It is not every day that former employees of influential Religious Right organizations step forward to reveal the unpleasant inner-workings of such organizations, but Religious Dispatches’ Sarah Posner has gotten several former employees of the American Family Association to do just that.
And I guess it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to learn that the environment inside the AFA is rather toxic, with founder Don Wildmon being described as an autocratic bully who created a culture of fear and intimidation that infected the entire organization, one which has only gotten worse with the addition of Bryan Fischer:
Brad Bullock, who worked for the organization for 17 years spearheading the launch of the radio station and producing the daily radio report, was forced out 3 years ago. He said he admired Wildmon and considered him a friend, but that in dismissing him, Wildmon told him, “you have a problem and you don’t know it.”
Bullock said the group is “too harsh on homosexuals,” though if anyone voiced concerns, “they would be attacked.” He described the leadership as “autocratic” and tolerant of petty gossip among employees, like spreading rumors about employees having extra-marital affairs with one another.
Bullock added that Wildmon “chastised” people for taking anti-depressants, and that “a lot of people who had problems felt like they were second class,” including Bullock, who said that he suffered from depression while working at the AFA. Employees were fearful of speaking out, according to Bullock. “We were puppies in the corner who learned to keep out mouths shut.”
The AFA’s radio and news division, in particular, said [Allie] Martin, had become a place where authority could not be questioned, and where the “news” was nothing more than a mouthpiece for conservative “sources” whose views were portrayed as fact. (The Values Voter Summit award citation to Wildmon described One News Now as a “respected online news service.”)
And those views were extreme, even by Martin’s standards of conservative evangelicalism. He said that the director of the news service, Fred Jackson, had a “hateful, hateful attitude” that “carried over” into stories. Martin described editorial meetings in which “liberals were accused of hating their kids,” while Chad Groening, who covers immigration, described gay people as “degenerates” and “reprobates.”
In the newsroom, said Martin, “I saw the tone of stories develop in a way I thought was disturbing.”
“They get people as news sources to say what they want to say but can’t say,” he added.
After Obama got elected, said Martin, “this went up to a whole new level, we have to vilify this man.”
In 2008, Jackson sent Martin an email with the subject line “attitude problems,” citing scripture he said governed “a worker’s attitude toward their [sic] superiors.” The verses he cited included Ephesians 6:5-8 (“Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, singleness of your heart, as unto Christ”) and Colossians 3:22-25 (“Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God.”) He closed the email with a “final warning” that “any further breaches in this area will be turned over to Brother Don.”
Among the topics about which Martin had raised concerns was the news room’s approach to immigration. Martin said that Groening has, for example, called undocumented immigrants “stupid,” “scumbag lawbreakers” and “freeloaders.” Groening believed that illegal immigration would “destroy” the country, and that “we have the best way of life, and if our borders aren’t secured, this country would be destroyed.”
Martin also noted that Groening had referred to Muslims as “raghead scumbag terrorists” and referred to Allah as “Satan.”
Posner goes on to describe the rabidly anti-immigration attitude of AFA leaders and how that attitude has been promoted in the AFA ‘s work, as well as Bryan Fischer’s long history of bigtory stemming all the way back to his days in Idaho when he invited Scott Lively to participate in conference hosted by his Idaho Values Alliance.
As they say, read the whole thing.