Religious right group issued cease-and-desist letter for alleged defamatory claims
This morning, GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) issued a cease-and-desist letter via its attorneys to the Family Research Council "demanding that FRC cease distribution and publication of a video clip containing false and defamatory statements about GLSEN, as well as any other similar false and defamatory statements that may be contained in a longer video associated with that video clip."
The cease-and-desist letter has to do with the video below in which Tony Perkins, head of FRC, and Brian Camenker, head of the Massachusetts anti-gay group Mass Resistance claimed that GLSEN and the Massachusetts Public Schools distributed an explicit safe-sex guide called The Little Black Book to fifth to ninth graders at a conference in 2005:
But this claim has been debunked several times. Most specifically, the group Media Matters conducted a detailed debunking of this claim in December 2009.
In a May 19, 2005, article, The Boston Globe reported:
Fenway Community Health officials yesterday said they left about 10 copies of the ''Little Black Book" on an informational table they rented at a conference sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network of Boston. The annual event, held on April 30 at Brookline High School, was aimed at high school students, educators, counselors, administrators, and parents. The ''Little Black Book," produced by the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, is targeted at 18-and-older gay men, according to the committee. The book uses vivid descriptions and colloquial terms to describe the ways HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases can be prevented and spread.
A Fenway Community Health employee brought the pamphlets along with other materials and put them on the table by mistake, said Chris Viveiros, a spokesman for Fenway Community Health.
''Fenway Community Health regrets accidentally making available a small number of copies of the Little Black Book, an HIV-prevention publication for gay and bisexual men over the age of 18, at an event where young people were present," said Dr. Stephen Boswell, Fenway Community Health's president and CEO.
From the Globe article:
Sean Haley, executive director of the education network (GLSEN), which sponsored the conference, added: ''We have very clear policies that sexually explicit material of any kind will not be made available at the conference. Had I seen the book, I would have asked them to put it away."
At the start of the event, Haley said, network officials scanned each of the 10 tables it had rented, for $35 apiece, to outside groups. He said nobody saw the pamphlet at the time. ''We're just going to have to be more rigorous in our review of materials," he said.
Haley said that about 500 people attended the conference, roughly half of them students. He said only ''a handful" were younger than high-school aged.
On May 18, 2005, WHDH 7News Boston's Sean Hennessey reported that Brookline Superintendent of Schools William H. Lupini says that "none of his students, he believes, took the [Fenway] book home."
In its cease-and-desist letter, GLSEN said the following:
The false statements in the FRC video can do real and lasting harm to our work. FRC has made those false and defamatory statements in an obvious effort to raise money, undermine GLSEN’s work and maintain the status quo: school systems where LGBT students face unacceptable levels of harassment and violence and where anti-LGBT bias is a weapon of choice for bullies. We must respond forcefully and aggressively to defend our ability to fulfill our mission, and to protect ourselves and our partners in this critical work – the countless people in school communities across the country who work with GLSEN and our chapters to ensure safe and affirming schools for all students, utilizing our resources, attending our trainings, advocating with us for urgently needed change to make a positive difference in schools.
Both the FRC and Mass Resistance have been designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as anti-gay hate groups due to what SPLC calls an intentional spreading of demonizing propaganda against the gay community and pro-gay organizations.