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04/23/2013

Focus on the Family bears false witness against me, countless others; is a hypocritical organization for which I hold no respect

by Jeremy Hooper

Remember last week when Focus on the Family deleted my comment and then blocked me from further comments simply because I noted something that appears on the organization's main website?

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[Day of Dialogue Facebook page]

Yeah, well I was far from alone. Here's just a small sampling of other Facebook users who left perfectly fair pushback and then saw their attempt at dialogue promptly scrubbed away:

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[Focus on the Family]

Those are just the ones I caught in the ten minutes or so that I monitored the page. There were surely others. Focus on the Family, on a day that is supposedly set up for dialogue, simply didn't want to hear any counterpoints. Period.

But now get this. In a new blog post, Focus is claiming that the mean gays mindlessly attacked them and so they had to delete (and block) us all in order to protect vulnerable students:

“The irony of adult activists attacking a Christian page for teens and directing insults at teens —all the while claiming they are fighting for the cause of anti-bullying — never ceases to amaze me,” [Focus on the Family's Candi Cushman] explained. “Thankfully, adults hiding behind Facebook profiles do not reflect the civil conversations actually happening amongst teens in thousands of schools. In many ways, adults could learn from the example of these amazing students.”

The vicious comments have been taken down from the site in an effort to keep it a safe and welcoming place for students and their supporters.

In fact, one of Day of Dialogue’s most important guiding principles is that name-calling and harassment of any kind, for any reason, is always wrong. The initiative promotes the belief that every human being, regardless of how they identify, sexually or otherwise, is worthy of protection from harm and of respectful treatment because they are created by God and have innate worth.

“That is why we would discourage, and even reproach, our participants and other Christians from ever taking the same sort of action that was taken against our Facebook page on Thursday,” Cushman said. “First and foremost, we challenge students to reflect a Christ-like model.”

The good news is that the online attackers failed in their intimidation campaign. The students had a successful event in their schools, and Day of Dialogue’s page remained intact throughout the day with this statement: “Want to know why the Day of Dialogue is important? The onslaught of attacks against this page today seeking to silence Christian participants in the public square — the majority of whom are students — through harassment and intimidation and bullying comments — illustrate our point perfectly. Throughout history, Christians have defended their free speech right to share the Gospel and Biblical truth. That dedication to speaking will not end today or any other day.”

“The conversation for students doesn’t end this week,” Cushman said, “it continues through the redemptive impact these students continue to have in their schools and communities.”

This is seriously one of the most offensive things I've ever read. I, an extremely public critic of Focus on the Family, am not hiding behind any kind of profile. I write here, I write and consult for both HRC and GLAAD, I have written a book, I routinely show up to political events, my wedding was prominently featured in a national magazine, I have been the subject of a PBS TV program, I appear in all forms of media, and I have even had personal face-to-face meetings with Focus on the Family staffers. I am the first person who left a comment on this Day of Dialogue page, and my comment was nothing more than a simple statement of truth (and prediction of the deleting habits to which I knew they'd resort). But yet I am turned into some sort of bully for simply daring to believe that Focus on the Family might have the fortitude to publicly dialogue about claims (in this case that homosexuality is "a particularly evil lie of Satan") that THEY THEMSELVES MAKE??!! On this, a day seeming setup for the purposes of discussing sexuality with young people, I am out of line for encouraging students to challenge the view that their gay friends are somehow controlled by the pits of Hades? Gee, silly me—I thought gay people were actually allowed to speak to their experiences and help their younger selves overcome the adversity that socially conservatives adults like Ms. Cushman choose to wage on their psyches for the purposes of both political connectivity and profit.

Were there more hostile comments than the one I left and the ones I showed above? Maybe. Probably, even. Open online forums feature all kinds. I am regularly subjected to nastiness from anti-LGBT activists and even, on occasion, from people within my own movement. I trust that my rational supporters will ably make an intelligent case against the nastiness, which is why I have almost never had to ban a commenter in nearly nine years of doing this work. If you build up a certain environment, the ecosystem tends to sustain and "police" itself.

The fact of the matter is that Focus on the Family banned and blocked people like me—actual gay humans who did nothing more than dissent from their monologue—and are now trying to position themselves as the "victims." It's 100% typical for this, a shell of an organization that now has the ignoble distinction of being both highly discriminatory and highly unwilling to take responsibility for its own work—the former of which ticks us off; the latter of which ticks off people within their own movement. At least founder and former head James Dobson had the brass to own his brashness. The current incarnation is just as hostile towards LGBT people as it ever was but, in a fury to be liked and appear softer, cannot actually stand by its work. It's weak. It's shameful.

I truly have less respect for this organization than I do for just about any of the others working in the "pro-family" movement. Heck, even Westboro Baptist respects discourse.

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