MSNBC is in the news this week for announcing that the cable network may finally be ending its contract with contributor Pat Buchanan, who has come under fire in the last month (deservedly) for publishing another book with incendiary racist commentary. Led by Color of Change and CREDO Action, hundreds of thousands of people pressured MSNBC to fire Buchanan. This latest update suggests MSNBC finally listened to their concerns.
Unfortunately, Buchanan wasn’t MSNBC’s only problematic regular contributor. As Media Matters has tracked, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins has appeared on the network 18 times in the past year alone–almost as often as he’s gone on Fox News.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has rightfully declared Family Research Council a hate group because of their consistent, unwavering commitment to spreading hateful lies about the LGBT community.
Speaking on MSNBC, Perkins has falsely claimed that “the research is overwhelming that homosexuality poses a danger to children,” and another FRC official has called for criminalizing homosexuality.
In other contexts, FRC officials have:
- Written that “one of the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the ‘prophets’ of a new sexual order”;
- Alleged that gays and lesbians serving openly in the military would commit a greater number of sexual assaults on heterosexual service members, and that members of Congress who vote to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” would have “the blood of innocent soldiers on their hands”;
- Attacked anti-bullying programs in public schools, describing them as a way of “indoctrinating impressionable school children.”
Yet instead of accurately identifying FRC as a untrustworthy hate group, MSNBC has continued to treat its officials as legitimate political commentators, most recently inviting Perkins on air just yesterday twice to discuss how evangelical Christians view the Republican presidential candidates.
In response, Faithful America has launched a petition calling on MSNBC to “stop inviting Family Research Council spokespeople on the air to represent the views of Christians and other people of faith.”
Just as racist rhetoric has no place in the media, people who tell lies about our LGBT neighbors should not be baptized as credible Christian messengers, particularly for a network built on progressive viewers. MSNBC should continue its move to improve its contributor rolls by keeping FRC off its shows.
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Before Christmas John rightly took Cardinal Francis George to task for suggesting there were similarities between the “Gay Liberation Movement” and the Ku Klux Klan. Among other things, John said
The cardinal’s persistent question – who is the enemy? – speaks volumes about a disturbing strain of Catholicism in public life these days. It’s the quivering voice of a fearful Church that sees itself as a victim, not a reconciler, the voice of institutional callousness drowning out compassionate humanity, a Church eyeing enemies around every corner. I hope the Church I worship in and love is still too full of grace, justice and mercy to embrace that shrunken, embittered posture.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune yesterday, George apologized. Instead of just offering the PR-calibrated “I’m sorry if anyone may have been hurt by what was said” type of quasi-contrition, the Cardinal actually confirmed the substance of John’s critique. From the Tribune story:
“When I was talking, I was speaking out of fear that I have for the church’s liberty and I was reaching for an analogy which was very inappropriate, for which I’m sorry,” George said. “I didn’t realize the impact of what I was saying. … Sometimes fear is a bad motivation.
…George said although church teaching does not judge same-sex relationships as morally acceptable, it does encourage the faithful to “respect everyone.”
“The question is, ‘Does respect mean that we have to change our teaching?’ That’s an ongoing discussion, of course. … I still go back to the fact that these are people we know and love and are part of our families. That’s the most important point right now.”
While I still wish the Cardinal would go further in renouncing his hateful rhetoric, credit where credit’s due. Time will tell, but perhaps George has learned an important lesson.
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Media Matters has an important new report about the alarming frequency with which leaders of the Family Research Council appear on cable news shows. You might ask why that’s a big deal. As the report spells out, it’s because FRC regularly traffics in false, demonizing rhetoric about the LGBT community.
Since being designated a hate group by the highly respected Southern Poverty Law Center in November 2010, FRC staff have appeared on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC 52 times. Only two of those segments mentioned FRC’s designation as a hate group. (Despite FRC’s claims to the contrary, the SPLC designation stated “Viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups.”)
A few notable hateful, misleading claims by FRC leaders cited in the Media Matters report:
- The “It Gets Better” Project is a disgusting and “part of a concerted effort to persuade kids that homosexuality is okay and actually to recruit them into that ‘lifestyle.’”
- “The ‘Research is Overwhelming’ that gay men are more likely to molest children.”
- “Senators Who Vote For [Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell] Repeal Will Have ‘The Blood Of Innocent Soldiers On Their Hands.’”
In addition to these examples, we’ve also noted FRC’s willingness to make inflammatory false claims on a variety of issues, such as:
Having diverse viewpoints in the news media is important. But so are accuracy and credibility. Giving FRC an elevated platform in the public debate on critical issues implicitly extends to them an image of honesty and integrity they simply do not deserve. Kudos to Media Matters for so thoroughly cataloguing this problem.
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During the Congressional debate over repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, opponents of repeal alleged that a change in the policy would lead to an infringement of military chaplains’ religious freedom.
In his testimony to the Senate before the final vote last year, Defense Department Counsel Jeh C. Johnson reiterated that this would not be the case and repeal “would not require a chaplain to change what he preaches–what he counsels in the religious context.”
Last week, the Obama administration revisited this topic by issuing a new directive that allows military chaplains to perform same-sex marriages at military facilities in states where such unions are legal.
Keeping the administration’s promise, the ruling continues to protect the conscience rights of military chaplains. No chaplain is required to perform marriages if they choose not to, and the onus is on the service members to find a chaplain who will perform the ceremony. And as Mr. Johnson predicted, this distinction is well understood by the chaplains themselves:
The Pentagon can issue a policy change concerning the performance of same-gender ceremonies by chaplains. However, the Pentagon doesn’t generate religion as such,” says Gary Pollitt, a spokesman for the Military Chaplains Association, which represents 1,600 current and retired military chaplains.
In an e-mail statement he adds, “A military chaplain conducts religious ceremonies and rites in keeping with the canons [or beliefs, doctrine, policies] of the religious faith group that endorses that chaplain. Each faith group defines the parameters for religious rites and the clergyperson’s individual discretion [if any] with those rites.
Even conservative chaplains who are upset about the change had to admit there was no explicit violation of their religious liberty.
H/T Think Progress
Photo credit: expertinfantry, Flickr
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Today is National Coming Out Day, encouraging LGBT people to live openly and initiate conversations with their friends and families about their experiences.
Along with their general resources, Human Rights Campaign has a guide on coming out in your place of worship for LGBT people of faith.
And over at the Center for American Progress, Eleni Townes tracks some of the changes in policies regarding LGBT people in various faith traditions over the past few years.
In particular, Townes notes faith participation in the “It Gets Better” project. Earlier this year, FPL joined in with our “Faith Gets Better” series. Here’s former Faith in Public Life board chair Meg Riley introducing the project. You can see all of the videos we solicited and curated here.
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