Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Religious right 'persecution' deception slammed in new report

Todd Starnes
The most prolific manufacturer and promoter of apocryphal stories of American Christian persecution working today is Fox News reporter Todd Starnes. If a story emerges about a service member punished for his or her Christian beliefs or a schoolchild banned from talking about Christmas, it most likely originated with or was promoted by Starnes. And there’s a good chance the facts have been either severely distorted or completely fabricated.

For an example of how the Starnes myth machine works, take the story of Air Force Sgt. Phillip Monk, “relieved of his duties,” according to Starnes, “after he disagreed with his openly gay commander when she wanted to severely punish an instructor who had expressed religious objections to homosexuality.”

“Christians have to go into the closet,” Monk told Starnes. “We are being robbed of our dignity and respect. We can’t be who we are.” Starnes added: “[I]n essence, Christians are trading places with homosexuals.”

It appears that Monk’s story was being shopped around by his attorneys at Liberty Institute, one of several Christian Right legal groups that devote themselves to digging up and publicizing alleged cases of persecution. The Alliance Defending Freedom and the American Center for Law and Justice have played a similar role, cheered on by allies in groups such as the Family Research Council (FRC) and the American Family Association (AFA).

The Monk story hit a nerve in a movement still reeling from the 2010 repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning openly gay service members.

After Starnes reported Monk’s tale in August 2013, the story spread like wildfire in the Religious Right. Liberty University official Shawn Akers cited the story to claim that Christians were now the victims of a new “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The AFA’s Bryan Fischer pointed to Monk’s commander to claim that “homosexuals that are in the military” could now “get away with absolutely anything.” Monk was invited to share his tale at a Values Voter Summit panel on the alleged trend of anti-Christian persecution. The Family Research Council produced a tearful video in which Monk told of how he was “reassigned by his commander because of his belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.”

But Monk’s story just wasn’t true. In Starnes’ very first report on Monk, he quoted an Air Force spokesman who explained that Monk hadn’t been punished but had simply come to the end of his assignment. A subsequent Air Force investigation found, according to the Military Times, that “Monk was not removed from his position, but rather moved, as scheduled, to another Lackland unit, an assignment he was notified of in April.”

taken from The Persecution Complex: The Religious Right’s Deceptive Rallying Cry by People for the American Way. The entire report is a must read for those concern with how the religious right is exploiting the ideas of "persecution" and "religious liberty."

'Things the media (and YOU) should look for in NOM's anti-gay march' & other Tuesday midday news briefs

What The Media Should Know About This Week's Anti-Gay "March For Marriage" - Equality Matters comes out with this short, handy guide of what the media (and YOU) should know about NOM's anti-gay march. Let's summarize to wet your appetite to read: 

NOM Grossly Overestimating Attendance 

Church Groups Bussed In To "Visit The Monuments!" 

Anti-Gay Race Baiting 

 Extreme Anti-Gay Speakers 

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone Defends His Plans To Speak At Anti-Gay Rally - Speaking of the march, the archbishop claims to be speaking there because of "love." His letter is a hoot. 

 Video: Archbishop Cordileone says gay people should ‘avoid harmful effects’ of homosexuality - Particularly because he seems to forget a little thing called a "paper trail."  

BarbWire Editor Calls Gay Rights Movement A 'Malignant Cancer' Destroying America - Matt Barber and his BarbWire magazine: almost singlehandedly making the case for lgbt equality.

Republicans Remain Silent As Obama Plans To Extend LGBT Employment Protections - They are waiting for their orders from the religious right.

NOM's anti-marriage equality march a serious 'weapon of mass distraction'

As we get closer to the National Organization for Marriage's ridiculous "March 4 Ignoring That We Can't Think of Any Reason To Oppose Marriage Equality in the Courts" on Thursday,  I want folks to remember something.

In spite of all of the flowery words and phrases about "standing for marriage," "religious liberty," and opposing tyranny." In spite of all of the spin from Rick Santorum (when he is not busy trying to "bang the President") or Mike Huckabee, or any of the rest about "children having a right to a mother and a father" (while of course ignoring children in orphanages.) In spite of all you hear, see, and process, I want you to remember one thing:

We are still talking about an organization which peddles lies in order to stop marriage equality; lies which cannot be used in court. Hence the reason for their recent losses and the reason why they are putting on this march to distract.

But don't take my word for it. Remember the words of Marc Mutty, head of the 2009 effort to repeal marriage equality in Maine (an effort which unfortunately succeeded, but was thankfully overturned by the voters in 2012):

We use a lot of hyperbole and I think that's always dangerous," says Mutty during a Yes on 1 strategy session, at the time on leave from his job as public affairs director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Maine.

"You know, we say things like 'Teachers will be forced to (teach same-sex marriage in schools)!' " he continues. "Well, that's not a completely accurate statement and we all know it isn't, you know?"

"No," interjects a woman off-camera. "We don't say that."

"Let's look back at our ads and see what we say," Mutty persists. "And I think we use hyperbole to the point where, you know, it's like 'Geez!' "

NOM funded $2 million of the $3 million raised by Mutty's group. It's one of the things which caused the Maine Ethics Commission to fine the organization $250,000.

Yet another thing the organization will want you not to remember on Thursday.