Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ex-gay group, Peter Sprigg trying to cause anti-gay havoc in Maryland schools

Peter Sprigg, Family Research Council
A situation is brewing in a Maryland school district which demonstrates not only the duplicity of the so-called ex-gay movement, but also the Family Research Council.

From the webpage Teach The Facts:

 . . .  the MCPS Citizens Advisory Committee for Family Life and Human Development voted to make some minor changes to the sex-ed curriculum. These changes were actually recommended by a previous citizens advisory committee and rejected by the district in 2007, and now a new committee has asked the Superintendent again to recommend to the Board that they modify the curriculum.

Last year the Maryland chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics sent a letter to the Montgomery County Public Schools noting that some statements that had been recommended for inclusion in the curriculum were rejected, and urged the Board of Education to consider adding the material. The letter was partly a reaction to an anti-gay fake pediatric group contacting the school district. The statements are:

* Homosexuality is not a disease or a mental illness (teachers currently can only say this in response to a question)

* Sexual orientation is not a choice and the American Medical Association opposes "therapies" that seek to change sexual orienation that are premised on the assumption that people can or should change their sexual orientation

* Children raised by same-sex couples do just as well as those raised by heterosexuals, and are no more likely to be homosexual

* Children who have fleeting same-sex attractions may assume incorrectly that they are gay or lesbian. Mere fleeting attraction does not prove orientation.

* Homosexuals can live happy, successful lives; they can be successful parents

The citizens advisory committee voted 9 to 3  . . .  to add these recommendations to the curriculum, removing the words "can or" from the second item.

Naturally some folks aren't happy about this. An ex-gay group, PFOX (Parents and Friends of ExGays and Gays) claims that the statements are bashing ex-gays, even though none of the statements say a word about "ex-gays."

PFOX told the American Family Association's One News Now:

. . .the initiative for the statements appears to come from David Fishback, the advocacy chair of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). That group, says PFOX, "actively supports hate against the ex-gay community" -- and Fishback, the group adds, "has a long history of ex-gay bashing."

Of course PFOX conveniently didn't go into detail just what PFLAG has done to "support hate against ex-gays."

However on its webpage, PFOX says the following about Fishback:

Fishback is the discredited chairman of an earlier Committee which had drafted controversial lessons on homosexuality and condom use that the School Board threw out after a federal court ruling in a lawsuit brought by PFOX. The School Board’s attorneys at that time had reviewed and rejected the statements. Fishback’s illegal curriculum cost Montgomery County taxpayers over $36,000 in legal fees.

However, according to Teach The Facts, Fishback:

chaired a citizens advisory committee that developed a comprehensive sex-ed curriculum for our county. The school district in the end decided not to adopt the curriculum as part of a legal deal to prevent a lawsuit, and also reformed the committee with all new members, including its chair, in accordance with the same settlement agreement. The curriculum was not "illegal" in any sense whatsoever. PFOX and other nutty groups won a temporary restraining order against implementation of the curriculum, and the school district bargained with them to prevent a lawsuit, so they could move forward improving the curriculum.

The site also says the following about PFOX and the legal fees allegedly caused by Fishback:

. . . it is ludicrous for PFOX to say that Fishback cost the county $36,000 in legal fees, when they themselves were the suers.

But the most interesting part of the story comes with the inclusion of another party. From the same article in One News Now:

Peter Sprigg is senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council and a member of the board of directors of PFOX. He represented PFOX on the advisory committee and tells OneNewsNow he was offended by most of the statements -- especially the one condemning individuals who seek therapy for unwanted same-sex attractions.

. . . according to Sprigg, the other statements praise homosexuals as "successful parents" with children who "do just as well as those raised by heterosexuals," and that "homosexuals can live happy, successful lives."

The other statements, says the PFOX representative, "were basically presenting a rosy picture of life as a homosexual without presenting some of the counter-evidence or counter-facts about this lifestyle."

Sprigg said he plans to voice his disapproval at the next school board meeting.

Of course Sprigg didn't go into detail about said "counter evidence." Nor did he say just how he will voice his disapproval at the next school board meeting.

One has to wonder will he repeat the statements that led his organization (the Family Research Council) to be named as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Statements such as:

  • Homosexuals molest children at far higher rates than heterosexuals,
  • Same-sex parents harm children, or
  • Homosexuals don’t live nearly as long as heterosexuals.

It would be interesting if he did, seeing that these statements have been refuted or debunked numerous times, including by the SPLC in this piece.

Or will Sprigg cite distorted pieces he wrote, especially one called The Top Ten Myths About Homosexuality.

The Top Ten Myths About Homosexuality is rife with numerous errors including:

1. Ten Myths repeats the lie that the Robert Spitzer study proves that homosexuality is changeable, excluding the fact that Spitzer has said on more than one occasion that his research was being distorted.

2. Ten Myths utilizes the work of  the organization National Association for  Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). The website Truth Wins Out calls NARTH  a discredited "ex-gay" fringe organization that peddles fraudulent "cures" for homosexuality.

3. Most importantly, Ten Myths intentionally distorts information to make it seem that negative behaviors, i.e. drug and alcohol abuse, are indicative of the lgbt orientation. The pamphlet accomplishes this by citing data in regards to the lgbt community and such negative behaviors while omitting the fact that much of the data places the blame on homophobia for these negative behaviors.

A more detailed break down of Sprigg's errors and deceptions in The Top Ten Myths of Homosexuality is in this Huffington Post article.

As one can see, religious right groups cause chaos not only on the nationwide scene, but also on local scenes.
Sometimes the lgbt community and our allies tend to miss what can happen on these local scenes and it has the potential of coming back to haunt us.

I hope the folks in Montgomery County who support the new sex-education curriculum will not let this happen.

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Religious right obsessing over 'Glee' and other Thursday midday news briefs

Apparently your "friend" and mine, Porno Pete LaBarbera is still obsessing over the television show Glee and how the People for the American Way's Right-Wing Watch called out his naked paranoia over the show:

You can always count on Pete for a laugh.

And in other more important news briefs:

Tennessee Senate Committee Passes “Don’t Say Gay” Bill - A bad bill from a crappy lawmaker advances. Please kill this thing.

A statewide 'marriage' group pushing 'ex-gay' propaganda: NY edition - But I thought the "ex-gays" just wanted to be left alone.

Focus On The Family Pushes Back Against Criticism Of Their Anti-Anti-Bullying Campaign - The only thing Focus on the Family accomplished with their "Day of Dialogue" nonsense was a big push back against its nonsense. Subsequently, the organization trying to play defense. The Day of Silence, meanwhile, was again a huge success.

Rock Hill gay beating prompts SC hate crime bill - Saving the best for last. My state of SC desperately needs a bill like this.

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National Organization for Marriage's questionable tactics go across six states

Maggie Gallagher, head of NOM
For an organization supposedly dedicated to the moral high position of "protecting marriage," the National Organization for Marriage seems to have a problem with doing things by the book.

The group has gotten into trouble in several states regarding skirting disclosing its finances, as well as its tactics.

Now one can add Minnesota to that last. According to the Minnesota Independent:

When the National Organization for Marriage and the Minnesota Family Council spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads promoting a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions last fall, the groups should have reported those expenditures, according to a complaint filed with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board earlier this month. The complaint, which focuses on ads launched throughout the 2010 campaign cycle in support of gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, asks for financial penalties as well as an audit of NOM’s spending in Minnesota.

The filing by Common Cause Minnesota alleges that the Minnesota Family Council — and in particular its lobbyist, Tom Prichard — failed to report lobbying expenses related to several ads. Since the ad urged the public and legislators to act on legislation, in this case a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, it constitutes lobbying, the group argues in the complaint. The ads in question include references to an actual bill, SF120, and were created and distributed in partnership with NOM.

There seems to be a pattern going on here:

  • NOM goes to a state to fight against marriage equality.
  • Their efforts are successful because of their mysterious finances.
  • They leave the community in shambles with neighbors angry at neighbors over their positions.
  • Lastly, questions are raised regarding NOM's questionable tactics regarding mostly finances.

According to the, this pattern regarding questions raised over NOM's finances is a pattern which took place also in:

NOM remains under investigation by the Maine Ethics Commission for failing to register with the state as a ballot question committee and refusing to disclose the donors to its campaign to overturn Maine’s marriage equality law in 2009.

NOM provided more than $1.8 million of the $3 million spent by opponents of marriage equality to pass Question 1 – but it illegally failed to disclose where the money came from. Public disclosure laws create transparency by informing voters who is behind a campaign effort. Maine’s law does this by requiring that any funds raised to support or oppose a ballot question be made public.

NOM flouted this law, first by soliciting funds from donors to overturn marriage equality in Maine, and then by refusing to disclose the contributions. As a result, NOM deliberately hid from the public almost two-thirds of the total money the Yes on 1 campaign spent to run its deceptive campaign to overturn marriage equality.

Based on an initial complaint filed by Fred Karger of Californians Against Hate, the Maine Ethics Commission launched a formal investigation into NOM’s fundraising tactics in late 2009. NOM has refused to cooperate with the state inquiry each step of the way, stonewalling requests to turn over documents to the Ethics Commission. The Commission’s executive director defended the inquiry in February 2010: “NOM donated almost $2 million in support of the referendum. The Commission needs to understand how NOM solicited the funds in order to determine whether campaign finance reporting was required.” In June 2010, the Ethics Commission unanimously denied NOM’s latest request to dismiss the state investigation into the organization’s finances.

Rhodes Island:
In September 2010, NOM filed suit in Rhode Island seeking to spend thousands of dollars on TV and radio ads for and against gubernatorial and General Assembly candidates – all free from the state’s reporting requirements. NOM is framing the issue as a matter of free speech. In its court filing, NOM says it intends to “engage in multiple forms of speech in Rhode Island” in advance of the November 2 elections, “including radio ads, television ads, direct mail and publicly accessible Internet postings.”

. . . Shortly after NOM filed the suit, a federal judge gave the organization one week to refile – calling the lawsuit “disorganized, vague and poorly constructed.” According to the Boston Globe, the judge said the relevant allegations were “buried” in the lawsuit.

In January 2009, NOM and ProtectMarriage sued the California Secretary of State in federal court to avoid disclosing Prop. 8 donors. California law requires campaign committees to report information for any contributors of $100 or more, which is then made publicly available. Donor disclosure is uniformly required across the country for federal, state and local campaigns and is widely accepted as a vital means to ensure that elections are conducted transparently and fairly.

Rather than follow the decades-old California Public Records Act, NOM suggested that it was entitled to a blanket exemption. NOM falsely claimed that its contributors had been subject to threats, reprisals and harassment. Serious scrutiny of these claims has revealed only isolated incidents, questionable reports and, more often than not, legitimate acts of public criticism typical of any hard-fought campaign.

In Iowa, NOM’s pattern of evading campaign laws prompted a strong written warning from the state ethics agency.

NOM spent a staggering $86,000 in 2009 in a single legislative special election, part of its effort to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would reverse the state Supreme Court’s unanimous decision recognizing marriage equality. NOM asked its supporters to contribute to the Iowa campaign in a nationwide email by saying that “…best of all, NOM has the ability to protect donor identities.”

The email and subsequent complaints prompted a letter from the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Finance Board stating that state law requires disclosure of political contributions solicited for the Iowa campaign. The board’s director and counsel wrote to NOM that he wished to “avoid potential problems in light of questions the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board has received concerning a solicitation statement made by your organization” and warned that the “independent expenditure process in Iowa is not a vehicle to shield political contributors.”

Washington State:
In Washington State, NOM and its allies waged a coordinated legal battle to hide the names of those who signed the petition to qualify Referendum 71, and those who donated to the campaign to eliminate Washington’s domestic partnership benefits. In doing so, NOM lawyers attempted to dismantle the nation’s public disclosure system as it currently exists until the U.S. Supreme Court rejected their claims.

On the same day that NOM’s lawyers sued to overturn Maine’s campaign finance laws, a mysterious group called “Family PAC,” represented by the same lawyers, sought to circumvent Washington’s campaign contribution limits and keep secret the names of donors to the campaign. The lawyers cited false claims of harassment directed at supporters of Prop. 8 in California as justification for hiding their donors.

The judge rejected the NOM lawyers’ claims, stating that, “The State has a real and vital interest in showing the money trail… I do not believe it is in the public interest for the court to intervene and change the rules of the game at the last minute.”

If this sort of thing was to happen in one or two states, eyebrows would be raised. But this is six states here.

Perhaps it's time for a national investigation into NOM's finances and tactics.

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