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Focus On The Family: Say One Thing, Say Nothing Else

Jim Burroway

February 28th, 2007

Andrew Anthos, the 72 year old gay man who was beaten after getting off a bus Feb. 13 in Detroit, will be laid to rest this afternoon. The attack left him paralyzed from the neck down, and he died last Friday from those injuries. His killer has not been found. State Senator Hansen Clarke (D-Detroit) will do what he can to see that Anthos did not die in vain:

Clarke said Tuesday he will introduce the hate crime legislation in the next couple of weeks. He also will talk to Capitol officials to make sure that Anthos’ desire to get the Capitol dome lit will come true.

“I believe Mr. Anthos death will be a watershed,” said Clarke, who was a co-sponsor of similar hate crime legislation that didn’t pass last year. “It’s going to be successful.”

When I attended the Love Won Out conference in Phoenix on February 10, the question of hate crimes legislation came up in a Q&A session. Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, and Mike Haley, of Focus on the Family both stated their opposition to hate crime enhancements for violent crimes like this one, characterizing it as an attack on freedom of speech. This, of course, is nonsense. Hate crimes legislation targets violent crime, not speech. Our First Amendment — the very same First Amendment that permitted neo-Nazis to march in Skokie, Ill., and allows the Klan to hold rallies wherever they feel like it — will always permit Exodus and Focus to say, print, and broadcast whatever they want.

But I was pleased to hear Mike Haley close that discussion on what I believed to be a somewhat positive note:

I think, too, we also have to be just as quick to also stand up when we do see the gay and lesbian community being come against as the Body of Christ. We need to be the first to speak out to say that what happened to Matthew Shepard was a terrible incident and should never happen again. And that we within the Body of Christ are wanting to protect that community and put our money where our mouth is…

While I thought that was a very positive sentiment at the time, it appears now that it was just an empty platitude. Andrew Anthos was attacked just three days later. There was no comment from either Exodus or Focus on the Family.

Ten days after that, Andrew Anthos died. Again, the Body of Christ — at least that portion of it represented by Focus on the Family and Exodus — has not spoken out.

Today, two full weeks after he was beaten with a metal pipe and left paralyzed in the cold Detroit snow, Andrew Anthos is being laid to rest. The silence from Focus on the Family and Exodus is deafening.

Now let me be clear. I don’t believe for one second that there is anyone at Focus on the Family or Exodus who feels anything but profound sorrow for Andrew Anthos’ brutal death. But I can’t help but notice that in the very same week when Focus had a chance to reach out to the gays and lesbians that they professed to love at Love Won Out, they chose instead to scour the Internet and find an extremely obscure, unpublished, non-peer-reviewed study — from China, of all places — to figuratively bash gays and lesbians here at home.

So this begs the question: Does Focus on the Family and Exodus say one thing to their Evangelical base and something else to the rest of us? Mike Haley’s right. They need to put their money where their mouth is. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that’s exactly what they did.

I’ll share my observations on how they tailor their messages based on their audience in greater detail next week. Meanwhile, you can see a few examples of that in action in the latest video from Ex-Gay Watch.

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