|The Story Behind the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer|
|The Early Years|
|Onward and Upward|
|Another Church Conflict|
|Off the Deep End|
For a week or two this August, the spotlight of national media attention cast a harsh light on a prayer rally in Houston entitled “The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis.” Although it was billed as a non-political event held only to ask God for unity and righteousness, The Response drew a roster of hard-line religious rightists best known for their gay-bashing rhetoric.
Some of those who were scheduled to speak merely caused the eyes of the critics to roll, like the “prophetess” who earlier in the year blamed the mass die-off of blackbirds in Arkansas on the acceptance of homosexuality. The heavy criticism centered on the American Family Association (AFA), a group that aggressively promotes “decency” in the media with a $20 million-a-year budget and a network of some 200 American Family Radio stations, and that paid for the event.
The AFA, after all, had come under fire many times since its founding in 1977 by the Rev. Donald Wildmon, who has repeatedly suggested that obscene content on television and in the movies is largely due to the media being controlled by Jews. On one occasion, the AFA demanded that an openly gay Arizona congressman be barred from speaking at the Republican National Convention and suggested that he be arrested under a state law criminalizing sodomy. A former network entertainment executive once called the AFA’s boycotts “the first step toward a police state.”
But the criticism this summer of the AFA, fueled in part by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2010 listing of the organization as a hate group, really came down to the remarkable utterances of one man: Bryan Fischer, the loquacious, baby-faced “director of issue analysis” who joined the Tupelo, Miss.-based group in 2009 and has become its best known, and most eyebrow-raising, spokesman.
Fischer, 60, graduated from Stanford University with a philosophy degree, but that hasn’t stopped him from claiming that “[h]omosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews” — a complete falsehood, as any historian knows.
Nor has it prevented him from suggesting that gay sex should be penalized in the same way heroin use is, or asserting that gay men and lesbians should be forced into controversial “reparative therapy,” which improbably claims to “cure” people of their homosexuality. Since joining the AFA, Fischer has said, against all the evidence, that “homosexuals, as a group, are the single greatest perpetrators of hate crimes on the planet, outside the Muslim religion.” He has claimed that non-Christian religions “have no First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion,” which would have been a surprise to the authors of the Bill of Rights. He said that the “sexual immorality of Native Americans” was part of what made them “morally disqualified from sovereign control of American soil.” He even suggested the best way to deal with promiscuity would be to kill the promiscuous.
Fischer did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Not content with insulting the LGBT community, the sexually active, Muslims and virtually all other non-Christians, Fischer has even crossed the Rubicon of race, saying that President Obama “nurtures this hatred for the United States of America and, I believe, nurtures a hatred for the white man.” In case that wasn’t enough, he recently added that welfare had “destroyed the African American family” and was incentivizing black “people who rut like rabbits.”
These facts are well known. But what may be most remarkable of all about Fischer, aside from the fact that an organization that has more than 2 million people on its E-mail list hired him, are some of the details of how he spent almost 30 years as an increasingly radical pastor in Idaho. Despite being passed over as senior pastor of one church and abruptly leaving another, Fischer eventually came to be treated as the state’s leading voice of the Christian Right, wrote regular guest columns in the state’s largest newspaper and was named chaplain of the Idaho State Senate.