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Jamie McGonnigal Headshot

Is It Christian to Be Anti-Gay?

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Between the Chick-fil-A controversy and last week's despicable shooting at the Family Research Council's (FRC) offices, there's been a lot of discussion about something called a "hate group."

Groups such as the FRC, the National Organization for Marriage, Focus on the Family, Public Advocate, the American Family Association, and many others frequently refer to themselves as "pro-family," "pro-marriage," and sometimes "Christian" organizations. And when asked, the leaders of these groups will be the first to tell you that they hold nothing against the gay community. It's their actions, though, that you need to take a look at. If you call a duck a cow, it doesn't make it a cow.

While these groups may do some excellent work with Christian charities, their primary focus is on fighting to have the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people denied. But over the years they've been able to frame what it is they do with those "pro-family" and "Christian" modifiers. It's a frustrating fight for those of us seeking nothing more than equal treatment under the law when these incorrectly identified groups lie by claiming that they are being attacked by people who are "anti-Christian" or "anti-family."

When a person hears the term "Christian" organization, a particular image comes to mind. That image probably features nuns and priests serving food to the poor, running orphanages, or hosting a winter clothing drive for the homeless. One doesn't necessarily think of men in business suits being paid handsomely to lobby congressmen to pass anti-gay legislation. One doesn't think of of Fred Phelps and his clan picketing soldiers' funerals with neon "God Hates Fags" signs. One doesn't think of rallies where people scream that gays are "worthy to death." Yet these and "Christian" organizations like them are doing just that.

That's where the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) comes in. According to their website, "SPLC is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education and other forms of advocacy, we work toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality." One of the ways they do this is by exhaustively researching the work of groups like the Ku Klux Klan, neo-nazis, racist skinheads, black separatists, and border vigilantes and identifying them as "hate groups."

Identifying an anti-gay group as a "hate group" 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. This is not and never has been about a disagreement of beliefs; this is about groups using lies to disseminate hatred toward a group of people.

While identifying themselves as "pro-family" groups, they are actually fighting against more than 1 million American families with more than 2 million kids who are being raised by LGBT parents. Without marriage protections, some of these families are legal strangers to one another. Anti-gay adoption laws, which were lobbied for and won by these organizations, keep kids from ever finding "forever homes." And anti-gay-marriage laws assure that these families will suffer from a crippling lack of legal protections. There is nothing "pro-family" or "Christian" about allowing families to be ripped apart or seeing children raised by a foster care system when there are thousands of loving couples ready to adopt.

In addition to the work of these groups in the U.S., some of them have been linked to anti-gay legislation in other countries. The Ugandan "kill the gays" bill would penalize acts of homosexuality with life imprisonment, or, in cases of "aggravated homosexuality," with death. While the U.S. Congress was preparing to pass a resolution condemning the Ugandan legislation, the FRC spent $25,000 on lobbyists to stop them from denouncing the law. They claim that they were only trying to change the language of the resolution, but in prior lobbying documents from FRC, they'd indicated that they were attempting "to amend" legislation, whereas the tax documents for this action contained no such itemization of amendments. Additionally, the FRC's Tony Perkins has gone so far as to say that the "kill the gays" bill "upholds moral conduct."

These groups have painted themselves with bright colors to make people think they are fighting for tradition, for family, for morality, and for freedom. But the truth of the matter is they don't fight for anything. They are only fighting against LGBT people so that we can't experience the same freedoms they do. How else can you explain the National Organization for Marriage, whose mission statement is "to protect marriage and the faith communities that sustain it," attacking things like gender-identity protections for children, or children being taught that gay people even exist. They've even worked to falsely link gay people to pedophilia. None of those things have anything to do with "protecting marriage," so why are they doing them? Because they are not pro-anything; they are anti-gay.

And while nearly every group pro- and anti-LGBT group took time to condemn last weeks' deplorable shooting and call for sanity and nonviolence in this debate, one group made the active decision to politicize the discussion. The National Organization for Marriage released 13 statements and blog posts in the first 24 hours following the shooting (starting long before anything was known about the shooter), attacking the SPLC for identifying the Family Research Council as a "hate group." At a time when many people's thoughts are with the victim of the shooting, NOM is once again spending their time on something other than marriage. If there was ever a question about their true motivations, that question has been answered.

The FRC followed suit by placing the blame on organizations who are calling out the FRC for their lies. At a press conference following the shooting, Tony Perkins said, "Corkins was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that have been reckless in labeling organizations 'hate groups' because they disagree with them on public policy."

Perkins also blamed -- wait for it -- the Obama administration:

Well, I think as we witnessed this past week at the Family Research Council, clearly linked to that same atmosphere of hostility that's created by the public policies of an administration that's indifferent or hostile to religious freedom, and groups like, as I mentioned, the Southern Poverty Law Center that recklessly throws around labels giving people like this gunman who came into our building a license to take innocent life.

As Americans we have the right to believe what we want. We have the right to publicly express those beliefs without fear of reprisal. And we have the right to call someone out -- nonviolently -- when they are spreading lies. These so-called "pro-family," "pro-marriage" and "Christian" groups are none of those things. They exist solely to keep lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families from receiving legal protections that should be afforded every American. Say what you will, but please stop calling a duck a cow.