Robert Knight is a longtime stalwart in the religious right, fighting against lgbtq equality in organizations such as the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, and the Coral Ridge Ministries.
He also has a reputation of either relying on junk science or making stuff up and doubling down when questioned on it. I witnessed this last year during a short brouhaha between he and I over a speech President Obama made after that awful shooting in Arizona.
Yesterday, Knight wrote a piece attacking marriage equality in Maryland. His argument was that marriage equality would lead to attacks on so-called “religious liberties.”
Knight lists a few examples, but one caught my eye:
Georgetown University Law Prof. Chai Feldblum, whom President Obama appointed to serve on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, is one of the more honest gay activists.
Feldblum writes that when it comes to civil rights, “we are in a zero-sum game: a gain for one side necessarily entails a corresponding loss for the other side.”
I once asked Ms. Feldblum at a seminar if it bothered her that a Christian club would be thrown off a college campus for not having gay leaders or others who reject basic Christian doctrine. She shrugged, smiled and said, “Gays win, Christians lose.” I did admire her candor.
It was at that time that a warning signal buzzed in my head. That quote sounded familiar.
As it turns out, that quote was a talking point used by religious right groups when they opposed President Obama choosing Feldblum as head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Media Matters pointed out that the claim of what Feldblum allegedly said began as an unsubstantiated rumor in an opinion blog post at the Christian Post on October 26, 2009:
When asked about the rights of employers to follow their religious beliefs in hiring people, she replied, “Gays win; Christians lose.”
Media Matters goes on to say that this rumor was picked up by several religious right sources including the Family Research Council. However, none of these sources said where the rumor came from.
But notice how the rumor changes.
Knight claims Feldblum made the statement when he asked her about Christian clubs on college campuses. The other religious right sources claimed that Feldblum allegedly made the statement when it came to employment.
I was able to talk to Feldblum on twitter. She said that there was a conversation with Knight after a talk she gave to the Family Research Council. Feldblum said that the following is what took place:
I said to him — just like the govt correctly requires religious people in commerce to serve black people, the govt can require religious people not to discriminate against gay people. HE transformed that into “Gays win, Christian lose.”
It’s a huge stretch between what Feldblum said and what Knight alleges she said. I feel safe in saying that Knight’s condensing of Feldblum’s statement to him had less to do with him mishearing what she said and more to do with him deliberately distorting her words.
It certainly would be par for the course in regards to Knight.
And it is also par for the course for religious right groups to take Knight’s phony claim and attribute it to other situations in order to suit their agenda.