Sunday, September 10, 2023

Former employee claims anti-LGBTQ group fired him for reporting alleged sexual harassment by another male employee. Now he is suing them.

The American Family Association has made a name for itself over the years with its attacks on the LGBTQ community. Now the group is being sued by a former employee who claims it looked the other while he was sexually harassed by another male leader.

A former vice president of the American Family Association, a Mississippi-based conservative group that promotes “the biblical ethic of decency in American society,” has sued the religious-right group, accusing leaders of firing him after he reported alleged sexual harassment and financial irregularities.

 In a complaint filed Tuesday (Sept. 5), Robert Chambers, former vice president of policy and legislative affairs for AFA from 2015 to 2022, alleges that another staffer, Ron Cook, made repeated sexual advances toward him, beginning in January of 2022. 

 Those advances allegedly included grabbing hold of Chambers’ face and ear and making comments about masturbation, according to the complaint. “I see you’re really good with that wrist action,” the complaint alleges that Cook told Chambers. “You’d really like me to take you and get a hold of you.” 

 Chambers claims he was fired for reporting the harassment. The complaint alleges that AFA and its leaders violated federal law by retaliating against him as a whistleblower, creating a hostile work environment, unlawfully terminating him and slandering him. 

 The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, names Cook, along with AFA President Tim Wildmon, several of Wildmon’s family members who are on AFA’s staff, AFA Vice President Ed Vitagliano and others. AFA denies all of Chambers’ claims.

 AFA did not respond to a question asking if Cook was still employed at AFA. Cook’s LinkedIn profile describes him as AFA’s director of localization. His Facebook page describes him as a former director of localization. Cook declined to comment by text.

In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center called AFA a hate group for its various false claims about the LGBTQ community:

The AFA has been extremely vocal over the years in its opposition to LGBT rights, marriage equality and allowing gay men and lesbians to serve in the military. The group’s arguments are filled with claims that equate homosexuality with pedophilia and argue that there’s a “homosexual agenda” afoot that is set to bring about the downfall of American (and ultimately, Western) civilization. In one October 2004 article, the AFA Journal suggested that gay influences are leading to a “grotesque culture” that will include “quick encounters in the middle school boys’ restroom.” 

For years, until 2010, the AFA had a section on its website that supposedly exposed “The Homosexual Agenda.” There, a reader could find articles and other AFA publications that claimed LGBT people were trying to force the acceptance of homosexuality on children through sex education programs in schools; condemned companies like Disney for supporting LGBT rights and programming; and, also until 2010, featured a particularly noxious booklet the AFA had published in 1994. 
That booklet, Homosexuality in America: Exposing the Myths, included the bogus research of thoroughly discredited psychologist Paul Cameron as a source. One of the publication’s authors, Richard Howe, used Cameron’s “research” to claim that LGBT people don’t live as long as heterosexuals, that they’re more promiscuous and that the “disgusting details of the homosexual lifestyle explain why so many diseases are present in the homosexual community.” Another claim was that “prominent homosexual leaders and publications have voiced support for pedophilia, incest, sadomasochism, and even bestiality.”