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Religion Last Updated: Jun 27th, 2006 - 01:04:46

Teaching bigotry and hate: Lessons from the Christian Reich
By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jun 27, 2006, 00:59

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Like all �irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination,� homophobia is a learned behavior. It feeds on hate and the desire to do harm to fellow citizens that have been reduced to abstractions or objects of disgust.

Don Wildmon�s American Family Association is well-known for its anti-gay boycotts. They try to hurt American businesses that treat their gay and lesbian employees equally. They turn people into targeted objects of disdain and fodder for their malevolent �cause.�

In a June 2, article carried by Agape Press, Wildmon chirped about how AFA�s boycott was hurting the Ford Motor Company and the families it -- and its suppliers and dealers -- support:

More than 20 pro-family groups are currently boycotting Ford, which also makes Jaguar, Volvo, Land Rover, Mazda, Lincoln and Mercury. The American Family Association, which initiated the boycott, has learned that Ford dealers recently met with corporate officials, and the boycott�s effect on sales was the major topic of discussion.

In fact, while Ford�s financial difficulties are not new, the company�s woes appear to be accelerating. The automaker�s sales dropped 5 percent in March and 7 percent in April, and Ford�s stock has dropped more than 14 percent since the boycott began, reaching the lowest price in nearly 20 years.

The �pro-family� designation is blatantly fraudulent, hypocritical and, in this case, nothing less than evil. How many families -- including Christian and �traditional� ones -- are being adversely affecting by this �pro-family� boycott? Do the AFA and their allies care? Not in the least. Their malevolent goal is to teach irrational fear of, aversion to, and discrimination toward gay and lesbian Americans.

That was made clear by �Rev.� Wildmon in his mid-June statement:

The American Family Association says that its boycott of Ford Motor Company over the automaker�s support for LGBT issues is having an impact.

�The boycott of Ford Motor Company is working! Sales of automobiles made by Ford dropped 2 percent in May,� AFA chair Donald E. Wildmon said in an email to supporters.

What kind of man, what kind of �Christian� would take pleasure -- note Wildmon�s excited exclamation point -- in hurting people and their families?

American automakers are in a slump. According to a recent poll, that has little if anything to do with the AFA�s boycott that was precipitated by Ford advertising in GLBT publications:

More than 80 percent of Americans are not influenced in their buying decisions when a company decides to market to gay audiences, according to a national survey released today [June 15, 2006] by FH Out Front, the global gay communications practice within the Fleishman-Hillard public relations firm.

The survey also showed that 52 percent of Americans would �do nothing� to support a boycott against companies targeted for promoting their products to the gay community while 14 percent of respondents said they would speak out against such boycotts. . . .

Socially conservative groups that encourage boycotts of corporations that advertise in gay publications, for example, are actually putting out a �lot of sound and fury signifying nothing,� [said Ben] Finzel [vice president in Fleishman-Hillard�s Washington office].

The legal arm of the AFA is the Center for Law and Policy. Steve Crampton is its the chief counsel.

"Unless the people of the State of Massachusetts rise up with one voice in opposition to this lawless and socially destructive behavior, it will destroy society as we know it," said Crampton, following the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision acknowledging civil marriage equality

When the University of Florida began offering health care coverage to same-sex domestic partners -- all 25 couples who initially signed up -- he had this nonsensical response: �Steve Crampton, chief counsel with the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy, says, in this case, homosexuality appears to be the preferred lifestyle of the State of Florida.�

In his latest missive -- �Poison In Our Libraries� -- Crampton and the AFA Center for Law and Policy again taught the lesson of irrational fear of, aversion to, and discrimination toward the gay and lesbian Americans.

Laurie Taylor is the mother of two school age children in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She discovered some books in the school library she objected to. Naturally, they had to do with the reality of homosexuality and that homosexuals are people �just like you and me.�

She demanded the school place the books in a �parent library� section. She and like-minded others formed �Parents Protecting the Minds of Children.� Not exactly a descriptive name. �Parents Closing the Minds of Children� or �Parents Perverting the Minds of Children� would have been more accurate.

Not surprisingly they found other books they objected to and demanded the school not make them available to students without parental approval. Many of the books they targeted had won awards, including �outstanding book for children.� The school refused their request to censor.

Crampton and the AFA Center for Law and Policy were quick to join the fight for irrational fear of, aversion to, and discrimination: "The AFA Center for Law & Policy has agreed to represent Taylor and other Fayetteville parents in a federal lawsuit seeking to protect their constitutional rights to oversee the education of their children." [italics added]

Crampton�s own words: "All Taylor and the other parents asked for was that the books be placed in a restricted access section, thereby allowing parents to exercise their God-given (and constitutionally protected) rights to oversee the moral upbringing of their children." [italics added]

Unlike Crampton, I do not presume to speak for God or know Her will, but I can read. The United States Constitution does not contain the words �parent� or �parents,� �moral� or "morality.�

The Christian Reich and their legal eagles adamantly advocate the philosophy of �originalism� and �textual literalism� when it comes to interpreting the Constitution, especially in relation to the separation of church and state, free speech, the civil equality of all Americans, and the right to privacy. So from whence does this �constitutional right� of which Crampton speaks come?

What Crampton�s Center for Law and Policy are really doing is teaching homophobia. By arguing books that reference homosexuality or that contain �gay� characters should be sequestered, the lesson being taught is that �gays� are bad people to be mocked, shunned, or otherwise tormented. British educationalist Mark Jennett recently made the case at a conference in London, as reported by the BBC:

Mr Jennett said figures showed 81 percent of primary school pupils identified the use of the word �gay� as �a means of attacking or making fun of someone.�

He added: �By the time they find out that it means to be homosexual, they have already learnt that it means something bad.� . . .

He said: �We should talk about sexuality, not sex: things like people�s family lives.

�Primary school children are very strong on the concept of fairness. We should tell them just how unfair homophobia is.�

The same lesson was taught by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a kindred organization to the Center for Law and Policy. The ADF was founded by a group of ultra conservative Christians, including Dr. James Dobson and Dr. D. James Kennedy, both infamous for their homophobic crusades. Threatening a lawsuit the school could ill afford, ADF forced Springfield High School in Oregon to allow a student to wear a T-shirt emblazoned with the message �I am a Christian, and I am against homosexuality, abortion, pre-marital sex, and drugs.� What�s the definitively non-Christian message being taught about gay and lesbian students?

In the gospels Jesus said absolutely nothing about homosexuality, abortion or drugs. But he did -- with Mary Magdalene at his side -- call upon the faithful to dedicate themselves to creating a more ethical and just world and to assuring justice and equality for all �God�s children,� especially the disenfranchised. Bishop Gene Robinson was blunt and true to the gospels when he told reporters he believes �gay rights� are consistent with Christian values and that �Jesus is the agenda, the homosexual agenda� of equality for all God�s children.

But the ultra-conservative Christian Reich is obsessive-compulsive (anal retentive?) about teaching irrational fear of, aversion to, and discrimination toward gay and lesbian Americans:

Hundreds Protest Allowing Textbooks to Include Gay Information
Written for the web by Elizabeth Bishop, Internet News Producer

Hundreds of members of conservative and religious groups rallied at the State Capitol to urge legislators and the governor to reject bills they say will indoctrinate public school children. They are especially upset about a bill that would require lessons on positive contributions of gays and lesbians in history.

Apparently reality and history offend the self-righteous who wish to exclude, shun and demonize some of the most prominent men and women in American and world history. What are the lessons these protestors and their actions are teaching American youth?

It�s the same message the Christian Reich proudly proclaimed when $300,000 for construction, expansion and renovation of the Gay and Lesbian Center in Los Angeles was axed by �pro-family� Republican representative Steve King of Iowa. His amendment to the funding bill says "none of the funds made available in this act [a Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill] shall be for the construction, renovation or building of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.�

"If his amendment doesn�t pass, King says others in the House may vote down the entire bill because of the provision."

What�s the message Rep. King is teaching the country�s youth? The answer is simple: gay and lesbian Americans and their families don�t count. Shun them, demean them, exclude them.

What America�s youth are learning is that the agenda of the �Christian Right� is anything but Christian and that the �pro-family� label is anything but pro-family. And those are lessons worth learning, especially in the historical light cast by burning books:

Fire started in library�s gay books section
June 15, 2006
BY ANNIE SWEENEY, Crime Reporter

Chicago Police are investigating a suspicious fire that burned about 100 books from the gay and lesbian selection at a North Side Chicago Public Library branch.

The fire -- definitely deemed arson -- was set days before a gay pride parade and walk in Chicago, the city hosting Gay Games VII that, despite feverish efforts and boycotts by the Christian Reich, continue to gain major corporate sponsors, the latest of which are ESPN and QTG, the maker of Quaker Oats, Tropicana juice and Gatorade.

The morning after the blaze, Rick Garcia, public policy director of Equality Illinois, said that he had little doubt about the motivation: �Anti-gay activists trade on lies about gay people and our families. Books and information are the first things they want to target.�

Germany, 1930s: book-burning was also a favorite pastime of those who feared knowledge and truth. How far we haven�t come . . .

Then, Hitler was in charge and Germany had become a fascist state with designs on world domination. Today, George W. Bush is in charge and America has become a theofascist state with designs on world domination. Some of the first groups Hitler went after -- aside from the Jews -- were those with mental illness or retardation, personality disorders (as defined by the Reich), physical defects and homosexuals. America�s commander-in-chief and his military establishment found it easier just to combine the lot:

A Pentagon document classifies homosexuality as a mental disorder, decades after mental health experts abandoned that position.

The document outlines retirement or other discharge policies for service members with physical disabilities, and in a section on defects lists homosexuality alongside mental retardation and personality disorders.

And what�s the cost of this purge? The government says one thing, but an independent investigation says another:

Discharging troops under the U.S. military policy on gays cost $363.8 million over 10 years, almost double what the government concluded a year ago, a private report says.

The report . . . by a University of California Blue Ribbon Commission, questioned the methodology the Government Accountability Office used when it estimated that the financial impact of the �Don�t Ask, Don't Tell� policy was at least $190.5 million.

Even in 2005, the ruse was exposed: ��Even by GAO�s admission they don�t reflect the enormity of the information that�s missing,� said Tony Smith, executive director of Military Community Services Network. �It only includes information on enlisted service members, not those in the Marine Corps, National Guard, Coast Guard or other specialty areas.��

The financial costs are important but secondary to the ruined lives and message being sent to American youth: If you are gay or lesbian, you are not welcome; you are �defective.�

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