The Arizona Republic: One step forward, two steps back on religious bigotry

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

The Arizona Republic's E.J. Montini addresses a point today that I have made many times over the years about the FAUXification of the news with their "fair and balanced" bullshit. O'Reilly unfair? Yes. But it shouldn't matter.

Fairness is a fallacy.

In politics, there is no such thing as fair.

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Unfair questions can still get at the truth.

Fairness isn’t our problem.

Our problem, on a much larger scale, is willful ignorance.

Humans come with a built-in ability to disregard or disbelieve facts because they’ve been presented by people with whom we disagree philosophically, as if anything that contradicts our preconceived notions of a person or situation or issue cannot be true.

The media used to fight such notions. Now, some of us encourage it.

If there is a danger in the media these days it is not that we are unfair, it’s that rather than challenge a reader’s or viewer’s willful ignorance we embolden it. We treat the news, which changes daily, like a religion, which is based on longstanding consistent unshakeable beliefs.

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Our problem isn’t fairness.

Our problem is that too many people in the media are allowing, even urging, audiences to turn a blind eye to unpleasant facts.

And, worse, doing so ourselves.

Too bad the editorial page editors of the Republic ignored Mr. Montini.

On Tuesday, the Republic published an editorial opinion lambasting the Religious Bigotry bills to be heard in the House Government Committee on Tuesday. Religion bills 'proactive' – and paranoid. Kudos to the Republic for taking a forceful stand against religious bigotry.

Nevertheless, the Republic is part of the conservative media entertainment complex, and it adhere's to the FAUX News "fair and balanced" mantra. If someone says the Earth is round and revolves around the Sun, they are compelled to present an opposing view from someone who says the Earth is flat, and the Sun revolves around the Earth, as if the two viewpoints are equally credible and deserving of equal weight. One is observable fact, the other is demonstrably, provably false nonsense. "We report, you decide."

So today the editors of the Republic in their quest for "fair and balanced" FAUXification of the news published this op-ed by Joseph La Rue, legal counsel, and Kerri Kupec, legal communications director for the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). Advocates: Our religious freedom is in peril (ah yes, the "Christian persecution" narrative so beloved by ADF). Mr. Larue testified in favor of the Religious Bigotry billls on Tuesday.

What the Republic does not tell its readers is anything about this hate group. A 2005 Southern Poverty Law Center report listed ADF as one the top 12 most influential anti-gay hate groups in the country. It is the legal arm for the Christian Reconstructionist and Dominionist movement. SourceWatch reports:

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) [now the Alliance Defending Freedom] was founded in 1994 by more than 30 Christian ministries, as a response to the American Civil Liberties Union, to defend "family values." ADF's major focus is strategizing and coordinating with hundreds of lawyers and right-wing groups to defend what they define as "Christian legal issues."

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People for the American Way notes that ADF's founding groups "are influential members of the Right, they are pro-life and anti-gay and their ultimate goal is to see the law and government of the US enshrined with conservative Christian principles."

Media Matters reported last December, Meet Alliance Defending Freedom, Fox's Favorite Anti-LGBT Legal Organization:

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is a Scottsdale, AZ-based legal group committed to rolling back the rights of women and LGBT people on the grounds of "religious liberty." The organization has played a leading role in combatting marriage equality and non-discrimination policies in the U.S. while working internationally to criminalize homosexuality. Despite its rabid anti-LGBT extremism, ADF receives reliably friendly treatment from Fox News.

Established as the Alliance Defense Fund in 1994, ADF's founders include such religious right leaders as Focus on the Family's James C. Dobson and Campus Crusade for Christ's Bill Bright. According to ADF's website, the organization changed its name to Alliance Defending Freedom in 2012 to highlight its "enduring mission to gain justice for those whose faith has been unconstitutionally denied in the areas of religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family."

Headed by President, CEO, and General Counsel Alan Sears, staffed by more than 40 attorneys, and boasting an annual budget in excess of $30 million, ADF bills itself as "a servant ministry building an alliance to keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel by transforming the legal system."

As part of its effort to remake the American legal system along quasi-theocratic lines, ADF has:

  • Partnered with more than 300 like-minded institutions, including the Federalist Society, the Home School Legal Defense Association, the rabidly anti-LGBT Pacific Justice Institute, the Thomas More Law Center, anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council, the Heritage Foundation, and the now-defunct "ex-gay" organization Exodus International.
  • Filed a brief supporting statutory bans on gay sex in Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 case in which the Supreme Court ultimately found state anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional.
  • Opposed anti-bullying efforts in public schools, calling for exceptions for speech or actions based on religious views and decrying "tolerance training" and "special protection" for LGBT students.
  • Created its own "Day of Truth" to combat the Day of Silence, which commemorates LGBT victims of bullying, harassment, and violence.
  • Crusaded against a gay-inclusive Boy Scouts of America, calling the BSA's decision to allow gay scouts an assault on "freedom" and working with churches that sponsor scout troops to work around the new membership policy.
  • Defended California's same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8, in Hollingsworth v. Perry.
  • Offered free representation to Iowa county recorders who refused to provide same-sex couples with marriage licenses.
  • Dispatched chief counsel Benjamin Bull to Russia to meet with Yelena Mizulina, the legislative leader of that country's crackdown on LGBT people.
  • Represented 18 plaintiffs challenging the Affordable Care Act's requirement that for-profit employers cover contraception at no additional cost to employees.

ADF's relentless legal campaign against LGBT equality led the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to describe the organization as "virulently anti-gay." SPLC proved instrumental in exposing an aspect of ADF's work that the organization chooses not to tout on its website – its international work to criminalize homosexuality.

Drafted in accordance with other 19th-century British colonial laws, Section 53 of Belize's criminal code bans "carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or animal." Violation of the code is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

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SPLC reported in July that ADF has rushed to the defense of Section 53, offering legal help to the right-wing group Belize Action. As SPLC notes, ADF has touted Belize Action's defense of Section 53 without mentioning that it has supplied lawyers in the case.

I was disgusted yesterday to hear Tea-Publicans on the House Government Committee refer to Josh Credit from the Center for Arizona Policy (CAP) and Joseph LaRue from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) as "experts" on religion law. No, they are purveyors of "religious laws" for a theocracy.  There is a very big difference.

It is bad enough that our Tea-Publican legislators genuflect before these institutions for religious bigotry. The state's largest newspaper should not be giving them a soapbox from which to promote their hateful ideology out of a concern to be "fair and balanced" or receiving complaints from unhinged conservatives that your editorial opinion was biased.

One is fact, the other is demonstrably, provably false nonsense. To paraphrase, E.J. Montini, "rather than challenge a reader’s willful ignorance [you] emboldened it." "Our problem is that too many people in the media are allowing, even urging, audiences to turn a blind eye to unpleasant facts. And, worse, doing so ourselves."

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