Dana Milbank writes in a column in today’s Washington Post, “Hateful speech on hate groups,” that the Southern Poverty Law Center “should stop listing a mainstream Christian advocacy group alongside neo-Nazis and Klansmen.” He’s talking about the Family Research Council, which he describes as “a mainstream conservative think tank founded by James Dobson and run for many years by Gary Bauer” which “advocates for a full range of conservative Christian positions, on issues from stem cells to euthanasia.” Going further, Milbank says it’s “reckless” for groups like SPLC to designate FRC as a “hate group.”
While reading all of this, I couldn’t help but wonder why a “mainstream conservative think tank” would defend a bill in Uganda that would put gays and lesbians in prison for life and put them to death for “serial” offenses, among other things. If Milbank had done his homework before writing his column, he would’ve been wondering this same thing.
The reality is that FRC is not a “mainstream conservative think tank.” That’s why FRC is one of only a handful of the many, many groups that oppose equality for gays and lesbians to be designated a “hate group” by SPLC. There’s a big difference between being conservative and being an extremist, but many in the media are missing the distinction. Kyle and Peter have already written about FRC’s history of extremism and SPLC’s criteria (here and here), but I’d like to focus on one particularly outrageous example here.
Back in June of 2010, FRC president Tony Perkins praised the infamous “kill the gays” bill in Uganda, referring to it as an effort to “uphold moral conduct that protects others and in particular the most vulnerable.” The bill that Perkins defended called for life in prison for having sex, even once, with a member of the same sex, or touching someone of the same sex with the intention of having sex.
The bill went further, calling for the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.” To be clear, Perkins defended a bill that called for people to be put to death for the following (among other things):
- having sex with someone of the same sex multiple times (a “serial” offender)
- having sex with someone of the same sex who is your employee, student, or otherwise under your authority
- having sex with someone of the same sex who is under the age of 18 (regardless of the age difference, e.g. a 19-year-old and a 17-year-old)
- having sex with someone of the same sex that you got drunk
- having sex with someone of the same sex who’s blind or deaf
- having sex with someone of the same sex if you’re HIV+, even if you use protection and the virus is not transmitted
You can read the text of the bill here. I’m not exaggerating one bit.
When President Obama criticized the bill, Perkins devoted his weekly radio alert to attacking him over it, citing Obama’s “preoccupation with defending homosexuality.” He went on to mischaracterize the bill, claiming that it only called for the death penalty in instances like “intentionally spreading HIV/AIDS,” and was notably silent on life imprisonment for a single homosexual “act.”
FRC was eventually caught lobbying Congress on a resolution to denounce the “kill the gays” bill. They took pains to say they did not support the bill or the death penalty and were merely lobbying Congress to make the resolution “more factually accurate regarding the content of the Uganda bill, and to remove sweeping and inaccurate assertions that homosexual conduct is internationally recognized as a fundamental human right.”
Ok, so FRC didn’t support the “kill the gays” bill. Instead, FRC’s president devoted his weekly commentary to defending and praising the “kill the gays” bill and attacking President Obama for criticizing it. And FRC lobbied Congress to make sure that the “kill the gays” bill wouldn’t be mischaracterized.
At the recent National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama took the podium calling for greater civility in Washington, which in my opinion is a laudable goal. However, his comments quickly turned to his preoccupation with defending homosexuality.The President criticized Ugandan leaders for considering enhance penalties for crimes related to homosexuality. The press has widely mischaracterized the law which calls for the death penalty, not for homosexual behavior which is already a crime, but for acts such as intentionally spreading HIV/AIDS, or preying upon vulnerable individuals such as children, which has been a problem in Uganda for years because the large number of orphans.The President said that “We may disagree about gay marriage, “but surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are.” Mr. President as long as you characterize efforts to uphold moral conduct that protects others and in particular the most vulnerable, as attacking people, civility will continue to evade us.
PART II — HOMOSEXUALITY AND RELATED PRACTICES.
2. The offence of homosexuality.(1) A person commits the offence of homosexuality if-(a) he penetrates the anus or mouth of another person of the same sex with his penis or any other sexual contraption;(b) he or she uses any object or sexual contraption to penetrate or stimulate sexual organ of a person of the same sex;(c) he or she touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.(2) A person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.3. Aggravated homosexuality.(1) A person commits the offense of aggravated homosexuality where the(a) person against whom the offence is committed is below the age of 18 years;(b) offender is a person living with HIV;(c) offender is a parent or guardian of the person against whom the offence is committed;(d) offender is a person in authority over the person against whom the offence is committed;(e) victim of the offence is a person with disability;(f) offender is a serial offender, or(g) offender applies, administers or causes to be used by any man or woman any drug, matter or thing with intent to stupefy overpower him or her so as to there by enable any person to have unlawful carnal connection with any person of the same sex,(2) A person who commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality shall be liable on conviction to suffer death.(3) Where a person is charged with the offence under this section, that person shall undergo a medical examination to ascertain his or her HIV status.