Becky Garrison: Effective next year, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a non-profit civil rights organization, will add The Family Research Council (FRC)  and 12 other anti-gay organizations to the list of hate groups they monitor.  On December 7, 2010, SPLC President Richard Cohen and SPLC’s Intelligence Project Director Mark Potok held a half-hour web conference to discuss these recent additions.

Following are some of the highlights from this conversation:

  • After analyzing hate crime data collected by the FBI from 1995 to 2008, the SPLC concluded that gays and lesbians are about two and a half times more likely to be attacked than Jews or African Americans. They’re more than 4 times likely to be attacked than Muslims and 14 percent more likely to be attacked than Latinos. (Cohen and Potok didn’t give a breakdown for hate crimes committed against bi-sexual and transgender individuals compared to gays and lesbians.)
  • The designation of 13 organizations as hate groups doesn’t mean that these groups engage in illegal activities or advocate violence, but that their ideology demonizes the LGBT community by spreading falsehoods. For example, the key reason SPLC listed the Family Research Council as a hate group is because the FRC continues to associate homosexuality, and gay men in particular, with pedophilia, a fact that has been shown to be scientifically false. (In Their Intelligence Report (Winter 2010), the SPLC debunks 10 anti-gay myths.)
  • SPLC illustrated the media’s role in disseminating these groups’ falsehoods with the example of Mark Potok and FRC’s Tony Perkins recent exchange on Hardball with Chris Matthews. In this debate, Perkins cited the American College of Pediatricians (ACP) as a reliable source to prove that homosexuality is harmful to children. According to SPLC’s research, this group consists of about 100 to 200 professionals who broke away from the American Academy of Pediatricians over the issue of supporting parental rights for gay Americans. As a condition of joining the American College of Pediatricians, one must hold specific beliefs such as support for traditional marriage. Perkins’ use of this organization’s material to bolster his claims that homosexuality poses a risk to children was presented as fact without this data being challenged by Matthews.
  • While the SPLC doesn’t advocate for a law to ban these 13 hate groups from appearing on media outlets, they note that those organizations trading in falsehoods should not be taken seriously.

The question remains how conservative evangelicals will respond to these developments.  Will individual groups go on the defensive as in the case of the Family Research Council? Or will they heed the advice offered by  Dr. Warren Throckmorton, Senior Editorial Advisor to the Christian Post International:

Christian groups should care about nuance and bearing honest witness. They should avoid misleading stereotypes and strive for accuracy in fact claims. When they don’t, they hurt the church and the good work that others are doing. Being designated a hate group is a serious matter and one which should cause reflection about the charges and not reckless defensiveness.

Recklessness however, not reflection, drives ratings, builds blog buzz and generates book sales. As long as these clowns can generate an audience, I suspect the media will continue promoting this “Christian” circus.