American Family Association Touts Free Speech for Radio Hosts Except When Hosts Criticize the AFA

In a letter to the Southern Poverty Law Center yesterday, AFA attorney Patrick Vaughn said the American Family Association is a “free speech zone.”
In 2012, AFA Tim Wildmon took essentially the same stance regarding Fischer’s views while Fischer was serving as Director of Issues Analysis. Now, in the face of a firestorm of controversy involving the Republican National Committee, the AFA backs away from most of the outrageous things Fischer has said while he represented the AFA.
The AFA claims to be a free speech zone but not that long ago the AFA targeted Worldview Weekend host Brannon Howse because he criticized the AFA’s involvement in Rick Perry’s prayer meeting, The Response. The AFA issued an ultimatum to two other radio hosts who worked with Howse: Todd Friel and John Loeffler. Both hosts were told they had to break ties with Howse or lose their spot on the AFR network. Friel eventually stayed with the AFA while Loeffler decided not to acquiesce to the AFA’s demands.
Howse and his colleagues clearly were not a part of the AFA nor on their payroll. Fischer on the other hand remains an employee of the AFA. Free speech allows Bryan Fischer to spew positions which now the AFA says they repudiate. However, not that long ago, free speech did not allow Brannon Howse to criticize the AFA’s involvement in Rick Perry’s coming out party.

Wretched Radio Listeners Express Disappointment Over Decision to Stay With American Family Radio

Last week, the American Family Association issued an ultimatum to two hosts of radio shows on the American Family Radio network – either stop speaking at events hosted by Brannon Howse or be removed from the AFR network. AFA decided that people who help Howse and his Worldview Weekend organization are not welcome to be a part of their lineup. Leading up to The Response prayer meeting, convened by Texas Governor Rick Perry, and paid for by the AFA, Howse had criticized the prominent participation of members of the New Apostolic Reformation in The Response. The AFA President, Tim Wildmon told me last week that “AFR is under no obligation to run programs of individuals who are going to help Brannon when he is attacking our friends. We make programming decisions all the time.”
On Friday, one of the hosts, John Loeffler, decided not to continue with AFR. On Tuesday, just ahead of the Wednesday deadline for a decision set by the AFA, Todd Friel, host of Wretched Radio issued a statement on their group’s Facebook page announcing intention to continue with AFA and drop out of a prior commitment to speak at a Worldview Weekend in 2012. The note elicited many comments from fans, some of whom seemed confused about what the announcement meant. Once other commenters explained the situation, many Wretched fans expressed disappointment in the decision. Here are some of those comments:
Cathy Blackerby Mathews asked:

My question is this: Will Wretched cover the NAR movement? They clearly proclaim a false gospel. The AFA has made it pretty clear that they will not tolerate this. I just don’t understand how the Wretched gang does not see that they have ti…ed their own hands here. This movement is huge- it’s tentacles are moving into all kinds of areas- conservative politics, Word-Faith, church growth, territorial demons/spiritual warfare, IHOP, missions. It is all about power and alliances for the NAR- their theology dictates that this be the case. Please Wretched gang- look into this stuff. Herescope has done extensive documented research -as well as Brannon obviously.

Greg Harrison said:

I am not going to stop listening to Wretched, I am still a fan, but I think I have to take Todd’s advice: when someone makes a less than biblically informed decision then my discernment radar has to go up. I never thought I would have to us…e that for Wretched. I am very saddened by this decision and wonder how your ministry will be weakened if you have to censor yourself so as not to offend your network. I also wonder, as Howse pointed out, how you can justify your recent comments on James MacDonald (with which I whole-heartedly agreed) in the light of your decision to agree to AFA’s demands when they are aligning with and protecting heretics. On another note: Chris Rosebrough (who was recently interviewed on Wretched) is heard in 57 countries and has a very large audience for Fighting for the Faith without the aid of a large network like AFA. I am sure Wretched could survive without AFA.

Joy Wenning said she will stop following the show, saying

Personally, I prefer listening to Wretched, BUT. will no longer. I know Brannon is being gracious, however, I have much more respect for Brannon and John. Wretched, you have an extremely weak reason(s). It is clear you didn’t act on principle…but went to every extent possible to find an out. You have to think a whole lot to come up with your list. One normally does that when they want to hang on to something bad enough and are willing to ignore the obvious. Do a heart check. You are willing to let AFA snap you into submission. I can no longer in good conscience listen knowing you have compromised on this large of an issue. The times are a changing and we will be pressured more and more to compromise. I think you are really inconsistent in what you’ve done.

Earlier today on the same thread, Wretched Radio’s Joel Anderson responded to those who expressed disagreement with the decision saying:

Wretched ?(Joel) Cathy, Angie, Joy, everyone – Let me be clear. This has absolutely nothing to do with what we do or don’t speak out against. Nothing. Wretched will continue to speak out against NAR [New Apostolic Reformation], IHOP [International House of Prayer], etc. The controversy will not affect our… programming in the least bit. We have not changed anything content-wise on Wretched. If we get bounced from stations and networks (and we have countless times) for what we air…so be it. We stand behind what we say.

After this comment, Jim De Arras asked:

Joel, Will Wretched remain free to speak out against AFA’s association with NAR in the Rick Perry event or praise Brannon for his stand? If not, you are compromised.

Prior to the ultimatum, Wretched had not discussed the criticisms of Howse on the show. Given the AFA’s decision, doing so now would invite retaliation.
Despite the majority of comments being negative on the decision, a few promised to keep listening.
Teresa Atkins said:

Love you guys!!! We support you Friel and staff. We don’t support AFA. We will keep listening via your Wretched club. Praying for you all. Grace and peace to you and your families.

For his part, Howse encouraged Friel’s listeners to continue with the show, but expressed disappointment over the decision on his website:

Brannon encourages his audience to continue listening to & learning from Wretched Radio & his friend Todd Friel. Brannon does lovingly explain why he is disappointed in the excuses given by Wretched Radio in their statement & explains why their statement claiming there is not a theological issue at stake is wrong.

Wretched Radio host stays with American Family Radio

Ahead of Wednesday’s deadline for a decision, Todd Friel, host of Wretched Radio, opted to stay with American Family Radio instead of speak at an event hosted by Brannon Howse. Last week, American Family Radio’s program director, Jim Stanley sent a letter to John Loeffler and Todd Friel, informing them that if they spoke at an event hosted by Brannon Howse, they could not continue on AFR. See the details here and here.
On the Facebook page for the show, Friel posted a vague statement giving defense for staying with AFR despite the ultimatum:

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a difficult situation not of your own doing and forced to make a decision you didn’t want to make? That’s what happened to us. We were minding our own business when we were asked to make a decision to speak at one conference or continue to preach the Gospel on 130 stations.
What would you have done? 
More than that, can you understand how two different people might make two different decisions and neither are sinning?
We are not choosing sides.  We are simply trying to do what we exist to do: preach the Gospel on radio and TV. 
Feel free to disagree with us, but please keep these things in mind:

  • If you are a parent or if you have ever been in a spat with your spouse, you know that there are two sides to every story.
  • We encouraged reconciliation between the two parties.
  • We are certainly not Dominionists….yikes.
  • There is a theological term called Adiaphora: things neither commanded nor forbidden by God.  We believe this situation is an adiaphora.  Two different Christians can make two different decisions.
  • This is not a heretical issue.
  • Do you really think we have jumped ship by making this painful decision?
  • We received much unanimous Godly council.  The options for us were not good, but they were relatively clear.
  • We do not hate either party.
  • This is a wonderful chance to understand the difference between sinful decisions and preferential decisions.
  • We don’t have a number ten, but a top 9 list seemed silly.
  • So, there you have it.  You may feel we’ve made a mistake; but please remember, we are not your enemy.   We have always said, when it comes to heretics, the gloves come off.  When it comes to a brother, we should treat each other charitably and with love assuming the best. 
    Thank you for reading and pondering this.
       – The Wretched Gang

    Since this statement was posted late yesterday afternoon, 117 comments have been made, most of which criticize the AFA and/or Friel for his decision. Here is a recent one which seems to sum up the mood:

    For those that keep asking what happened: AFR sent John Loeffler and Todd Friel notices that either they cancel their appearances at Brannon Howse’s Christian Worldview Conferences or their radio shows would be booted off the air. John Lo…effler chose to side with Brannon, and had his radio show pulled from AFR. Todd Friel apparently decided to keep his show on AFR and has chosen not to participate in Brannon’s conference. If you go to Brannon Howse’s FB page you’ll see more info on this. AFR is coming out against Brannon due to his speaking out against many Word of Faith folks that AFR has association with or joined with in The Response. HTHs for those of you who are asking! I pray that the Wretched gang can find a new media outlet. I understand that it is important to keep their show on the air to get the Gospel to as many people as possible, but to still be associated with AFR after behaving in such a dirty, underhanded way is really sad. AFR just proved that they are not a true Christian organization-if they were, they would not have resorted to such tactics.

    When asked for a comment about the situation, Friel pointed me to the Facebook note mentioned above. The other host targeted by the AFR for associated with Brannon Howse, John Loeffler, decided Friday to sever ties with the AFA.
    Additional note: Perhaps the reason the AFA decided to try to hurt Howse by attacking friends of Howse is that they could be feeling some pain from the loss of supporters. Here is a note, again from a supporter of Todd Friel, that makes me wonder if the work with NAR apostles is hurting the AFA:

    Excellent comments Shirley! We learned this summer that AFA was promoting Dominionism and pulled our financial support. When God reveals the truth about a situation it is wise for a Christian to respond in obedience to HIS Word. Honestly, my husband and I had been troubled about the direction AFA was heading for some time, but upon that revelation it was obvious that we could no longer support them.

    American Family Association Takes Aim at Critic of The Response

    The whole article is up at Religion Dispatches.

    The American Family Association has taken aim at fellow religious conservative Brannon Howse over his criticism of the AFA’s recent sponsorship of GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry’s The Response prayer meeting. Earlier this week, Jim Stanley, program director of AFA’s radio network, American Family Radio, sent notices to two talk show hosts who are associated with Howse, informing them that continued presence on the AFA’s radio network was conditioned on severing ties with Howse.
    The talk show hosts, John Loeffler and Todd Friel, have shows aired by American Family Radio and also speak at Howse sponsored events. According to Tim Wildmon, president of the AFA, “we identified two people with programs on our networks and told them, ’you have to make a choice.’” In defense of the move, Wildmon said “AFR is under no obligation to run programs of individuals who are going to help Brannon when he is attacking our friends. We make programming decisions all the time.”

    Todd Friel and John Loeffler are two guys who were doing their own thing and then out of the blue they get an email from American Family Radio telling them to make a choice. Neither one of them had taken sides with Howse against the AFA’s involvement in The Response. Still they must pick a side now. Loeffler chose to leave the radio station. No word from Friel as yet. He has until Wednesday to cancel with Howse or else the AFA will remove his show.
    On a broadcast last week, Thursday I think, Howse said an unnamed evangelical figure wrote to him to say that he had large “megaphones” to use in order to “decimate” Howse’s ministry. The only other evangelical I know who has mentioned Howse in a critical way is David Barton, using the megaphone of Wallbuilders Live.
    This is a kind of internecine war where the ideological issues are complicated. Howse is a social conservative speaker who has worked with Barton and the AFA. However, Howse believes it is wrong for Christians to partner with the New Apostolic Reformation. From Howse point of view, the NAR is not apostolic nor a reformation. Most of the teachings are heretical and the AFA and other social conservative groups are selling out to NAR for a mess of right wing political pottage.