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'Question 1 opponents': The far-right's newest faux monolith

by Jeremy Hooper

Me-MarriageMaine Marriage Equality is a website started up by college student Adam "Sunny" Flanders. During the Question One campaign, the site provided a steady stream of information about the fight to preserve marriage equality. Now that the anti-gay side has managed to use their personal faith views to reverse the basic civil fairness, the site is dedicated to ways that proponents of marriage equality can push back.

One of the tactics Mr. Flanders encourages on the site is for folks to file IRS complaints against churches that they might feel have violated tax law via their support for civil bias. It is of course a right that all Americans have. The ability to file a complaint doesn't speak to the merit or lack thereof -- it simply speaks to the freedom to raise questions about such matters, the same way anti-equality folks have the freedom to file complaints on any LGBT group that they feel are acting outside the boundaries of the civil law. And again: The suggestion to file these particular complaints is coming from Mr. Flanders and his website, and is in no way an organized push from any Maine-based or national equality group.

But leave it to the furious fibbers at the A Lie In Defiance of Fun Alliance Defense Fund and Focus on the Family to use this one site's political engagement as an example of the organized LGBT community's "militancy." In a new press release, the ADF says the following:

ADFQuestion 1 opponents are actively encouraging their followers to report churches to the IRS [link goes to the Maine Marriage equality site] in the wake of their unsuccessful effort to block voter approval of the measure, which restored the legal definition of marriage in the state to one man and one woman.

“Pastors and churches have a right to speak about biblical truths from the pulpit without fear of punishment. They can encourage their congregations to take a stand for marriage and can directly support legislative issues like Question 1 without running afoul of IRS rules,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “Groups that want to redefine marriage are intentionally threatening the tax-exempt status of churches through fear, intimidation, and disinformation to silence their voice. ADF will stand with these churches to defend their right to free speech and religious expression against these baseless scare tactics.”

On Nov. 3, Maine voters went to the polls to express their opinion on the state’s law that fabricated same-sex “marriage” earlier this year. By a margin of 53-47%, voters rejected the law and restored marriages between one man and one woman as the only unions recognized by the state. Since the vote, Question 1 opponents, disappointed with the outcome, have been encouraging retaliation through the filing of IRS complaints against churches that indicated they supported a yes vote on Question 1. The complaints are designed to threaten the tax-exempt status of the churches, even though such support is almost always allowable by the IRS.

“This is an all-too-obvious attempt to use the IRS to intimidate pastors and churches as a means of punishment and to get them to be quiet,” said Stanley. “We encourage the churches of Maine not to be intimidated and to contact us if they are contacted by the IRS.”

Maine churches threatened with IRS complaints for supporting marriage [ADF]

And on Focus on the Family's CitizenLink site, they repeat the same sentiment, making it sound as if this is an official push from the "No on 1" campaign:

Opponents of Question 1 call on activists to turn churches in to the IRS in an attempt to revoke tax-exempt status.
Maine Churches Threatened Over Marriage Support [CitizenLink]

Only problem? No "groups" are threatening anyone! This isn't any sort of organized push -- it's one man's personal activism! You may find Mr. Flanders' suggestions perfectly well-placed, or you may find it misdirected. Regardless, it is Mr. Flanders' right to raise these questions and rally others to do the same. And it is unbelievably disingenuous for ADF/FOF to mislead their supporters into thinking that this citizen's right to engage is somehow a larger goal of the gay rights movement in general!

It's the same script with every anti-gay campaign. Win or lose, our opposition immediately begins the second act by working to make us look "militant." It's an obvious plot they use in order to take the scrutiny off of their own unprincipled, un-American choice to make a popularity contest out of minority rights. We saw it after Prop 8 and we're seeing it in Maine. They're also doing the same thing in Washington right now, where they're turning mere public campaign disclosure into an act of supposed pro-gay "harassment," even though the disclosure is mandated not by gays but by the state's public interest. It is a key play in their playbook: To flip the script so that they can wash their hands clean of the hurt and division they have caused, and instead cast those who they've robbed of rights, peace, and humanity somehow as the bad guys. Facts (and gays) be damned!

We have called on Focus on the Family's Gary Schneeberger and the Alliance Defense Fund's Eric Stanley to correct this Maine misrepresentation, and to stop acting like this is an organized push from Protect Maine Equality/No On 1. We'll let you know if/when either responds.

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Your thoughts

In Washington State, another bit of irony is that the public-disclosure law that the bigots want special exemption from, was PASSED BY INITIATIVE! It was written by, put on the ballot by, and approved by the general public, not by the legislature. Those people really have no concept what the words "principle" or "integrity" mean.

Posted by: Denys Howard | Nov 13, 2009 4:29:29 PM

Until the "churches" get out of trying to legislate bigotry, we need to keep filing IRS Forms 3949As on these people to make them comply with the law.

Posted by: Mykelb | Nov 16, 2009 10:01:00 AM

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