Last night, Rachel Maddow exclusively reported that the American Family Association demoted Bryan Fischer. Instead of being Director of Issues Analysis, he will simply continue to host his Focal Point radio broadcast.
In 2012, AFA president Tim Wildmon told me via email that being a talk show host (e.g., Fischer) on the American Family Radio network was analogous to Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News. Wildmon felt no obligation to own Fischer’s outrageous comments in the same way that O’Reilly was able to say whatever he wanted without apology or explanation from Fox News. While O’Reilly has offended some people, he has never blamed the Holocaust on gays, or said native Americans did not deserve to keep their lands. In other words, Wildmon dodged the issue. His action last night confirms that he has been dodging all along; Wildmon said he demoted Fischer because of his statements about gays and the Holocaust. Those remarks occurred in 2011 when Bryan Fischer defended Scott Lively’s book The Pink Swastika.
Fischer’s demotion appears to stem from a trip to Israel hosted by the AFA for members of the Republican National Committee. The association of the AFA and the RNC did not play well in an article by Debra Nussbaum Cohen published this week in the Haaretz newspaper. The title and subtitle summarize the tale:
U.S. NGO: Evangelical ‘hate group’ funding Republican National Committee trip to Israel
Evangelical political operative planned 9-day freebie trip for national committee members, on behalf of the conservative Christian AFA group which blasts Muslims, gays. SPLC rights group staffer: Our issue is not with the trip, but with the ‘heinous beliefs’ of those sponsoring it.
Since at least 2011, Fischer has promoted the notion that the First Amendment offers no protections for religions other than Christianity. Fischer’s misinterpretation of the First Amendment is what brought me into the David Barton/Christian nation controversy. Some of my first posts examining the false Christian nation claims were in response to Fischer’s comments. The AFA has promoted these views for years and demoting Fischer will not change much.
AFA’s spokesman regarding the Israel trip David Lane told Haaretz that “America was founded by Christians for the glory of God and the Christian faith.” This is not a true message, nor will this rhetoric help the GOP. The RNC partnering with the AFA sends all of the wrong messages to non-Christians and Christians such as myself who defend religious freedom for all and know that the First Amendment is for all citizens, of faith and no faith.
If the RNC is serious about addressing this serious mistake, they should return the funding from the AFA and pay their own way. Or don’t go.