Monday, May 09, 2005

D.C. Stephenson-Meet Advance America and Eric Miller

A single organization in this state has recently mobilized all of its efforts to one cause--discrimination of gay, lesbian and trangendered Hoosiers. That organization calls itself Advance America and is led by Eric Miller. The similarities of this organization and its leader to the Ku Klux Klan and D.C. Stephenson are frightening. Anyone committed to ending discrimination against all persons in Indiana must be prepared to challenge this organization and its leader head on. I will endeavor to make sure everyone knows what this organization and its leader are really about.

Advance America was originally founded by Eric Miller and a few of his far right religious followers in 1980 as Citizens Concerned for the Constitution, the same year Miller was admitted to practice law in Indiana. Miller has served as its executive director and registered lobbyist for many years. Miller stepped down as executive director to run for the Republican nomination for Governor in 2004. Current Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels resoundingly defeated him in the Indiana Republican primary.

Advance America's website touts itself as the "largest pro-family, pro-church, pro-private and home school and pro-tax reform organization" in Indiana. It boasts a membership of over 42,000 families, 1,600 businesses and over 3,800 churches around the state. According to its website it is "a nonpartisan, tax-exempt, educational organization and as such does not endorse any candidate or political party." Its purported mission is "to [inform] and [educate] the citizens of Indiana as to how their government works and what they can do to make a difference on issues of importance to them." When the Ku Klux Klan first obtained its charter to operate in Indiana it purported to be a "purely benevolent and eleemosynary" (i.e. compassion, mercy) and a "patriotic fraternal order." Don't be fooled by Advance America's description. As I will explain, Advance America is not a nonpartisan organization, and it is not an educational organization. It is purely a political organization. It advocates and promotes far right religious public policies and aids in the election of candidates who support its agenda. The agenda it is currently advocating is a rip-off of the KKK's Americanization agenda from 1925.

Advance America's website (www.advanceamerica.com) displays the voting records of all Indiana House and Senate members on legislation it advocates for or against. Its hot button issue during the 2005 legislative session was SJR 7, a proposed constitutional amendment which provides that marriage in Indiana consists only of the union of one man and one woman. It further provides that Indiana law may not be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents of marriage be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups. This constitutional amendment passed the Indiana Senate and House overwhelmingly. It must be approved by the next successive session of the General Assembly and then voted on by the state's voters before it becomes a part of the Indiana Constitution. Indiana already has a Defense of Marriage Law banning same sex marriage, a proposal advanced by Advance America several years ago. The amendment is completely unnecessary and goes even further by banning same sex unions and any other legal incident of marriage enjoyed by spouses of heterosexual marriages. If adopted, it would become the first amendment approved which would constitutionalize discrimination against a class of persons. Most recently, Advance America and Eric Miller bombarded Indianapolis city council members with e-mails, letter and telephone calls and successfully defeated the adoption of a new civil rights ordinance for the City, which would have barred discrimination in employment and housing against persons based upon their sexual orientation. In 1925, the KKK used the legislative process to discriminate against Catholics and immigrants. Today, Advance America uses the legislative process to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

Other legislative agenda items of Advance America have included: the mandatory display of the American flag in all public schools and require students to recite the pledge of allegiance; provide tax credits to parents who send their children to Christian schools; require that the motto "In God We Trust" be placed in all public schools; expanding tax-exempt status of churches; and opposition to expanded gambling activities in Indiana among others. Indiana's Constitution specifically bars the use of public funds for the benefit of a religious institution. Nonetheless, Advance American uses its own tax exempt status to push provisions which clearly violate this prohibition. If you look at the Ku Klux Klan's "Americanization" agenda from 1925, it is difficult to distinguish from Advance America's legislative agenda. Like D.C. Stephenson, its leader is politically ambitious. Eric Miller unsuccessfully sought the Governor's office in 2004. Despite its nonpartisan, tax exempt status, Miller utilized Advance America's grassroots organization and fundraising base to launch his own political campaign.

Like D.C. Stephenson Eric Miller is a hypocrite. While Miller fervently devotes his efforts to banning same sex marriages and civil unions based on the false belief that it represents an assault on families in Indiana, actions he has taken in his own personal life raise serious questions about his commitment to family. Miller's first marriage ended in divorce. A few years ago he married for the second time. Miller has produced no children from either marriage even though he argues that God reserves marriage for heterosexual couples because they can procreate and insure the survival of the human race. Does Eric Miller and his followers actually believe that committed relationships between gays and lesbians are a threat to heterosexual marriages given that more than 50% of them end in divorce? Why doesn't his organization devote its effort to saving heterosexual marriages? Does he discuss the harm heterosexual divorces causes to Indiana families?

The fact is that Eric Miller and Advance America are all about fomenting hatred of gays and lesbians in order to advance their narrow view of moral righteousness. Miller is a high tech re-incarnation of D.C. Stephenson. Since it is no longer fashionable to discriminate against Jews, Catholics and African-Americans, Miller and his organization must turn their hatred on gays and lesbians. The danger he and his organization pose to this state cannot be underestimated. If we are to succeed in ending discrimination in Indiana, we must expose Miller and Advance America for what it truly is--Advance Hate. Only then will we be able to change hearts and minds and end the influence of this dangerous organization.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are so right! The analogy to the KKK is so true. I had never thought about it in those terms before. Thanks for shedding light on these people.

Sandy said...

You are so wrong, and right comes out right...always in the end...go Eric...