Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A list of naughty, not nice

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SLPC) has updated their list of anti-gay groups, as well as increasing the number they classify as anti-gay hate groups from 8 to 13. I heartily applaud the move—and completely agree with it. To fight hatred, my must first indentify the perpetrators.

The SPLC was founded in 1971 to help fulfil the promise of the civil rights movement. Initially, it focused on combating institutionalise racism, white supremacist groups, and so on. They won important victories.

However, the hatred of the extreme right is seldom limited to race alone, so the SPLC now focuses on “fighting hate and bigotry, and… seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society.” It’s in this context that they track anti-gay groups generally and anti-gay hate groups specifically. They’re internationally recognised and well-regarded for their work combating political hatred.

The political right in America hate the SPLC, of course, because the group calls them out when they’re naughty—or worse. On gay issues, the radical right likes to whinge and moan that they’re being criticised for their “Christian” beliefs (never mind that not all Christians agree with them and their anti-gay agenda).

However, the SPLC has very strict criteria for labelling these groups:

Generally, the SPLC’s listings of these groups is based on their propagation of known falsehoods — claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated, groundless name-calling. Viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups. [emphasis added]

Note especially that last sentence. I may disagree vehemently with fundamentalist Christians over what I consider a boneheaded religious dogma, but they absolutely have the right—and freedom—to believe what they want, no matter how stupid I think it is. They do NOT, however, have the right to promote their contentious religious beliefs as fact, particularly when they use lies, smears, innuendo and defamation to do so, nor do they have a right to force their beliefs on everyone else.

Many of the groups on the list are relatively small, but their influence goes far beyond their actual numbers. Their rhetoric—even when based on junk science or outright fabrications—has been taken on as talking points by America’s rightwing. Put another way, they write the tune that rightwing politicians—mainly Republicans/Teapublicans—dance to.

The cash-strapped Focus on the “Family” isn’t on the anti-gay list (or the list of anti-gay hate groups) because it recently toned down its rhetoric. After Jim Daly took over the group from the truly vile James Dobson, he told an interviewer: “I will continue to defend traditional marriage, but I’m not going to demean human beings in the process. It’s not about being highly confrontational.” Yeah, well, I’m not convinced that the leopard has changed its spots, or that they’ll stick to the new gentler fundamentalism when other far-right christianist groups are attacking them for easing up.

So when I refer to an anti-gay hate group on this blog, it’s mainly because of this list. I don’t use words like “hate” and “hate group” lightly—there’s a reason for it and ample evidence backing me up. It isn’t, in other words, mere rhetoric—it’s an accurate description.

Kudos to the SPLC for spreading the truth and fighting political hatred in all its forms.

Tip o' the Hat to Truth Wins Out.

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