Bias Watch

Longtime marriage equality opponent is outraged that her organization is a hate group

Longtime marriage equality opponent is outraged that her organization is a hate group

Jennifer Roback Morse is calling for NBC to “cease harassing and defaming” her self-created organization for protecting “ancient Christian teachings.”

The Ruth Institute was recognized as a hate group for the first time back in 2013, and every year since, after it ended its affiliation with the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and spun-off onto its own. Yet, almost seven years later, Morse is dismayed by it.

Related: Anti-LGBTQ pastor’s church gets $4M in COVID bailout funds. They bought him a private jet.

Morse’s complaint stems from a report that labelled the Institute as a hate group, based on information from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit civil rights group tracking American extremist groups.

The Ruth Institute, in its own words, “upholds the ancient Christian teachings about marriage, family, and human sexuality.”

An NBC News report on December 9 included her organization as one of several anti-LGBTQ hate groups to receive thousands in emergency aid funding, altogether totaling $2.5 million in forgivable loans.

The loans came from funding for the Paycheck Protection Program with the intention to keep small businesses afloat during the coronavirus pandemic and pay salaries of staffers. It has helped several religious and anti-LGBTQ groups cash in over the last few months, thanks to hand holding by Trump administration officials.

When NBC reached out to the Ruth Institute for comment “on the SPLC’s ‘hate group’ designation and how they used their Paycheck Protection Program funds,” no one at the group offered a response. Yet, Morse is now claiming that she is the victim of a left-wing smear campaign.

In blogs, newsletters, and press releases for the Institute, Morse claims it is “an outrage” to have the designation from the “the notorious left-wing” SPLC. “I’m madder than a wet hen right now,” she fumed in an email to supporters. “That’s why I’m asking you to sign our petition to the president of NBC News, asking him to retract an awful story they ran.”

Morse gripes that the Institute only received $30,000 for her work leading an “international, interfaith coalition,” complaining that the SPLC takes home more money than her “global non-profit” does.

The Ruth Institute actually banked a check of $37,084, according to a website dedicated to tracking COVID Bailout recipients and amounts, which is supposed to cover the salaries of the non-profit’s approximately three employees.

Proudly aligning with “well-respected pro-family groups like [the] American Family Association, the American College of Pediatricians,” and the Liberty Counsel — all also SPLC-designated hate groups — Morse asserts that “none of these groups who defend moral truth deserve to be smeared by NBC News.”

Now, Morse is teaming with the right-wing, anti-LGBTQ site LifeSiteNews to craft a “petition” — that is, a page on one of their websites that is a simple webform asking for a person’s name, email, and location as a “signature.” Anyone can fill out the form with whatever information they choose, there isn’t a public list of “signees,” and the “signee” subscribes to receive emails from LifeSite unless they manually opt out.

They released a joint press release for the “petition,” also self-published as a “news” article, asking NBC to retract the story and stop using the SPLC as a source, because both have “credibility problems.”

The SPLC website documents files on Morse going back a decade, reflecting her beliefs that same-sex relations are “intrinsically disordered acts and can never be morally acceptable,” that transgender people suffer from a “psychological condition,” and that there’s a connection between homosexuality and sexual abuse.

As of publication, the Ruth Institute website’s top tag is “Jennifer Roback Morse.” That’s because “the group is largely a vehicle for spreading the Catholic right-wing Gospel of its founder,” the SPLC determined.

GLAAD also kept tabs on Morse for a time as part of its Commentator Accountability Project (CAP).

An economist by trade, Morse gave up her work in the 1990s to focus on building her family, but she then became a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and joined NOM’s crusade against marriage equality in 2008. She frequented anti-LGBTQ videos from the organization, warning people that even having gay friends or co-workers would lead to them being “pressured” to support LGBTQ rights.

She deemed herself the “official spokesman for Prop 8,” a law in California that banned marriage equality in 2008 before being struck down.

She made headlines in 2013 by blaming Tyler Clementi, a college student who was outed online, for his suicide. She claimed that he was in a situation where he was “doing something sexual” that wasn’t “the best thing” for him, just months before she departed NOM.

She also claimed in 2016 that it takes more courage to walk away from the “gay lifestyle” than to be openly gay.

More recently, Morse presented a “Make the Family Great Again” petition to the State Department this February, purporting to have at least 8,000 signatories demanding that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his staff “[acknowledge] that human rights start with the family,” which they defined as a “natural mother and father.”

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