Monday, March 09, 2015

Family Research Council is 0 for 2 in attacks on EEOC's Feldblum

Last week, I wrote how the Family Research Council falsely attributed a quote to EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) member Chai Feldblum in order to make her seem like a fierce opponent of "religious liberty." When I confront the organization with the truth via twitter, its representatives promised to "look into it."

Naturally, FRC has not gotten back with me on that. In the meantime, however, it did put out the following about Feldblum:

Believe it or not, FRC actually got that quote right. HOWEVER, whereas last week FRC falsely attributed a seemingly anti-Christian quote to Feldblum, this week the organization took one sentence from an article in order to paint a false tone of her.

The article from which that quote was derived was published in 2006 by the conservative Weekly Standard. 

The article, Banned in Boston,  was written by Maggie Gallagher, who later became head of the anti-marriage equality group the National Organization for Marriage (which should give you some clue about the article's objectivity or lack thereof), and dealt with the controversy of the Catholic Charities stopping adoption services because it couldn't discriminate against same-sex couples while using tax dollars.

Gallagher used this controversy to segue into a discussion about religious liberty vs. lgbt equality. Feldblum, at the time Georgetown professor whom Gallagher described as a "highly sought after on civil rights issues, especially gay civil rights" was quoted extensively in the article.

This is the part of the article where FRC pulled the quote:

To Feldblum the emerging conflicts between free exercise of religion and sexual liberty are real: "When we pass a law that says you may not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, we are burdening those who have an alternative moral assessment of gay men and lesbians." Most of the time, the need to protect the dignity of gay people will justify burdening religious belief, she argues. But that does not make it right to pretend these burdens do not exist in the first place, or that the religious people the law is burdening don't matter.

"You have to stop, think, and justify the burden each time," says Feldblum. She pauses. "Respect doesn't mean that the religious person should prevail in the right to discriminate--it just means demonstrating a respectful awareness of the religious position."

Feldblum believes this sincerely and with passion, and clearly (as she reminds me) against the vast majority of opinion of her own community. And yet when push comes to shove, when religious liberty and sexual liberty conflict, she admits, "I'm having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win."

She pauses over cases like the one at Tufts University, one of many current legal battles in which a Christian group is fighting for the right to limit its leaders to people who subscribe to its particular vision of Christianity. She's uncertain about Catholic Charities of Boston, too: "I do not know the details of that case," she told me. "I do believe a state should be permitted to withhold tax exempt status, as in the Bob Jones case, from a group that is clearly contrary to the state's policy. But to go further and say to a group that it is not permitted to engage in a particular type of work, such as adoptions, unless it also does adoptions for gay couples, that's a heavier hand from the state. And I would hope we could have a dialogue about this and not just accusations of bad faith from either side."

That seems like a measured response to me and one that recognizes how complicated the issue can be when it comes to religious liberty vs. lgbt equality. Feldblum expresses a reasonable degree of sympathy for individuals who generally feel that their religious liberties would be taken away because of lgbt equality. However, she is firm when it comes treating lgbts with fairness.
Not only that but she receives praise for her position from someone who was portrayed in the article as a member of the opposing side of her position; March Stern, general counsel  of  the American Jewish Congress

Marc Stern has known Chai Feldblum since she was eight years old. "Vivacious, really extraordinary," he says as he smiles, shaking his head at the memories of the little girl whose father he knew well. "Chai is among the most reasonable [gay rights advocates]," he says. "If she's having trouble coming up with cases in which religious liberty should win, we're in trouble."

Clearly, if FRC is attempting to paint Feldblum as the poster child for the "anti-Christian" persecution  argument it has been trying to push, the organization needs to go back to the drawing board and regroup.

Because right now, all it has are lies, distortions, and cherry-picked quotes.

#Editor's note - Post initially labeled Feldblum inaccurately as EEOC head.


Patrick Fitzgerald said...

"FRC is attempting to paint Feldblum as the poster child for the "anti-Christian" persecution argument"

Every "anti-Christian" persecution argument" should be met with the charge that gay Christians exist. Whether you’re a believer or not, use it -- the more times they are forced to say "gays can’t be Christians," the worse they look.

Also, they should rightfully be accused of violating the First Amendment religious rights of gay Christians who wish to participate in the sacrament of holy matrimony.

Anonymous said...

There is even more to this story. Chai Feldblum claims that Maggie Gallagher misquoted her in some unspecified way. If that's true, we don't even know what Feldblum said.

To be honest, I am really angry with and disappointed in Chai Feldblum. This quote of hers is used over and over and over. It has been cited counted times over the past 9 years. If she was misquoted, and if the misquote is being used to malign gay people and gay civil rights, then she has the obligation to speak up, explain with specificity what was misquoted and to set forth with clarity her views on this subject. Instead, she says and does nothing for years and then in 2014 - 8 years after the article was published - tweets a vague complaint that she was misquoted. It's appallingly cavalier behavior on her part. This sort of breezy insouciance is part of the reason that so many of the Religious Right's lies, which are covered on this blog, enjoy such a long shelf life.

You know, if HBHM could contact Feldblum and set the record straight, it would make for a scoop and a very good post.

BlackTsunami said...

I disagree with you on a few levels. Ms. Feldblum may not have known about this misquote. There have been times in which religious right groups have distorted studies, such as the Oxford study on the supposed gay lifespan, and the authors of the study not know about the distortion until years later. Secondly Feldblum's quote was abbreviated to keep her from getting on the EEOC board years after the article was published. It may not have had any relevance until the right was exploiting it. Btw, the original problem in this piece was not the truncated quote but the false claim that Feldblum once said "gays win. Christians lose." Lets not shift here.

Erica Cook said...

Whenever I hear someone say that they are being persecuted as a christian I ask who was lynched or killed. I ask when their church was bombed. I ask who in their family was fired for their religion. I tell them anything less than that isn't persecution, its disagreeing. The fact is they are like the spoiled kid on in the school who thinks when the teacher makes them raise their hand like all the other kids they are being picked on.

Patrick Fitzgerald said...

That's excellent, Erica!