Protesters to Greet Americans for Truth Banquet

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday November 8, 2010

An annual banquet hosted by an anti-gay blog in Chicago, Ill., will be the site of protests by GLBT equality advocates on Nov. 13.

The Chicago Independent Media Center announced the protest at the group's website. The protest will counter this year's annual banquet by Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH), an anti-gay blog run by Peter LaBarbera.

"AFTAH's hatred of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people is so round the bend that its Executive Director, Peter LaBarbera, supports Uganda's notorious "kill the gays" bill, which calls for capital punishment for gays," text at the Chicago Independent Media Center said.

"That country's #2 most powerful politician, David Bahati, recently vowed to reintroduce the bill and claimed passage is near," the posting recounted. "A newspaper campaign in the country calling for hanging gays and publishing names and photos of gays has led to a pogromist atmosphere in the country.

"AFTAH claims they have nothing but Christian love for gay people," the posting continued, "but out of the other side of their mouths, they promote Uganda's kill-the-gays bill. 'Hate the sin but love the sinner,' they say, but it's sort of hard to 'love the sinner' when he or she is dead as a result of legislation like Uganda's. It gives you an idea of what AFTAH would do in this country if given half a chance."

At the Americans for Truth site, LaBarbera posted his own news about the banquet, announcing that the Ken Hutcherson would appear as the event's keynote speaker. "Hutcherson is a former NFL football player, but most importantly he is a man of God who has proven himself a faithful ambassador for his Savior, Jesus Christ," the AFTAH posting read. "Hutcherson founded and pastors Antioch Bible Church in Redmond, Washington (home of Microsoft), and he is one pastor who does not shy away from the cultural battle for truth." Added the posting, "For that he has been maligned and demonized by the usual Christian-bashing suspects who spew lies and hate in the name of tolerance and equality."

The posting added, "In the cultural arena, 'Hutch' has especially been passionate in confronting... the promotion of homosexuality as a "civil right" analogous to the black civil rights movement; ...the corruption of youth through the teaching of homosexuality/bisexuality/transsexuality as acceptable lifestyles and even (proud) "identities" in schools; and... the escalating LGBT campaign for oxymoronic homosexual 'marriage.' "

The AFTAH posting went on to say, "Those who have attended previous AFTAH banquets know that they are intensely educational and uplifting experiences that build you up and equip you to stand for righteousness in a dying culture. Pastor Ken Hutcherson is a bold man of God whose talk promises to be another special time of celebrating God's timeless Truth."

The Chicago Independent Media Center depicted Hutcherson as a staunchly anti-gay opponent of legal equality, saying that the former NFL player "has loudly opposed his daughter's high school's observance of the National Day of Silence, an event that brings attention to name-calling, bullying, and harassment in schools.

"Since 2005," the posting added, "he has waged a relentless but unsuccessful battle to pressure Microsoft to end its support for the state's anti-discrimination law that makes it illegal to fire people because of their sexual orientation."

The Chicago Independent Media Center also leveled a critique at LaBarbera, saying that the anti-gay blogger "and his AFTAH have been hotwired into Illinois Republican politics for years, serving as the primary local boosters of the Alan Keyes senatorial campaign in 2004 and pairing closely with Jim Oberweis's multiple campaigns for governor and senator.

"Twice LaBarbera has put considerable effort into attempts to get anti-gay referenda on Illinois' ballot, trying to generate the anti-gay hate climate that accompanied California's Proposition 8," the posting added.

Last summer, AFTAH hosted a "Truth Academy" that targeted people as young as 14, purportedly to "train young people (as well as older pro-family advocates) how to answer 'gay' activist misinformation and fight the homosexual-bisexual-transsexual agenda."

At the time, the Chicago Independent Media Center posted text reading, "AFTAH has a long history of telling lies about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people." The posting noted that the Southern Poverty Law Center had recently identified AFTAH as a "hate group," and went on to express concern about young people being exposed to such influences.

"Youth should not be taught to hate their peers and thus fuel the cycle of self-loathing, depression and suicide which too many LGBTQ youth experience," the site's text read. "Bigotry must be vocally and publicly opposed, especially when haters try to recruit young people."

Scheduled Truth Academy speaker Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute--which LaBarbera formerly headed--denied that the "Truth Academy" was an event designed to promote hatred or prejudice. "Despite the familiar and false accusations made by homosexual activists, the Truth Academy is decidedly not about promoting hatred," Higgins claimed. "The goal of the Truth Academy is to undo the damage done to individuals and the culture through the widespread dissemination and acceptance of deceitful and destructive fictions about homosexuality."

Higgins went on to assert that the "Truth Academy" was an answer to "the absolute censorship in public education of traditional views of the nature and morality of homosexuality." Added Higgins, "It is a fact that public schools, particularly high schools, expose students to numerous resources and activities that espouse, either implicitly or explicitly, unproven and controversial 'progressive' theories on the nature and morality of homosexuality, while at the same time censoring all resources that espouse dissenting views. This ideological monopoly transmogrifies education into indoctrination."

The "Truth Academy" prompted a protest last Aug. 5, which saw more GLBT equality advocates arrive for the Academy than there were participants for its workshops and discussions, according to an Aug. 13 Gay Chicago Magazine article. Among the protesters was Andy Thayer, of the Gay Liberation Network, who told Gay Chicago Magazine that the Truth Academy "was really an attempt to recruit young people. They know they're losing this generation."

Another speaker invited to the Truth Academy was Cliff Kincaid, who reportedly is another proponent of the pending law in Uganda that would impose the death penalty on gays. The Gay Liberation Network's Bob Schwartz told Gay Chicago Magazine, "With the inclusion of a 'kill the gays' spokesperson like Kincaid, the AFTAH youth academy is an attempt to legitimize a set of politics so vile that even leading figures on the religious right have felt compelled to condemn them."

The annual AFTAH banquet and the protest are scheduled for Nov. 13. The protest will begin at 5:30.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.