The American Family Association (AFA) has quietly removed from its website a map that attempted to document organizations that supposedly persecuted Christians.

One year ago, the Tupelo, Miss.,-based group that is best known for obsessively tracking the non-existent “war on Christmas” and for being anti-gay, launched a map that purported to illustrate the locations of a myriad of organizations that are anti-Christian; in reality, they were mostly groups that simply disagreed with AFA.

Americans United landed on the list – no surprise there. But AFA seemed confused about the actual location of our national office, which is in Washington, D.C. AFA either didn’t know this, or decided to ignore it in favor of dotting its map with the locations of our various local chapters – most of which were wrong, too.

Despite AFA’s claim, Americans United is not now, and has never been, an anti-Christian organization. Most of our founders were Christians, and we’ve been led for more than 20 years by a Christian minister. Although Americans United’s membership today is diverse, we count many Christians among our ranks, and we regularly form coalitions with a number of faith traditions.

AU was listed among the so-called “bigots,” apparently, because we don’t support AFA’s brand of far-right religious zeal. If we did, we’d find ourselves listed on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Hate Map” – which AFA clearly copied – alongside AFA.

Another target of the map were atheist and humanist groups. The map’s creators attempted to list all active atheist groups, no matter how small, as “bigoted” groups to watch. The AFA defined atheists as anyone “critical of those who express their faith in public,” and humanists as individuals who say “critical thinking and physical evidence are the sole basis for beliefs.”

Some other groups listed on AFA’s map can only be described as odd. AARP landed on the list. According to the map, AARP was listed for supporting marriage equality – just like AU and others. Maybe AFA also really hates the idea of Social Security reform?  

Hemant Mehta, who blogs as the “Friendly Atheist,” was the first to notice AFA’s removal of the map. He called up AFA General Counsel Patrick Vaughn, who claimed the map was removed because it had “served its purpose” and was getting stale on the group’s website.

So as far as AFA is concerned, anti-Christian “bigotry” is over? Did we miss the victory celebration? Not likely.   

Mehta noted that when AFA launched its “Bigotry Map” last year, it claimed: “Some members or supporters of these groups have committed violent crimes against Christians and faith-based groups. Physical and profane verbal assaults against Christians are methods frequently exercised in their angry methods of intimidation.”  

Of course AFA didn’t list any examples of that alleged violence because, well, there aren’t any. And that’s probably why the “Bigotry Map” is no more. It didn’t actually serve its stated purpose – because documenting real bigotry was never the goal.

Christians are the least-persecuted religious group in the United States, but that reality doesn’t help AFA and its allies raise money. So they had to invent a list of threats in an attempt to scare their supporters. Maybe it worked, maybe it didn’t. Either way, AFA will have to fabricate a new phony threat to its idea of “religious liberty.” Perhaps a “Persecution Pie Chart” would be a good start.