LGBTQ Rights – African Politicians’ Biggest Scapegoat

President Robert Mugabe (left) and President Yahya Jammeh (right)

President Robert Mugabe (left) and President Yahya Jammeh (right)

On April 18th, as the Christian world gathered to mark Good Friday, Zimbabweans also celebrated the 34th anniversary of their independence from British colonial rule. President Robert Mugabe, the longest serving dictator in Southern Africa, used the opportunity to attack LGBTQ Zimbabweans.

“We did not fight for this Zimbabwe so it can be a homosexual territory,” he exclaimed, building upon the narrative (introduced by U.S. culture warriors in Africa) that LGBTQ Westerners are invading African countries to recruit children. He then threatened to expel foreign diplomats—including, presumably, the U.S. ambassador—who are sympathetic to the plight of sexual minorities: “If there are any diplomats who will talk of any homosexuality, just tell me. We will kick them out of the country without any excuse.”

Mugabe’s words came exactly two months after Gambian President Yahya Jammeh made similar commentsduring his country’s 49th independence anniversary. “We will fight these vermins [sic] called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively,” Jammeh declared. “We will therefore not accept any friendship, aid or any other gesture that is conditional on accepting homosexuals or LGBT as they are now baptized by the powers that promote them. … As far as I am concerned, LGBT can only stand for Leprosy, Gonorrhea, Bacteria and Tuberculosis; all of which are detrimental to human existence.”

The dangerous rhetoric from Jammeh and Mugabe isn’t new to the continent. Mugabe has previously referred to gay people as “worse than pigs and dogs,” a sentiment echoed by the late president of Malawi, Bingu Wa Mutharika, and many other African political and religious leaders.

Many people ask why these leaders and presidents are making such horrific statements about their own LGBTQ/I populations when many African sexual minorities are already living in hiding and fear for their lives. What needs to be understood is that these words are almost always used in the context of attacking the West or Western culture. By adopting the claim that homosexuality is foreign to Africa and only exists because of the West, their denouncement of homosexuality is seen as fighting back against historic neo-colonialism or imperialism—which, in turn, gains broad praise from their constituents.

It is true that Western nations have not always acted in the interest of Africa (to put it mildly), but to use the West as an excuse to persecute and imprison innocent persons is appalling. Politicians like Mugabe and Jammey, who have robbed their respective nations of billions of dollars, are also responsible for their countries’ dire economic states. These African leaders condemn the West and scapegoat gays to distract from real issues facing their nations and to hide their own incompetence, corruption, and despotism.

But this raises another question: Do we, as Africans, have moral standards for our own speech to which we hold ourselves accountable? Are we so blinded by hate for gays that we don’t see their humanity? Even those who may not agree that LGBTQ/I persons should have full equality under the law should, at the very least, all agree that it is immoral for the head of State to rob citizens of their humanity? Is it not immoral that our religious leaders sit back in silence as politicians compare our fellow human beings to dogs, vermin, leprosy, gonorrhea, bacteria and tuberculosis?

It is ironic that both Mugabe and Jammeh spoke their words during their countries’ independence celebrations, which recognized that they were once considered less than fully human by colonial governments. These leaders have forgotten that it is not long ago that it was we who were dehumanized—a time when murdering an African was viewed as lesser evil. Do none of my fellow countrymen see anything wrong with using the same words against our own people?

As Africans, we need no reminder that the first step on the path towards genocide is to erase your opponents’ humanity. In Rwanda, the Tutsi were dehumanized as cockroaches—helping thereby to justify their slaughter. Another historical parallel can be made to the Jews (and the gays) in Nazi Germany when their lives were reduced to reviled caricatures.

Of course, the ultimate irony of this sad tale is that it is not LGBTQ people who are foreign to Africa, but rather the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that is being used against them. Jammeh’s and Mugabe’s words were so heavily influenced by U.S.-based conservatives—people like Sharon Slater, Scott Lively, Lou Engle, and Rick Warren, and U.S.-based organizations like the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). They are all among hundreds of other U.S. culture warriors, who deny that LGBTQ rights are human rights, and work to spread their beliefs in Africa where there are already few legal, religious, or police protections for African sexual minorities.

It is time for all nations of the world, alongside religious leaders, churches, and organizations, to defend the humanity of sexual minorities on the African continent. LGBTQ individuals are human beings with human rights to be protected and defended, and to sanction their destruction is a crime against humanity. The global community must openly demand human rights for all humans regardless of their sexual orientation.

If we do not, then leaders like Presidents Jammeh and Mugabe will continue to use American conservatives’ words to incite the slaughter of their own citizens. Africa has entered a phase in which the genocide against sexual minorities is in sight.

ISSUE BRIEF: This Month In LGBTQ Justice

Every Friday, PRA brings you a monthly update on a different social justice issue. This week, we are recapping the last month in LGBTQ Justice.

Ecuador’s “Gay Addiction” Clinics Continue Torturous Practices
On November 7th, the Union and Hope Clinic in Pisuli, Ecuador was raided by police. The clinic is one of many in Ecuador that deals with “gay addiction,” and uses rape and torture as clinical tools to “cure” people of homosexuality. Seven people were arrested after the police found patients in “inhumane conditions.” The seventeen people rescued from the clinic adds to the approximately 500 people who have been freed from such clinics this past year. Carina Vance Mafla, Ecuador’s openly lesbian health minister, has vowed to work with LGBTQ organizations to shut down these clinics. The Health Ministry has already ordered the closure of 30 clinics, although many have already re-opened under different names. An article published recently in the Sunday Times focuses on the practice of kidnapping people, with parental consent, to be sent to these clinics to be “cured” of homosexuality.

Suggestive Pants Amount to Homophobic Act In Lithuania
A recent survey shows that Lithuanians have become less tolerant of homosexuals, and more tolerant of their homophobic neighbors in Russia. Recently, Petras Grazulis, a member of the Law and Order Party in Lithuania who is known for his anti-gay views, personally delivered a pair of pants with a zipper on the rear to the Lithuania Gay League (LGL). LGL members had been taking part in a European Union conference on hate crimes in Vilnius, and it appears that Grazulis’s actions were in response to this. Back in May 2012, Gazulis crashed an LGBTQ rights event and declared that all gays should leave the country, asking, “How are homosexuals better than necrophiliacs or pedophiles?” Grazulis’s actions can be seen as part of a greater trend towards homophobia and transphobia in Lithuanian politics. In December the Lithuanina parliament is slated to consider five separate anti-gay and anti-trans bills, including a ban on gender reassignment and a legislation legalizing hate crimes against LGBTQ people.

ENDA Loses Momentum in the U.S. House

John Boehner currently sees “no need or no basis” for ENDA.

While the Senate passed the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) on November 7, progress on the legislation has hit a wall in the House.   LGBTQ rights advocates have been pushing for an executive order to prohibit federal contractors from engaging in anti-LGBTQ discrimination. The White House has been withholding with the order, citing the need for Congress to act. While an executive order would not be be as comprehensive as ENDA, it would protect as many as 16 million workers while the legislation stalls in the House. Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has said he sees “no need or basis” for ENDA, and is refusing to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote. In response to Boehner’s dismissal of ENDA’s necessity, LGBTQ advocates cite the plurality of states in the U.S. where there is no law in place prohibiting anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Currently, 22 states have statutes that explicitly prohibit sexual orientation-based employment discrimination. Eighteen states have gender identity and anti-discrimination laws in place. A recent study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows that there are relatively few discrimination complaints in states with such laws.

Fenway Institute to Host Webinar on Transgender Health
The National LGBT Health Education Center at the Fenway Institute will host a webinar entitled “Transgender Medical Care: Advanced Case Discussion” on December 10 from 3-4 pm EST. Their website was launched in 2012 as part of LGBT Awareness Month, and provides educational programs, resources, and consultation to health care organizations with the goal of optimizing quality, cost-effective health care for LGBT people. All webinars are available on-demand.

NOM’s 990 Reveals They Finished 2012 $2.7M In the Red
A recently released 990 tax form reveals the the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) finished 2012 $2.7 million in the red (although Maggie Gallagher is still somehow pulling $160K from them). Some people have seen the 990 as an indicator that NOM can no longer profit from their anti-LGBT agenda. NOM and the Far Right may be losing the battle to define marriage in this country, but there are other wells for them to draw from in the LGBT community, and NOM seems to be aware of this. The Supreme Court struck down a key section of DOMA and invalidated California’s Prop 8, but NOM has recently joined the fight against a bill signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown that allows students to define their gender for themselves, choose which restroom they want to use, and decide whether they wish to play on male- or female-gendered sports teams. NOM may have had a rough year in 2012, but if the fight for transgender rights turns out to be NOM’s newest cash cow, 2014 could see their anti-LGBT agenda become lucrative again.

World Congress of Families Hosts Discussion on Family Policy Abroad
The anti-gay World Congress of Families (WCF) hosted a discussion in Washington, D.C. on “What America Should Learn” from family policy abroad. The meeting was originally intended to be held in a Senate meeting room, but Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) withdrew his sponsorship after an outcry from LGBT activists. House Speaker John Boehner then provided the group with a meeting space. During the discussion, the WCF touched on the subject of encouraging the growth of grassroots conservative movements in France, Spain, and Nigeria. Much of the discussion, however, centered on how the U.S. media has “distorted” the Russian anti-propaganda law. “They are trying to build a pro-family movement in Russia, and we’re working with them,” said Allen Carlson, founder and international secretary of WCF. The World Family of Congress is an organization that has become infamous for both exporting conservative ideologies from the U.S. as well as brining conservative ideals and strategies back into the country. The group will be holding their 2014 summit in Moscow.

Scott Lively Has A “Theory” About the Anti-Gay Violence In Russia
While on “Mission America”, Linda Harvey’s radio show, Scott Lively espoused his theory on the true nature of the anti-gay violence in Russia. Lively is claiming that the widely seen (thanks to YouTube) violence against LGBT people in Russia is actually to “gay-on-gay crime”. Lively alleged, “The guys that are beating up gays in Russia—and it’s not any more prevalent than it ever has been really and it isn’t all that prevalent at all—but the ones that are doing it are butch homosexuals who are beating up effeminate homosexuals.” Lively, known for his work exporting homophobia to Uganda, has recently turned his attention to Russia (perhaps because he is on trial for crimes against humanity in Uganda). In October, he participated in a planning meeting for WCF’s 2014 conference in Moscow.

Harry Reid Says Mormon Views On LGBT Rights “Evolving”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that members of his faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church), are evolving their views on LGBT rights, citing recent support of church members for ENDA.  While it may be true that members of the church are evolving their views, recent news of the Church itself, the body that governs LDS members, shows little sign of change. The Church has continually told its members that it is their duty to oppose gay marriage, saying that “unlike other organizations that can change their policies and even their doctrines, our policies are determined by the truths God has declared told to be unchangeable.” One of the Church’s highest leaders, Russell M. Nelson, recently said, “Marriage between a man and a woman is God’s pattern for a fullness of life on Earth and in heaven. God’s marriage pattern cannot be abused, misunderstood or misconstrued.” While it is encouraging that members of the church may be changing their views on LGBT rights, the Church itself, which yields a great deal of financial and ideological influence in U.S. government, continues to oppose marriage equality. In Hawaii, before marriage equality was passed earlier this month, the Mormon Church lobbied extensively against the law.

Being Gay Now Grounds For Asylum in European Union
The EU’s top court, the European Court of Justice, ruled this month that being gay is now grounds for asylum. LGBT people fearing imprisonment in their home countries will now have grounds for seeking asylum in any of the 28 EU member states. The case in question centered on three gay men from Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Senegal who had unsuccessfully fought to be given refugee status in the Netherlands. The Dutch Council of State asked whether homosexuals could be considered a “particular social group”, since under international law a particular social group with a well-founded fear of persecution can claim refugee status if the persecution amounts to a severe violation of human rights. The Court ruled existence of laws imprisoning gay people “may constitute an act of persecution”, although the mere existence of a ban on homosexuality is not grounds in itself for seeking an asylum request.

This Past Month Has Been Big For Marriage Equality

http://www.freedomtomarry.org/states/

In slightly less than a month, three states have passed marriage equality. On October 21, LGBT New Jerseyans began to marry at midnight. Just hours later, Gov. Chris Christie announced his plans to drop his appeal of the law. On November 13, in Hawaii, Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a marriage equality law after a Special Session during which legislators discussed why marriage equality matters to same-sex couples and their families. LGBT people in Hawaii will begin to marry on December 2. Finally, on November 20, in Illinois, Gov. Pat McQuin signed the freedom to marry law after it was approved earlier this year by the State House and Senate. LGBT couples will begin marrying there in June, 2014. As of right now, 16 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marriage equality, with over 38% of the U.S. population living in these states. It also seems possible that the high court in New Mexico may rule in favor of marriage equality by the end of the year, although some state Republicans are already creating a plan to strike back by pursuing a statewide constitutional referendum to ban the unions.

Zambia First Lady Deserves Praise for Pro-LGBT Speech? Think Again.

First Lady of Zambia, Dr. Christine Kaseba. Image via YouTube

First Lady of Zambia, Dr. Christine Kaseba. Image via YouTube

The global North LGBTI and Human rights groups have heralded Zambia’s First Lady Christine Kaseba’s “positive” statement on homosexuality. But if you read her full remarks in context, there’s isn’t anything praiseworthy about it.

At a reception hosted by UNAIDS on November 5, 2013, Dr. Kaseba told a group that “Silence on men having sex with men should be stopped,” and added “no one should be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation. .. Personally, I am concerned about the vulnerability of our women married to or in intimate relations with men who also have sex with men.” On this basis, she joined many Human rights defenders in calling on Zambians to have an open and civil discussion on homosexuality which, as she argued, is the key to fighting HIV and AIDS. Because of the demonization of LGBT persons across Africa, many Africans gay persons are forced to live a lie—married to women during the day, and gays at night. Her statements made global headlines, and many international human rights organizations lavished her with praises for standing up against homophobia.

However, the international community seems to have missed the rest of the First Lady’s speech (posted below). Like many African politicians, Dr. Kabesa falsely claimed that young people are “enticed” or recruited into same-sex relations—the same claim used by Scott Lively and other anti-gay figures both in the United States and Africa to promote widespread prejudice, discrimination, and violence. In the very same speech to UNAIDS, Dr. Kabesa says, “We have anecdotal evidence especially in colleges where young men are enticed into having sex with men but at the same time also have young girlfriends on the side.”

As a Zambian national and human rights defender, I found her statement misleading, and a major distraction to the plight of LGBT persons in Zambia and the rest of Africa.

When I first heard about Dr. Kaseba’s statement, I wanted to know what Zambian LGBT persons thought of her position on homosexuality. I read a short post from an outspoken Zambian LGBT advocate (I’m withholding her name because of threats of violence she’s received), questioning the logic of Dr. Kaseba making such a statement while two LGBT Zambians, James Mwape and Phillip Mubiana sit in Zambian prison simply being gay, and Paul Kasonkomona is facing charges for speaking openly about homosexuality on TV.

I think the Zambian LGBT author rightly interpreted the First Lady’s statement as little more than nice words mean to entice donor’s dollars. In fact, the Zambian media reported that Dr. Kaseba made these remarks at the international donors “reception”—which happened to be UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board Reception with Key Partners.

Dr. Kaseba knows that her husband, President Michael Sata, who sees nothing wrong with Africa’s longest reigning dictator Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, needs something big to win him donor support. Is the First Lady’s statement on homosexuality the key to new dollars?

Regardless, the statement sought to distract international attention from the systematic persecution of gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans*, and inter-sex persons in Zambia.

Combatting HIV/AIDS within the LGBT community is crucial to human rights, but so does the freedom to work, expression, association and live peaceful lives—which Zambian LGBT citizens are currently denied. So in as much I applaud the good portion of the First Lady’s statement, I find it insulting that those who heard her speak failed to ask her to declare her position on her husband’s administration’s persecution of LGBT citizens, failed to ask that something be done about the LGBT Zambians sitting in prison, and failed to ask why she was perpetuating the blatantly false lies about “gay recruitment.”

The celebration of the First Lady statement in international circles and the down-playing of the same by local activists suggest the lift between wealthy global North activists and poor African activists. Western activists continue to fail to seek guidance from Zambian activists when getting involved or commenting on local stories. They cannot ignore Zambian voices, assuming “we know better.”

Press statements alone do not translate into human rights—actions do. Dr. Kaseba is not new to Zambian politics and knew very well her husband’s policies on LGBT persons—she is aware that Human rights defender Paul Kasonkomona is fighting his case in court; she is aware that James and Phillip were snatched from the privacy of their home in April, dumped in prison and denied bail.

If the International community needs to celebrate Dr. Kashiba’s courage, they should ask her to step up and do something. Ask her to have the charges against Paul Kasonkomona, Phillip Mubiana, and James Mwape dropped immediately and release them from prison. Ask her to work with her husband to stop the persecution of LGBT persons in Zambia. Only then can I, and I believe many LGBT rights advocates in Zambia, join the world in celebrating her courage.

As for now, her statement is meant to deceive the world that LGBT persons have a home in Zambia, so she can collect donor money.

Zambian First Lady Christine Kaseba Speech to UNAIDS by PoliticalResearch

While Sochi Olympics Spark Global Outrage Over Anti-LGBTQ Laws, Local Groups Fight for Real Change

 

photo credit: http://www.towleroad.com/2013/08/la-councilmembers-protest-russian-sister-city-with-rainbow-flag.html

photo credit: http://www.towleroad.com/2013/08/la-councilmembers-protest-russian-sister-city-with-rainbow-flag.html

Russia’s recent surge of anti-LGBTQ legislation has prompted responses from human rights defenders around the globe. The upcoming Winter Olympics (set to be hosted in Sochi, Russia) has become a significant platform from which to demonstrate and encourage resistance, and activists have employed a wide variety of tactics to apply pressure and demand change.

The outrage resulting from Russia’s “anti-propaganda” law was initially channeled into a call for athletes to boycott the event (this approach was largely abandoned when folks eventually thought to consult with Russian LGBTQ activists who were unsupportive of the tactic). Other targets of protest have included the International Olympic Committee, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and corporate sponsors like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, as well as Stolichnaya (a popular Russian vodka).

As the games draw near, additional responses have emerged. FCKH8.com is producing a Russian language coloring book entitled, “Misha & His Moms Go to the Olympics,” set to be distributed widely to children in Sochi and Moscow. All Out and Athlete Ally have designed a strategy for athletes to display their dissent without risking punishment. The Human Rights Campaign is mass-producing t-shirts that read “Love Conquers Hate” in Russian.

Over the course of the last few decades, many cities around the world have developed ties with “sister cities” in Russia as a means of cultural exchange and economic advancement. These connections have also become a site of protest as city officials have responded to Russia’s anti-LGBTQ laws with condemnatory proclamations, by promoting asylum opportunities for LGBTQ Russians, or by simply severing ties completely. In one unique case, residents of Portland, Maine recently hosted LGBTQ activists from their city’s Russian counterpart, Archangel, as a means of identifying ways in which they can be better allies to one another.

The question remains, however, what will happen after the games? Who will keep watching after the athletes, spectators, sports broadcasters, and journalists have all gone home? Once Sochi is out of the spotlight, will we remember to be outraged?

While attention spans may dwindle elsewhere in the world, I have complete faith that folks in Springfield, MA will continue in their diligent watchfulness and relentless resistance.

Anti-LGBTQ crusader Scott Lively, who is currently being charged for “crimes against humanity” in Springfield’s Federal Court, is infamous for his role in creating the “Kill the Gays” Bill in Uganda. Unfortunately, his influence isn’t limited to Africa—just last month he was in Moscow, and he has longstanding ties in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine, and Belarus. His rampant homophobia is echoing far and wide, but Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and a brave cadre of human rights defenders in Western Mass are hard at work, seeking to hold Lively accountable for the damage he’s done and to take responsibility for the role that their neighbors and community members play in the ongoing globalization of U.S.-born culture wars.

The Stop the Hate & Homophobia Coalition emerged in the Fall of 2010 when members of ARISE, a Springfield-based social justice organization, learned that their neighbor, Scott Lively, was a major propagator of anti-LGBTQ violence. Teaming up with Out Now, a local LGBTQ youth organization, and other concerned members of the community, the group began meeting regularly and strategizing ways to effectively “clip the wings” of their jet-setting neighbor. Their efforts have ranged from hosting vigils outside of the coffee shop run by Lively’s local ministry to publishing advertisements in the local newspaper exposing the true nature of Lively’s work, and through the help of Pam Spees, CCR’s lead lawyer on the SMUG vs. Lively case, the Coalition has established relationships with LGBTQ activists in Uganda with whom they’re able to consult and collaborate.

As Spees points out, “It is essential that those of us in the U.S. own the problem as stemming from the United States, and take the lead in this fight against U.S. extremists, in solidarity with those most affected, and not paternalistically. We can’t expect people abroad, who are being brutally targeted, to trace these guys all the way back to their home communities in the States. We are the ones to stem that tide.”

Proclamations, petitions, boycotts, and social justice swag may have their place, but nothing will ever compare to the on-the-ground work of grassroots, person-to-person movement building in our own communities. After all, it’s only when we’re in relationship with one another that we become able to see the deeper connections between our lives, our families, our communities, and our movements.

Nazism, Godwin’s Law, and the Far Right

obama hitler

There is an internet adage coined in the 1990s by Mike Godwin called Godwin’s Law. The rule states, “As an online discussion grows longer, the possibility of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” This adage is often invoked to signal desperation in an argument. The use of such inappropriate and hyperbolic language suggests the side making the comparison has exhausted any substantive rhetorical devices.

Among the Far Right’s favorite phraseological bricks to throw at anything or anyone they do not approve of are the terms “Nazi” and “Hitler.” Comparisons to Hitler and Nazism are nothing new in politics, and people from both the Far Left to the Far Right have invoked the Third Reich for comparative fodder for decades. In 2011 Rep. Steven Cohen (D-TN) compared Republican plans to repeal Obamacare to Nazism and the Holocaust. George H.W. Bush called Saddam Hussein the “new Hitler,” while building support for Desert Storm.

Members of the Far Right, however, outshine their peers in their cavalier and demagogic use of Nazi terminology.

This name-calling phenomenon is a good example of using a word to invoke a meaning that does not reflect the actual nature of a concept. Instead, it reflects an attempt to conflate anything the Far Right finds objectionable with Nazism. But the Far Right leaders’ use of Nazi terminology is not thoughtless. Their practice of invoking Nazism and Hitler is both shrewd and fraught.

There are political benefits to reducing something as complex and nuanced as the current state of the United States to being a direct analogue to the Third Reich. At this year’s Values Voters Summit (VVS), former Arkansas legislator Jim Bob Duggar compared the current state of the U.S. to Nazi Germany during the Holocaust, saying “that’s where we are at in our nation.” Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has compared those skeptical about defunding Obamacare to “Nazi appeasers.” By using Nazi terminology and conflating it with anything “bad”, people such as Duggar and Cruz are able to conceal conceptual complexity under rhetoric that is both inflammatory and simplistic.

The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer and anti-LGBTQ crusader Scott Lively both claim gays were responsible for the Nazi Party and the Holocaust (suggesting an understanding of German history based solely on Mel Brook’s The Producers). Fischer also claims LGBTQ Americans are “literally” Nazis and will launch a new Spanish Inquisition. Glenn Beck was quoted on Honest Questions With D.L. Hughley saying, “ I think Jesus Christ and Hitler had a lot in common, and that was they could both look you in the eye and say, ‘I’ve got an answer for you, follow me.’ One was evil; one was good.” Mixed metaphors such as Fischer’s and Beck’s are par for the course when talking about the Far Right and Nazi terminology.

The Far Right’s weaponized soundbites are, on one hand, an attempt to vilify anything they disapprove of by linking the issue in question to one of the darkest moments in history. Institutions and people that the Far Right have compared to Nazis and/or Hitler include: the IRS, feminists, NPR, religious pluralism, secularism, Boy Scouts, Obamacare, gun laws and background checks, and abortion. Matt Barber of the Liberty Counsel has cited an “exact comparison between those who stood by silently during the Nazi Holocaust and those who today stand by silently and allow, accept the abortion holocaust.” Again, a mixed metaphor, but in a way, whether or not such comparisons hold up to scrutiny does not matter. Mention of Nazi Germany can engender a reflexive and involuntary sense of disapproval that allows Far Right leaders to bypass conceptual complexity and accuracy in favor of a passionate knee-jerk response.

Nazi rhetoric also justifies an evangelical, pre-millennial dispensational ideology. Many people thought that Hitler and the Third Reich were a sign of the end times, and that no atrocity could be more horrific. If humanity is going to usher in the end times and the second coming of Christ, humanity must be in a state that rivals or is worse than that during the Third Reich. Pat Robertson speaks to this effect, having stated that the “abortion holocaust” has been more lethal than Hitler’s Holocaust. Truth In Action has also released content claiming that the US “is becoming Nazi Germany.”

Along these lines, another way to look at this rhetorical phenomenon is how it represents an ideal for the Far Right. It seems that they wish that the United States were more like the Third Reich. Such conditions would create a call to action they so desperately desire. If, in the U.S., Christians were being persecuted like the Nazis persecuted Jews, if homosexuals were Nazis, and if abortion provided a direct corollary to the Holocaust, then the Far Right might be justified in their outrage. This idea is reflected in the hypothetical nature of a lot of the Nazi rhetoric being used by the Far Right. Glenn Beck has commented on how the Obama administration could “shut down the Tea Party” and “round up” Tea Party members like Hitler did to the Jews. It isn’t happening, but it would justify Beck’s rancor if it were.

In a way, the Far Right is attempting to reverse engineer a Nazi state by labeling anything they disapprove of as an analogue to the Third Reich. Far Right leaders wish to invoke Nazism as a way to justify their vitriolic hatred of any number of diverse groups, people, and ideas.

Labels create a favorable condition in which complex, nuanced, and often abstract ideas can be reduced to simple words and concepts. They are often useful for groups of people who want to gain political room, but can be problematic and reductive when a person or a group of people let the word choose the meaning, instead of the other way around. The Far Right ignores the loaded nature of such terminology, choosing to use Nazi rhetoric to evoke passionate fear and anger. From an outside perspective, though, the Far Right’s use of Nazi terminology seems to suggest a group of people who have lost an argument and have resorted to petty name-calling. So while the Far Right may be using Nazi terminology for a purpose, that purpose seems mainly to be desperation.

Profiles on the Right: Brian Brown

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marraige

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marraige

Brian Brown, perhaps most infamous for his tendency to equate the LGBTQ community to pedophiles, is the current president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and a hard-line member of the Christian Right. A Quaker turned Roman Catholic, Brown has been a key player in the anti-equality movement for over two decades—even moving his family to California in 2008 for the sole purpose of defending the now-repealed Proposition 8 ballot initiative. Brown’s anti-LGBTQ crusades have included the exportation of homophobia to Russia and, on a domestic level, supporting the anti-transgender movement in public schools.

Co-founder and original executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, Brown succeeded Maggie Gallagher as president in 2010 when she accepted the title of president at the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, an anti-marriage equality think tank. NOM’s main goal is defending the “traditional family,” meaning that the organization does everything within its power to prevent same-sex couples from gaining civil rights, most particularly the right to marry.

One of the organization’s biggest strengths is its ability to keep the sources of its funding secret.  In a previous report that details the anti-LGBT movement, it is recognized that Brown uses the promise of anonymity as a fundraising tool, telling prospective donors that “unlike in California, every dollar you give to NOM’s Northeast Action Plan today is private, with no risk of harassment from same-sex marriage protestors.” NOM has also defended its financials by suing states such as California and Maine when they have asked for the organization to disclose its financials. PRA’s profile on NOM also notes: “In response to a 2010 ethics investigation from the state of Maine, NOM committed millions for litigation to delay disclosure in the courts as long as possible.”

NOM’s desire to shroud its monies in secrecy should come as no surprise, given that the IRS opened an investigation on the organization’s financials in 2013.

Brown also employs results-driven strategies against his opposition, and carefully avoids placing blame on individuals, instead asserting that “good-hearted people can have ideas that are profoundly wrong.” He further deflects blame away from himself by claiming he has friends and family who are gay, and that they “can disagree on all sorts of things and still care about each other.”

If Brown cares about his “gay friends” at all, it’s certainly not apparent in his actions. In June 2013, Brown headed to Moscow on the invitation of Illinois-based World Congress of Families (WCF), an organization that has been hell-bent on forwarding horrific anti-LGBTQ legislation abroad. In Moscow, Brown and other WCF supporters testified before Russian Parliament in support of banning same-sex couples from adopting children. In a transcript posted by the Duma, Brown told Russian lawmakers that “We will unite. We will defend our children and their normal civil rights. Every child must have the right to normal parents: a mother and a father.”

Brown and WCF certainly touted some influence in Moscow, days after Brown left, the Duma not only passed the adoption law, but also began to debate a frightening proposal to remove children from the homes of LGBTQ parents.

Another aspect of Brown’s stratagem is the utilization of fear-driven hyperbole. In a 2011 newsletter that reflects on the Senate hearings on repealing DOMA, Brown declared “President Obama and the hard-left core of the Democratic Party in Washington declared war on marriage, on federalism, on democracy and on religious liberty.”

In another NOM newsletter, Brown described the push to legalize same-sex marriage as analogous to accepting pedophiles. He inquired if the “pedophiles [will] become “minor-attracted persons” in our culture? Will courts which endorse orientation as a protected class decide down the road that therefore laws which discriminate against ‘minor-attracted persons’ must be narrowly tailored to a compelling government interest?” However skewed his rhetoric, Brown is still careful to not demonize the individual.

Brown’s crusades are not limited to the LGBQ community though; his most recent domestic crusade is against transgender students in California public schools. In August 2013, California passed a bill that allowed transgender students to use facilities and participate in after-school activities that correspond with their gender identity. The bill, which took effect in January 2014, gave California transgender students a chance at equality in an already-uphill battle.

Brown characterizes the new bill as “horrible,” a “weapon,” and said that it “doesn’t prevent bullying – it is bullying. It is not about protecting kids; it damages kids.” Brown further urges readers to sign a drawn up by Privacy for All Students (PAS) in an effort to overturn non-discrimination requirements, claiming the legislation “is politically-correct madness that risks the privacy and security of our children and grandchildren.”

NOM and PAS only support gender-conforming youth, refusing to even refer to the students they’re persecuting as transgender, preferring to say they have “so-called gender identities.”

As strategic as he is, Brown’s rhetoric is causing him to fall out of public favor. At the 2013 Values Voters Summit, Brown complained that media outlets such as ABC and CNN seldom give him air-time anymore.  But make no mistake, NOM still reaches many, as exemplified by the wide support the 2013 “Marriage March” on Washington, D.C. garnered. And Brown only seems to be motivated by equality victories. After the defeat of both Prop 8 and DOMA, Brown called the DOMA decision “an absolute travesty” and in The Washington Post said “The National Organization for Marriage intends to vigorously urge Congress to safeguard the remaining portion of DOMA, which protects the right of states to refuse to recognize same-sex ‘marriages’ performed elsewhere.”

When the U.S. Supreme Court was hearing the Obergefell v. Hodges case in 2015, which eventually led to the federal legalization of marriage equality, they campaigned constantly for “traditional” marriage and bussed groups of people from the surrounding states to protest at the capital. While NOM continues to campaign for anti-LGBTQ candidates and for those who support “traditional” marriage, their domestic presence is losing breadth. Their annual “March for Marriage” on Washington, D.C. in 2017 drew less than 250 participants throughout the entire day.

Brown continues to fight marriage equality, hoping to one day get it overturned, but his current focus is a “First Freedom Initiative” to defend the Christian Right definition of religious freedom. He is also active abroad, supporting the international anti-“gender ideology” and “pro-family” group CitizenGO as a board member.

Updated 5/14/18.

 

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How Well-Meaning Social Justice Groups Are Misinterpreting Kuwait’s “Gaydar Testing”

Kuwait

An interesting aspect of journalism and blogging is the filter through which the information is processed. Journalists have the ability to impact opinions about and perceptions of certain issues. Coming from a solid journalist, this can provide us vital insight into oppositional ideologies and viewpoints. This can become dangerous—particularly in instances of unintentional misreporting, reactionary reporting, and reporting that attempts to portray opinion as fact. Such is the case with the recent reporting about Kuwait’s proposed legislation to “screen out gays using gaydar.”

Misinterpreting Yousef Mindkar 

Though much of the reporting was done with good intentions, a lot of journalism relating to Kuwait director of public health Yousef Mindkar’s proposal to screen individuals using “gaydar” is reactionary reporting and misconstrues the proposed legislation. By reporting before checking on the facts, popular publications like The Daily Mail, Huffington Post, and International Business Times have unintentionally misinformed the public about the basic “who, what, where, when, why, and how” of the situation.

Most importantly, slightly-off translations and misunderstandings of Kuwaiti cultural norms have led to misreporting who the legislation will affect.

Up in arms (reasonably so) about recent human rights violations in Russia, Western reporters have been quick to react to the news coming out of Kuwait. Titles like “Kuwait plans checkpoint to block gay people at airports” have been used. Claims that the tests will “‘detect’ gays traveling to those nations in order to deny them entry,” are running rampant, and many have demanded a preemptive boycott of the 2022 World Cup, asserting the new law “will mean that gay players and spectators will be banned from attending.”

In reality, the legislation arising out of Kuwait will only affect individuals who are what Mindkar characterized as al-mithliyeen, or “third-sex”. “Third-sex” is a derogatory term used to refer to those who do not conform to gender norms. This legislation may end up encompassing all gender non-conforming individuals, but typically “third-sex” refers to transgender individuals, in both English and Arabic. A Human Rights Watch report explains a 2007 amendment that furthered the persecution of “third-sex” Kuwaitis: “A previously generic public decency law now stipulated that anyone ‘imitating the opposite sex in any way’ would face one year in prison, a 1,000 Kuwaiti dinar fine (approximately $3,600 in U.S. currency), or both. The amendment did not criminalize any specific behavior or act, but rather physical appearance, the acceptable parameters of which were to be arbitrarily defined by individual police.”

While this legislation may indeed end up affecting all sexual minorities, reporting that the legislation targets “gays” is inaccurate, and neglects to assert that transgender individuals will probably be the most directly affected. It is also inaccurate that this will affect “gays” of the world, the screening is for expatriates looking to work in the Gulf Cooperation Countries once again. So the international banning of gays is highly unlikely, unless the legislation drastically changed. To be sure of either of these issues, we will probably have to wait until November.

Regardless, the use of “gay” in attempt to qualify gender-nonconforming people or the LGBTQ community as a whole points towards a larger issue that faces both the Eastern and Western LGBTQ communities: a hyper-focus on the stereotypical gay men, and a lack of focus on other identities such as lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people, queers etc. Too often, the transgender community does not get the attention it needs from media, activists, and politicians alike. 

Right Wing Responses 

The response from the far-Right also brings forth the natural conflict of interest inherent to that ideology. Many of these right-wing groups are both anti-Islam and anti-LGBTQ. It is intriguing to see how they react when one group they target goes after another group they target. There is not enough of a Right wing reaction to Mindkar’s proposal to be sure which side conservatives will fall on, but it is important to keep watch for it. For now, looking at the way the Right has responded to this conflict of interest in the past and near-past will have to suffice.

Based on the Right’s enthusiastic exportation of homophobia to Africa and rhetoric like Family Research Council’s Peter Spriggs’ 2010 statement that he would “prefer to export homosexuals from the United States . . . because we believe that homosexuality is destructive to society”, one of my gut reactions while reading about Mindkar’s proposal was “when the far-Right reacts, they will love this.

Recently, the World Congress of Families, which promotes anti-gay and anti-choice legislation abroad, issued a press release in support of Russia’s “gay propaganda” ban. Five other conservative U.S. based groups also signed the statement, in which signatories not only support the Russian law but condemn the international outrage surrounding the issue. U.S. signatories who are historically anti-Islam have had to put this agenda aside in order to support the anti-LGBTQ agenda, as numerous UK-based Islamic groups also signed.

Conversely, the Right can be (occasionally) quick to condemn the torture and murder of LGBTQ individuals in the Middle East, using this violation of human rights to point out flaws in this particular society. Pamela Geller, editor and publisher of AtlasShrugs.com, even went as far as to write an article titled “Pro-Gay Equals Anti-Sharia”. This presents a good place to debase extremist right-wing arguments. Anti-LGBTQ groups so often use their religion to validate their persecution of sexual minorities. Individuals like Mindkar are coming at the issue from the same religious angle that deems non-normative sexual behavior and identities as sinful, they just use a different religion. It’s decently simple logic:  if a (Evangelical) = b (anti-LGBTQ) and c (Muslim) = b (anti-LGBTQ), then a (Evangelical) = c (Muslim).” Leading to the question: How are what these two groups doing any different?

While the issue is, of course, much more complex, the equation reinforces the idea that the social activism is a very symbiotic issue—whether this relationship is inverse or direct, when one minority is affected, the other is affected. It is important to note that anti-Islam groups may try to pit LGBTQ people against Muslims, and vice versa. And while I think it is a given that anyone who is violently persecuted for their inherent identity needs protection, the fact that the suffering of persecuted communities is linked makes it even more imperative to approach social justice issues holistically. It also makes it imperative for disenfranchised groups to recognize one another’s suffering rather than lashing out at each other.

Lesson from 2013 Values Voters Summit: It’s Not Just the “Old People” We Need to Worry About

Young attendees at the 2013 Values Voters Summit

Young attendees at the 2013 Values Voters Summit

It’s a common saying among pro-LGBTQ folks, “We just need to wait for some of these old guys to die off.” But based off of my observations so far at the Values Voters Summit, that old saying just isn’t true.

For years, national polling has shown that while voters over the age of 60 remain the largest group opposed to marriage equality, non-discrimination laws for LGBTQ people and other similar issues, voters under the age of 30 are swinging strongly in favor of equality in all of its aspects.

But that doesn’t mean we should kid ourselves into thinking that once “the old generation dies off” anti-LGBTQ sentiments will magically disappear.

Will things be easier once people like Tim Dolan, Bryan Fischer, Boyd K. Packer and others pass away eventually? Sure. But there’s a whole new young crop of arch-conservatives who are being trained to take their place.

“I don’t think homosexuality is natural, one of my best friends is a gay and he says he was abused by his step-dad when he was really little. I think that’s probably the case for most people who think they’re gay,” says Sarah, a 17 year old from Oregon who is attending the Values Voters Summit with her church group.

I also ran into Ian Ferth, a 19 year old who describes himself as a “Warrior for God” from Atlanta. “I just don’t see why someone would want to defy God like that [referring to gay people],” says Ferth. “God created us all equal, and that means we were all born in the natural order of things. It’s sad that some of these guys choose to oppose God and I want to attend theological school so I can preach to the world and show [gays] why they should repent.”

I’ve actually been shocked at the number of young kids attending the summit this year. Easily 30 percent of the audience appears to be younger than 35, and a large portion of that are under 20.

Conservative groups like Summit-organizer Family Research Council have been making concerted efforts recently to expand their base of young people, worrying that their followings will disappear quickly if they don’t. For many groups, that means creating clubs in high schools for kids, while in churches it means missionary work (the Mormon Church just recently lowered their age for missionaries from 19 to 18, hoping to get them into church work for two years before going off to college).

Some may find the dark irony in this conservative push to target kids younger and younger, while at the same time they continually push their talking points that “gays are recruiting your children!”

If there’s one lesson I’ve taken away so far today, it’s that as long as conservatives are training new “Warriors for God,” we’ve still got a long road ahead of us.

Religious Right At Crossroads On Transgender Issues?

Dr. Heath Adam Ackley Photo courtest of APU student paper "The Clause"

Dr. Heath Adam Ackley
Photo courtest of APU student paper “Clause”

Last week, Azusa Pacific University (APU) announced it is parting ways with Dr. Heath Adam Ackleya faculty member of 15 years and one-time chair of the school’s theology and philosophy department—because of his identity as a transgender man. APU’s statement, issued jointly with Dr. Ackley, followed a controversy set off in mid-September, when Ackley informed a supervisor of his gender transition and plans to make “Heath Adam Ackley” his legal name. 

According to Ackley, the evangelical university responded by asking him to leave immediately, and refusing insurance coverage for hormones and other transition-related care. After negotiations for Ackley to teach through the end of the semester failed, and what APU described as “confidential” and “thoughtful conversations” to “treat all parties with dignity and respect while upholding the values of the university,” APU and Ackley claimed in their statement to have “reached…mutual agreement” that it would be better for him to “pursue professional endeavors elsewhere.” 

In addition to raising the issue of employment discrimination against transgender people, Dr. Ackley’s ordeal points to the pivotal moment the Religious Right has arrived at with respect to its theology and messaging on transgender issues. Responses from APU and Christian media reflected conservative Christians’ general opposition to transgender rights, and continued conflation of gender identity with sexual orientation (per APU’s statement, their disagreement was over “human sexuality”). Even so, the range of responses showed that the Religious Right’s theology specific to transgender issues remains rudimentary and in flux, in ways transgender communities and supporters may be able to productively leverage. 

Christian media coverage of Dr. Ackley’s story included actively hostile commentary from the usual suspects. Life News and WORLD Magazine insisted on referring to him by his former name and as “she/her.” Life News and the Christian Post both implied that Ackley’s gender identity is a mental illness, stressing the inclusion of “gender dysphoria” in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic And Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V [or DSM-V]. Christian Post also pointedly noted that one of Ackley’s student supporters at APU is an “outspoken lesbian.” 

But other responses were less overtly inflammatory. APU carefully avoided any use of gendered pronouns in both of its public statements, and referred to him as “Dr. Ackley,” rather than by his previous name. In comments to APU’s student newspaper, Dr. Scott Daniels (Dean of APU’s School of Theology) stated that, despite “strong convictions regarding gender identity in the evangelical community,” the church’s stance on transgender issues is “still in question,” even for those like him who are clergy in “fairly conservative denomination[s].” Daniels continued: “in the right context Adam [Dr. Ackley] could serve as an important voice in helping bring some clarity into that conversation, helping the church have that conversation in ways that are maybe more robust and thoughtful.” 

Flagship evangelical publication Christianity Today (CT) covered the story through an excerpt of a Religious News Service article by former CT editor Sarah Pulliam Bailey, published with an editor’s note highlighting the magazine’s “past stories involving transgender issues.” They also pointed readers to a Washington Post op-ed by Dr. Russell Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and a rebuttal from another evangelical writer, Jonathan Merritt, both predating Ackley’s conflict with APU. 

CT, Moore, and Merritt all make a case similar to Dean Daniels’ call for “more robust and thoughtful” evangelical engagement on transgender issues, but differ on whether the “transgender question” is an open or settled one. For Merritt, evangelicals “haven’t considered all the theological, ethical, and scientific intricacies of this issue. Perhaps we are afraid that what we discover will stretch the bounds of our thinking.” Russell Moore and Christianity Today, on the other hand, are firm in their religious transphobia. Moore argues that “[conservative Christians] believe we can no more surgically alter our gospel than we can surgically alter our gender,“ while CT’s Executive Editor Andy Crouch insists that “matter matters” and rejects what he calls the “LGBTQIA coalition[’s]…a conviction that human beings are not created male and female in any essential or important way.” Rather than openness to stretching theological boundaries, Moore and CT call for a “strong theological grounding” and “winsome pastoral footing” for religious transphobia – better articulated and more strategic messaging against transgender people and communities. 

These responses show conservative evangelicalism to be at a crossroads moment with respect to transgender issues. Ackley’s coming out highlighted a lack of theology specific to transgender identities: APU’s code of conduct explicitly condemns homosexuality, but on gender says only that “Humans were created as gendered beings.” Religious Right leaders are beginning to articulate a need to address gender identity as an issue distinct from (but still related to) sexual orientation. Comments like Daniels’s and Merritt’s and surprising support (recently contradicted) for transgender people from Pat Robertson suggest that the outcome of this increased attention to transgender communities may not be monolithic rejection. 

It may be that these rifts can be heightened to drive wedges between groups that might otherwise be allied against transgender communities. The “work-in-progress” nature of transgender-specific theology offers a rare opportunity to anticipate Religious Right organizing and messaging on this issue, and perhaps even build bridges with conservative Christians who may be more open to a conversation about transgender rights.

Profiles on the Right: David Barton

David Barton

David Barton

“Schlock history written by religious propagandists like David Barton … who use selective quotations out of context to suggest that the framers were inspired believers who thought they were founding a Christian nation.”  – Mike Lilla, Columbia University

“[Barton’s work contains] a lot of distortions, half-truths, and twisted history.” – Derek H. Davis, Baylor University

David Barton is an American evangelical author and conservative activist. He is the founder of Wallbuilders, a religious organization  that claims the founding fathers never established a separation of church and state as defined in the constitution. Though he advertises himself as a legitimate historian, Barton has no formal training other than a degree in religious education from Oral Roberts University. His “historic research” has been repeatedly criticized by the New York Times, professor Mike Lilla of Columbia University and the University of Colorado, and religious scholars such as Derek H. Davis, the director of church-state studies at Baylor University.

In his book, The Myth of Separation, Barton argues the founding fathers “merge[d] biblical teachings into the framework of the constitution, and the clear understanding they all had that America was founded as God’s chosen nation.” He also claims the founding fathers intended only Christians to hold office.From 1998-2006, Barton served as vice-chairman of the Texas Republican Party. During his tenure, the Texas GOP platform asserted that “America is a Christian nation” and also noted the “myth of separation of church and state”. In 2004, Barton was hired as a political consultant by the Republican National Committee. His position consisted of “traveling the country and speaking at about 300 RNC-sponsored lunches for local evangelical pastors … and encouraged pastors to endorse political candidates from the pulpit”.

 

Working primarily behind the scenes with other far Right Wing figures, Barton’s work is believed to have had direct influence on public opinion regarding issues of religious freedom. He has become a leading “historian” in the cause of promoting a Christian nationalist agenda. In her article “From Schoolhouse to Statehouse: Curriculum from a Christian Nationalist Worldview,” PRA research fellow Rachel Tabachnick noted “The State of the First Amendment 2007 national survey found that 65% of Americans believe that the founders intended America to be a Christian nation and 55% believe that the Constitution establishes America as a Christian nation. Barton can get some of the credit for this.”

In 2010, the Texas School Board hired him as an “expert” during their controversial curriculum initiative to promote Christian nationalism in schools, remove any historic claims which referenced a separation of church and state, and ban creationism and evolution from being taught in Texas public school system. Barton also supported efforts to excise Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chaves from textbooks, claiming they did not deserve to be included for advancing majority rights, as “only majorities can expand political rights.”

Barton has also worked closely with Glenn Beck, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, and other prominent leaders in the Christian conservative movement. In 2008, he partnered with Gingrich and his organization Renewing American Leadership in promoting and defending religious conservative political activism, based around their mission of defending the “three pillars of American civilization: freedom faith and free markets”. In 2010, Barton was featured in a series of rallies organized by Beck, where he gave “historical” accounts of the founding fathers’ efforts to incorporate biblical values into the Constitution. He then hosted, along with Jim Garlow and David Lane,   “The Next Great Awakening Tour” at various sites across the country. This religious revival tour promulgating right-wing Christian ideologies featured guest speakers such as Lou Engle, Tony Perkins, and Rick Santorum.

Though Barton might be a popular figure inside Christian conservative circles, his “historical research” has been universally discredited by academics and even fellow conservatives. In 2012, his book, The Jefferson Lies, was voted by the History News Network as the “least credible history book in print.”  In an attempt to defend his work against the claims that he was cherry-picking information to suit his arguments and ignoring facts that discredited his work, Barton acknowledged that some of his research lacked primary sources in an article titled “Unconfirmed Sources.” Despite conceding a lack of sources for quotes by founding fathers he had repeatedly used, he argued that the quotes were “completely consistent” with other views and statements by the founding fathers. Barton has also made baseless and bigoted assertions on issues outside of historic revisionism as well. He has repeatedly denounced climate change science, claimed on his radio show in 2010 that “homosexuals die decades earlier than heterosexuals,” and more than half of all homosexuals have sexual relations with more than 500 people in their lifetimes, and has said that Democrats are responsible for racism against African Americans.

Barton continues to spread misinformation on his Wallbuilders Live radio broadcast. In a March 2013 episode, Barton gave incomplete historical accounts of English settlers destroying Native American villages and essentially justifying the English. He has consistently spoken about this, including in his book which had been pulled from publication on account of “loss of confidence in the book’s details.” Evangelical ministers who are trying to reconcile with Native Americans are concerned about the impact of his distorted historical accounts. In a February 2018 episode, Barton falsely claimed that the Obama Administration had labeled his group, and other groups like his such as Focus on the Family, an “enemy of the state.” As Right Wing Watch noted, no statement remotely resembling Barton’s claim exists. Barton also claimed that SPLC designated his group to be “domestic terrorists,” when in reality Barton himself had been designated an “extremist.”

Wallbuilders has also been working as a part of a coalition of Christian right groups on called “Project Blitz”: a state-level legislative initiative to pass laws preserving a Christian nation. The laws are organized into tiers, and range from mandating that the “In God We Trust” motto be displayed onsite at schools, to First Amendment-focused laws ensuring protections for Christian religious practices, such as the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people. Barton’s claims of the U.S. being founded as a Christian nation and his speculations about the original goals of the Founding Fathers have heavily influenced the philosophy of this movement.

James Lavelle and Julia Taliesin contributed to this profile. Updated 5/14/18.