Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Curt Smith Attacks Daniels EEO Policy on Christian Radio: Daniels Scheduled to Speak at IFI Event

While Advance America's Eric Miller and American Family Association of Indiana's Micah Clark have been relentless in their attacks on Governor Daniels for adopting an EEO Policy of non-discrimination towards persons based on their sexual orientation and identity, Curt Smith of the Indiana Family Institute has remained quiet. Smith even invited Governor Daniels to speak at the organization's annual banquet on September 16, joining guest speakers, Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family and Congressman Mike Pence, two outspoken opponents of gay civil rights. Much to the chagrine of the GLBT community, Daniels accepted Smith's invitation. But that's not stopping Smith from going on the offensive against Daniel's EEO Policy after he accepted the group's invitation.

Smith told Elkhart's Christian radio station, WFRN, that he is calling on Governor Daniels to rescind the policy, which the station once again falsely reported "gives special protections to homosexuals and cross-dressers." Smith told WFRN that "homosexuals should not be singled out" for protection. Smith boasted to WFRN that he has been invited to meet with Governor Daniels twice to talk about the issue in contrast to Micah Clark and Eric Miller. The report noted that, "unlike AFA and Advance America", Smith has not "issued harsh e-mail campaigns against the governor's policy." Smith told WFRN that "he wanted to deal with the issue privately with Daniels".

Smith's Indiana Family Institute is affilliated with Rev. James Dobson's Focus on the Family organization. IFI is a 15-year old organization, and like Advance America, it is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization which engages in blatant, impermissible political activities in violation of Internal Revenue Code regulations for non-profits. It develops voter guides and e-mail alerts concerning legislative actions to advance a Christian fundamentalist agenda. The organization is extremely hostile to the rights of gays and lesbians, supporting legalized discrimination of all forms against gays and lesbians and calling for a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriages and civil unions.

Daniels' decision to accept Smith's invitation has not sat well with the GLBT community. The Indiana Action Network is organizing a protest against IFI's fall event. The event, which is billed as "Restoring Families Rebuilding Communities", is "nothing more than a thinly veiled attack on GLBT families" according to IAN. In a press release announcing the protest, IAN said: "The IFI and Focus on the Family call themselves "ministries" that focus on 'family issues' and 'child-rearing'. In reality, these organizations espouse intolerance and bigotry. Two very prominent Hoosier politicians are giving this fringe organization and it's supporters an air of respectability they do not deserve."

Two months ago IAN conducted a highly successful protest against House Speaker Brian Bosma at a fundraiser he held in the heart of Indianapolis' gay community at the Rathskellar. Bosma, who used gay-baiting in legislative campaigns to win a majority for his party and has trumpeted a constitutional ban on same sex marriages and civil unions, was greeted by nearly 100 protestors with signs and shouts of protest against his gay-bigoted views.

It is hard for many to understand why Governor Daniels has decided to enter the lion's den of the IFI event, particularly in the presence of such a controversial figure as the Rev. James Dobson. Rev. Dobson recently set off another firestorm when he equated embryonic stem cell research to inhumane medical experiments conducted by the Nazis on Jews and others held in concentration camps during World War II. Some Holocaust survivors have demanded an apology for the absurd comparison. Dobson was reacting with indignation towards Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist's announcement that he now supports federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Frist, a surgeon by trade with presidential ambitions, has been widely condemned by Christian fundamentalist activists like Dobson, since making his announcement last week.

Advance Indiana is willing to give Governor Daniels the benefit of the doubt for speaking to the organization as long as he speaks up in defense of his EEO policy and does not say anything that would lend credibility to the group's extremist positions. But in light of Smith's public attack and demand that he rescind his policy, his staff may be well-advised to reconsider whether he has anything to gain by appearing before a group whose views are going to be so tainted by the disinformation their organization's leaders have fed to their adherents. Moreover, he will be in company of intolerant conservatives who many consider to be operating more on more on the fringes. That is not going to help him with mainstream Hoosiers who decide the outcome of elections.

Smith's motives in asking Daniels to appear at the IFI event may not be so pure. It appears more and more likely that either Advance America's Eric Miller or another conservative alternative will challenge Daniels for re-nomination in 2008. Miller's campaign committee from his unsuccessful 2004 bid against Daniels remains intact and open for business according to the recent filings with the Indiana Elections Division. Smith may be setting Daniels up for an opportunity to highlight the differences he and his extremist adherents have with his "controversial" EEO policy. A confrontation at the event could prove embarrassing for Daniels. And he's had more than his share of those lately.

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