Washington Post Gives Religious Right Venue to Campaign Against Southern Poverty Law Center

12/20/2010 11:32 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

One of the most annoying things about religious right groups is despite their claims to stand for truth and morality, humility and admittance of wrongdoing in the face of obvious evidence is something foreign to them.

And it doesn't help when they are aided and abetted by those who should seemingly know better.

On Friday, Matthew J. Franck, the director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, NJ, wrote a piece in the Washington Post about the controversy regarding the Southern Poverty Law Center naming and profiling several religious right organizations as hate groups.

The title of the piece, 'In the gay marriage debate, stop playing the hate card', should give you some indication of where Franck is going.

Franck criticizes SPLC for naming the Family Research Council and other religious right organizations as hate groups. And according to him, it is because of their stance against gay marriage:

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a once-respected civil rights organization, publishes a "report" identifying a dozen or so "anti-gay hate groups," some for no apparent reason other than their vocal opposition to same-sex marriage. Other marriage advocacy groups are put on a watch list.

... The SPLC's report on "hate groups" gives the game away. It notes that no group is listed merely for "viewing homosexuality as unbiblical." But when describing standard expressions of Christian teaching, that we must love the sinner while hating the sin, the SPLC treats them as "kinder, gentler language" that only covers up unreasoning hatred for gay people. Christians are free to hold their "biblical" views, you see, but we know that opposition to gay marriage cannot have any basis in reason. Although protected by the Constitution, these religious views must be sequestered from the public square, where reason, as distinguished from faith, must prevail.

But Franck's entire argument is inaccurate. SPLC has said on more than one occasion that opposition to gay marriage was not the reason why these groups were named as anti-gay hate groups or profiled. The organization has made it clear that the designation is because these groups have deliberately spread lies and junk science about the LGBT community. Lies such as:

  • gay men molest children at a higher level than heterosexuals,
  • gay men have a shorter lifespan,
  • gays contributed to the Holocaust in Germany.

Conveniently, Franck's piece doesn't even address these lies. He tries to make the controversy strictly about gay marriage.

And to be honest, Franck's stance is not accidental. His lie is as deliberate as those of religious right groups when they demonize LGBTs.

And here is my problem with the Washington Post giving him room. Franck's piece is not an honest opinion commentary. The piece uses talking points and phrases that seem to be derived from FRC's press releases about the controversy, even down to the part "honoring" SPLC for its past work against racism.

In short, Franck's piece is an ad for the Family Research Council's anti-SPLC campaign, sounding as if it came less from his heart and more from a board room. Perhaps FRC's board room?

The piece is certainly in line with FRC's campaign of trying to make the issue one about gay marriage rather than one about how the organization and several other religious right groups spread lies about the LGBT community in the same manner that racists spread lies about the African-American community.

Certainly any newspaper has an obligation to push both sides of an argument but, for lack of a better phrase, the Washington Post got "punked."

In attempting to be objective, the Post became the victim of a campaign of misinformation that did not only a disservice to itself and its readers, but also to the concept of journalism itself.