Faith Groups Challenge Gays to 'Debate' not 'Hate'

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*The following story was originally aired on February 25, 2011.

America is no stranger to hate. Throughout recent history, the label of "hate group" has been meant for the likes of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis. 

Even though such hate still exists today, it has been crippled, thanks to the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement.

One watchdog group born from the movement is the Southern Poverty Law Center, founded in 1971.  Located in the Deep South, it even features a "hate map" on its website, counting more than 1,000 active hate groups in the United States. 

Some of those highlighted include "neo-Nazis, klansmen... racist skinheads, black separatists, border vigilantes, and others."   

'Hate List' Raises Eyebrows

However, the SPLC's recent inclusion of Christian and pro-family organizations as hate groups has drawn scrutiny. SPLC leaders label them as anti-gay groups spreading lies about homosexuality that could lead to violence against gays.

A recent issue of the SPLC's magazine, "Intelligence Report," claims that homosexuals are the most targeted minority in America. 

The magazine lists 13 organizations as haters because of their stance on homosexuality.  The Christian organization, Family Research Council, is among those added to the hate groups list this year.

Editor Mark Potok, who helped compile the hate list, told CBN News that just because a group believes homosexuality is unbiblical does not earn it a spot on the list.   

Potok says if the organization engages in name-calling and spouts arguments that the Southern Poverty Law Center believes have been proven untrue, then it's a hate group.

"While I am not absolutely trying to draw a comparison between say, the Family Research Council and a neo-Nazi organization, it does meet our criteria," Potok said. "The FRC does engage, certainly in our view, in the propagation of known falsehoods in an effort to defame gay people." 

FRC Defends Gay-Pedophile Link

Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council, says the SPLC's accusations are not true.

"I don't expect everyone to agree with some of the things that we assert about the homosexual lifestyle, but we do present evidence in support of those assertions - and they are certainly not falsehoods or fabrications," Sprigg told CBN News.

One of the most explosive FRC assertions links gay men to pedophilia.  Sprigg has written that most men who engage in molesting boys  "identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual," citing an academic study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

"They actually interviewed child molesters -- convicted child molesters who had molested boys -- and they found that 86 percent of the men who molested boys identified themselves as homosexual or bisexual," Sprigg said. 

'Start Debating, Stop Hating'

Sprigg acknowledges this link is controversial and requires more research but told CBN News the FRC welcomes the debate.

"There is significant evidence in support of the position that we've taken, and we don't think the debate should be shut off by these gratuitous charges of hate," Sprigg said.

The Family Research Council is spreading that message through the campaign, "Start Debating, Stop Hating." 

They put up a billboard in Montgomery, Ala., near the SPLC's headquarters, and printed the message in an open letter in two Washington, D.C.-based publications.
"We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with Family Research Council, American Family Association... and other pro-family organizations that are working to protect and promote natural marriage and family," the letter states.  

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or GLAAD, started its own campaign by trying to convince CNN not to give air time to guests from what they call, "the anti-gay industry."
Sprigg says standing against homosexuality does not make him a hater.

"If somebody is labeled a hate group, it means that you not only are saying that what they argue is wrong, but you are claiming to know their motives," Sprigg explained. 

"As Christians we believe that everyone, every human being is created in the image of God," he continued. "That is the highest, the highest respect that we can give to their personal identity." 

Anti-Gay or Politically Incorrect?

Another question is whether it's right that so-called "anti-gay" views be equated with racism. 

Bishop Harry Jackson with the High Impact Leadership Coalition says "no."  He has taken a stand against homosexuality, and at one time the SPLC labeled him a hater. 

Jackson believes the organization has lost its way.

"It's really just a veneer for gay activism at this point," Jackson told CBN News.

Jackson said the racism his father encountered in the South can truly be labeled "hate."

"My dad, when he was growing up, had a paper route, and on several occasions, he saw the lifeless bodies of African American men, who had been mutilated and tortured, hanging from trees," Jackson shared.

"Certainly, one might disagree with our decision... our purpose is not to say that the Family Research Council or another one of these organizations is the same as the Klan," Potok said. 

"That's clearly not true," he continued. "But the fact is is that for 30 years, we have had on this list groups that merely engage in propaganda."

Sprigg said there's a big difference between the two.

"They have expanded their targets, targeting groups that in fact are not hate groups at all, but... simply hold politically incorrect positions on certain issues like homosexuality," Sprigg said.

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CBN News
Mark Martin

Mark Martin

CBN News Reporter

Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at