Michael Brown lies about Irish vote

Timothy Kincaid

May 27th, 2015


Anti-gay activist and Charlotte pastor Michael Brown has long been fond of demonstrating his contempt for gay people, his callousness towards bullying, and his astonishing arrogance as to his own discernment of truth. He will twist and turn any factlet that he encounters and has less credibility than your ordinary used car salesman, but generally he has, in our interactions, avoided demonstrably false declaration of observable facts.

Not so today.

In a desire to “explain” the decision of the people of Ireland to include gay Irish citizens fully into civil life – or to do so in a way that demonizes gay people (his favorite tactic) – Brown repeats a lie and calls it “absolutely right”.

In a hit piece hosted by Family Research Counsel’s American Family Research’s OneNewsNow, Brown pushed his theme of “tried and true tactics of bullying, intimidation, media bombardment, aggressive activism, and massive U.S. funding” by the horrible horrible gays. And as evidence, he presents a letter that he claims is from “a woman who supports our ministry and lives in Ireland”:

We tried so hard to prevent it, but were up against every political party and up against millions of US dollars that were being poured into the yes campaign. American billionaire, Chuck Feeney alone contributed over $24 million.

See there! Americans paid for the Yes campaign! Feeney gave $24 million!

Except that isn’t true. Not even close. It’s a false statement presented by The Irish Catholic and the National Catholic Register and other opponents of equality in an effort to conflate social pressure efforts with a political referendum so as to suggest that the results are not valid. For example:

Between 2004 and 2014, Feeney’s foundation virtually created the gay-rights movement in Ireland, with direct investment of more than $17 million and priceless indirect support, according to Breda O’Brien, a Catholic columnist at The Irish Times, research compiled on the blog Yes Funding Exposed and Atlantic Philanthropies’ own website and reports.

Wow, that certainly sounds damning. Except that the referendum hasn’t been going on since 2004. And most of the funds had nothing at all to do with same sex marriage.

Here’s what happened: Mr. Feeney and many others both in and outside Ireland have contributed over the years to various groups, including those who have the goals of advocating for gay Irish people. And part of their efforts include public outreach to change hearts and minds as to how one treats your gay son, niece, or neighbor. And, over time, part of that discussion included the notion that civil services should be offered to gay people on the same terms as straight people, including the rights of marriage.

In 2010, the government set in place civil unions so as to offer rights without the prestige of marriage. They argued that the nation’s constitution prohibited same-sex marriage and only through a vote of the people could that be change.

Then, a few years ago, a referendum was set by the government and scheduled for 2015. Campaigns were created to support or oppose the referendum.

But Ireland bans foreign contributions to political referendums. And, after accusations by the No Campaign, the press made inquiries. (TheGuardian)

Atlantic Philanthropies declined to answer questions about the claims, but backers of the yes campaign firmly rejected them. They said their group adhered to the strict rules on campaign funding set up by Ireland’s Standards in Public Office (Sipo) commission. The Sipo register of lobby groups shows that at least 10 of the pro-gay marriage organisations have fully complied with its rules, including a ban on foreign donations.

Brian Sheehan, the co-director of pro-gay marriage group Yes Equality, said: “Atlantic Philanthropies are not funding the Yes Equality referendum campaign. Yes Equality is fully funded through its supporters organising fundraising initiatives throughout Ireland.

“In addition we ran a crowdfunding campaign to raise monies for our poster, bus tour and booklet campaigns. All elements of the Yes Equality campaign are appropriately registered with the Standards in Public Office commission. Yes Equality is entirely dependent on generous small donations from around the country. The average donation made to Yes Equality has been €70.”

Get that? The Yes Campaign registered it’s fund with an oversight agency and the media verified their compliance. Feeney’s funds may have gone to various groups, but none went to the Yes Campaign.

Now Brown and others may say that this is splitting hairs, a mere technicality. They might argue that because Mr. Feeney funded organizations that advocate for marriage equality, he is funding the campaign in a more general sense. He’s not actually funding buttons and flyers and posters, maybe, but he’s helping fund groups that are pro-gay so it’s all the same really.

But that is nonsense. A contribution to Amnesty International is not a contribution to the Yes Campaign. A contribution to a Child and Family Agency is not a contribution to the Yes Campaign. Even if some members of each group – like most Irish – voted Yes.

It makes as much sense to say that anyone who has given to the Catholic Church in Ireland is “funding the No Campaign”. After all, Catholic Bishops called for the adherents to go to polls and vote No.

There is a difference between funding organizations with an ideological bent and who seek a social position, and funding an actual campaign for a referendum. This is a clear distinction and one that Michael Brown knows well.

But, as is becoming more and more the case with anti-gay activists, honesty holds little currency. And it appears to me that Michael Brown has taken the step from truth-spinner and fact-bender to blatant liar.

UPDATE: Michael Brown has issued a rebuttal in which he states that he is not a pastor.


May 27th, 2015

“This is a clear distinction and one that Brian Brown knows well.” Did you mean Michael Brown?

Thanks for putting this out there, Timothy! When the chips are down, people always want to look for any excuse for their failure other than “your arguments don’t hold water” or “your campaign was lousy.” And let’s not even mention anti-gay groups’ own questionable ethics on political spending.

Timothy Kincaid

May 27th, 2015

Thanks Nathaniel. Good catch. I’ve corrected it.

Ben in oakland

May 27th, 2015

I’ve been Perusing the Irish press for the last 10 days or so. This alleged email that Michael Brown received contains a claim that has been repeated several times in all of the comments sections.

Half a truth is like half a brick: you can throw it so much further. In this case, the very finest of these very fine whines was that the political parties did not support the anti-gay side. That’s exactly true: none of the political parties supported the anti-gay side. The attempt is to make this sound like some gigantic conspiracy to cause the election to go the wrong way.

But the fact is, none of the political parties supported the anti-gay side. And that’s one of the many reasons that they lost.

Richard Rush

May 27th, 2015

“In a hit piece hosted by Family Research Counsel’s OneNewsNow . . .”

OneNewsNow is part of the American Family Association, not FRC.

Timothy Kincaid

May 27th, 2015

Thanks Richard. I’m getting my anti-gays all sorts of confused today


May 27th, 2015

I think the Catholic Church did more to make this possible than anyone else.

Ireland has changed so much over the last 10 to 15 years. The boom, the bust, the recovery. The church sexual abuse scandal didn’t just open up the church to scrutiny about the behavior of pedophile priest and their supervisers. It opened up all sort of cans of worms about how Irish people (particularly vulnerable Irish people) have been hurt over the years by the Catholic Church, the priests, the brothers and the nuns.

In the past, there was this strong sense that the church knew best. Even among the most devout Catholics that I know in Ireland, that is no longer the case. Particularly when it comes to individuals being treated “unfairly” because of some position that the Catholic Church has taken.

The Irish now tend to side with the underdog in these conflicts, rather than the Church or some other voice of authority. This is really a sea change compared to when I was growing up.

So much of this is a direct result of the actions of the Catholic Church that have come to light over the last 20 years.

Mark F.

May 27th, 2015

@John I think that even if everyone in the church acted like saints, people would still see the unfairness of their position against gays. But still, they have done themselves no favors.


May 27th, 2015

I always find the money angle used to discredit pro-gay advocacy so ridiculous.

24 million dollars is absolutely nothing to the Catholic Church. Its nothing to most of the larger protestant denominations including the LDS church. They could throw that at an anti-gay campaign every year and not even notice it was missing.

And many effectively do just that indirectly through educational initiatives and various missions. It would be interesting to know how many millions are spent on advancing all sorts of anti-gay messages and initiatives here in the US through all the various religious groups, lobbying groups and conservative think tanks. Being anti-gay is a multi-million dollar a year industry.

Sir Andrew

May 27th, 2015

Michael Brown lies.

Isn’t that a bit redundant?

Paul Douglas

May 27th, 2015

Michael Brown is living proof of Hitchen’s famous comment: “Religion poisons everything”.


May 28th, 2015

“But, as is becoming more and more the case with anti-gay activists, honesty holds little currency.”

Lies, distortions, and misrepresentations have always been their MO — just look at the records of Tony Perkins and James Dobson — or even Brian Brown’s head counts for his demonstrations.

It’s just that the dishonesty is becoming more and more blatant.

Richard Rush

May 28th, 2015

It’s always fascinating to observe how lying is the preferred tactic of people with God’s Truth on their side.


May 28th, 2015

“Any profession of religious faith is undermined by how freely one lies.”


May 28th, 2015

Lying “for the greater glory of God” has a lengthy history, from Chrysostom to Martin Luther.

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