Lies from the Religious Right Target Abortion and Equality

by Dan Quinn

Faith leaders teach that lying is a sin. So why do religious-righters distort the truth so shamelessly in pushing their extreme political agenda? You can see at least two big examples in Texas right now.

One of the biggest falsehoods religious-right groups are pushing right now is the claim that Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood to help exterminate the African-American population through abortion and other methods. Today the right-wing Texas Pastor Council, a political front group run by odious hate-monger Dave Welch, tweeted a partial quote from Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger:

“We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.”

We won’t help spread this nonsense by posting the full tweet here, but you can see it at the link above. The tweet includes a photograph and a phone number activists can call to demand that the Smithsonian Institution remove a bust of Sanger.

But wait. Did Sanger want to exterminate African Americans? Of course not. And PolitiFact has already debunked that claim as a ridiculous lie. It did so more than four years ago when checking a similar claim from Herman Cain, then a Republican presidential candidate. Cain had claimed that Planned Parenthood was guilty of genocide for planning to “kill black babies before they came into the world.” PolitiFact investigated the evidence and ruled Cain’s comment as a “Pants on Fire” lie.

The PolitiFact article even looked at the quote the Texas Pastor Council is pushing in today’s tweet. From PolitiFact:

Those who think Sanger wanted black genocide cite the Negro Project. But even their strongest evidence, a passage from a letter she wrote advocating that organizers recruit black ministers for the project, does not come close to proving a genocidal plot.

Sanger wrote that “We don’t want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs.”

But her correspondence shows this sentence advocates for black doctors and ministers to play leadership roles in the Negro Project to avoid misunderstandings. Lynchings and Jim Crow laws gave blacks good reason to be wary of attempts to limit the number of children they bore. In Harlem, she hired a black doctor and social worker to quell those fears.

The facts of the Negro Project suggest nothing more genocidal than a public health project. Black leaders DuBois and Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of the National Council of Negro Women, and the pastor of the influential black Abyssinian Baptist Church were members of its advisory council. First lady Eleanor Roosevelt was supportive.

For Sanger to launch a genocidal plot behind their backs and leave no true evidence in her numerous writings would require powers just shy of witchcraft.

Really, calling the Negro Project a genocidal plot defies common sense. Why would Sanger try to destroy a race of people by giving them access to the very thing she thought could make life better?

So the Texas Pastor Council — which includes folks who surely know that lying is a sin — purposely failed to include the full quote from Sanger and the context for that quote. Pants on fire, indeed.

But the mistruths don’t end there. Welch and his Texas Pastor Council are also leading the effort to repeal Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). They’ve based their campaign on another distortion: that the ordinance will allow men to go in to public restrooms to assault women and girls. But two years ago PolitiFact ruled that the same claims about San Antonio’s similar Non-Discrimination Ordinance — claims pushed by Welch’s religious-right buddy Jonathan Saenz of the far-right group Texas Values, an affiliate of Focus on the Family — were plainly false.

That won’t stop Welch and his cronies from pushing the same falsehood in Houston, of course. Their entire campaign is based on misleading voters to promote fear, hate and the freedom to discriminate. One could say that their campaign offers a pretty good case for why the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance is a good law. Click here to learn more about defending HERO.

HERO and similar measures protect everyone against discrimination, regardless of race, sex, age, military status, sexual orientation, gender identity and other characteristics. Opposing discrimination and treating everyone as equal under the law represent core American values. But religious-right activists challenge that value — and want to further restrict women’s access to abortion and other reproductive health care services — with an avalanche of lies.