Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A New Hate Group Leader and the Culture of Dishonesty

Michael P. Farris
Michael P. Farris
Michael P. Farris recently succeeded Alan Sears as president of the anti-LGBT hate group, Alliance Defending Freedom. Mr. Sears was not exactly a paragon of honesty. Farris seems to have discarded whatever was left of ADF's rectitude in favor of advocacy at any cost. The culture of ADF is changing for the worse. I am always amused at the adroitness of these holier-than-thou moralists to lie through their teeth.

“Thou shall not have gay sex” does not seem to be among the Ten Commandments. However, there is something about “bearing false witness” that these self-righteous tools so conveniently disregard. “Lyin' for the Lord” is a way of life. The burning bush that supposedly spoke to Moses is now holding its nose.

Case in point is the verbiage from an email:
86% Of Pastors Do Not Want The IRS To Review Their Sermons

The idea that some government official can determine whether to punish a church based solely on what a pastor says from the pulpit is repugnant.
This leads to a polemic by ADF's Erik W. Stanley on the organization's blog. The topic is the Johnson Amendment which prohibits tax-exempt organizations from endorsing candidates for office or asserting positions on ballot measures. The effect is to eliminate tax-deductible political contributions. Needless to say, the IRS is not in the business of reviewing sermons. The law is quite simple and straightforward. The existence of the law should preclude pastors from engaging in prohibited conduct. Mr. Stanley addresses the consequences of law breaking as if that were the issue. It is not. We should not drive through red lights because, in doing so, we endanger ourselves and others. The fact that we might end up with an expensive traffic citation is far less relevant to our decision making.

But there is more:
[A]: In 2011, Lifeway Research conducted a survey of 1,000 protestant pastors that asked pastors whether they agreed with the statement, ”I believe pastors should endorse candidates for public office from the pulpit.” The survey reported that 84% of the surveyed pastors disagreed that a pastor should endorse political candidates from the pulpit.
Later on:
[B]: I am happy to report that Lifeway Research conducted another poll of 1,000 pastors and asked the right question. They asked the pastors whether they agreed with the statement that “The government should regulate sermons by revoking a church’s tax exemption if its pastor approves of or criticizes candidates based on the church’s moral beliefs or theology.” 86% of pastors disagreed with the statement.
You would think that poll B was performed after poll A. That is the intended inference. In point of fact, the reverse is true. The “A” poll was released on October 1, 2012. It was set to coincide with the week prior to ADF's staged Johnson Amendment protest called “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.” ADF encourages pastors to break a law that they do not like. How they retain their licenses to practice law is another matter.

The “B” poll was released in August of 2011 and it was commissioned by ADF. It is the perfect example of the logical fallacy of begging the question. It might have served as an encouragement for Lifeway to do an independent poll two months later (the “A” poll).

The timing is important to the narrative and the confusion is intentional. Stanley would like people to believe that Lifeway had erred and then corrected their error with a new poll. The fact is that Lifeway did just the opposite. They were determined, it seems, not to allow ADF's BS to obscure the real attitudes of pastors.

ADF's summary of the poll that they commissioned reads
Nearly four in five pastors strongly disagree government should regulate sermons using church’s tax exemption.
Lifeway's more honest summary of the subsequent poll:
Nearly 90 percent of pastors believe they should not endorse candidates for public office from the pulpit, according to a recent survey by LifeWay Research. The survey also revealed that 44 percent of pastors personally endorsed candidates, but did so outside of their church role.
It might seem like I am splitting hairs but the simple truth is that pastors overwhelmingly believe that they should not be engaging in politics from the pulpit. ADF's Mr. Stanley is determined to “prove” that pastors want and require permission to endorse candidates which is simply not the case. Stanley is a rather conflicted individual. He has a law degree and a masters in divinity.

Lawyers often blur the line between dishonesty and zealous advocacy. Michael Farris brings with him three decades of argument bloodshed as founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association. In essence he has been somewhat successful in advocating for the rights of parents to make their kids stupid. He has been astonishingly successful in getting people to believe that Common Core is evil. The reality is that Farris did not want home-schooled kids to have to compete on equal terms with traditionally schooled children when measuring achievement. Look for ADF to increasingly rely on their incurious constituency to keep their war chest full.

An interesting side note. The Home School Legal Defense Association had a considerable amount of anti-LGBT content on their website. They fiercely opposed nondiscrimination laws and same-sex marriage. That content mysteriously disappeared. In 2014 Josh Israel at Center for American Progress wrote:
In the 2006, the group even lobbied for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. A statement on the group’s website explained that because “Same-sex marriage attacks the traditions of the family in western civilization,” it thus constitutes an “attack on parental rights.” [Will]Estrada [director of government affairs for HSLDA] said that the group no longer lobbies on this issue and that he did not know why it had done so then.
It did so because Michael Farris is, and always has been, an anti-LGBT bigot. Now he runs a nearly $50 million organization that seems determined to impose ultra-conservative Christianity on everyone else — often at our expense.

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