USA Today, January 9, 2013

    How "family values" hurt kids
    Anti-gay efforts go beyond political disagreement when they foster bullying.

    By Bruce Kluger

    While the rest of America
    celebrated the holidays by
    briefly escaping their the
    workload, one unlucky group
    never got the chance to take
    a day off. And I'm not talking
    about the beleaguered clerks
    at the Big Box stores, but,
    instead, about those valiant
    defenders of virtue at the
    American Family Association
    (AFA). They were busy trying
    to stop elves from cavorting
    with a known lesbian.

    Last month, One Million Moms, the inexplicably angry online village founded by the
    AFA, inveighed against J.C. Penney for a holiday ad featuring spokeswoman Ellen
    DeGeneres. "JCP has made their choice to offend a huge majority of their
    customers again," Moms said in a statement. "Christians must now vote with their

    Hyperbole is nothing new for the AFA satellite army. When Penney first hired
    DeGeneres last February, Moms blasted the retailer for "jumping on the pro-gay
    bandwagon." Back then, the nasty broadside was wearying, though predictable.
    This time, it was just stupid. In the holiday spot, DeGeneres talked gift-shopping
    with a trio of Santa's elves. Scary, right?

    Reasonable people can disregard the ramblings of a belligerent splinter group (as
    DeGeneres herself noted, you have to wonder about an organization that calls itself
    One Million Moms but can barely round up 50,000 Facebook followers). But I
    continue to be bewildered at the obsessive, mean-spirited activism of the American
    Family Association itself.

    Since its 1977 founding by a Methodist pastor in Mississippi, the AFA (whose
    mission is to rid the nation of "ungodliness and depravity") has sprayed its
    venomous indignation like buckshot, boycotting any group that bears the faintest
    whiff of gay inclusion. Among its countless targets: the Walt Disney Co., for
    promoting "the homosexual agenda" by providing health coverage for employees in
    same-sex relationships; the American Girl doll company, for supporting the non-
    profit youth organization Girls Inc., which it called "a pro-abortion, pro-lesbian
    advocacy group"; Hallmark, for offering same-sex wedding cards on its racks; the
    Ford Motor Co., for advertising in gay publications and sponsoring gay pride
    celebrations; Archie comic books, for allowing its first openly gay character to marry
    another man in one of its stories; McDonald's, for joining the National Gay &
    Lesbian Chamber of Commerce; and the Campbell Soup Co., for buying an ad in a
    gay magazine that featured a presumably lesbian couple and their son enjoying a
    bowl of butternut squash bisque.

    These people must be exhausted.

    Though the AFA has largely gone after corporations that have the means to fight
    back, it crossed the line in late 2012 when it chose a new and more defenseless
    kind of victim: children. In October, National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month,
    it launched an offensive against Mix it Up at Lunch Day, an 11-year-old national
    program that encourages kids to seek out new friends in the cafeteria as a way of
    keeping cliques—and bullying—at bay. The AFA decried the program as "a
    nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools," and it asked
    parents to file protests or keep their children home from school on that day.

    Supporters of AFA's efforts argued that anti-bullying campaigns focus too heavily
    on protecting gay and questioning youths at the expense of non-gay bullying
    victims. But the fact is, numerous studies—including a survey by researchers at
    Harvard—have determined that gay kids are one to two times more likely to be
    bullied than straight kids, and between two to four times as likely to attempt suicide.
    It is a problem within a problem.

    The AFA boycott was ultimately unsuccessful—only about 200 of the 2,500
    participating schools reportedly canceled the day's events—but it underscored the
    shameful irony at the heart of the brouhaha: that the American Family Association
    has now, in effect, become the nation's reigning bully, preying on those who are

    One would think that the AFA might learn a thing or two from the election season
    polls, which revealed that most citizens are turned off by negative attacks and,
    likewise, by those who would pry into their personal lives, including their sexual
    preferences. One would also think that the AFA might learn a lesson from last
    month's tragedy in Newtown, Conn.: that our children are not only precious to us
    but also frighteningly vulnerable, and undeserving of being anyone's prey.

    It's time to ask the AFA to stand down. Despite its self-appointed, McCarthy-like
    crusade to transform this nation into its own image, America doesn't need its help,
    thank you.

    (Photo of Ellen DeGeneres by Michael Rozman, AP)