Matthew J. Franck is a bigot. And a liar.

The editors of the Washington Post seem to have their collective head up their collective ass. The reason I say so is that they have seen fit, in today’s “Sunday Outlook,” to publish the prevaricating babblings of Matthew J. Franck as if they were worthy of serious consideration.

In Franck’s Outlook piece, “On gay marriage, stop playing the hate card,” he attempts to make the case that advocates of marriage equality are dishonestly portraying bigots like himself as haters in a cynical ploy to “marginalize, privatize, anathematize” our political opponents.

Franck gives what he thinks are examples of great injustice:

● “A religion instructor at a midwestern state university explains in an e-mail to students the rational basis for Catholic teaching on homosexuality. He is denounced by a student for ‘hate speech’ and is dismissed from his position. (He is later reinstated – for now.)”

That is more or less what happened, but if Franck has followed this story at all closely, he knows that the “rational basis” he refers to was nonsense like this:

One example applicable to homosexual acts illustrates the problem. To the best of my knowledge, in a sexual relationship between two men, one of them tends to act as the “woman” while the other acts as the “man.” In this scenario, homosexual men have been known to engage in certain types of actions for which their bodies are not fitted. I don’t want to be too graphic so I won’t go into details but a physician has told me that these acts are deleterious to the health of one or possibly both of the men.

This is the rough equivalent of a professor teaching about Catholicism by saying, “To the best of my knowledge, Catholics practice a ritual in which they believe they are eating the body and blood of Christ. I don’t want to get too graphic, but a psychologist told me that practicing ritual cannibalism is deleterious to the mental health of the worshipers.”

It appears that Kenneth Howell, with the help of the Alliance Defense Fund, has succeeded in cloaking his bigotry and incompetence in the mantle of freedom of religious expression, and that the University of Illinois has decided it’s better to have a fool for an adjunct professor than to fight it out in court. But that doesn’t change the fact that what Kenneth Howell is teaching is tripe.

And, yes, Howell is reinstated “for now.” The position of adjunct professor is by definition not a permanent position, but you can bet that when in due time UI is finally shed of this imbecile, Franck and his fellow bigots will denounce that fact as religious persecution.

● “At another midwestern state university, a department chairman demurs from a student organizer’s request that his department promote an upcoming ‘LGBTQ’ film festival on campus; he is denounced to his university’s chancellor, who indicates that his e-mail to the student warrants inquiry by a ‘Hate and Bias Incident Response Team.'”

Thomas S. Hilton didn’t merely decline to promote the film festival. He also wrote:

“… I also see quite clearly that homosexual behavior damages its participants, their loved ones, and the communities that sanction it.

I applaud reminders that people who identify themselves as gay or lesbian are people, fellow humans who deserve affection and respect. However, I decry attempts to legitimize their addictions and compulsions. These, our fellow humans, deserve our best efforts to help them recover their lives. We only hurt them further when we choose to pretend that these walking wounded are OK the way they are, that their present injuries are the best they can hope for in life.”

Yeah. He went just a little over the top. The chancellor’s rather mild response was, “”It is our responsibility to address the appropriateness of the time and place of expression and whether the intent or result of the speech inhibits the educational process with which we as faculty and staff are entrusted.” An assistant professor who was associated with the film festival said she didn’t want to see Hilton’s response blown out of proportion. And Hilton himself said, “As far as I’m concerned, this is a mess I made and they are having to spend good money on cleaning it up and I just feel bad for it.”

Franck is really reaching for examples of those anathemas.

● “On the west coast, a state law school moves to marginalize a Christian student group that requires its members to pledge they will conform to orthodox Christian doctrines on sexual morality. In the history of the school, no student group has ever been denied campus recognition. But this one is, and the U.S. Supreme Court lets the school get away with it.”

Exactly. The Christian Legal Society demanded an exemption from Hastings College of Law’s open-membership policy, and they didn’t get it. They believed, in keeping with the sense of entitlement that Christian activists foster among their flock, that they were entitled to have a private Christian club and to have that private club receive University funding. The Supreme Court disagreed. Oh, the humanity!

● “The Southern Poverty Law Center, a once-respected civil rights organization, publishes a “report” identifying a dozen or so “anti-gay hate groups,” some for no apparent reason other than their vocal opposition to same-sex marriage.”

This is a barefaced lie, but more about that shortly.

● “On a left-wing Web site, a petition drive succeeds in pressuring Apple to drop an “app” from its iTunes store for the Manhattan Declaration, an ecumenical Christian statement whose nearly half-million signers are united in defense of the right to life, the tradition of conjugal marriage between man and woman, and the principles of religious liberty. The offense? The app is a “hate fest.” Fewer than 8,000 people petition for the app to go; more than five times as many petition Apple for its reinstatement, so far to no avail.”

This is true except for the disingenuous description of the Manhattan Declaration. So what? Apple, as a private company, is not obligated to put the matter up for a vote. If more than five times as many people want it as don’t want it, Apple is still entitled to make a decision contrary to the wishes of that majority. That’s not religious persecution; it’s free enterprise — something to which Franck, who uses “left-wing” as pejorative, surely has no objection.

● “Finally, on ‘$#*! My Dad Says,’ a CBS sitcom watched by more than 10 million weekly viewers, an entire half-hour episode is devoted to a depiction of the disapproval of homosexuality as bigotry, a form of unreasoning intolerance that clings to the past with a coarse and mean-spirited judgmentalism. And this on a show whose title character is famously irascible and politically incorrect, but who in this instance turns out to be fashionably cuddly and up-to-date.”

You got that? If a character on a sitcom is not a homophobe, that’s unfair to homophobes. Can you feel Matthew J. Franck’s pain? Are you properly outraged at such brutal persecution of homophobes?

But on to the real point of Franck’s pitiful exercise in propaganda, which is to discredit the Southern Poverty Law Center. It might be instructive to go over the rest of Franck’s piece, but it’s sufficient to note that it’s not in any way relevant to the SPLC’s report on anti-gay hate groups. Franck conveniently omits to mention the real reason those groups are listed as hate groups: “… based on their propagation of known falsehoods — claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated, groundless name-calling.” That is not “no apparent reason other than their opposition to same-sex marriage.” If such opposition were all it took to get listed, the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Southern Baptist Convention and the National Association of Evangelicals would all be listed. They aren’t. The reason the SPLC listed these groups as hate groups is because they are hate groups, and because they use lies and name-calling in the pursuit of their hateful agenda.

So why does that bother Matthew J. Franck?

Because Franck “is director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution of the Witherspoon Institute,” and the Witherspoon Institute is a Christian Right propaganda group with ties to Opus Dei and the Family Research Council — the latter of which is one of the aforementioned hate groups. Surprise, surprise.

Opus Dei (“Work of God”) is a fanatically right-wing Catholic group which is so conservative that a couple of popes (Paul VI and John Paul I) thought it was pretty fishy. Its members have a tendency to gravitate toward right-wing dictators like Franco and Pinochet, and it’s claimed that the founder of Opus Dei thought Hitler was basically a good guy. The Family Research Council is an anti-gay group founded by James Dobson. Not to put too fine a point on it, the main thing the FRC does is lie about LGBT people, apparently in the belief that if you tell the same lies often enough and loudly enough, they will be accepted as truth.

Luis E. Tellez, the President of Witherspoon Institute, is an Opus Dei cleric. Robert P. George, Senior Fellow of WI and a member of its Academic Committee, serves on the board of FRC. The Witherspoon Institute is thick as thieves with the FRC. They go to the same conferences, share the same fan base, publish their articles in the same outlets, and cite each other as sources.

The hate groups are Franck’s people. To say that the Family Research Council is a hate group is to say that Matthew J. Franck is associated with a hate group — which he is. It implies that Franck is a bigot — which he is. And that’s why he has an interest in lying about the SPLC.

Lying is what these people do. Because they have no rational basis for denying LGBT people equality under the law, and because their religious superstitions don’t have any constitutional weight, lying is really the only avenue they have for advancing their program of bigotry. Franck complains that we’re just pretending no refutation of their rational arguments is necessary. On the contrary. We will be happy to address their rational argument if and when they can produce one. They have yet to do so, and all their attempts have been shown to be failures. So they lie about that, too.

Matthew J. Franck is a liar, a bigot, and a hater who sympathizes and works with the anti-gay hate groups. He doesn’t like having it pointed out, but it’s still true. If this is unknown to the editors of the Washington Post, they’re incompetent. If it is known to them, one supposes we will soon see the Post publishing, in the interest of “fairness,” Sunday Outlook pieces defending the Ku Klux Klan, drunk driving, and spousal abuse. At least until the editors figure out that good journalism means trying to tell the whole story, not “both sides” of a story.

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7 Responses to Matthew J. Franck is a bigot. And a liar.

  1. Ahab says:

    The Washington Post has been publishing quite a few homophobic commentaries as of late. You did a good job dissecting this one.

  2. Sydney says:

    Would it be hateful to point out that Franck and his wife, Gwen Brown, have no children? How about suggesting readers examine the photos on the “family” page of her website at Radford University? At least then we’d know better what we’re dealing with here, in terms of one sad man’s motivation and motive.

    • The DV8 says:

      Thanks for pointing that out, Sydney. In light of Franck’s assertion that “marriage has always existed in order to bring men and women together so that children will have mothers and fathers,” it does call the basis of Franck’s marriage into question, doesn’t it? Following his own argument, shouldn’t we agree that allowing people like Franck and Brown to marry “is not an expansion but a dismantling of the institution”?

  3. Douglas Montgomery says:

    The Southern Poverty Law Center’s report on Anti-Gay Groups is a must read <>. Incredibly, Franck provides a valid like to the report, which he proceeds to denigrate. Does he imagine nobody’s going to follow the link? The report is about hate speech that is demonstrably false and its use to demonize gay men in particular. Franck and his ilk are understandably afraid of the SPLC’s reputation and clout, particularly in the civil rights community.

  4. penguinlad says:

    Thanks for this great dissection of Franck’s arguments. He’s quite a piece of work. Along with his FRC ties, he’s also funded by the Charles G. Koch (yeah, that Koch) Foundation to do lectures on this topic. One of those upcoming lectures, at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, has created a bit of a stir: http://hulshofschmidt.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/oglethorpe-university-not-safe-for-lgbt-students/

  5. Alex Leidholdt says:

    Thanks for the accurate analysis of Matt Franck’s dispiriting views. I knew Matt many years ago in undergraduate school. He was a nice kid. We studied political science under the same wonderful professor, and we were active in the theater department.

    As a student actor/director I became friends with a number of gay classmates. That exposure triggered in me an abiding sensitivity to the prejudice they faced. My first real political protest was against Anita Bryant in 1977 (www.corbisimages.com/stock-photo/rights-managed/U1903008/anita-bryant-addressing-crowd). AIDS–abetted by ignorance, prejudice, and inexcusable federal inactivity–killed nearly all of those bright and talented young men (four out of five). I think about them frequently.

    I haven’t seen Matt since those early student days. Our career paths, however, were strangely similar. We both became college professors and taught just down the road from each other. Since reading his piece in the Post, I’ve read many other of his essays. I strongly disagree with nearly everything he writes.

    I’ve devoted most of my academic career to studying journalistic advocacy during the civil rights movement, and I see powerful parallels between the second-class status that blacks endured and that members of the LBGT community continue to face.

    On a positive note, the straight students who file into my classes overwhelmingly regard their gay classmates as their absolute equals. A decade from now we’ll look back on the present proscriptions against gay marriage in backward states such as mine (Virginia) and regard them the way we today assess the hateful anti-miscegenation laws that existed during Jim Crow.

  6. When you are being funded by the Koch Brothers, you can say as many homophobic comments as you want and still play the victim card.

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