It’s Official: AFA, FRC, and Other Anti-Gay Orgs are Hate Groups

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Today the Southern Poverty Law Center has updated its list of hate groups and it now includes many prominent Christian organizations that promote anti-gay messages. This includes the American Family Association and Family Research Council, groups who receive media attention on at least a weekly basis. (Truth Wins Out has the full list of the new additions.)

For some, these are obvious choices. Others might think it overreaching. Personally, I think this is a very important step, and I’m very proud of the SPLC for making it.

Let’s not forget that Tony Perkins, in particular, is regularly included in national newspapers and mainstream cable news discussions. It is always done in the name of “showing both sides” of the story. Now, one of those sides is clearly designated as “hate.” Similarly, the AFA’s Bryan Fischer, who is never short on astonishing talking points, is also clearly labeled as “hate.”

There are many who seek to somehow bridge the gap and claim that beliefs that homosexuality is a sin somehow do not amount to hate. This is very murky territory. The idea that homosexuality is a choice (and a bad one) is the most hurtful idea our community still fights. It has no ounce of truth, and yet it persists quite widespread. It is used to create shame, promote bullying, and maintain inequality. Anyone who holds such ideas is certainly contributing to the negative experiences of the LGBT community, but anyone actively promoting and reinforcing such ideas is most definitely a bully.

The culture war is all about one thing: legitimacy. With these new designations applied to some very large organizations and prominent anti-gay speakers, it is a big win for the groups promoting the health, safety, and prosperity of LGBT people.

Not all ideas are created equal. We now have some important reinforcements in the fight against hate.

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There are 9 Comments to "It’s Official: AFA, FRC, and Other Anti-Gay Orgs are Hate Groups"

  • Brian says:

    We really need a 1-100 scale or something for the level of malfeasance of these things. I don’t have personal knowledge of the particular groups you mention so I don’t know if they are borderline or clearly on one side of the line. However, if someone gave me full authority to divide groups into hate” and “not hate, just wrong”, I would be incapable because there is a continuum and no clear place to draw the line.

    I’m more comfortable with how the SPLC provides not just a list but a description for each group with specifics. Nonetheless it’s too simplistic to have the only two statuses for a group: to be “on the list” or “not on the list”.

    For species we have: Extinct-Extinct in Wild-Critically Endangered-Endangered-Vulnerable-Near Threatened-Least Concern. Something like that is probably better than a 1-100 rating.

    • ZackFord says:

      My understanding is that SPLC certainly recognizes the actions many groups take without condemning them as hate groups. This is definitely NOT the firs time they’ve dealt with AFA, FRC, or IFI. I think for them, the hate group designation is the final line; i.e. there is no redemption left for that group. It is clear their motives are hurtful and must be condemned as such. I think that’s a much more pragmatic and understandable designation than a sliding scale.

  • Brian says:

    Well in that case they should still have a scale to a) indicate physically dangerous groups, b) make it clear that listing is an extreme step and that they aren’t casting too wide a net, c) better act against groups that are similar to these groups, but not as bad and don’t warrant being on the list.

    One quote from the link has one of these groups’ leaders quoted as saying that Islam is as bad as the KKK. When I think SPLC hate groups list, the KKK is the first thing I think of, not people who use that as an example of the most evil political movement there is (tied with Islam)! That’s what I’m talking about. A few of the listed groups advocate the death penalty for gays and “abortionists” (doctors? Women? Probably not, but who knows). Some advocate making it a smaller crime, most just (say they) want to deny legal rights. There is a huge difference between campaigning for the death of all homosexuals and supporting Proposition 8. HUGE.

  • ZackFord says:

    Yes and No.

    First of all, the groups on that list do a whole lot more than just support things like Prop 8. They actively spread lies and demonize the LGBT community. (See the post I wrote just after this one.) SPLC does not choose them lightly, and the excerpts provided are mere snippets of the evidence and criteria that is surely weighed. The accompanying article also points out how distinctly high the rates of hate crimes are against LGBT folks, motivated by the rhetoric these groups reinforce.

    Secondly, the way in which these groups promote harm may not be as explicit, but it’s no less dangerous or volatile. My friend Christine Robinson and her colleague Sue Spivey have written about the way that groups who promote ex-gay ideas actually constitute four of the five UN definitions of genocide. Most people think genocide is only “mass murder,” but that is a narrow understanding.

    Article 2 of the UNCG defines genocide as ‘‘any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and/or (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.’’

    From this context, it’s easier to understand the harm these groups do. The outcomes of ex-gay therapy have certainly been demonstrated to be harmful and intended to erase the existence of people who are gay. These groups’ are also the fiercest voices opposing marriage rights and adoption rights by same-sex couples.

    I encourage you to listen to the interview I recently did with Christine (It starts around 14:20), and if you’re interested, I can share the full study with you via email.

  • Brian says:

    Your first point emphasizes the collective effect of all the groups causing the harm, rather than single groups, as a reason for lumping together all contributors to the poisonous environment. I disagree. Whether the harm caused by each group is unrelated or if the ocean of trouble they create is more like a body of water made from one drop over there, another drop here, a bucket of water there, an oil tanker over there, it is *still* important to distinguish between the droplet, bucket, and oil tanker.

    Secondly, for what I think of the UN, see I don’t value them as a moral source more or less than I do the groups on the list (obviously they can still be right about things from time to time, I don’t reflexively oppose their ideas).

    Regarding your second point, the UN is engaged in a *worse* example of the same type of thing the SPLC is vaguely doing: eliding over important differences to divide the world into “good” and “bad”. The UN’s definition of genocide is ludicrous-I have no problem using the word “genocide” to denote the systematic murder of a group, or of a type of desk chair or dog breed, it’s all a matter of convention what we do with those syllables. But what the UN is trying to do is gloss over important moral differences. The main problem this causes (other than being false) is when weighing “bad” against “worse”. If the UN makes normative as equally bad every wrong, we will lose track of what is most important.

    It’s like highlighting every single word on a page to read it better.

    I don’t doubt that concocting false scientific research creates a harmful environment nor that ex-gay therapy prepares the ground for denying adoption rights etc.

    Please understand that arguing that apparently less harmful tactics are more harmful than they appear is not really the type of argument that goes against my general position. Fundamentally, my argument is that different things are damn different, and deliberately blinding ourselves to that in an effort to lend Proposition 8 some of the horror we reserve for, say, the Armenian Genocide *lessens* and *cheapens* the Armenian Genocide.

    Harm done is a reflection not only of intent but of power. The GOP has done more harm, even in just the last few years, to gays than all of these groups combined, despite having many moderates and the group that led the legal challange to DADT. Even if in some abstract way some of these political groups are more harmful than those that advocate the killing of gays, they express less hatred. Even if they pass a certain threshold for hatred that should get them marked by the SPLC (a binary hate/not hate distinction), there should still be clear ways of distinguishing among these groups or the whole enterprise risks looking as foolish as the UN-either by timidly excluding all but the hardcore, “kill the abortionists” bigots, or by lumping those folk in with the politicos who say “Gays and Lesbians have a right to live as they choose…[but] they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”

    To put it another way, I think there should be a middle ground of informativeness. Currently there is a strict on the list/off the list, with in depth reports available for those who are interested. The problem is: who the hell wants to read all those reports? No one. I think the experts at the SPLC should provide us with more information by encoding the type of danger from the group (drop in a flood, oil tanker in a flood, cluster bomb in a flood), the level of intolerance from the group, etc. This would be an increase in our ability to make precise moral distinctions and avoid the huge boundary problem of classifying semi-hate groups, which arises if you don’t do this. Most importantly it is the right thing to do to make moral judgments based on exactly what the subject is doing; giving less condemnation to those doing less bad things is the other side of the coin of giving more condemnation to those who do worse things.

    • ZackFord says:

      I understand what you’re saying.

      I think you and I simply disagree about the extent of harm done. While the GOP may have been the most visible obstacle to gay rights, I do not think they come anywhere close to the amount of psychological, financial, and physical (through suicide and hate crimes) harm perpetrated by these groups.

      As for your concern about the SPLC, I agree with your concern about groups who DO cause harm but are not (yet) classified as hate groups. I think the SPLC still provides a lot of helpful information about those groups which we shouldn’t discount because the hate group list gets the most attention.

      I think my biggest concern about your argument is that it leaves room to convey that some kinds of harm are worse than others. We very well may have personal opinions that they do, but I don’t think it helps us out to call them out. Your final comment draws this out:

      Most importantly it is the right thing to do to make moral judgments based on exactly what the subject is doing; giving less condemnation to those doing less bad things is the other side of the coin of giving more condemnation to those who do worse things.

      And this is why I’ve been attentive to responding to your comments, because not knowing who you are, I am skeptical about your intentions. I disagree with the notion that groups who do “less bad” things deserve “less condemnation.” In fact, I think it’s those groups we’re most prone to turning a blind eye to, and thus who actually get away with a whole lot more. I think it’s more helpful to call out anything we call as bad and not leave room for the moral ambiguity that many of these groups depend on.

      So ultimately, I’m not sure whether we agree or not. While nothing’s perfect, I think the existence of a list of hate groups is actually rather effective because it leaves no room for moral ambiguity. There may be groups doing harm that aren’t on the list, and SPLC still calls them out, but the list also allows SPLC to say, “Any group who has made it onto this list is not to be trusted. Period.”

  • Brian says:

    “I disagree with the notion that groups who do “less bad” things deserve “less condemnation.” In fact, I think it’s those groups we’re most prone to turning a blind eye to, and thus who actually get away with a whole lot more.”

    This is why I said your type of argument can’t work against what I’m saying, even if you are right. You are arguing for the correctness of things irrelevant to my fundamental position. If it turns out that it is more harmful to make up a scientific study saying being gay isn’t genetic/is all genetic/whatever than it is to say “all gays should be killed”, I’m 100% fine with giving the first greater emphasis. You can’t argue against “some things are worse than others” by saying “some things are worse than you think”. If some things are worse than I think than…OK, some things are still worse than others!

    “I think my biggest concern about your argument is that it leaves room to convey that some kinds of harm are worse than others.”

    The argument is sometimes raised that parents giving their deaf children operations so they can hear are committing genocide against the deaf community. Maybe it technically is genocide. Hell, maybe it’s technically *wrong*, I don’t think so but I’m open to the possibility. If so, humanity loses out by having only one word to cover cochlear implants, Proposition 8, and the Gulag, and humanity is poorer for thinking of all as the same kind of wrong. It’s ludicrous. Insisting that all are the same by limiting language is precisely what the thought control society did in Orwell’s 1984.

    I think your final point about the value of a binary list/no list structure is very good. In other words, regardless of quantity of harm done or intent, the list marks organizations whose every product should be seen as intent on damage, as opposed to say the GOP whose programs’ intent one should be agnostic about until evidence is presented.

    However, the list per se is useless in making moral judgments because it has no structure and does not distinguish among the groups on its list. With more information, it would be useful for that as well. I can’t help but see you as arguing for obscurantism as a means to further (y)our cause, and that strategy is dishonest and ineffective. People looking at the list know that some are worse than others. I don’t think the world would be a worse place if next to each name the information contained in the detailed reports was abstracted to give scores along several metrics.

    Once my roommate accidentally dropped his prescription medication into some really vile trash. He couldn’t throw it away (expensive) and had to take it eventually. I would have taken the pills aside and brushed them off with a new toothbrush or something; that’s how I think. Let me tell you what he did, perhaps it will resonate with you. He put the pills back in the bottle and shook it. My jaw dropped. “This way, every time I take a pill I can think it was a clean one,” he said.

    I think since you acknowledge some groups do harm yet don’t deserve to be on the list, you are agreeing with my position that harms are not all equivalent. Yet elsewhere you argue against it by saying that all harm is equal, so I’m inclined to say you’re inconsistent rather than that we disagree.

    Perhaps you acknowledge that each harm is really different than each other harm, yet think it useful to hide that difference from yourself an others, in which case we disagree about the efficacy of that.

    Perhaps our only disagreement is the relative harm done by organizations that advocate killing gays and those that advocate outlawing gay marriage. By shifting the Overton window, those who advocate killing gays keep Christians accountable to the Bible and have a bigger impact than you think even though they are widely dismissed (that’s my best guess based on everything I know, but I’m open to counterarguments). Having it become banal to hear “gays should be killed” does more to stop gay marriage than saying “marriage is between a man and a woman”, even when speaking to those who think gays should be allowed to do whatever they want in private yet the state should not recognize them.

    It’s also hard for me to take out the actuarial table and prefer stopping what will probably be 10 suicides from bullying instead of stopping a probable shooting rampage that kills 9. I’m glad I don’t really have to make such a determination. Nonetheless, there is an important way in which the shooting is worse. I hope this last paragraph is clear, I’m worried it isn’t.

    • ZackFord says:

      I guess my bottom-line is that I’d rather have the SPLC list than not. I don’t think we need a list just to tell us what’s wrong or harmful, but I think having a well-respected group like the SPLC to say so does make a difference.

      There are pros and cons to all the different ways they can assess. I think there are pros to having a list as it is that sets a bar for dastardliness. It’s not a catch-all (TWO mentions in their post that Focus on the Family is noticeably missing from the list), nor do I think it’s designed to say that every classified “hate group” is as bad as the next, but it is nonetheless quite helpful to say, “These are all groups whose intentions are malicious and whose actions are harmful.”

      It has its cons as well, just as a more nuanced evaluation system would have both pros and cons.

      I reread your first comment, and I think perhaps where we can find common ground is that there would be room for both kinds of assessments. I don’t know if it would make sense for SPLC to do it two different kinds of ways, but I certainly understand the desire for other such criteria and ranking. With lives on the line (and I hope I don’t have to convince you that these groups really do bear responsibility for a culture of violence, particularly suicides and hate crimes), I just think there is reason to welcome these new rankings and focus on the harm these orgs do as opposed to looking for small ways to vindicate some of them.

  • Brian says:

    “…these new rankings…”

    That was a poor choice of words for you to use, lol.

    “…small ways to vindicate some of them.”

    Or as some of us would say, now we have to work harder to find the small ways to incriminate some of them more than the others to determine which are most deserving of our limited oppositional time and energy. For me it’s the guy who wants to “kill abortionists”, not the Proposition 8 people. I guess that wasn’t actually hard.

    I just went on Focus on the Family’s website. From a quick scan it wouldn’t be confused with Stormfront. In addition to saying nonsensical things and things I am not qualified to evaluate, it often advises seeking professional help. Homosexuality is conspicuous by its absence. They have a generic anti-bullying series that doesn’t have carve out clauses. I agree with the SPLC, they shouldn’t debase the coinage of their list’s credibility for this bunch.

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