at, by its own definition, is a group's pattern of spreading falsehoods about LGBT people that have been discredited and engaging in "repeated, groundless name-calling."

Some of the more abhorrent examples the SPLC cites as messaging that contributes to the "hate group" label include:

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association claiming, “[h]omosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and 6 million dead Jews.”

Steven Anderson, the pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church, saying, “The biggest hypocrite in the world is the person who believes in the death penalty for murderers but not for homosexuals," claimed that "sodomites" recruit through "rape" and "molestation," and told an openly gay interviewer, “If you’re a homosexual, I hope you get brain cancer and die like Ted Kennedy.”

Several groups, including Peter LaBarbera's Americans For Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH), were included partly for the dissemination of the discredited work of Paul Cameron, who during his career has made many inflammatory and inaccurate claims about "homosexuals." (Just for some "thought food" here, because some FSB readers and bloggers might not be aware of it, in 1986 the American Sociological Association "repudiated any claims that Paul Cameron is a sociologist and condemned his misrepresentation of sociological research" (PDF). Other professional organizations make similar complaints.)

So, it was with much aggravation and disappointment that I heard of this spin:

"Black pastors join pro-family groups to condemn Southern Poverty Law Center for 'bigotry'"

This article (yes, at a conservative Christian news source) discusses a protest of the SPLC that several SPLC-labeled hate groups participated in on Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday, such as the Illinois Family Institute, Mass Resistance, Abiding Truth Ministries, and AFTAH. It quotes Matt Barber, a figure prominent in the LGBT "culture wars," as saying:

“The SPLC has moved from monitoring actual hate groups like the KKK and Neo Nazis to slandering mainstream Christian organizations with that very same ‘hate group’ label. By extension, the SPLC is smearing billions of Christians and Jews worldwide as ‘haters,’ simply because they embrace the traditional Judeo-Christian sexual ethic."

He then accused the SPLC of engaging in "anti-Christian bigotry."

The relevance of noting the race of the pastors involved in the protest is questionable. The implication seemed to be that (presumably heterosexual) African-American pastors possess moral authority to say what does and doesn't constitute legitimate hatred and bigotry, even against minority groups that they may not be a part of. Yet, what some audiences (predominately anti-LGBT ones) might see as some sort of United Colors of Love, Tolerance, and Christianity, other audiences (predominately pro-LGBT ones) might see as an opportunistic alignment of bigotry.

For instance, one African-American pastor involved in the protest added his two cents:

“I think every African-American ought to be appalled, ought to be angry, and begin to wave their fist in the air and declare black power and say to the homosexual lobbyists, the homosexual groups, how dare you compare your wicked, deviant, immoral, self-destructive, anti-human sexual behavior to our beautiful skin color."

Look. People.

We need to have a serious talk about what constitutes civility, hatred, and bigotry.

From my perspective, this protest was deflecting genuine criticism of the tactics some of these SPLC-labeled "hate groups" engage in and was mis-attributing the critiques as being evidence of "anti-Christian bigotry." It is an absurd claim. Not only because SPLC has documented the actions and messaging that they believe constitute hateful behavior, but because if this were a case of bigotry against Christian groups and churches that "merely" oppose homosexuality, the list of "hate groups" would be far more numerous than 13.

Indeed, to those who oppose same-sex marriage, LGBT rights, and/or "the homosexual agenda," look again at the accusations cited above that the SPLC-identified "hate groups" have made about LGBT people. Read the SPLC report for yourself.

Do you find the messaging of these groups to be in any way problematic?

Do you find the messaging to be evidence of hatred? Of ignorance? Of something else?

If a peaceful resolution of these "culture wars" is a goal, and given that the "hater" label can shut down dialogue, what do you think would be a more productive way for LGBT rights advocates to point out the problematic aspects of these accusations and misrepresentations that it call it hate?

Do you feel that some of these groups unfairly give the rest of those who oppose same-sex marriage "a bad name"? How might the fact that prominent opponents of same-sex marriage so rarely call out people on "their" side of bigotry, hatred, or misbehavior impact the perception that supporters of LGBT rights have of you? How might it impact the crusade to save marriage, if some people are giving "all of you" a bad name?

Finally, to all readers, is it "just as mean" or morally equivalent to call someone a hater or bigot who refers to homosexuality as "wicked, deviant, immoral, self-destructive, anti-human sexual behavior" as it is to make that reference in the first place?

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