Bigotry pays big bucks.
That’s the finding of an NBC News analysis of the funding behind the nation’s leading anti-LGBTQ hate groups. According to IRS filings, eleven groups identified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) pulled in an astonishing $110 million in contributions in the financial year ending in 2020.
That’s more than 25 percent in just four years, representing what NBC called “a recent high-water mark for the organizations.”
The groups surveyed include the usual suspects. The Family Research Council (FRC) saw its revenue nearly double in ten years, to $23 million. FRC recently sent its followers a fundraising appeal reminding them of a Bible verse that commands followers to kill gay people.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the legal group that is working hard in the courts to erode nondiscrimination protections, saw its contributions more than double in ten years, from $34.5 million to $76 million.
The groups are taking advantage of their huge war chests to launch assaults on LGBTQ people from every direction. For example, in addition to its multitude of court cases, ADF is behind many of the anti-LGBTQ measures running through state legislatures.
The sudden burst of economic power is attributable in no small part to Donald Trump. Trump’s election in 2016 gave religious conservatives not just a savior (no matter how ill-suited Trump was for the role) but also hope. After suffering defeat after defeat in the culture wars, culminating with the legalization of marriage equality, conservative evangelicals were desperate for someone who saw the changes in society in the same apocalyptic terms as they did.
Trump fit the bill and went one better. He willingly gave his evangelical backers all kinds of political rewards, starting with Supreme Court appointments, to the point that religion and Trumpism became synonymous.
That kind of success energized conservative evangelicals, who felt that victory was possible. At the same time, they are still driven by the fear that the America that they want is slipping from their grasp forever.
“It’s that dynamic that is driving the fundraising,” Robert Jones, CEO and founder of the Public Religion Research Institute, told NBC News. “There’s a kind of last-stand desperation, an apocalyptic feeling that if we don’t do something now, we will lose the country. And if we don’t do something to win it back, there will never be another opportunity.”
In fact, from a public opinion perspective, the religious right has already lost.
“As someone who writes social science, I can’t tell you how many sentences I have begun with the words ‘with the lone exception of white evangelical Protestants,’” said Jones. “Whether it is on immigration, LGBTQ issues, abortion — white evangelical Christians are increasingly outliers to the middle of the country, not just to the left.”
Of course, the siege mentality only drives the desperation that much more. Like Trump, his followers are unlikely to accept a loss. They will keep throwing money at hate groups in hopes of some success. Unfortunately, thanks to the way Trump packed the Supreme Court, they are probably going to see it.