The American Taliban in Idaho

Matthew Shepard Observance Day speech at the Idaho Anne Frank Memorial


Twelve years ago, a brutal murder ended the life of our young brother Matthew, but it did NOT kill his spirit which calls out to each of us to denounce those who promote violence against us as they hide behind an extremist ideology.

It is this extremist ideology that is at the very foundation of the violence that lead to the deaths of Matthew Shepard, Tyler Clementi, and so many others. For decades the American conservative movements’ fringe elements, have been sowing the seeds of hatred that have taken root in the right-wing media.

The soul intent of their daily barrage of messages is to vilify and dehumanize LGBT people in order justify their inhumanity toward us. Who are these extremists and where are they?

They are operating within the modern conservative movement. They are the promoters of an anti-gay industry described by Daily Kos founder, Marcos Moulitsas, as the American Taliban.

These American religious extremists share many similarities and tactics with the Afghan Taliban.

Moulitsas describes them this way:

“Their contempt for nontraditional lifestyles, their mania for militaristic solutions, their fascistic efforts to impose their narrow worldview on the rest of society,” and their disdain for, “woman’s rights, their outright hatred of gays, their aversion to science and modernity, and their staunch anti-intellectualism.”

The American Taliban is waging a war against America’s diverse cultures, and some of them have taken this war against individual freedom to Idaho. In Idaho we have endured years of being compared to pedophiles, Nazi’s and drug addicts by one of Idaho’s chief propagandists, Bryan Fischer, the former head of the, so-called, Idaho Values Alliance.

Fischer’s success in getting his message of hate across was helped along by a complacent Idaho news media which failed to ask him difficult questions about his sources or motivations. Instead our media paved the way for Fischer to gain a national voice.

Fischer is now using his smooth propaganda techniques to spread his hate speech on a radio program that is directly tied to the American Taliban Family Association. Much to the shame of Idaho’s spineless news media, Fischer is now in the national spotlight hoisted up as the poster boy of anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim hatred.

Fischer may be gone, but his legacy of extremist viewpoints lives on in Idaho through his successor, Gary L. Brown. Brown moved to Idaho two years ago to serve as pastor of the North Star Church in Coeur d’Alene. After serving only 8 months, Brown told me he was better suited for the work of the IVA than pastoring a church.

Speaking before a small conservative crowd, supported by Wayne Hoffman’s Idaho Freedom Foundation a few weeks ago, Brown said his first initiative was to “Resurrect the Black Robe Regiment.” The Black Robe Regiment is an extremist group that not only insists our Constitution is a Christian document, but the lunacy of a false separation between church and state.

Pay very close attention to what is going on here. Brown and other theocratic are reinventing the tired “traditional family values” sales pitch for what he and his pals are now calling, “Historical Americanism.”

“Historical Americanism” is a term that will serve as a call-to-arms to followers of the Black Robe Regiment which include Glenn Beck and Maggie Gallagher, of Prop 8 fame.

Brown and others in the American Taliban are using a backdoor approach to re-branding the same old religious extremist ideology that represents the fringe elements among those in the Tea Party movement. Just listen to what Brown wrote on his website the other day, and I quote:

“The reason for my shift toward Historical Americanism is all about winning the messaging battle: the war of words … we have to rebuild our case for America … We must be creative with language and define our terms … Winning this war is not about compromising our values; it is about communicating our values in a new way.”

Brown told me he wants open respectful dialogue, yet he introduced former Idaho legislator, Ron Vieselmeyer as his mentor. It was Vieselmeyer who said during the marriage amendment debate in 2005, that LGBT Idahoans are, QUOTE “suicidal, guilt ridden sex addicts from who the state must protect us, just as it defends us from terrorists, gangs and drunken drivers.”

These so-called Christians are quick to throw the first stone. They STAND on the Bible, they WRAP themselves up in the American Flag and FOMENT homophobic and transphobic hate! THEN they have the GAUL to turn around and blame the victims, LGBT people, for what happens to us as a result of their propaganda!

The American Taliban is subverting our language, our religious freedom, our constitution and our democracy for one reason, and one reason only. Power!

These fringe elements, who garner headlines while demonizing us, have positioned themselves to gain control of the Republican Party. Sadly, they have a fair chance of taking control of our Congress and our State.

I just cannot help but wonder if our state’s largest daily newspaper and the local broadcast news media had done its job, instead of handing the keys to the newsroom over to Bryan Fischer, he just might not be enjoying the national spotlight to promote hate speech.

The American Taliban that is heading this movement will not be satisfied until we all are back in the closet or inside a coffin.

Let’s agree to put the Idaho media on notice. They have a second chance now to do the right thing and hold Gary Brown and the IVA accountable! Let’s make sure they don’t get away with creating another Bryan Fischer.

We cannot let the American Taliban define us, we must define ourselves. Join the ACLU, write letters to the editor of Idaho newspapers, talk to lawmakers, be diligent, be vigilant. And if you do nothing else, PLEASE PLEASE, VOTE this November 2nd!

Finally, I stand here before you here today, more than 30 years from the time I entered the fight for LGBT equality, and I just cannot believe we are still fighting this fight. BUT NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO RECOIL! We really have no other choice but to push back against these bullies! We cannot permit these merchants of hate to get away with selling their toxic messages us, and our youth, that could lead to more Matthew Shepard’s or Tyler Clementi’s.

2 thoughts on “The American Taliban in Idaho

  1. The entire event was moving. The words of support and motivation were inspiring. I thought you did an exceptional job of pointing exposing those who demonize gays and the media that often times plays into their hands. You got people to their feet!

  2. Jody–as always, I am moved by the power of your language. Putting this fight in the context of a Taliban-like movement makes it all make sense. There is no reasoning here, no compromise only a commitment that we all must make to end this fight so that ALL Americans have their civil rights.

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