Fact checking Frank Schubert’s slime parade
“Minnesota for Marriage,” the primary group campaigning for the Marriage Discrimination amendment, has reached the “last minute slime” stage that has become the hallmark of Frank Schubert campaigns. This includes an two television ads that purport to show the “broken promises” from supporters of same-sex marriage, and to warn that “gay marriage could affect you.”
The stories behind these ads, supposedly of concerned parents, beleaguered small business owners, oppressed employees, and silenced pastors, are indeed instructive. But the lesson they teach isn’t that gay marriage is a threat to freedom and family, rather, it’s that the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is willing to misrepresent and manipulate.
Let’s start with the commercial featuring David and Tonia Parker, who warn that same sex marriage could be taught to second graders if Amendment 1 fails. The Parkers are not simply concerned parents, they are anti-gay marriage activists starring in NOM ads across the country. The Seattle Times fact checks a similar ad running in Washington and calls it “half true:”
The ad by Preserve Marriage Washington begins with an image of parents David and Tonia Parker of Massachusetts, which became the first state in the nation, eight years ago, to allow gays to marry.
The 30-second spot shows the Parkers leafing through a book as a voice explains that if gay marriage happens here, (in Washington), schools could teach that boys can marry boys.
It then cuts to David Parker, who says that is what happened at his son’s school after marriage was legalized in Massachusetts. He was referring to the case of a schoolmate of his son’s whose second-grade teacher read the class a book, “King and King,” in which two princes married.
Tonia Parker next says that “If Referendum 74 is approved, same-sex marriage could be taught in local Washington schools just as it was in Massachusetts.”
What the ad doesn’t say is that the Parkers’ son was not in the class where the book was read, but in 2005, he took home a book entitled, “Who’s in a Family?” That book, which was not required reading, concludes by answering its own question: “The people who love you the most.”
In a lawsuit filed in federal court, the Parkers and the family of their son’s schoolmate said they weren’t challenging the district’s use of these books but rather its refusal to provide them prior notice and allow them to opt out.
While Massachusetts schools do allow children to be exempt from lessons that primarily involve human sexuality, school officials had denied the families the opportunity to opt out because they said the lessons were not of a sexual nature.
The courts sided with the school.
You can see a few of the terrifying images from “Who’s in a Family” at MassResistance, the anti-gay marriage group that has championed the Parker case, and is also identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. David Parker has a long history of incredibly hateful and inaccurate statements about LGBT people. You can hear a few, including “homosexuality is a disease (or something like it),” and even worse at Good As You.
M4M released another ad on Friday which identifies what they call the “broken promises” of gay marriage advocates, which flash names of oppressed people and organization across the screen with scary music. It should be no surprise that in each case, the story behind each name doesn’t prove their argument.
Let’s start with Pastor Ake Green. Basically, Rev. Green is the Swedish anti-gay equivalent of American anti-Islam Pastor Terry Jones. The Washington Post described the Green case in 2005:
One Sunday in the summer of 2003, the Rev. Ake Green, a Pentecostal pastor, stepped into the pulpit of his small church in the southern Swedish village of Borgholm. There, the 63-year-old clergyman delivered a sermon denouncing homosexuality as “a deep cancerous tumor in the entire society” and condemning Sweden’s plan to allow gays to form legally recognized partnerships.
“Our country is facing a disaster of great proportions,” he told the 75 parishioners at the service. “Sexually twisted people will rape animals,” Green declared, and homosexuals “open the door to forbidden areas,” such as pedophilia.
With these words, which the local newspaper published at his request, Green ran afoul of Sweden’s strict laws against hate speech. He was indicted, convicted and sentenced to 30 days in jail. He remains free pending appeal.
U.S. law regulates what can be said about individuals, but it generally protects speech directed against groups, however harsh, allowing Ku Klux Klan leaders and neo-Nazis, for example, to state their ideologies publicly. But in Europe, laws banning such speech and similarly controversial symbols are common.
Note two things about this case. First, the law under which Green was charged doesn’t exist in the U.S. In fact, the First Amendment would clearly protect Pastor Green’s speech. This is why America struggles to explain to the rest of the world why we allow Terry Jones to continue spewing his hateful anti-Islam screeds. Second, this wasn’t a new law created because gay marriage was made legal. Green’s publication of his hate-filled sermon against LGBT people and gay marriage was charged under a law that predated legal recognition of same-sex relationships.
By the way, Pastor Green’s conviction was subsequently overturned by the Swedish appeals court and the Swedish Supreme Court. Meanwhile, he attracted an American admirer in Westboro Baptist Church’s Fred Phelps. To Pastor Green’s credit, he denounced Phelps, but he’s been a cause celebre for some of the most hateful anti-LGBT voices in the U.S.
Another example of a supposed threat to “religious liberty” in the M4M ad is “the Diocese of Worcester.” This is a reference to a lawsuit in Massachusetts against the diocese for violations of state Fair Housing laws. A gay couple were seeking to buy a church-owned retreat center with the intention of converting it into an event center. They made an offer on the property which was listed for sale. In the process of negotiation, an official in the Diocese inadvertently forwarded an email to the prospective buyers that revealed that the church was withdrawing from negotiations because of the potential for gay marriages to occur there, even though that topic had never been raised in negotiations.
The conference center property, now known as Oakhurst Conference and Retreat Center, is at the heart of a lawsuit filed by two would-be buyers. James Fairbanks and Alain J. Beret, a married couple from Sutton, claim they were rejected as buyers because they are gay. The two men had offered $550,000 to buy the facility from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester.
The lawsuit alleges Monsignor Thomas Sullivan, administrator of the retreat center, sent an email to the diocese’s broker, mentioning the possibility of gay marriages at the site.
The email, accidentally forwarded to Beret, allegedly read, “I just went down the hall and discussed it with the bishop. Because of the potentiality of gay marriages there, something you shared with us yesterday, we are not interested in going forward with these buyers. I think they’re shaky anyway. So, just tell them that we will not accept their revised plan and the Diocese is making new plans for the property. You find the language.”
The lawsuit is under Massachusetts Fair Housing law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of a number of protected classes, including sexual orientation. Was this law passed because gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts? No, it predated the recognition of same-sex marriages. And guess what, Minnesota already has a similar law against housing discrimination that includes sexual orientation.
Finally, guess what the church-owned retreat center was used for before it was put on the block? It was a treatment center for pedophile priests in the 1970’s and 80’s. You can’t make this stuff up.
The classic Schubert strategy of saturating the airwaves with untrue, manipulative fear appeals is cranking up. Help Minnesotans United for All Families by signing up for a GOTV shift, and let’s send a message. With your help, Minnesota will not be number 31 – we will be the first to reject NOM at the ballot box.
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