Chicago’s Windy City Times Online Exclusive

Bryan Fischer: From jilted Idaho pastor to AFA’s propagandist-in-chief

Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jody May-Chang Nov. 9, 2011

Bryan Fischer’s departure from Idaho in the summer of 2009 was cause for celebration among progressives and conservatives alike throughout our small red state. After 29 years of bigotry, hate and racism, Fischer was finally gone!

Out-of-state when Fischer made the announcement he would be leaving Idaho, I was tending to my seriously ill 74-year-old mother. Sitting by her bedside in a California hospital room, exhausted, grateful and relieved Mom had just made it through surgery, I got the call.

Idaho Press-Tribune reporter Mike Butts wanted a comment in reaction to the big news. Stunned, all I could think of to say was, “Great for Idaho! Too bad for Mississippi!” I told mom the news. In her groggy, post anesthesia haze she whispered, “Good riddance to that bastard!”

Looking back, we were both naïve. Mom had a good excuse but I did not. I was short-sighted. What I should have said was, “Great for Idaho! Too bad for the country!”

The lesson: never underestimate a well-educated, media-savvy bully with a microphone. Soon after Fischer’s arrival in Tupelo, he took to the airwaves and almost immediately began making headlines as America’s newest religious extremist shock jock.

In the American Family Association’s ( AFA’s ) 34-year history they have made their share of controversial statements about gays and Jews, but it was not until Fischer arrived that the AFA’s rhetoric grew to the dishonest and inflammatory style which is now its hallmark.

In about a year’s time, with Bryan Fischer front and center as the organization’s bombastic mouthpiece, in 2010 the Southern Poverty Law Center had no choice but to add AFA to its hate-groups list.

AFA was anointed hate group status in large part because of Fischer who consistently made prolific false and demeaning statements about LGBTQ people.

Some of Fischer’s more outrageous claims include blaming gays for the Holocaust declaring, “Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler…the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.”

Fischer also asserts homosexuality should be re-criminalized for a variety of reasons, one being, “an overwhelming correlation between homosexual preference and pedophilia,” or accusations that gays molest children, “10 times the rate of heterosexual.”

To most of the country, Fischer seemed to have popped out of nowhere.

On Oct. 10, the SPLC released an in-depth report, “THE PROPAGANDISTS: Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association, & the Demonization of LGBT People,” detailing Fischer’s radical extremism, and how he spent almost three decades in Idaho.

In “THE PROPAGANDIST,” my co-author, Jill Kuraitis, and I revealed Fischer’s rise to the national spotlight. This in-depth investigative piece on Fischer’s history in Idaho shows how mainstream Idahoans jump-started his controversial career.

Fischer’s access to GOP power was cemented in 2001 when he was appointed chaplain to the Idaho State Senate by U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, then the state legislature’s majority leader. The taxpayer-paid position provided Fischer access Idaho’s GOP elite which served him well when he became a registered lobbyist for his “pro-family” non-profit the Idaho Values Alliance, an AFA affiliate.

Fischer’s tenure as pastor of two churches ended on a low note when he abruptly left both congregations under duress and clouds of controversy over his increasingly radical views and language.

The first was Cole Community Church. After serving as associate pastor for 13 years, Fischer was passed over by his boss and mentor, Sr. Pastor David Roper. Roper kept Fisher from succeeding him because Fischer’s personal theology was growing more dominionist, which suggests Christians should seek control over government and the spiritual matters.

Fischer left Cole and founded the second church, Community Church of the Valley. After 12 years as Sr. Pastor at CCV, Fischer had a contentious power struggle with the board of elders and he was gone. The subject of that battle remains unclear.

With an annual budget of $20 million, AFA has become one of the most powerful religious-right organizations in the country. Through their equally powerful media network, made up of 200 radios stations, two internet TV channels, a news website and blog, AFA “promotes traditional values” with the majority of their efforts dedicated to “combating the homosexual agenda.”

To further the assertion that gays are perverted and evil, the anti-Queer movement has developed over the years a carefully calculated propaganda strategy that misinforms and inflames the public. The report’s “The Myths: 10 Tall Tales Debunked,” takes aim at such lies and distortions and provides the tools to effectively respond and counteract bigots.

Addressing hate crime in the report, “The Math: Anti-LGBT Hate Violence,” the SPLC reveals their careful analysis of 14 years of hate crime statistics collected by the FBI noting that researchers concluded gays are more than twice as likely to be victims of hate crime as Jews and Blacks and four times as likely as Muslims.

Providing Fischer with a well-funded and unrestricted platform, the AFA is a part of the mechanism that contributes to hate crime statistics. Statements such as, “Homosexuals, as a group, are the single greatest perpetrators of hate crimes on the planet, outside the Muslim Religion. … It is their hatred for the Judeo-Christian values, and all who believe them that is driving this vitriolic hate crime spree,” serve no other purpose than to incite hatred that often leads to violence.

For someone who declares to be a devout follower of Christ, Fischer’s words are anything but Christ-like. Many Idaho Christians want desperately for the country to know not everyone subscribes to Fischer’s radical views and say Fischer is misrepresenting true Christianity.

And Roper’s careful dance around a question about Fischer’ hate speech was revealing, “I don’t want to be involved in this controversy at all,” replied Roper, “Bryan and I were good friends. I’m not trying to disassociate myself from him per say, but I just don’t want to be quoted about any of his present activities.”

In a January 2001 letter in the Idaho Statesman, Boisean Jennifer Boyd objected to Fischer’s appointment as Senate chaplain by saying, “Fischer removed me from his congregation after my divorce which he deemed unacceptable, non-biblical, and sinful … he spoke out of both sides of his mouth … he said one thing while he did another … he judges people and situations based on limited information and preconceived notions.”

“The only difference between Fischer and Jesus Christ is that Jesus does not think he is Bryan Fischer.”

A copy of the full report including the Fischer expose’ is available on May-Chang’s website and will be published in the Nov. issue of the SPLC’s Intelligence Report.

©2011 for Windy City Times