The president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission was among public officials and pro-family leaders whose names appeared in a full-page ad in Wednesday's print editions of Politico and The Washington Examiner. The signers said they "stand in solidarity" with Family Research Council (FRC) and other organizations "that are working to protect and promote natural marriage and family."
The ad appeared less than three weeks after the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) announced it would add FRC and the American Family Association (AFA) next year to its list of "hate groups." FRC, AFA and 11 other organizations will be labeled as "anti-gay" on a Southern Poverty Law Center "hate groups" list that includes white and black supremacist, neo-Nazi and neo-Confederate organizations.
Other signers of the statement in the newspaper ad defending FRC, AFA and the other pro-family groups were, including Boehner, 20 current members or newly elected members of the U.S. House of Representatives, four current U.S. senators and three governors. All are Republicans.
"We support the vigorous but responsible exercise of the First Amendment rights of free speech and religious liberty that are the birthright of all Americans," the statement they endorsed said.
The newspaper ad -- sponsored by FRC and titled "Start debating, stop hating" -- said the SPLC is "attacking several groups that uphold Judeo-Christian moral views, including marriage as the union of a man and a woman." The SPLC has resorted to "character assassination" instead of debating or discussing the issues, the ad said.
"This is intolerance pure and simple," the ad said. "Elements of the radical Left are trying to shut down informed discussion of policy issues that are being considered by Congress, legislatures, and the courts.... Our debates can and must remain civil -- but they must never be suppressed through personal assaults that aim only to malign an opponent's character."
Also signing the statement were Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate; William Bennett, radio talk show host and former secretary of Education; Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship; Penny Nance, chief executive officer (CEO) of Concerned Women for America; Rick Santorum, former senator from Pennsylvania; Phyllis Schlafly, president of Eagle Forum; Mathew Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, and David Stevens, CEO of the Christian Medical Association.
The SPLC, which was founded in 1971 to support the gains of the civil rights movement, has since expanded its efforts to combat "hate and bigotry" generally.
In announcing the new "hate groups" Nov. 29, the SPLC said the list is based generally on their promotion of "claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities -- and repeated, groundless name-calling. Viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups."
Among organizations profiled by SPLC as "anti-gay" but not named as "hate groups" were Concerned Women for America, Liberty Counsel and National Organization for Marriage.
A PDF of the ad may be accessed online at http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF10L12.pdf.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. For more information on the ad, visit http://www.startdebatingstophating.com.
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