By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – A group of around 15 protesters picketed the entrance to the American Family Association on Friday, in observance of a “National Day of Silence.”
The protesters said the occasion serves to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-gay harassment. Protesters were gay and straight, religious and non-religious.
Activist Amelie Hahn of Tupelo chose AFA as the site for the demonstration on the claim that the organization is one of the biggest bullies toward the gay community.
“AFA is a religious organization and that’s fine, but they shouldn’t be able to discriminate,” she said.
She accused AFA of using debunked studies and falsified reports to back up its claims against homosexuals. Among them are claims that same-sex parenting is a detriment to children and the Nazi war machine of Adolph Hitler was made up of gay officers.
“More than anything I hope we can impact the listeners of AFA’s programs and encourage them to check the facts, not just take in what they hear,” she said. “Because these people say they are Christian, listeners can’t believe they would lie.”
Members of AFA soon emerged from the headquarters with bottles of water, and conversed with protesters.
Bryan Fischer, host of AFA’s Focal Point radio broadcast, said he resented the claim AFA is a hate group, and claimed its research is solid.
“We love homosexuals enough to tell them the truth. Just because we disagree doesn’t mean we hate them. They use their studies and we use ours. It’s called ‘debate,’” he said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., has classified the American Family Association as an anti-gay hate group. The SPLC defines hate groups as those that “… have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”
Pat Vaughn, AFA’s general counsel, said he appreciated the opportunity for discussion.
“We definitely appreciate them coming out and exercising their right to protest as good citizens,” he said. “Our issue is with marriage. If you change the definition of marriage, then it doesn’t mean anything and people will stop doing it. They will say, ‘Hey, why don’t we just live together.”
When the conversation came to an impasse, those picketing reverted to silent protest, while AFA workers returned inside the building.