The Los Angeles premiere of a Religious Right group’s film has been canceled after Americans United for Separation of Church and State exposed the organization’s track record of virulently anti-gay rhetoric.
Geert Wilders, a member of the Dutch parliament, had been scheduled to attend the premiere of “Islam Rising: Geert Wilders’ Warning to the West,” a film produced by the Christian Action Network (CAN). He canceled after learning about CAN’s record of anti-gay extremism.
Other supporters of the May 1 event have dropped out as well, leading to the premiere’s cancellation.
Wilders, who frequently works to convince gay rights groups in the Netherlands about the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism, cut his ties with CAN after a Dutch newspaper reported on the organization’s history of harsh anti-gay activism.
The newspaper, De Pers, contacted Americans United yesterday for information about the Virginia-based CAN. Americans United provided copies of several CAN fund-raising letters from the 1990s and early 2000s.
In one of the letters, CAN President Martin Mawyer attacked comedian Ellen DeGeneres, saying she had “DUMPED HER FILTHY LESBIAN LIFESTYLE IN THE CENTER OF YOUR LIVING ROOM” and referred to her as a “SODOMITE.”
In another letter, Mawyer blasted a gay-themed event at Disney World, labeling it “disgusting” and “vile.” In yet another, he attacked gays for adopting children and becoming foster parents, calling it “absolutely sick, demented and perverted!”
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said the incident should be a lesson to politicians in the United States and abroad.
“We’ve warned political leaders for years not to work with extreme Religious Right organizations,” Lynn said. “These groups have a radical track record, and sooner or later things will blow up in your face.
“The Christian Action Network is a low-rent outfit with a plain history of extremism and bigotry,” Lynn continued. “I don’t know why anyone would want to be associated with it.”
Contacted by De Pers, Mawyer at first tried to deny that CAN had issued the letter about DeGeneres, even though it bears his signature. He called it an internet hoax. But AU provided De Pers with a copy of the letter as well as several other anti-gay CAN letters signed by Mawyer.
After that, Mawyer, a former protégé of the late TV preacher Jerry Falwell, stopped talking to the newspaper. (In recent years, CAN has switched its emphasis from gay bashing to attacks on Islam.)
AU’s Lynn called Mawyer’s lies reprehensible.
“Mawyer claims to run a Christian organization,” said Lynn, himself an ordained Christian minister, “but I think there’s one biblical admonition he overlooked: ‘Thou shall not bear false witness.’”
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.