People For the American Way Press Release

Tuesday, Oct. 13, 1998

CONTACT: Nancy Coleman, David Elliot or Lela Shepard
at 202-467-4999


People For the American Way Tuesday criticized the Family Research Council for its continued opposition to hate crimes legislation in the wake of the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, an openly gay college freshman in Wyoming.

In an Oct. 13 New York Times news article, Steven Schwalm, a spokesperson for the Family Research Council, said, "Hate crimes laws have nothing to do with perpetrators of violent crime and everything to do with silencing political opposition." He added that hate crimes laws "would criminalize pro-family beliefs."

"If Matthew Shepard's death cannot convince the Family Research Council of the need for hate crimes laws, I cannot imagine what will," said PFAW President Carole Shields. "Hate crimes laws do not hinder free speech. But they would send a message that our nation does not tolerate hateful, vicious acts against gays."

Shields noted that FRC and a number of other Religious Right groups have unveiled a series of TV spots that say that gays and lesbians can change their sexual orientation. She noted that groups behind the ad campaign -- including the FRC, the CRA, Coral Ridge Ministries, Concerned Women of America and others -- have a well- documented history of raising money by scapegoating gays and lesbians. Some of the groups even go so far as to promote the false and inflammatory stereotype of gays and lesbians as child molesters.

Last week, PFAW Foundation issued a 10-page report entitled, "Anti-Gay Politics and the Religious Right." The report is available online at http://www.pfaw.org/issues/right/rtvw.antigay.shtml.

"Religious Right groups use gays and lesbians as their cash cow," Shields concluded. "Instead of raising money by demonizing gays and lesbians, these groups should realize that they are contributing to the hostile climate facing gays and lesbians in this country. It's time to stop the hate in America."

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People For the American Way 202 467 4999 phone
2000 M Street NW Suite 400 202 293 2672 fax
Washington DC 20036 pfaw@pfaw.org

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