WASHINGTON, D.C., December 16 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In response to calls by the Southern Poverty Law Center to have the army declare the American Family Association as an “extremist” group, the spokesman for the AFA has shot back, accusing the SPLC of being the true “hate” group.
“The AFA doesn’t hate anyone,” AFA Director of Issue Analaysi and Spokesman Brian Fischer told LifeSiteNews.com in an e-mail. “The real hate in all this debate is coming from the SPLC and is directed toward people of faith. The real hate group here is the SPLC.”
Last week, the SPLC urged Army Secretary John McHugh to list the American Family Association (AFA) as an extremist group.
According to SPLC's Josh Glasstetter, McHugh should classify the AFA as an extremist group because, he claims, Director of Issue Analysis and spokersperson Bryan Fischer has said homosexuals are responsible for the Holocaust. He also says Fisher has said Muslims should be deported from America, and wants women, Muslims, and homosexuals disallowed from military service.
Earlier this year, McHugh came under fire after a presentation to soldiers identified the AFA as a hate group in the same category as the New Black Panthers and the KKK. He sent out a memo on October 18 halting the Army's inclusion of the AFA as an “extremist” group after “media reports” showed that the classification was spreading throughout the Army's educational courses.
McHugh said the AFA does not fall under Army Regulation 600-20, which includes classification of extremist groups based upon federally protected classes of people. The AFA, which is considered an “anti-gay” group by the SPLC and others, did not qualify as an extremist group because homosexuals are not a protected group under federal law, he said.
Glasstetter also cites Department of Defense (DoD) Directive 1325.6, which says service members may not be part of extremist organizations that attempt to deny civil rights. In e-mails to LifeSiteNews.com, Glasstetter maintained that AFA tries to deny homosexuals civil rights, women the right to serve in the military, and Muslims the right to live in America.
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“The Defense Department regulation on extremist groups includes organizations that 'advance efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights.' We believe the AFA meets this standard. In addition to its vicious anti-gay bigotry, AFA wants to remove women from the military and deport Americans who practice Islam,” said Glasstetter. “SPLC has designated AFA as a hate group because it demonizes and defames gays and lesbians. The group regularly lies about gays, portraying them as pedophiles and predators, and it openly supports discrimination – including criminalizing consensual sex between adults.”
“This is what separates AFA from other social conservative organizations and makes it an anti-gay hate group. [While] AFA’s speech is absolutely protected by the First Amendment, the military says that '[h]igher and more restrictive standards of conduct distinguish military personnel from their civilian counterparts.'”
The SPLC considers the AFA a “hate group,” a designation also given to racist and violence-oriented organizations such as the New Black Panther Party and the KKK. This is a very different standard than the one set by the FBI when it comes to hate crimes – the FBI looks at actual crimes committed, whereas the SPLC has its own standards. The FBI has recently drawn criticism for listing the SPLC as a “resource” on its website.
Fischer told LifeSiteNews.com that the SPLC is conflating some of his personal views with those of AFA. “The AFA has taken no official position on women in combat, Muslims in the military, or the repatriation of Muslims. When I speak on my radio program, the ideas I express are my own, as our disclaimer at the end of every program makes clear. The SPLC is simply in error to think that every time I speak, I am reflecting the official position of AFA.”
Fischer also pushed back against the idea that AFA is a “hate group.” “We advocate as an organization for a robust Christian faith among the American people, the public acknowledgement of God, the abiding moral standards of the Ten Commandments, and the central importance of the family rooted in the marriage between one man and one woman. It is ludicrous in the extreme to compare an organization that defends these values with the KKK, the New Black Panther Party, or any other organization that advocates violence. We have never advocated violence. We believe political change comes through ballots, not bullets.”
While he declined to comment on AFA specifically, DoD spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen told LifeSiteNews.com reiterated Department of Defense Instruction 1325.6, which he says “strictly prohibits military personnel from advocating or participating in supremacist, extremist, or criminal gang doctrine, ideology, or causes, including those that advance, encourage, or advocate illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, religion, ethnicity, or national origin or those that advance, encourage or advocate the use of force, violence or criminal activity.”
“Commanders at all levels take this issue seriously and have the authority to employ the full range of administrative and disciplinary actions against military personnel who engage in these prohibited activities,” said Christensen. “Anything that negatively affects readiness or undermines military values must be dealt with and DoD continues to work closely with criminal investigative agencies to ensure that gang activity in the military is aggressively investigated and appropriately prosecuted.” Christensen noted that each service has its own policies and procedures regarding extremist activity.
The SPLC has had a growing influence on public policy at the federal level. As LifeSiteNews.com reported in November, it collaborated with the Bush Administration in 2007 and in 2012 a co-founder was invited speak on diversity. The military has also utilized the SPLC for equal opportunity information and data.
The SPLC has been directly linked to a shooting at the Family Research Council's Washington, D.C. headquarters. The shooter said he found the headquarters on the SPLC's “Hate Map,” and planned to kill people in the building. One guard was wounded in the attack.