Anchored North (AN), a California-based 501(c)3 that bills itself as a “Christian media ministry,” garnered lots of attention after it released an anti-LGBT video that went live December 28. The video/ad, which went viral, appears to be targeting young LGBT people who identify that way or who are questioning their sexual identities. They can do overcome this, the ad implies, through Christianity, which will help them “convert” to becoming heterosexual.
Conversion therapy is the discredited and harmful attempt to force LGBT people to be strictly heterosexual and/or identify as cisgender.
The video attempts to mislead viewers into thinking it’s an LGBT-affirming message. Its thumbnail includes the rainbow flag of the LGBT rights movement along with the slogan “Love Is Love,” which is used to denote LGBT equality, but the ad actually features a young woman named “Emily Thomes,” who claims she renounced lesbianism and is now with a man. The ad shows “Emily” as initially hard-partying, seemingly “caught up” in the “lesbian lifestyle” at age 15 who then “gets saved” through religion and claims others can stop being LGBT, too.
The ministry claims they are “next generation evangelists” and they appear to be working to reach young people on social media. According to PinkNews, the group has also created videos about young women recovering from abortion or forgiving their rapists.
In February last year, Facebook scrapped an ad deal with the ministry after PinkNews reported that AN was using Facebook to aggressively target LGBT people, women considering abortions and atheists. One ads on Facebook was directed at users who liked pages or groups related to “gay pride.” The ad pushed people to try to “cure” their homosexuality by featuring a man who claimed that God “cured” him of “same-sex attraction.” He said that his “homosexual lifestyle” made him feel “empty and dead inside.”
On that occasion, Facebook told PinkNews that the ad violated its advertising policy and was thus removed. This time, however, Facebook did not respond to requests for comment from PinkNews when asked if the Thomes ad was being displayed as promoted content. Facebook moderators have also rejected users who complained about the ad featuring Thomes with an automated response saying that it doesn’t violate its community standards.
Family Policy Institute of Washington (FPIW)
On January 4, the FPIW held another legislative training session at the state capitol, which it bills as a “one-day intensive training” that “will equip ordinary citizens to make a difference in extraordinary ways during the 2018 Legislative Session,” which began January 8 in Washington State.
The training included how to use capitol resources; an in-depth understanding of the legislative process, how to read and track bills, information about testifying at a hearing, and how to connect with legislators.
FPIW often inserts itself in legislative battles to further marginalize LGBT people in the state and historically has been extremely active in anti-choice and anti-LGBT state and local politics, battling domestic partnerships, attempting to limit access to birth control or poor women, and opposing a telemedicine bill, claiming that it would allow “webcam abortions.”
FPIW president Joseph Backhold has compared same-sex marriage to two siblings re-defining their bond and said that, “tolerance is not something to be pursued.”
Florida Family Policy Council (FFPC)
FFPC is holding its fifth annual “Pro-Family Days at the Capitol” January 22 and 23. The event features Pam Tebow, mother of former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow. Pam Tebow will be a featured speaker at the event’s dinner and the keynote speaker at the Legislative Prayer Breakfast.
The event’s theme is “a Celebration of Life” and will include legislative briefings by experts, focused citizen lobby training, special speakers billed as leading advocates in Florida on “life, marriage, family and religious liberty”, an opportunity to hear from Christian legislators, “a time of corporate prayer” and appointments to meet with legislators.
FFPC is a longtime anti-LGBT group that supports discredited ex-gay therapy and that has worked to oppose LGBT equality on the state level for years, including spearheading efforts to include LGBT people in human rights ordinances. The group’s president, John Stemberger, has referred to same-sex parents as “objectively inferior” to married heterosexual parents and claimed that the Boy Scouts would be destroyed by accepting gay Scouts. He now serves as chairman of the board of Trail Life USA, a right-wing alternative to the Boy Scouts.
Family Research Council (FRC)*
FRC will be holding an event February 6 titled “Programming Our Children: The Social Engineering Agenda of ‘Social Emotional Learning.” Stella Morabito, a contributor at The Federalist, claims to be a former CIA intelligence analyst.
Right-wing organizations have started to attack “Social Emotional Learning” (SEL), which, according to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), founded in 1994, is:
the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.
SEL has become a coordinating framework for how educators, families and communities partner to “promote students’ social, emotional, and academic learning.” CASEL formed as a way to address ineffective school programming and to coordinate positive youth development programs such as drug prevention, violence prevention, civic education, and education.
FRC claims that:
But veiled under the CASEL claim of building kids’ self-confidence is a statist agenda of social engineering that insists on total conformity of thought. It disregards the genuine individuality of students and their familial relationships.
CASEL requires total compliance with its methods, with its content, and with its monopoly on how children are taught. It requires the monitoring and tracking students’ emotions. So, in the end, the SEL agenda enforces conformity, it invades privacy, and it undermines the influence of family and faith in a child’s life. Instead of promoting strong relationships, as SEL proponents claim, the SEL agenda serves more to isolate children through a program of peer-modelled behavior modification that manipulates the human fear of being socially rejected
Morabito, FRC says, will “focus on the propagandistic process of SEL (rather than its content).
Morabito, who has been a speaker at an anti-trans FRC event in the past, often floats anti-LGBT conspiracy theories with references to “the elites” and “gender ideology.” She has also written on how there is a “transgender war” against science and consent and that anti-trans bathroom bills “protect women and children.” She has also claimed that the “transgender movement” is attempting to “de-sex” society and thus de-humanize it which will somehow cause the state to do things like “sever the mother-child bond at will.” And in another piece, she wrote that same-sex marriage will end family autonomy and that “Abolishing all civil marriage is the primary goal of the elites who have been pushing same sex [sic] marriage”:
The LGBT agenda has spawned too many other disparate agendas hostile to the existence of marriage, making marriage “unsustainable,” if you will. By now we should be able to hear the growing drumbeat to abolish civil marriage, as well as to legalize polygamy and all manner of reproductive technologies.
The FRC event, as scheduled, does not include comment from a representative of CASEL.stella
FRC Radio Roundup
FRC president Tony Perkins does a daily radio show, “Washington Watch.” Guests on the show from December 22 through January 8 have included Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC); Rep. Steve King (R-IA); Brian Kilmeade (Fox and Friends co-anchor); former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN); Everett Piper (president, Oklahoma Wesleyan University); Carter Conlon (senior pastor, Times Square Church, NYC); Kevin Cochran (former Atlanta Fire Chief); Kevin Theriot (senior counsel, ADF*); Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC); Gregg Roman (director, Middle East Forum); Ken Klukowski (First Liberty Institute); Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO); Daniel Blomburg (counsel, Becket Fund); Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY); Kristina Arriaga (vice chair, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom); David Bossie (pres., Citizens United and former deputy manager, Trump campaign)
National Organization for Marriage (NOM)
NOM made a big show of announcing a new initiative last month, when NOM president Brian Brown (also the president of World Congress of Families*) claimed in a December 19 email that “I am writing to let you know that we’re on the cusp of making a major announcement in the next few days about a big new initiative we have planned for the new year.”
He went on to claim in the email that the “new program” will be a core element of NOM’s 2018 Strategic Plan.
Soon after, Brown announced the First Freedom Initiative in a long, rambling email dated December 21, which was filled with references to America’s founders and religious freedom, including historically inaccurate claims that the Revolutionary War was fought over religious liberty (it wasn’t) and that somehow, the Civil War was also fought over religious liberty (it wasn’t).
Brown also managed to get a jab in at Muslims:
Religious freedom is also at the core of our people’s willingness to confront grave evil, whether it be deposing tyrants and fascists, or dismantling terrorist organizations that would deny Americans the right to their beliefs in favor of imposing radical Islamic extremism.
Brown is also still angry about same-sex marriage and trans people’s rights:
It’s this elitist imperialism that is at the root of today’s cultural absurdities. It’s what makes it possible for five unelected judges to impose a view of marriage that runs counter to the known history of marriage in every country, among every people throughout the entire history of civilization. It’s what allows a President to decree that a man is a woman if he wants to be, and then demand that the public schools open the most intimate areas of campus (showers, bathrooms, locker rooms, etc.) to the opposite sex.
It’s not entirely clear from this email or website what precisely the First Freedom Initiative is trying to do; there are links to news stories about religious freedom as well as a focus on anti-LGBT figures (FFI calls them “victims”) like Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple and Barronelle Stutzman, the Washington florist who refused to do arrangements for a same-sex wedding.
The “Take Action” page currently allows people to sign a support letter for Jack Phillips.
In an email dated January 5 outlining NOM’s strategic plan for 2018, Brown elaborated and said that the FFI is “a plan to group all of the threats to marriage, religious freedom and the truth of gender under one initiative.”
FFI does not appear to be a “new program” for NOM, however. According to the blog Slowly Boiled Frog, Brown actually announced a First Freedom Initiative in March, 2017, and the FFI logo appears at the end of a video NOM posted March 9 of that year.
Judicial and Legislative
Mississippi’s religious exemption law affects college baseball series
Mississippi’s anti-LGBT religious exemption law, HB 1523, that went into effect in October last year, has had repercussions.
The Southern Mississippi University baseball team was slated to play three games against Stony Brook University, New York, in Hattiesburg in February but New York governor Andrew Cuomo banned all non-essential state travel to Mississippi in 2016 because of the passage of the bill. Because Stony Brook — a public university — cannot go to Mississippi for the games, SMU has taken the games off the team’s schedule.
The Alliance Defending Freedom* played a pivotal role in drafting the Mississippi legislation and later in defending it in court. The bill is the most stringent anti-LGBT bill in the country, and allows denial of a wide range of services to LGBT people in the state on the basis of religious belief.
The bill’s text designates three specific beliefs that are now protected: marriage is the union of one man and one woman; sexual relations are reserved for marriage; male and female are immutable and determined at time of birth. These beliefs can thus be used to justify discrimination against LGBT people and anyone who does not fall neatly into any of the categories, such as single mothers and gender non-conforming people who may identify as heterosexual and cisgender but do not present as binary.
One of the bill’s provisions notes that the state will not take discriminatory action against someone who establishes “sex-specific standards or policies concerning employee or student dress or grooming,” which could affect people who do not identify as LGBT.
The court ruling that allowed the bill to take effect was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but on January 8, the Court refused to hear the case.
Trump judicial nominee affiliated with Alliance Defending Freedom*
50 States of Blue reported January 4 that Michael Juneau, who President Trump nominated in August to serve on a federal district court in Louisiana, is an ADF-allied attorney.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11 to nine on October 26 to advance Juneau’s nomination to the Senate, but he did not receive a floor vote because the Senate ran out of time. Juneau is among 27 nominees who failed to get a floor vote and their names must be resubmitted by the White House to go through the process again since at least one senator objected to holding their nominations over.
On January 5, Trump resubmitted 21 nominees, and Juneau was among them.
Juneau, who has worked in private practice mostly for insurance companies, according to 50 States of Blue, was the court-appointed administrator of two multi-billion-dollar mass tort settlement cases against BP that resulted from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon fire, explosion, and subsequent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
In his questionnaire for the Senate Judiciary Committee, Juneau indicated that the only cases he has worked on since 2012 are the two BP tort claims.
Trump has nominated at least three other ADF-affiliated attorneys for federal judgeships. Amy Coney Barrett was recently confirmed to the Seventh Circuit; Kyle Duncan was nominated to the Fifth Circuit; and Jeff Mateer, nominated to a district court in Texas. Mateer’s nomination was later dropped amidst public controversy about his anti-LGBT statements.