Posts Tagged ‘Todd Starnes’

I have a headache and the airplane I’m in as I’m writing this has hit some turbulence, so forgive me for a short post. There are three links for this one. First, there’s the WND post, which is “Student Reprimanded for Saying ‘God Bless America.'”

There actually is no story. Nada. No description in the RSS feed, no three-paragraph snippet. Just a link to “Read the full story” which takes you to Fox “news” and an article by Todd Starnes: “Student Reprimanded for Saying ‘God Bless America.'” The Fox story has nearly 10,000 comments when I loaded it in the airport.

“Similarly,” the WND story has 53 comments when I last loaded it. The top-rated comment is by “daleetaylor” who wrote: “I wonder if we realize how close we are to a national collapse. The leaders of this nation are doing whatever they want and they could care less what the American people want. That is the sad truth. They LIE, LIE, LIE and LIE about their lying. We as a nation must pray to the only true God and repent or we will perish. That is the truth. God forgive us.”

Without even reading the story or anything else, my knee-jerk reaction is pretty much what “kim” said in response: “The american people don’t want god in the classroom. They decided 230 years ago and reaffirm that every election since. Maybe you should move to a theocracy.” “kim” was attacked, as expected.

But, the whole reason that I found this story and even clicked on it was because Hemant posted about it on his The Friendly Atheist blog: “Todd Starnes Flips Out After Student Told Not to Say “God Bless America” During Morning Announcements.”

Here’s the real story:

  1. Students at this school (Yulee High School in Florida) are allowed to read the morning announcements. Over the loudspeaker. To a captive audience. At that point, they legally become an agent of the school. More on that later.
  2. Students were adding “God Bless America” to the end of the announcements.
  3. Two students who are atheists, fearing reprisal, told their parents and the parents complained to the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center.
  4. The legal center wrote a letter to the school explaining the problem.
  5. The principal wrote back within hours saying that “the theistic assertion was not part of the scripted announcements but was added by a student without the school’s approval.” And, “The principal reassured the legal center, “It is our desire and intention to respect the belief and constitutional freedoms of all our students at Yulee High School.””

Enter Todd Starnes. Who “asked Jeremy Dys, an attorney with Liberty Institute to weigh in on this nonsense and he said the atheists don’t have a prayer:”

“Whether a student is being patriotic or engaging in religious speech, there is no law in this country forbidding a student from telling his or her classmates, ‘God bless America’ and it is illegal for a school to censor a student for doing so,” he said.

Dys also wonders why atheists are so hell-bent on trying to censor the patriotic speech of a red-blooded American high school student.

“Regardless of this attempt by secularists to white wash over this demonstration of patriotism by a teenager, America’s students do not give up their right to free speech and the expression of their religious beliefs when they go to school,” he said.

Here’s the issue: Students don’t give up their First Amendment rights to free speech when at school. They can tell fellow students anything they want about their religious beliefs or wear clothing that does – provided they do not create a hostile environment or interfere with learning – during school hours and on school property.

The issue goes to my first enumerated step in the story: They are giving this to a captive audience over the public address system as agents of the school. The school – and its agents – cannot advocate a religious belief. Therefore, the students saying “God Bless America” over the loudspeakers to a captive audience as part of the morning announcements is illegal.

Another part of the comments are people screaming about the “atheist students” and how they feared reprisal, and how they should have just come forward on their own. Um, this is high school. Do you really want to be even more of a pariah if, say, you’re the person already with few friends, and it’s the school’s prize quarterback who’s the one saying this in the announcements? Really?

And, I can personally relate: In my elementary school (grades 3-5), we were allowed, two at a time, for fifth graders, to go to the office in the morning and read the Pledge of Allegiance over the loudspeakers. Like good little minions, everyone in their homerooms would stand and recite it along with us.

I was fairly atheistic from a young age. I would say the pledge (I stopped in high school, for which I got bullied even by friends for not saying it when everyone else would during assemblies), but I would remain silent during the “under God” part. I was going to skip over it when I read it to the school. But even I, who already at that age didn’t have too many friends to lose anyway, chickened out and just read it as I was “supposed to.” Though because I didn’t chicken out until literally the word before it, I tripped up anyway and instead of a proud statement of church-state separation, I just was laughed at because I stumbled over several words in front of the entire school. The girl who did it with me (since it was boy-girl pairs) just shook her head, and the secretaries administrative staff looked at me with pity.

Sometimes school sucks. Trying to make a political, religious, or a-religious statement – even if you’re in the right – can make you a social pariah right at that age where you’re trying to figure out who you are, what your values are, and just fit in.

I was waiting for this one since I read it on the Raw Story site earlier today: “Oregon Officials Rip Fox Contributor Todd Starnes for ‘False’ Reporting on Anti-Gay Bakery.”

The story on WND is found in Michael Brown’s “It’s High Time to Push Back Against Gay Activism.” Oh, and it specifically contradicts the actual potential fine reported yesterday by WND in “Bakery to Pay Same-Sex Couple Up to $150,000.”

The real story is this:

A state agency in Oregon called out the Fox News contributor’s erroneous reporting on a discrimination complaint filed by a same-sex couple who were denied service by a bakery.

The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries found Monday that Sweet Cakes by Melissa violated the state’s anti-discrimination law because it is not a registered religious institution.

The Portland bakery’s owners might be ordered to pay fines up to $75,000 to the women – but Starnes got some facts exactly wrong in his Fox News report, “Christian bakers face government wrath for refusing to make cake for gay wedding.”

Starnes incorrectly reported that bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein could face $200,000 in fines and damages – which an official with the BOLI flatly denied in a statement to Media Matters.

“Todd Starnes is writing that the bakery owners face fines of up to $200,000 in damages. That’s false,” said Charlie Burr, the agency’s communications director. “In fact, it’s the Kleins who have asked for $200,000 in damages from our agency for our enforcement of the Equality Act.”

An administrative judge rejected the couple’s request to dismiss the case and award them damages, court costs, and attorneys fees.

In other words, Starnes reported that the bakers were getting fined $200k, when in fact that was what THEY were trying to sue for. They may be fined up to $75k for each person they discriminated against, for their discrimination was ruled to be illegal because they violated the non-discrimination rules in their city/state.

Michael Brown, however, missed the memo:

On Tuesday, it was announced that “An Oregon administrative law judge ruled on Jan. 29 that the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa did, in fact, discriminate in 2013 when they declined to provide a wedding cake for a lesbian couple because it would have violated their Christian beliefs against same-sex marriage.”

The bakers could potentially be fined $200,000 for holding to their Christian convictions. $200,000!

I don’t think anything more needs to be said about this.

But, comments, well … it’s a bit early to judge what may happen, but as I write this, there are 7 comments. The top-rated is by “MichaelVWilson” and he wrote this diatribe:

Push back. How nice. What a bland, unimaginative, inoffensive phrase.

As an ex-Marine I’m a little more direct in my approach. 50 men, 25 with rifles to act as guards; 25 with sledge hammers as the wrecking crew. Go to a homosexual bar or bathhouse, destroy it with the sledge hammers, find a second homosexual business, rinse and repeat until none are left.

Christians are in a war against evil. Let’s act like it!

Can someone please, please tell me how this is any different from what many über-conservative, right-wing Christians in American argue against in terms of Islamic jihad? This man is literally calling for Armed Christian Soldiers to destroy property owned by people they disagree with for religious reasons, or operated along an ideology they disagree with for religious reasons. The only difference I see in this particular comment is that he does not seem to be advocating violence to people, only their property. Though the rifles and sledgehammers make me wonder what would happen if someone tried to block them.

The only kind voice currently has zero up-votes, by “RichardMcCarthy”: “Yes, indeed! Jesus did say “Push back!” Or, maybe, He forgot to say that? I’m pretty sure He did say “Love one another” – including your enemies and fellow sinners as He loved us (not so that they know they’re going to Hell).”

This one doesn’t quite make it into my “Fake News that WND Posts” series because the story itself is real. It’s the spin that’s not. In this case, Joe Kovacs wrote on December 2, 2014, “Disney Goes Goofy Over Mention of ‘God.'”

To make a long, blown way out of proportion story short, Disney lets people given input on their website of “What’s your favorite thing about the holidays?” (Notice another “issue” there: They don’t say Christmas!) When young Lilly Anderson tried to write, “God, my family, my church and my friends,” Disney’s automated form flagged the word “God” and said, “Please be nice!” without further elaboration.

Cue the Christian Persecution complex! Of course, instead of reaching out to Disney, the mother, Julie Anderson, took her crusade straight to Fox “news” where Todd Starnes, perpetual exaggerator (or maker-upper) of Christian Persecution, was more than happy to take on the case.

The mother and daughter even got to be on “Fox & Friends” that Tuesday morning to talk about it, while the tag line at the bottom of the screen read, “WHY DID DISNEY BLOCK GOD?”

For a very good reason, as Kyle Mantyla explained in Right Wing Watch’s “Todd Starnes: Wrong Again” on December 3, had the statement from Disney:

“Disney employs word filtering technology to prevent profanity from appearing on our websites. Unfortunately, because so many people attempt to abuse the system and use the word “God” in conjunction with profanity, in an abundance of caution our system is forced to catch and prevent any use of the word on our websites. The company would have been happy to explain our filtering technology to the inquiring family had they contacted us.”

Disney would’ve been happy to explain that had they been asked. Obviously, since they would like to avoid negative publicity. But no, instead, the Good Christian Soldiers soldiered to Fox to present their case instead:

Disney certainly seems to be implying that thanking God is not nice. Well, neither is blocking the Almighty from a website.

Julie said her daughter is a very loving and accepting child who was raised to understand that not everyone believes in God.

“We’ve always told her that inevitably there would come a day when she would be discriminated against for her faith but we never thought Disney would be the source,” she said.

Had Todd Starnes been any kind of journalist with any sort of integrity, he would’ve attempted to contact Disney about it before publishing his story. But, that would’ve interfered with what he was trying to sell. And, the über-conservatives wouldn’t’ve bought it anyway because, of course, the 903 comments on the WND post predominantly ignore the official explanation and call Disney liars, such as top-rated comment by “pablof:”

I’m a software developer and I can tell you that Disney’s answer regarding the word “God” and profanity etc. is pure BS.

Software can easily filter out the profane use of “God ****” and the singular use of the word for “God”.


Todd Starnes tweets with the mentality of an 8-year-old. He writes fake stories about Christians being persecuted — not the normal ones where they seem to be persecuted because their special rights are being reverted to normal rights, but stories where he actually makes things up. And now, he has a book about it.

Not about how he makes things up, but about his made up stories that he says are true. And, given that this is Part 6 of how WND publishes fake news stories from FOX, you can probably guess at this point that WND is supporting Todd Starnes in his latest endeavor with their own misleading headline: “You Christian? You’re Targeted,” by Paul Bremmer (published August 15, 2014).

On its face, the claim that 73% of the United States is somehow targeted is fairly laughable. I suppose it’s possible, but you’d need to provide a lot of evidence for it. Real evidence. As in, when a religious right leader has to cite three (debunked) stories of Christian persecution as evidence that Christians are being persecuted in America, it’s kinda sad. And not good evidence.

Among Todd’s made up claims are his jinned-up claims, the ones that he embellishes rather than just makes completely up:

Other attacks on Christianity routinely are reported: The condemnation of prayer in public meetings, the removal of Ten Commandments images from public places, the banishment of Nativity scenes, and memorial crosses. Schools that remove Christian references from music or art programs. Bans on Christians meeting in homes. And more.

FYI on that last one — it was a case where a pastor was holding a church in his home but the zoning was wrong for it, so the county said he couldn’t hold his church in his home, he had to actually get a permit. I think he was also trying to claim tax deductions because of it. (—See? these things always have another side to them.)

Besides my general indignation about this phenomenon about Christians complaining about persecution simply because their special rights are being taken away so that they’re equal with everyone else, I think this really does a significant disservice: Christians really are being persecuted in other parts of the world. Not in the sense that their special, elevated rights are being taken away, but that their human rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are being taken away. Including their life.

And it’s not as though WND writers are ignorant of this. They report it often, that a Christian in Africa or the Middle East (usually) was killed for their beliefs, including a story just a few days after this one: “Obama ‘Plays Politics’ with Christian Persecution.” It’s a story that underlines people being sentenced to death for their Christian faith in the Middle East.

That is Christian persecution, and I’d argue that it’s the religious “right” in America that are really the ones playing politics with Christian persecution, since they’re the ones who make a stink about all these things like nativity scenes in America but stay silent on Christians being killed in Muslim countries. The crybaby mentality of American Christians complaining about how they can no longer pray at a public meeting unless they let all other religions and non-religions offer prayers or statements, too, minimizes and takes away from the plight of people elsewhere who really are being persecuted and killed for their beliefs. It also shows the hypocrisy and childish attitude of these people.

Is that what Jesus would want?

After a search of my blog, this is the fifth story from Todd Starnes of FOX “News” that is fake, and yet WND has posted it as though it were real. The story this time is, “School: You Can’t Celebrate America.”

See folks, this is why critical thinking is important: This story smells fishy. It seems wrong. And when you read the three-paragraph excerpt, more red flags are raised … just kinda hairs on the back of your neck thinking, “this seems off to me.”

Students and parents at a Colorado high school are outraged after administrators turned down their request for a spirit week day honoring America because it might offend non-Americans.

“They said they didn’t want to offend anyone from other countries or immigrants,” a 16-year-old member of the student council told me. “They just really did not want to make anyone feel uncomfortable.”

The student council at Fort Collins High School had proposed having a day to celebrate the United States during next week’s Winter Spirit Week. The young people pitched “’Merica Monday” – and invited their classmates to dress in patriotic colors. Their proposal was promptly shot down by administrators.

The story was copied to WND on February 4, 2014. That same day, Right Wing Watch posted explaining, “Another School District Forced to Clarify Todd Starnes’ Misinformation. The school district issued a statement explaining that Starnes was lying (the column “could not be further from the truth”). Here is their statement:

We regret that the recent decision regarding My Country Monday was viewed as not patriotic. This could not be further from the truth. The original intent of Spirit Week at Fort Collins High School was to unify the student body.

When students first proposed Merica Monday, building administrators felt that it was against this unifying theme and disrespectful to our country. Merica is a slang term that is often used in a negative, stereotypical way to describe life in the United States. This is what led administrators to discuss alternatives with students.

We were surprised that our community interpreted these actions as anti-American. Fort Collins High School is a proud public school in America and supports many activities to celebrate this great nation. Due to this outpouring of sentiment and misinterpretation of intentions, school administrators have decided to rename the first day of Spirit Week America Day as opposed to Merica Day.

We look forward to enjoying the creativity and energy of FCHS students as they celebrate their patriotism next week.

Right Wing Watch also helpfully points out that Starnes has assured us that he is “sharing with [us] accurate information.” Un huh.

Now, some time between Feb. 16 and Feb. 18, WND took down its article rating system, so I can’t tell you anymore how much WND readers liked or disliked the snippet. I can tell you that it’s only gotten about 69 comments so far, pretty much all of them lamenting the downfall of America to the new politically correct.

I lament the downfall of America due to the idiots making things up and getting people in a tizzy over it. And idiots in general.

Let’s get right to Right Wing Watch’s story about this: Another Religious Right Tale Of Anti-Christian Victimization Gets Thoroughly Debunked. They give the short version, I’ll try to give the short-short version: Six-year-old child was doing a “sharing” (public speaking) exercise in school, allegedly was told by the teacher she couldn’t talk about the Bible, Christians got outraged in typical Christian Love™ fashion. Except, as RWW points out, the entire victimization story is made up (but happily promoted by serial maker-upper Todd Starnes of FOX “news”).

Granted, this revelation that it was made up came to light on January 21. RWW blogged about it on January 29. WND’s article by Bob Unruh on it came out January 14 (“District Bullies Students Over Faith – Again” — This is labeled a “WND Exclusive” despite it being reported all over Tea Bagistan). I have yet to see any WND retraction.

If for some reason you want to read Bob’s article, you’ll find a whole lot of (un)righteous indignation. Lots of blustering, also, by the legal team at Advocates for Faith & Freedom, including quotes by their general counsel, Robert Tyler, such as, “The disapproval and hostility that Christian students have come to experience in our nation’s public schools has become epidemic.”

The article served its purpose, however, and it garnered 54 ratings (4.80/5 average) and a decent 91 comments. It’s not worth going through the comments, they’re not that unusual for WND.

Let’s start with The Friendly Atheist, who on December 7, 2013, posted, “Todd Starnes of Fox News Lies Again: A Texas School Did Not Ban Christmas Trees and the Colors Red & Green.” For those who aren’t in the know, Todd Starnes is one of FOX’s über-Christians who is happy to fake stories – or at least bend the facts – to generate indignation. Hemant over at TFA even starts his post with: “I think this is the third fake story “reported” by Fox News’ Todd Starnes in the past two weeks. But I could be wrong since I’ve only read three of his stories in the past two weeks.”

Not an auspicious beginning. Starns wrote:

Boys and girls who attend the Nichols Elementary School “Winter Party” will not be able to make any reference to Christmas or any other religious holiday. Christmas trees are also banned — along with the colors red and green.

At the risk of over-quoting from TFA, I’m going to over-quote:

The Frisco Independent School District issued a statement on Thursday completely contradicting Starnes’ lies:

An unfortunate misunderstanding regarding an email that was sent by a room mom has unfairly portrayed a school and the Frisco ISD as having violated the “Merry Christmas Law.” This is simply incorrect.

The email being referenced was not an official PTA email nor was the school aware of it being sent. The email that was sent by the room mom was sent two weeks before the party planning meeting had even been held. At the party planning meeting held on November 19, prior to any knowledge of the email, the school leaders went over the new law as part of the meeting. Please understand, there has never been a ban on what is worn, what is said, or what is brought to the party…

When the email was forwarded to Mr. Fallon stating no red or green or Christmas trees and no reference to Christmas or another religious holiday, he sent a letter to our Superintendent regarding the law. Our Superintendent called him and assured him these were not our rules. We are still unsure of why the campus and District’s position was misunderstood and why there is the feeling that there is some sort of ban of items or greetings regarding the winter holiday parties at that school.

I can explain the misunderstanding: You see, Starnes is desperate to promote the fake “War on Christmas” and since he can’t find actual stories of people discriminating against Christians, he just makes shit up. It’s Fox News, not the New Yorker.

So, Starnes was wrong. The school district states this unequivocally with, “This is simply incorrect.”

Of course, WND was more than happy to pick up the fake news story and print it with no update, no checking, no follow-through, no-nuttin’, for the readers to get worked up about, just as Starnes did: “School Bans Christmas Trees, Colors Red and Green.”

And, worked up, they did get. 12 ratings for a 3.33/5 average, but 53 comments. The highest-rated is from “disqus_IlLmcj7Ll3” with 19 up-votes and zero down-votes: “Fire the Principle………problem solved.” Yeah, sure, fire the principal if it was actually the principal’s policy and it was real. But, similar sentiment was espoused by several other commenters. Again, uncritically, unthinking, just … indignant.

“kingdad” perhaps hit the proverbial nail on the head with the intent of the article, pointing out that this is an “attack on Christianity!” After all, ’tis the Christmas season so ’tis the time to claim that there is a War on Christmas.

To be fair, at least one person tried to point out that the story was fake. “Capdragon” got 3 up-votes and 2 down-votes for his trouble: “Todd Starnes is full of it. The story isn’t true, it’s been explained and the school has told Starnes AND Fox news the facts of the matter. But, as the facts don’t fit Starnes and Palins “War on Xmas” narrative, they are being denied.” No one responded. “Suzy” did the same thing, and she also got down-voted for it.

It was the fake news story that no one bothered to check.

On October 15, WND put up an article to FOX “news” under the headline, “Army Defines Christian Ministry as ‘Hate Group.’” The subject line says it all, though the article contained the eyebrow-raising (for anyone who knows about the AFA) line, “the American Family Association, a well-respected Christian ministry, should be classified as a domestic hate group because the group advocates for traditional family values.” On WND, it got 18 ratings (4.44/5 stars) and 71 mostly outraged comments, including “JimmyScruton” claiming, “Obama was born in Hell.”

On October 16, WND’s Bob Unruh wrote, “Obama’s War on Christians: AFA Called ‘Hate Group.’” There are numerous quotes from Bryan Fisher, AFA loud-mouth bigoted spokesman. To quote a few paragraphs from WND:

Now, a report by Todd Starnes of Fox News Radio reveals U.S. Army soldiers at a Mississippi base were being instructed that the American Family Association is a “hate group.”

Responding to the report, AFA places the blame at the top of the military food chain.

Brian Fischer, the AFA’s director of issues analysis, told WND the government’s hostility is rooted entirely in the groups’ opposition to same-sex marriage and open homosexuality in the military. AFA also asserts that the Obama administration is using the list of “hate groups” compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a radical leftist group.

“If our military wasn’t headed by a commander in chief who is hostile to Christian faith, these allegations would be laughed off every military base in the world,” he said.

Fischer said the act of linking the organization to hate simply because it adheres to biblical teachings about homosexuality is unjustified.

“The truth is that AFA doesn’t hate anyone. We love everybody. We love homosexuals enough to tell them the truth about the moral, spiritual and physical dangers of homosexual conduct,” he wrote in a commentary on the exploding controversy.

“Our first commander in chief, George Washington, was flatly opposed to the normalization of homosexuality in the military, dismissing two soldiers who were caught in the act. And his language was quite strong. Referring to the ‘attempt to commit sodomy,’ Washington expressed ‘abhorrence and detestation of such infamous crimes.’”

The article goes on with more “evidence” that the Christian minority is being oppressed. The article got 16 ratings (4.50/5 average), and it has garnered 61 comments including a top-rated one by “2soon2b4got10” who wrote in part, “Christianity has been outlawed. But all Muslim prisoners have a Koran and a prayer rug bought and paid for by the us [sic], the American taxpayers.”

And then, October 17, WND wrote, “Army Retreats in Fight with American Family Association.” To quote:

As WND reported Tuesday, a soldier at a Mississippi base presented evidence to media that an Army presenter at a briefing identified AFA as a “hate group,” because of its stance on homosexuality and marriage, according Fox News Radio’s Todd Starnes. Army spokesman George Wright confessed the information was “acquired from an Internet search.”

Wright said the information about AFA “did not come from official Army sources, nor was it approved by senior Army leaders, senior equal opportunity counselors or judge-advocate personnel.”

Despite the article being incredibly long, in typical WND style, there is very little else about this particular subject.

So, while we’re on it, let’s take a few moments to review some of what the American Family Association does and stands for. We can start by pointing out that the AFA had their radio host, Sandy Rios, at the “Values Voter Summit” that was held over the past week. To quote from Right Wing Watch:

The former Concerned Women for America president is now a radio talk show host on American Family Radio, the network led by the American Family Association. Like other AFA hosts, she promotes right-wing conspiracy theories, including claims that Obama was not born in America and is actually from Kenya, resettled thousands of Palestinian refugees in the US and exempted Muslim-Americans from Obamacare. Rios will be a good fit for the anti-gay conference as she:

  • Compared same-sex couples to the relationships kidnapper Ariel Castro had with his captives.
  • Warned the “homosexual takeover” of the military will jeopardize the effectiveness of the military.

Besides Sandy Rios, it’s perhaps Bryan Fisher who’s the loudest voice coming out of the American Family Association. Among other things, he has claimed:

And those are all just since September of this year. A month and a half.

We can also look at Todd Starnes, the FOX reporter who originally posted the story. Again, quoting from Right Wing Watch:

Fox News commentator Todd Starnes has become notorious for filing false reports based on right-wing conspiracy theories, which of course makes him a favorite “journalist” among conservative activists. Starnes has also:

  • Said that defeats for anti-gay activists are a sign of “the end of days.”

So, with these in mind, how would you classify the American Family Association? In my personal opinion, “hate group” sounds about right.

Edited to Add (October 26, 2013): WND is still going for this story, this time with another FOX news piece they headlined, “Army: Christians, Tea Party ‘Radical’ Threat.”