Dutch Treat: AU Helps Netherlands Newspaper Kick CAN Over Anti-Gay Extremism
Rob Boston printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 04:50:48 PM EST
Yesterday I received an interesting call from a reporter in the Netherlands. He was seeking information on an American Religious Right outfit called the Christian Action Network (CAN).

CAN is not a major player in the world of the Religious Right, but I am familiar with the Forest, Va.-based group. It's pretty low-rent, a point I made clear in my 2000 book Close Encounters with the Religious Right.

The Dutch reporter, Kustaw Bessems, was interested because a prominent member of parliament there, Geert Wilders, had been scheduled to attend the May 1 Los Angeles premiere of a CAN film titled "Islam Rising: Geert Wilders' Warning to the West."

In the Netherlands, Wilders' is well known for his harsh criticism of fundamentalist Islam. He's a controversial figure, and many people think his attacks go too far.

As part of his campaign, Wilders has reached out to gay groups in the Netherlands, seeking to persuade them to show more concern over the extreme interpretation of Islamic law some Muslims hold.

Dutch society is broadly accepting of gays. Most politicians, Wilders among them, support same-sex marriage, which has been legal there since 2001.

Thus it came as quite a surprise to see the pro-gay Wilders linking up with CAN, a group that has frequently used vicious anti-gay rhetoric to raise money. In one rather lurid CAN letter from 1998, Martin Mawyer, the group's president, attacked comedian Ellen DeGeneres, who is gay.

DeGeneres played a lesbian who came out in a `90s sitcom called "Ellen." Mawyer was not pleased. He said DeGeneres had "DUMPED HER FILTHY LESBIAN LIFESTYLE IN THE CENTER OF YOUR LIVING ROOM" and went on to call her a "SODOMITE." [Caps in the original]

This was not an aberration. CAN used attacks on gays throughout the 1990s to raise money. (After the Sept. 11 attacks, the group shifted to Islam bashing.) In one letter from March of 1993, Mawyer expressed disgust at the very idea of gays being parents, calling it "absolutely sick, demented and perverted!"

In March 2000, Mawyer issued an especially hateful letter blasting a gay-themed event at Disney World. The event, he leered, "is shocking...it is crude...it is incredible!" He included some grainy photos of alleged sexual activity and warned, "KEEP CONTENTS AWAY FROM CHILDREN!"

Confronted with the DeGeneres letter from 1998 by De Pers newspaper, Mawyer tried a creative dodge: He simply lied about it, labeling the letter an internet hoax. Unfortunately for Mawyer, I was able to pull a paper copy of the letter from AU's files. Believe me, it's no hoax. (You can read it here.)

I also sent De Pers three other stridently anti-gay fund-raising letters from Mawyer. The newspaper contacted Mawyer to ask about them - were they too perhaps "internet hoaxes?" - but at this point he stopped talking.

Mawyer's lies didn't work. Event organizers deserted him, and the event in Los Angeles was canceled.  

I've monitored the Religious Right for a long time and thought I was pretty jaded. But Mawyer's audacity leaves me breathless. He would have been better off asserting that his views have changed or that he regrets the rhetoric he used to use. To simply insist that the letter is a fabrication is a bald-faced lie - and one that was bound to be exposed as such.

Let this be a lesson to political leaders here and abroad: Be careful whom you call your allies; there may be disturbing skeletons lurking in their closets.

Let this be a lesson to Religious Right leaders as well: Don't think you can cover up your intolerant past. Groups like AU are watching, listening and collecting lots of interesting material.

P.S. Here is the report on the matter from De Pers. It's in Dutch, so if you happen to read that language, enjoy!




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