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Christian Right Insiders Reveal Racism, Virulent Anti-Immigrant Attitudes and Homophobia in Prominent Religious Group

"I'd much rather be working in the secular world than for a ministry," said the founder's former secretary, still a conservative and devout Christian. "The secular world is nicer."

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Since the elder Wildmon passed the presidency on to his son Tim last year, Fischer has increasingly grabbed the spotlight. According to Allie Martin, who worked as a reporter for AFA's news service from 1997 until he was fired earlier this year, "there's really nobody else there who could step into that role."

"On paper," Martin said, "Tim is in charge," and is probably the "only person who could reel him [Fischer] in." But that hasn’t happened.

Within the organization, "people may not be comfortable" with Fischer’s rhetoric, said Martin, "but they aren't going to say much about it. They are afraid to say anything about it."

"Puppies In The Corner Who Learned to Keep Our Mouths Shut"

Martha Swindle, who worked as the elder Wildmon’s secretary from 1991 until 1999, when he fired her, said that he was perceived by donors to be a "great conservative leader," and that, "while I was there, the majority of funding came from $10 and $15 donations, people who believed in what AFA stood for." Swindle, too, believed in that vision, until Wildmon started "snooping" through her desk drawers and even her trash, she believes, ultimately firing her after another employee had found an off-color joke email she had forwarded to co-workers, an act she says she now regrets.

In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson for the AFA said it was the organization's policy "not to discuss issues regarding specific former employees."

Swindle had initially believed in the AFA's mission. "I believe God used him for his vision for the ministry," she said, adding that she is a conservative who supports Focus on the Family and similar ministries, "because I do believe in that vision."

Swindle said she still supports what the AFA stands for. "But by the time I left, it was no longer God's ministry. It had become Don's ministry."

Brad Bullock, who worked for the organization for 17 years spearheading the launch of the radio station and producing the daily radio report, was forced out 3 years ago. He said he admired Wildmon and considered him a friend, but that in dismissing him, Wildmon told him, "you have a problem and you don't know it."

Bullock said the group is "too harsh on homosexuals," though if anyone voiced concerns, "they would be attacked." He described the leadership as "autocratic" and tolerant of petty gossip among employees, like spreading rumors about employees having extra-marital affairs with one another.

Bullock added that Wildmon "chastised" people for taking anti-depressants, and that "a lot of people who had problems felt like they were second class," including Bullock, who said that he suffered from depression while working at the AFA. Employees were fearful of speaking out, according to Bullock. "We were puppies in the corner who learned to keep out mouths shut."

Inside the One News Now Newsroom

The AFA's radio and news division, in particular, said Martin, had become a place where authority could not be questioned, and where the "news" was nothing more than a mouthpiece for conservative "sources" whose views were portrayed as fact. (The Values Voter Summit award citation to Wildmon described One News Now as a "respected online news service.")

And those views were extreme, even by Martin’s standards of conservative evangelicalism. He said that the director of the news service, Fred Jackson, had a "hateful, hateful attitude" that "carried over" into stories. Martin described editorial meetings in which "liberals were accused of hating their kids," while Chad Groening, who covers immigration, described gay people as "degenerates" and "reprobates."