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.
Last night, Rachel Maddow exclusively reported that the American Family Association demoted Bryan Fischer. Instead of being Director of Issues Analysis, he will simply continue to host his Focal Point radio broadcast.
In 2012, AFA president Tim Wildmon told me via email that being a talk show host (e.g., Fischer) on the American Family Radio network was analogous to Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News. Wildmon felt no obligation to own Fischer’s outrageous comments in the same way that O’Reilly was able to say whatever he wanted without apology or explanation from Fox News. While O’Reilly has offended some people, he has never blamed the Holocaust on gays, or said native Americans did not deserve to keep their lands. In other words, Wildmon dodged the issue. His action last night confirms that he has been dodging all along; Wildmon said he demoted Fischer because of his statements about gays and the Holocaust. Those remarks occurred in 2011 when Bryan Fischer defended Scott Lively’s book The Pink Swastika.
Fischer’s demotion appears to stem from a trip to Israel hosted by the AFA for members of the Republican National Committee. The association of the AFA and the RNC did not play well in an article by Debra Nussbaum Cohen published this week in the Haaretz newspaper. The title and subtitle summarize the tale:
U.S. NGO: Evangelical ‘hate group’ funding Republican National Committee trip to Israel
Evangelical political operative planned 9-day freebie trip for national committee members, on behalf of the conservative Christian AFA group which blasts Muslims, gays. SPLC rights group staffer: Our issue is not with the trip, but with the ‘heinous beliefs’ of those sponsoring it.
Since at least 2011, Fischer has promoted the notion that the First Amendment offers no protections for religions other than Christianity. Fischer’s misinterpretation of the First Amendment is what brought me into the David Barton/Christian nation controversy. Some of my first posts examining the false Christian nation claims were in response to Fischer’s comments. The AFA has promoted these views for years and demoting Fischer will not change much.
AFA’s spokesman regarding the Israel trip David Lane told Haaretz that “America was founded by Christians for the glory of God and the Christian faith.” This is not a true message, nor will this rhetoric help the GOP. The RNC partnering with the AFA sends all of the wrong messages to non-Christians and Christians such as myself who defend religious freedom for all and know that the First Amendment is for all citizens, of faith and no faith.
If the RNC is serious about addressing this serious mistake, they should return the funding from the AFA and pay their own way. Or don’t go.
Rachel Maddow reported earlier this evening:
May be (should be) more fall out from the GOP’s collaboration with the AFA. Perhaps Bryan Fischer’s foot has been in his mouth just a few too many times.
The AFA hasn’t gotten rid of him completely; he is still considered a “talk show host” and his twitter account has him as the host of the Focal Point show.
Apparently, Tim Wildmon has had a change of heart about Bryan Fischer’s platform. In 2012, Wildmon declined to address Fischer’s comments about HIV and AIDS because Fischer’s talk show did not represent the AFA’s position. Despite the fact that Fischer has two hours to opine and the blog site was maintained by the AFA, Wildmon told me that he didn’t believe he needed to address Fischer’s statements.
More posts to come looking at the statements by David Lane on behalf of the AFA about the purpose of America being a Christian nation.
A little while ago, Fischer tweeted that he will be on the air tomorrow.
If the AFA ever wants to be a player again, they probably can’t stop with demoting Fischer. While it is speculation on my part, I have a hunch Wildmon was told to do something with Fischer by someone at the RNC. I have a hard time believing that Tim Wildmon saw the light unless he felt the heat. He has backed Fischer for years.
The AFA has removed other shows from their network for lesser crimes, such as criticizing the network.
Watch the entire segment which includes an interview with the reporter for Haaretz, Debra Nussbaum Cohen (Her article is here).
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.