Shrill, hateful crusades

Every once in a while, reporters discover some religious group that has been around for a long time, but they feel the need to profile it all over again because of some newer political connections. This time, the New York Times has re-uncovered the American Family Association, thanks to its involvement in Texas Governor Rick Perry's upcoming prayer event.

Instead of telling us something new, unfortunately, the Times makes all sorts of sweeping claims with loaded language. In LeBlancian style, it's time to do an edit with bolded phrases to highlight the reporter's choice of words. For instance, watch for the incredible number of scare quotes.

To its admirers on the religious right, the American Family Association is a stalwart leader in a last-ditch fight to save America’s Christian culture and the values of traditional families.

Is it really a stalwart leader? Says who? How do the numbers of its audience compare to those of organizations like Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, the Southern Baptist Convention's policy arm and other similar groups?

To its liberal critics, it is a shrill, even hateful voice of intolerance, out to censor the arts, declare Muslims unfit for public office and deny equality to gay men and lesbians because they engage in sinful “aberrant sexual behavior.”

It's hard to know what to do with this paragraph above. Can you imagine the same kind of language used from the critics of People for the American Way (since it is quoted in the piece)? Also, I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that even non-liberal critics might pause at some of AFA's activism. If the reporter did some calling around, he might find that AFA is a little more divisive among even some evangelicals.

...the American Family Association’s pronouncements have flowed forth daily from its sleek offices here in the Deep South.

But now it is doing more than preaching to the choir. This summer, the association has thrust itself into presidential politics by paying for and organizing a day of prayer to save “a nation in crisis” that Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is convening this Saturday.

Is this the first time the organization has been involved in presidential politics?

In speeches and books, Mr. Wildmon has voiced a sense of siege that is widely shared among evangelicals, one he first expressed 34 years ago as sex and violence crept into television.

Some examples for "widely shared," please?

But the association has sharpened its edge over the years, moving from its well-known crusades for public “decency” to harshly opposing what it calls an anti-Christian “homosexual agenda”...

Funny, didn't the reporter get the memo that evangelicals aren't using the word "crusade" so much anymore?

... the group’s reputation for inflammatory statements rose after the hiring two years ago of Bryan Fischer, a former pastor from Idaho, as the director of “issues analysis” and the host of a daily two-hour afternoon show. Mr. Fischer, 60, silver-haired and a talk-radio natural, has become a public face of the group.

I wonder if the reporter asked Wildmon why Fischer's posts always end with the following line: "(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)" Is he really the public face, or is that what the reporter infers?

Perhaps most notably, Mr. Fischer trumpets the disputed theory that Adolph Hitler was a homosexual and that the Nazi Party was largely created by “homosexual thugs” — evidence, he says, of the inherent pathologies of homosexuality.

Again, going out on a limb, I'm going to say that I have never heard this theory espoused by any Christian leader other than Fischer, so it's probably more than just "disputed."

Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow at People for the American Way, a liberal group, says of the American Family Association’s radio network: “Clearly a lot of Republican politicians want to reach the people who are listening to the American Family Association. Many Republican candidates see no shame in lending credibility to the extremism and bigotry on its radio shows.”

Honestly, why even bother including this quote, using the guilt by association angle that only benefits the person quoted. Surely there is someone more objective who can talk about the AFA's role in politics?

Though liberal critics call it a hate group, the association and Mr. Wildmon are widely revered in conservative circles.

Who calls it a hate group? Why not quote someone who "reveres" the association?

Again, we're talking about an organization that has been around for decades, but this particular reporter probably just disocvered it and decided to profile it all over again. The same reporter has recently profiled David Barton, single pastors, homosexuality on Christian campuses, Christians who get involved in Greek life, groups or ideas that have actually been around for quite a while, but he's apparently just learning about it now. Perhaps the reporter could find fresher, newer angles that don't come straight out of the 1970s.

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