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Fox News personality Todd Starnes ignores journalism ethics to create false ‘war on Christians’ narrative

By: Monday February 23, 2015 9:43 pm

Todd Starnes

Faced with the reality that they may actually lose the fight against marriage equality, anti-gay groups, as they are skilled at doing, are switching tactics to fight gay equality.

After decades of claiming that homosexuality is a public health menace which encompasses pedophilia, disease, and all-around negative behavior, they are suddenly shifting the conversation to the idea that Christians and evangelicals like themselves are now seeing their rights infringed upon by a world which is becoming more lgbt-inclusive.

Instead of relying on information such as FBI statistics, because such statistics contradict their claims, anti-gay groups are relying on anecdotes and FOAF (friend of a friend) stories which are for the most part are conjured up by either themselves or members of the media friendly to their point of view.

Such as Fox News personality Todd Starnes.

Since starting with Fox News a few years back, Starnes, a conservative author, commentator, and author,  has made a name for himself by supposedly uncovering evidence of anti-Christian bias in various places. Subsequently, his articles and columns not only attract a large following but are also used by anti-gay organizations such as the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, and other various groups who claim that the goal of lgbt equality is to suppress Christianity.

According to the site Equality Matters, Starnes serves as a willing mouthpiece to these groups; i.e. their conduit to the mainstream press when it comes to pushing their anecdotes of anti-Christian bias.

Starnes himself has made viciously untrue comments about lgbts such as:

LGBT equality is ushering in ‘cultural cleansing, and

LGBT equality will lead to bestiality

Starnes also has a reputation as a sloppy reporter whose personal biases causes him to either embellish or omit details in his articles and columns; details which contradict his overriding claim of anti-Christian persecution.

And this wouldn’t be the first time he has gotten into trouble for sloppy journalism. In 2003, Starnes was fired by the Baptist Press for what seemed to be a deliberate misrepresentation of quotes by then U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige. Apparently, what Starnes did was so bad that before the truth was discovered, several civil rights groups and members of Congress  were demanding Paige’s resignation.

Since that time, Starnes has been the stirring stick of several controversies which go beyond the Paige controversy.

Below is a short summary of  a few of  the controversies Starnes  has created. Accompanying these controversies are the facts which he either omitted or didn’t investigate further to discover. Not all of these controversies involve claims of gays supposedly persecuting Christians, but they all weave the false theme of anti-Christian bias. And we all know that when there are false themes of anti-Christian bias, sooner or later, these themes filter down to fingers being pointed at the lgbt community.

April 2013:

1. Starnes spin – The United States Military was deliberately blocking access to the official website of the Southern Baptist Convention because of anti-Christian bias.

Truth – The website was blocked because of virus issues. This was confirmed by the Baptist Press, the news source of the Southern Baptist Convention.

From Right Wing Watch

2. Starnes spin – The United States Military will begin court marshaling Christians in an effort to kick them out of the service

Truth  – “As Warren Throckmorton points out, the Defense Department guidelines on proselytizing and religious bias that has so enraged Starnes and others was actually put in place in 2008 during the Bush administration and the language clearly “draws a distinction between simply speaking about one’s faith and coercion.”

“Throckmorton also notes that Starnes twisted a statement from a Pentagon spokesman “to make it seem as though the outcome of religious proselytizing cases would be court martial.” ‘

From Right Wing Watch

September 2013:

Starnes spin – A San Antonio non-discrimination ordinance will bar all Christians from serving in public office, discriminate against folks for having prior anti-gay beliefs, and will “force churches to allow transgender bathrooms.”

TruthEquality Matters refuted every one of those claims. The site called the last claim regarding churches a boldfaced lie.

December 2013:

Starnes spin – Veterans Administrations Hospitals in two states (Texas, Georgia) refuses to accept Christmas cards made by children in a show of anti-Christian bias

Truth – This was probably the most significant debunking given to Starnes because it was by a fellow Christian, Alan Noble. In an absolutely blistering piece entitled Todd Starnes Sold Us a War on Christianity. We Bought It, Noble outright accuses Starnes of lying:

Last week, Todd Starnes at FOX News published two articles on anti-Christian discrimination at Veterans Administrations hospitals this Christmas season. In both reports, Starnes lies and tactfully omits facts in order to deceive his audience, creating the impression that the government is at war with Christmas. . . .

. . . Starnes’s wide influence on evangelicals is alarming because he consistently deceives and manipulates facts in order to exaggerate or fabricate incidences of Christian persecution. These reports influence a great deal of people who often respond with hatred, anger, and disgust out of ignorance.

Jan. 2014:

Starnes spin – A first grader was prohibited by her teacher from talking about how her family puts the Star of Bethlehem on top of their Christmas tree. Her teacher then told her to stop talking about the Bible in class

Truth – The school and the teacher involved published a public statement denying the incident.  The student was taking too long in her presentation. The teacher helped her through it but then cut it short because there were other students who had to do their presentations. At no time did the teacher tell the student to stop talking about the Bible in class or that no one is allowed to discuss the Bible in class.

From Right Wing Watch.

April 2014:

1. Starnes spin – As part of a lgbt-inclusive anti-bullying workshop at Linden Avenue Middle School in New York, two female students were forced to kiss each other.and male students were told to carry condoms in their pockets

Truth – The school district investigated and issued a statement that neither of these incidents took place

From the Huffington Post (Full disclosure. I wrote this Huffington Post article.)

2. Starnes spin – A kindergarten student in Florida was told that she could not pray before eating her lunch.

Truth – The school investigated and could find no evidence that the incident took place. An interesting addendum to this controversy was that the child in question was the daughter of Marco Perez. Perez is the vice president of sales of a Christian publishing house (Charisma House) which published Starnes’s recent book on – what else – anti-Christian persecution.

From Right Wing Watch , the Orlando Sentinel, and Equality Matters

October 2014

Starnes spin – An church in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho was being forced to marry a gay couple.

Truth - The “church” in question, The Hitching Post, was not a church but a “for-profit” business which also offered secular weddings. In fact, city never even took legal action against it.

From Equality Matters (Equality Matters pointed out that other anti-gay organizations and blogs pushed the story but that Starnes was the first who sounded the phony panic alarm)

February 2015:

1. Starnes spin – An Oregon bakery which refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple could face a fine of up to $200,000

Truth – “Todd Starnes is writing that the bakery owners face fines of up to $200,000 in damages. That’s false,” said Charlie Burr, (Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries) communications director. “In fact, it’s the Kleins who have asked for $200,000 in damages from our agency for our enforcement of the Equality Act.”

From Raw Story

2. Starnes spin – Students at Acalanes High School in Lafayette, California were bullied during a class presentation put on by the school’s Queer/Straight Alliance.

Truth – Acalanes High School District Superintendent John Nickerson sent email to Equality Matters denying Starnes’s claims:

It is not clear what other primary source Fox News used for their reporting, but their “opinion” piece on the program does not reflect what actually took place.

From Equality Matters

At a time in which journalistic honesty is being scrutinized because of controversies involving NBC’s Brian Williams and Starnes’s colleague at Fox News, Bill O’Reilly,  it is amazing that Starnes has gotten away with so many incidents of sloppy journalism and deliberate embellishment of facts

Starnes doesn’t care about being truthful because he is too busy presenting an argument. Such a mindset is a dangerous one for a journalist to have. He seems to be determined to prove that there exists an anti-Christian bias in this country (particularly coming from the lgbt community) whether or not such a bias exists.

And it is something for the lgbt community to remember  and remind people of because if we should eventually win marriage equality in all 50 states, Starnes’s articles and columns, no matter how sloppy and embellished, will play a huge part in the religious right’s argument of anti-Christian suppression.

Family Research Council supports punishing clerks who follow the law on gay marriage

By: Sunday February 1, 2015 8:47 pm

When it comes to these “religious freedom” bills, particularly involving clerks and government employees with regards to legal gay marriages, the Family Research Council’s change of semantics is very telling.

On one hand, the group claims that marriage equality is dangerous because it pits a person’s employment and livelihood against their religious beliefs:

“As more states are forced to redefine marriage, contrary to nature and directly in conflict with the will of millions, more Americans will see and experience attacks on their religious freedom.   . . .  As more and more people lose their livelihoods because they refuse to not just tolerate but celebrate same-sex marriage, Americans will see the true goal, which is for activists to use the Court to impose a redefinition of natural marriage on the entire nation.” – October 16, 2014.

Yet when it comes to what we are beginning to see now – state legislators introducing bills to actually punish clerks and government employees for legally issuing same-sex marriage licenses, FRC isn’t so concerned by people’s livelihoods (emphasis on important part of FRC’s statement added by me):

Where’s the resistance to same-sex “marriage?” A better question might be: where isn’t it? While the Left is busy telling the media that Americans have “moved on” from marriage, conservatives everywhere are proving them wrong. In several states, the backlash to the courts’ overreach on marriage is sprouting up in legislative committees faster than reporters can cover them. Even the New York Times is finally admitting that the wave of opposition isn’t subsiding in states where out-of-control judges swung their gavels like sledgehammers against voter-approved marriage laws.

By large numbers, leaders are firing back with all kinds of legislation to stop the spread of court-imposed same-sex “marriage” at their borders, including some bills that take aim at officials who act against the will of the people.

In Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas, Republicans are moving quickly on measures that would penalize any government employee caught issuing same-sex “marriage” licenses — regardless of the courts’ orders. – January 30, 2015

Shouldn’t FRC be as concerned for the freedom and livelihoods of employees who may actually want to issue same-sex marriage licenses in accordance to their beliefs or, at the very least, or want to follow the law.

Or perhaps this idea of “religious freedom” is yet another dodge perpetrated by FRC and other so-called morality groups. Perhaps this is about what it’s always been about  – keeping the lgbt community under heel via the exploitation of fear and religious beliefs.

This idea of the preservation of “religious freedom” is merely the latest code phrase.

In the 70s, they claimed to stand against lgbt equality because they wanted to “protect the children.”

In the 80s, it was all about exploiting the HIV/AIDS crisis.

In the 90s, they screamed about “special rights.”

And in the years afterward, it was about “protecting the definition of marriage.”

Now, it’s all about religious freedom; the newest buzzword used to mask old prejudices.

This ado isn’t about religious freedom any more than it was about “protecting the children” or stopping “special rights” or “saving marriage.”

It’s about the unfortunate special ability to wrap up old rotten prejudices in new clean packages and continue to sell them to America.

South Carolina, Texas would punish government employees for recognizing same-sex marriages

By: Monday January 12, 2015 9:34 pm

SC Rep. Gary Smith

Apparently some legislators in South Carolina got a real bee in their bonnet about losing the marriage equality fight.

And they are going to take it out on government employees who would recognized these marriages. On December 11, SC Reps Gary Smith and Bill Chumley filed House Bill (H.3022) which in part states:

TO AMEND THE CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, BY ADDING SECTION 20-1-235 SO AS TO PROHIBIT THE USE OF TAXPAYER FUNDS AND PAYMENT OF GOVERNMENT SALARIES AND BENEFITS FOR ACTIVITIES RELATED TO THE LICENSING AND SUPPORT OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGE, TO PROHIBIT GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES FROM RECOGNIZING, GRANTING, OR ENFORCING SAME-SEX MARRIAGE LICENSES, TO PROHIBIT THE USE OF TAXES OR OTHER PUBLIC FUNDS TO ENFORCE A COURT ORDER TO ISSUE A SAME-SEX MARRIAGE LICENSE, TO REQUIRE COURTS TO DISMISS CERTAIN LEGAL ACTIONS RELATED TO THE LICENSING AND RECOGNITION OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGE AND TO AWARD ATTORNEY’S FEES AND COSTS IN THOSE ACTIONS, AND TO PROVIDE FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE STATE FROM LIABILITY FOR CERTAIN CONDUCT.

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:

SECTION 1. Article 3, Chapter 1, Title 20 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:

“Section 20-1-235.    (A)    No state or local taxpayer funds or governmental salaries may be paid for an activity that includes the licensing or support of same-sex marriage.

(B)    No state or local governmental employee officially shall recognize, grant, or enforce a same-sex marriage license. If an employee violates this subsection, the employee must not continue to receive a salary, pension, or other employee benefit at the expense of the taxpayers of this State.

(C)    No taxes or public funds may be utilized to enforce a court order requiring the issuance or recognition of a same-sex marriage license.

(D)    A court of this State shall dismiss a legal action challenging a provision of this section and shall award costs and attorney’s fees to a person or entity named as a defendant in the legal action.

(E)    No person employed by this State or a local governmental entity who violates or interferes with the implementation of this section may continue to receive a salary, pension, or other employee benefit.

(F)    The State is not subject to suit in law or equity pursuant to the eleventh amendment of the United States Constitution for complying with the provisions of this section, regardless of a contrary federal court ruling.

(G)    If a judicial officer violates this section, that judicial officer is disqualified from office pursuant to Section 19, Article V of the South Carolina Constitution, 1895.”

Here is something interesting which should be known. In Texas, legislators are proposing pretty much exactly the same bill, albeit with different text:

A bill has been introduced in the Texas Legislature that if enacted would strip the salary of any Texas-government employee who issues a marriage license to a same-sex couple.

Known as House Bill 623, the recently introduced bill declares that no state funds will go to the distribution of gay marriage licenses.

“State or local taxpayer funds or governmental salaries may not be used for an activity that includes the licensing or support of same-sex marriage,” reads HB 623.

“If an employee violates this subsection, the employee may not continue to receive a salary, pension, or other employee benefit at the expense of the taxpayers of this State.”

Of course these bill are ridiculous and would totally undercut our system of checks and balances as well as infringe upon the rights of same-sex couples who have legally won or could win the right to marriage. But I think the lgbt community, particularly our leaders, activists, and bloggers, would do ourselves a favor to not focus on the “puppets” in this matter, i.e. the lawmakers proposing these bills.  Instead, we should focus on the “puppet masters.”

I am betting that we will see more of these mean-spirited bills pop up in other states because some entity is maneuvering this mess behind the scenes, probably even to the point of providing language for the lawmakers to use.

And I am almost certain that this entity, whoever it or they (meaning more than one organization) may be is obscuring their behind-the-scenes work by continuously claiming that Christians will be “persecuted” because of the onslaught of pro-marriage equality decisions.

It would be certainly embarrassing if these entities were made public, wouldn’t it? After all, you can’t plead victimhood when it shown that you have state legislators in your hip pockets.

But who ever it or they may be, their hypocrisy is duly noted. Gay couples have been winning the right to marry fair and square via the courts. Seems to me that if these folks proposing all of this nasty legislation had any legitimate argument against marriage equality in the first place, they wouldn’t be in the position to have to stoop so low in order to stop it.

 

Kelvin Cochran and the homophobia hiding behind ‘religious liberty’

By: Tuesday January 6, 2015 9:06 pm

The fire chief of Atlanta, GA, Kelvin Cochran, was just dismissed because of a self-published book he wrote which was viewed as homophobic. According to Think Progress: Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (D) announced Tuesday that he has fired Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, who had previously been suspended for publishing and distributing a book condemning homosexuality.. [...]

Steve Scalise and racist groups, Tony Perkins and racist groups – it’s all relative

By: Monday December 29, 2014 6:52 pm

Washington is all abuzz about a huge scandal regarding Rep Steve Scalise, soon to be House Majority Whip, and a 2002 speech he made to a meeting of a white supremacist group founded by known racist David Duke: Twelve years before he was elected by his colleagues as House Majority Whip, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) [...]

Anti-gay billboard is latest scientific distortion from religious right

By: Monday December 15, 2014 11:19 pm

crossposted on Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters Last week, the anti-gay group PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays) suffered a huge embarrassment because of a billboard it put up on a Virginia interstate: The billboard appeared recently beside I-95 in Richmond, Virginia, according to NBC affiliate WWBT. The sign depicts two males, one dressed in [...]

Arkansas victory exposes hypocritical nature of the Duggar family’s version of Christianity

By: Wednesday December 10, 2014 5:52 pm

crossposted on Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters Earlier this week, the lgbt community suffered a nasty defeat in Fayetteville, Arkansas. According to LGBTQNation: Voters in Fayetteville, Ark., on Tuesday repealed a controversial LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance approved by the city council in August. KFSM-TV reports that 52 percent of voters cast ballots to repeal the ordinance, [...]

Family Research Council owes the Southern Poverty Law Center an apology

By: Monday December 8, 2014 5:39 pm

crossposted on Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters Steve Anderson, the pastor of Arizona’s Faithful Word Baptist Church, has caused shock and revulsion for his recent claim that the AIDS crisis would end if gays were executed. However through it all, folks are missing a point that only us wonky individuals would bring up. In 2010, [...]

Gary Bauer – the anti-gay talking head who helped undermine the fight against HIV/AIDS in the Reagan Administration

By: Tuesday November 25, 2014 8:49 pm

The late President Reagan gets a lot of deserved flack for his negligence in the early days of the AIDS crisis. Today, we learned that there needs to be some flack dispensed around because Reagan isn’t the only person in his Administration who needs to be called to the carpet. According to Right Wing Watch: [...]

The Erasure of ‘Gay’ From Black History & the Black Community Must Stop

By: Sunday October 19, 2014 5:53 pm

As a gay African-American, I’ve heard the argument about how “you can’t compare the gay civil rights movement to the African-American civil rights movement” more times than I care to count. The constant so-called moral outrage of some African-American heterosexuals when the topic is mentioned has gotten me to the point where my mind automatically [...]

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