So it was the KPFA "Morning Show" and I ended up being up against a guy named Kevin "Seamus" Hasson from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
The subject was the "No Mob Veto" ads placed by the Becket Fund in the L.A. and NYTimes last weekend ... you can read more about it here ... and here's a "snapshot" of the ad itself:
The interview started off civilly enough ... talking about mutually deploring violence, working for freedom of religion, blah, blah, blah. (You can listen to it all here ... it starts at 33:45 into the show)
He was talking about "all the violent acts" that have characterized the No on 8 protests when the host of the show asked him to name some ... his initial reponse was "I'm sure there are some."
"I'm sure there are some" was the foundational premise for raising enough money to put full page ads in the LA & NYTimes describing No on 8 protests as "not demonstrations but nearly mobs seeking not to persuade but to intimidate"???????
And here's where we went from there:
AA: So, Rev. Susan Russell joins us, she’s with the Human Rights Campaign. Reverend, is the LDS or Catholic church victims here?
SR: Absolutely not. I agree with your other speaker—violence against anyone should always be deplored. I’m horrified, though, when asked have there been violent attacks against supporters of Prop 8 "I’m sure there have been," is the best they can come up with. That just doesn’t rise to the level of placing full page ads in the L.A. and New York Times stating so as a fact!
What we see here are exactly the same tactics used to pass Prop 8: people who are so convinced they have sole possession of the absolute truth that they’re willing to tell lies to achieve their ends. The protests in the streets have been by and large—when you look at the numbers of people who have been in the streets demonstrating against this heinous effort to write discrimination into the California constitution -- actually exemplary in the demeanor and the tone and the timbre and the respect with which they’ve been held.
The movement—Gay and Lesbian people—can no longer be held scapegoats for the acts of a few people who step beyond the bounds of what is appropriate. Our leadership has condemned those acts; we are working very hard at the leadership level to build bridges of understanding with both the Mormon Church and Roman Catholic Church to find a way forward through this. This kind of ad does nothing to bring people together, all it does is continue to polarize and it’s exactly the kind of thing we need to be stepping up and out against.
Seamus Hassan: Can I respond to that?
AA: Yes, of course.
SH: I gave one end of the spectrum and the other end of the spectrum. In between, there have been at least 10 churches painted with swastikas, threats to close down or else, there’s been six churches with small-bore rifle fire through their windows. By my count, there have been at least six instances of burning Books of Mormon on the church steps. These aren’t isolated occurrences here and there; this is an uprising of some sort. Let me be clear, neither in the ad or today here, have I said this is the work of the gay community. We say in the ad, this is opponents of Prop 8, 46% of the California electorate voted against Prop 8. My understanding is that 5% of the California population, approximately, is gay. At least 41% of the opponents of Prop 8 maybe radical secularists, opposed to the church’s position, took these kinds of measures.
AA: So, Rev. Russell was commenting, there may be a few individuals, but not a movement. Seamus Hassan, your response to that: if there are individuals, why are anti-Prop 8 movement folks being painted with that broad brush?
SH: Well, whether it’s an organized movement like Al Qaeda or whether it’s the Al Qaeda-like, um, inspired acts of terrorism elsewhere, people are right to be concerned about, um, radical Islamist violence—
SR: Can I jump in here?
AA: I was going to say--yes.
SR: I’m sorry, please.
AA: Seamus Hassan, let me just give Rev. Russell an opportunity to respond because the anti-Prop 8 protestors where just compared to Al Qaeda. And I think that’s—
SR: Absolutely. That is going to be the headline and it should be! I couldn’t do a better job of making my case then your other caller is making. These are people who are determined to paint American citizens, living out democracy in the streets, as similar to terrorists and Al Qaeda. We had members of All Saints Church, 40 years married, standing on corners with No on 8 signs and people drove by and called them terrorists and hijackers during the height of the campaign.
What we’re working to do is to lower the rhetoric, to end the polarization, to stop the violence. The title of their ad is “No to Mob Veto.” What they’re trying to do is frame the debate, already, as the Supreme Court begins to reconsider Prop 8. I’m confident we’re going to see the Supreme Court to come down on the right side of history on this in May. You can see what they’re doing right now, they’re framing the debate so that when that happens, they can say it was mob rule against democracy, they’re going to continue to compare us to Al Qaeda and I think the American people have got to stand up and say stop.
We’re a nation of freedom of religion; we’ve got to be a nation of freedom from religion. And allowing these religious bigots to write their discrimination into our constitution is something we should be in the streets about.