U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor should be embarrassed.
Because they're lending the prestige of their offices to hate groups that spread incendiary lies about the LGBT community and others.
Ryan and Cantor are among a number of high-ranking public officials slated to speak this week at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C.
The summit is hosted by the Family Research Council (FRC), a group that portrays gay people as sick, evil, perverted, incestuous and a danger to the nation. It insists that gay people are "fundamentally incapable" of providing good homes for children - a myth that has been rejected by all relevant scientific authorities. One of its key leaders has actually said that homosexual behavior should be criminalized.
Perhaps the FRC's most dangerous lie is its claim that gay men molest children at a higher rate than heterosexual men do - that pedophilia is, in the words of FRC President Tony Perkins, a "homosexual problem." Here's what the American Psychological Association says: "Despite a common myth, homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men are."
The FRC's extremism is also illustrated by its recent hiring of retired Lt. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin, a radical anti-Muslim propagandist and conspiracy theorist, as its executive vice president. Last year, Boykin stated that "Islam is not a religion and does not deserve First Amendment protections" - a statement that is antithetical to American ideals. In the Affordable Care Act, he literally sees a plot to create a shadow police force that he compares to Hitler's "Brownshirts." Yet, the FRC has not only hired Boykin, it has given him a prominent speaking slot at the Values Voter Summit.
One of the summit's co-sponsors, the American Family Association, has gone so far as to link homosexuality to the Holocaust. Here is what Bryan Fischer, the AFA's director of issue analysis, wrote in 2010: "Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and 6 million dead Jews." He also once said that welfare rewards black people who "rut like rabbits."
The Southern Poverty Law Center, where I work, has designated both the FRC and the AFA as hate groups.
Contrary to what the FRC has repeatedly claimed, we do not list either as a hate group because of their opposition to gay marriage or because of their religious beliefs. Instead, we list them because they engage in baseless, incendiary name-calling and spread false propaganda.
Linking the LGBT community to pedophilia is not an expression of a religious belief, as Perkins would have it. It's simply a lie - and a particularly ugly one at that. Constantly portraying gay people as sick, evil, perverted, incestuous and a danger to the nation simply adds fuel to the fire.
And it's a fire that is raging in our country.
As the FBI hate crime data shows, the LGBT community - the community that the FRC and the AFA constantly vilify - is, by far, the minority group most targeted for violent hate crimes. And the FBI statistics don't even take into account the epidemic of anti-LGBT bullying in our schools - an epidemic that has led to suicides.
And what, by the way, does Perkins say about the "It Gets Better" campaign, an initiative designed to give bullied LGBT students hope for a better tomorrow? "It's disgusting," according to Perkins, all part of a "concerted effort" to "recruit" children into the gay "lifestyle."
Just whose values are being represented at the Values Voter Summit?
Are these the values of Reps. Ryan and Cantor?
No public official - least of all prominent officials like Ryan, Cantor and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who is also speaking - should lend their good names to such a gathering. Instead, they should distance themselves from it.
That's why we and other human rights groups have sent a letter to Ryan, Cantor and others urging them not to speak at the summit. We hope they listen.
Follow J. Richard Cohen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/splcenter