Monday, March 23, 2015

Funny how easily hate language rolls off Christians' tongues; what are they teaching in Sunday School?

It would seem like time might soothe the sting of anti-gay hate slurs such as “faggot.” But I recently learned that the hateful language shocks my senses as much at 65 as it did a half-century ago.

A dispute with neighbors about their large dogs running loose and attacking my little 10-pound poodle led to a 14-year-old youth in their supervision calling me a “faggot.” The word shocked me so that at first I thought his female guardian had uttered it. But the teenager confirmed he said it.

The teenager also disputed my claim about the dogs running loose for an extended period of time while they were out of town, during which time my little dog was attacked by their big boxer. In essence, the teen called me a liar.

In fact, the attack the teenager claimed didn’t happen so scared my dog she trembled and cried under the bed for an hour. Fortunately, she seemed to suffer no serious physical injury, despite the boxer briefly having a death grip on her neck.

During the confrontation with the family, the adult male in the teenager’s company supported the youngster’s  anti-gay remark, asking  me, “Well, what are you?”

I didn’t answer the question. I hardly knew what to say. But I did call law enforcement for assistance. It marked my third call to 911 over the weekend — two about the dogs running loose and one about the dispute.

I asked the teenager if he learned that language from his family. He said, “I learned it a school. I was raised by a good Christian mother.” I was already aware his family spent a significant amount of their time at church.

The law enforcement officer listened to my side of the complaint, and he talked to the family and the youth. He told me that he advised the youth it was wrong to call people names, but he told me it was a “freedom of speech issue” and amounted to no crime.

I told the officer I believed the use of anti-gay slurs represented harassment, but I dropped it at that point. He told me at one point early on that I needed to calm down because I was at risk of making him mad and “that’s not going to help you.” He mentioned something about an apology from the youth, but I told him I wanted no further conversations with anyone in the family.

I pointed out the teenager’s remark about someone who lives alone, never throws parties and lives a really quiet life disturbed me because of the potential for what might be said to a same-sex male or female couple or single people who entertain frequently.

The teenager’s slur also surprised me in part because it seems to contradict what school officials report. They claim to be educating students about diversity and the need for tolerance in an effort to dissuade bullying.

At no time did anyone inquire about the health of my dog or about my own health even though I was knocked to the ground when the dog attacked.

Overall, I think law enforcement did a good job concerning my multiple complaints. But the last officer left me with the impression that they could use more training in the area of hate language and where it can lead. I made a special request that he include in his report the fact that the teenager had used the word “faggot” during the dispute.

If a teenager would yell “faggot” at a 65-year-old man who just called law enforcement, and then argue with that older man about the truth of his statements, what would he say or do to another student? Will I wake up and find “faggot” written on my car or house? Will that happen to some other LGBT person?

Coincidentally, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report magazine, outlining its annual report on hate groups operating in the United States, arrived in my mailbox today. Under the category of General Hate with a specific Anti-LGBT focus, the human rights group identified 44 in operation of the total 784 hate groups documented in the nation last year.

Many of the group’s names use words like church, family, moral, ministries, mission, parents and such. The groups are located nationwide, and three have addresses in Texas, including Fort Worth, Plano and El Paso.

It’s pretty easy to understand how teenagers can be conflicted by the confusing messages they must be getting at home, church and school.

For me, it’s another lesson learned. No matter how hard I try to be a good neighbor, I will be at risk of — at the very least — verbal assaults because of my sexual orientation, and the words will hurt as much as they ever did.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

American Family Association continues with 'big lie'

The American Family Association’s new “Anti-Christian Bigotry Map,” which claims to identify LGBT groups nationwide, is long on hype and short on facts. You might even call the map and its categories of “anti-Christian, humanist, atheist and homosexual agenda” laughable if it weren’t so deceptive.

In Texas for instance, the map identifies Human Rights Campaign chapters in Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, Houston and San Antonio with little rainbow-colored balloons. I wonder how long someone in the Mississippi-based organization worked to compile that silly list, given that there are countless local LGBT organizations statewide easily identified.

The interactive map allows the viewer to isolate by state the different categories. The list is led by a colorful “homosexual agenda” icon that sort of resembles a hot air balloon -- an apt, albeit unintended image for this map to be sure. The AFA map features about 200 icons nationwide that provide obscure group names in most cases.

HRC quickly ridiculed the map’s publication on its website, noting that the organization maintains no offices in certain cities listed on the map. “…We will not be able to meet at HRC’s offices in Dallas and Austin that are included on AFA’s map because they don’t exist. Gosh darn.”

The Texas map also identifies anti-Christians in Houston and San Antonio; atheists in Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, Denton, Houston, Lubbock and Corpus Christi and humanists or “freethinkers” in North Texas, the Panhandle, East Texas and Central Texas. It would appear the humanists escaped detection as to exactly where they congregate.

At the bottom of the map, the AFA gets down to the real business at hand by listing the national headquarters of the Human Rights Campaign, the Southern Poverty Law Center, GLSEN and Freedom from Religion Foundation. The HRC blog noted that the AFA list also “oddly included” the American Association of Retired Persons and People for the American Way, but those groups appear to no longer be included on the map.

AFA claims on the map HRC “bullies American corporations to embrace sexual perversion and encourages lawsuits against Christian-owned businesses and states.” It accuses SPLC of labeling Christian organizations supporting the Biblical definition of marriage as hate groups, and it claims GLSEN “infiltrates public schools with pro-homosexual indoctrination tactics.” FFRF “threatens, intimidates and sues local governments and public schools to abolish all public references to the Christian faith,” according to the AFA.

What is most interesting about the AFA interactive map is that it poorly imitates the Southern Poverty Law’s Center’s comprehensive annual list of hate groups, which includes the AFA. The list names 939 groups, including White Supremacists of all varieties, anti-government gangs and LGBT-bashers, which are gleaned from extensive research.

SPLC began including anti-LGBT groups on its hate group list soon after its founding in 1971 because white supremacists and others often targeted LGBT people in propaganda and hate crimes.

SPLC President Richard Cohen said in an email to Dallas Voice that with the map’s publication the “AFA is continuing with its big lie – its claim that we’re anti-Christian. We’re obviously not.”

Cohen noted SPLC also disagrees with the policies of Focus on the Family on a variety of issues, but the organization is not included on the annual hate group list because it maintains a higher level of integrity than AFA. “…We would not call Focus a hate group because, unlike groups like the AFA, Focus does not routinely spread demonizing lies and propaganda about the LGBT community,” Cohen said. “And in the case of the AFA, its bigotry is not limited to the anti-LGBT variety.”

The AFA’s publication of the map seems to prove Cohen’s point because it seeks to spread resentment against non-Christians as well as LGBT people. The propaganda also ignores the affiliation of millions of LGBT people with the Christian faith. AFA leaders attempt to portray LGBT people as deviants who want to overthrow Western Civilization by destroying traditional Judeo-Christian values.

Since AFA’s founding in 1977 under the former name of the National Federation for Decency the group has sought to censor publications and television broadcasts, disseminate false information about LGBT people and their relationships and promote “ex-gay” therapy. Methodist minister Donald E. Wildmon founded the group, but he stepped down after 33 years for his son, Tim Wildmon, to carry on his anti-LGBT campaign, that sometimes has targeted minority groups such as Muslims and Native Americans who refused to convert to Christianity.

AFA, which depends on donations and the sale of books and other propaganda to operate, is largely ineffective and professionally disrespected as the publication of its map shows. Still, it manages to keep operating because enough people buy into the organization’s untruthful and alarmist propaganda to fund it.

About the best we can do as a community is to continue to support the organizations that we know tell the truth and work for our benefit. AFA unwittingly identified them for you.