Republican leaders defend ‘hate’ groups

A number of high-profile Republicans have signed an online petition denouncing the Southern Poverty Law Center for designating several anti-gay religious organizations as hate groups.

SPLC recently added the Family Research Council, the American Family Association and the National Organization for Marriage to the same list of hate groups as the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nations. SPLC said the Christian groups were added because they spread malicious lies about gay people that provoke hatred and violence toward them.

Among those lies are the claims that gays are more likely to sexually abuse children and to die young due to their unhealthy lifestyle. Some of the anti-gay claims made by the designated groups mirror myths that Nazis spread about Jews to incite violence against them.

Majority Leader-elect Eric Cantor, House Speaker-elect John Boehner, presidential hopefuls Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, U.S. Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Louie Gohmert of Texas, and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint have all signed the petition defending the designated hate groups.

“We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with Family Research Council, American Family Association, Concerned Women of America, National Organization for Marriage, Liberty Counsel and other pro-family organizations that are working to protect and promote natural marriage and family,” the open letter, sponsored by the FRC, reads. “We support the vigorous but responsible exercise of the First Amendment rights of free speech and religious liberty that are the birthright of all Americans.”

The letter claims that SPLC “targeted FRC and other organizations that uphold Judeo-Christian moral views, including marriage as the union of a man a woman.”

But Booth Gunter, a spokesman for the SPLC, rejected that claim.

“The bottom line is it’s simply not true that we attacked them because of their Judeo-Christian beliefs or their opposition to gay marriage,” Gunter told Fox News. “It’s because of their continued propagation of falsehoods about gay men and lesbians that have the effect of demonizing them.”