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11/23/2010

SPLC hate groups list: Focus on the Family punts to God; we advise keeping at least half an eye on more grounded facts

by Jeremy Hooper

In light of the recent additions to the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of anti-gay hate groups, we asked Focus on Family's Communications Director, Gary Schneeberger, if the Colorado Springs mega-gelicals still plan to reach out to groups like the American Family Association and the Family Research Council (two of the five groups added to SPLC's dishonor roll). Here is Schneeberger's on record reply:

"We have some substantive differences with the way the SLPC defines ‘hate,’ so we’ll continue to base our partnerships on biblical criteria such as adherence to God’s truth and extension of His grace.

Interesting. This writer's first reaction: That Focus on the Family really needs to reconsider some of the "God's truth" that comes from people like the AFA's Bryan "only homosexuals were savage enough for Hitler" Fischer, who pretty much single-handedly got the American Family Association on the SPLC's list (*see more of what Fischer's all about here). Or the godly gospel that comes from folks like the Family Research Council's Peter Sprigg, who has called for both the exportation and criminalization of gays (which SPLC specifically cited as reason for FRC's addition to the hate groups list). If that's grace, then we'd hate to see God's inelegance.

Second reaction: This reply seems counterproductive to FOtF's wants and needs. After all, the SPLC's criteria clearly sees Focus on the Family in a different light, which is why they are not on the list. In fact, in two different points of her write up regarding these new additions, SPLC writer Evelyn Schlatter was careful to note how Focus on the Family has adopted a more moderate stance in the days post-Dobson. And even though we'd say that FOtF's "ex-gay" advocacy often belies this moderate desire, clearly SPLC, using their own organizational standard, sees Focus on the Family as failing to meet or exceed the "hate" bar. One would think Focus on the Family, especially in this "softer" Jim Daly era that they've been working so hard to cultivate, would want to embrace the higher standards that keep them from getting such negative notice. One would think they'd wish to repudiate the harsh words that seem to be growing harsher with every passing LGBT victory. But no. Instead of criticizing the fully documented realities that got these other groups on the list, they are opting to go after SPLC for simply noting the same? Hmm. Perhaps that'll work out for 'em, but I'm failing to see how.

Why would it be in Focus' interest to taunt the SPLC's discerning bar, saying that they have "substantive differences" with the SPLC's definitions? And why would they stick their necks out to challenge the SPLC's work when, again: All of this stuff is fully documented, most of it on audio or video (much of it brought to light by yours truly). All Schneeberger's response will do is highlight the "pro-family" community's all-too-common refusal to take responsibility for what comes from the religious rights stable, as well as force groups like SPLC (and sites like this one) to publicly wonder why on-message unity seems so much more important to these Colorado Springs kids than does responsible discourse.

*

*NOTE: Focus on the Family's Stuart Shepard was on AFA Radio just yesterday.

*NOTE2: After another member of the SPLC's incoming freshman class, Americans For Truth's Peter LaBarbera, posted my wedding picture with the word "perversion" written on top of it, I wrote Schneeberger to see why he and his fellows never step up and criticize beyond the pale nonsense like that. I got no response.

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