As highlighted by the social media-fueled Target boycott, hate has become the word of the year in the United States. Americans from all parts of the country are calling for shoppers to join a boycott of Target stores nationwide in the wake of the company’s announcement that its customers are free to use whichever bathroom they choose. What many uninformed boycott supporters do not know is that the driving force behind the Target boycott is the American Family Association, a Christian activist group listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. So, who are the AFA and what is the organization’s platform?
United Methodist pastor Donald E. Wildmon founded the American Family Association in 1977 as the National Federation for Decency. Today, the organization calling for the Target boycott is led by its founder’s son, Tim Wildmon, who is labeled as an extremist by the SPLC. According to the information about Wildmon provided by the SPLC, prior to taking control of the AFA, Wildmon ran the organization’s right-wing media branch, which featured numerous headlines targeting homosexuals.
— Stephen Gary (@kindcutesteve) January 30, 2015
The SPLC features not only the AFA’s leader in its “extremist file” but also one of the organization’s former directors, Bryan Fischer, a Target boycott supporter who currently hosts a radio show on the AFA’s American Family Radio. In its description of Fischer, the SPLC minces no words when it labels him “an unhinged bigot with few equals.” Also included in the file are Patrick Wooden, a well-known anti-homosexual pastor, and Joseph Farah, a conspiracy theorist, along with Michael Staver and Anne Paulk, both supporters of using therapy to heterosexualize minors with questionable sexual leanings.
— Maverick™ (@spooney35) February 3, 2015
The SPLC is not the only organization voicing concern about the AFA. The hate group was also the target of The Human Rights Campaign long before the Target boycott. The HRC published a list of “10 Things You Might Not Know About The American Family Association.” In its list, the HRC makes Fischer its target multiple times citing words he uttered during his radio program “Focal Point” as indisputable evidence of his hatred, including the following quote from a show that aired in May 2014.
“It is appropriate, it is right, to discriminate against sexually immoral behavior. Now, homosexuality is sexually immoral behavior, so it’s entirely appropriate for us to discriminate against homosexual behavior.”
To be fair to the AFA, the organization’s hate is not pointed solely at the LGBT community; it is an equal opportunity hate group. In fact, the first goal on the AFA’s action statement list is to “restrain evil by exposing the works of darkness.” Apparently, works of darkness come in many forms, including tales of global warming, foreigners, and now Target.
By delving deeper into the AFA, one will find the Target boycott is not the only boycott led by the organization. The AFA has also called for a boycott of PayPal, a boycott of ABC, a boycott of CBS, a boycott of Allstate, and a boycott of the New York Daily News. In addition, the AFA releases an annual “Naughty-or-Nice Retailer List” that ranks retailers according to their Christmas marketing. According to the list, Christians should probably boycott Amazon and Gap too.
American Family Association Calls For Target Boycott Over Trans Bathroom Policy https://t.co/rXAGXU2x8h pic.twitter.com/AhoCeaKH5R
— Craig Huey (@CraigHuey) April 23, 2016
The problem with the Target boycott and the other AFA-led boycotts, aside from their obvious ridiculousness, is that by their participation in a boycott, many members of the American public are supporting the AFA without knowing it. Most people who have shared posts on Facebook about the Target boycott have not bothered to research its origin and learn about the AFA and its reputation for hate.
Sadly, a lack of knowledge can be cited as the source of many of the country’s current problems. Too many people see posts or tweets that appeal to them, like those about the Target boycott, and they share them without ever bothering to check the accuracy of the information they are presenting as fact. Until Americans take responsibility for the information they distribute, misinformation will continue to have more influence on the public than the truth, and it is misinformation that allows hate groups like the AFA to prosper.
Hate groups active in the US in 2008 according to SPLC pic.twitter.com/WM508mXNZ4
— Maps & Researches (@amazinmaps) February 29, 2016
Today, I am giving you an opportunity to share the truth about the origin of the Target boycott, an opportunity to tell your friends and family the AFA is a hate group led by extremists, and an opportunity to actually demonstrate Christian principles by taking action to stop hate in America and honestly show the “love of Jesus Christ” the AFA misleadingly claims to support.
However, if you want to boycott Target and continue to support the AFA and its hatred for everyone who is not Christian, straight, and American (and, in many cases, white), know that you are supporting an organization that is on the same list as the Ku Klux Klan.
[Photo by Jonathan Bachman/AP Images]