NPR's Sham: 'Conservatives' Lead Fight for Gay Agenda In Small Michigan City

Would NPR or other liberal outlets ever suggest liberals were leading the fight for tax cuts for the rich? But on Saturday night’s All Things Considered, substitute host Laura Sullivan announced “In the small tourist town of Holland, Michigan, an unlikely group of religious leaders and conservatives are leading the fight for gay rights.”

But the star of reporter Lindsey Smith’s piece was not a conservative, but Rev. Bill Freeman, whose own website boasts “He has marched for world peace, lobbied Congress to pass the Hate Crimes Law, lobbied the state legislature to pass anti-bullying legislation and been arrested for civil disobedience in his support of gay rights.” When a liberal pushes a liberal cause, why can't NPR be honest?

It could be argued Freeman isn’t a “religious leader” at all. While he boasts of presiding at weddings of all gender combinations and “divorce ceremonies” as well, his “Theology” page professes no creed at all: “We believe in the capacity of people to think for themselves, to make sense of their own lives, to decide their own theology; to be ruled by reason and guided by conscience, always leaving room for the possibility that the whole of existence is greater than the collective knowledge of humankind.”

If that's "religious," it is very much on the liberal "believe whatever you want" wavelength. In fact, Freeman is also the town's pastor of the Unitarian Universalists, which describe him as leading a "liberal church." (He also hosts a weekly show on progressive "Public Reality Radio.")

So it's beyond odd -- it's just dishonest -- to cast Freeman as the star of this "unlikely" campaign by the allegedly “conservative” advocates:

LINDSEY SMITH: It's Wednesday night, the first Holland City Council meeting of the month. Holland Pastor Bill Freeman approaches the microphone for a public comment.

REVEREND BILL FREEMAN: OK. I come before you again - I know I sound like a broken record.

SMITH: Freeman is pushing Holland to adopt local laws that would protect people from getting fired or kicked out of their homes because they are gay, bisexual or transgender. Federal and Michigan laws protect residents from discrimination, but not based on a person's sexuality or gender identity. Freeman is not gay. He's married with kids.

FREEMAN: I think the only thing that might get them to change their mind is national attention. Not the kind of attention that a city like Holland would like to have when holidays come up and tulip time comes up.

Freeman can count on liberal media outlets like NPR (and then The Huffington Post) to bring intimidating “shame” to Holland, Michigan and press them to pass the social-liberal wish list, all the while presenting the sham that it’s led by “conservatives.” Freeman is the story's end as well as its beginning:

SMITH: Meanwhile, Holland Pastor Bill Freeman faces a $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail because he refused to leave Holland City Hall after a council meeting last month.

FREEMAN: I'm an eternal optimist. I mean, I stay around till the end of these meetings hoping that somebody will say: 'You know, Freeman makes a good point. I'll change my vote.' Whether I'll be giving up more than just my Wednesday evenings will be up to the judge, I suppose.

SMITH: Freeman's attorney advised him against saying whether he plans to hold another sit-in at Holland City Hall. But he says if he does, this time, he won't be alone. For NPR News, I'm Lindsey Smith.

In between Freeman's soundbites were three other local voices. Only one represented the real conservatives. Holland landlord Polly Cohen asserted "The fact of the matter is, as a landowner, as a business owner, you also have rights. I have the right to say, I don't want a smoker living in my duplex."

Then we learn of "Republicans" pushing "love is equal" crusades like Pat Eldean:

SMITH: This kind of comment [Cohen's] doesn't surprise Pat Eldean. She and her husband have lived here for close to 40 years. She's a Republican and a business owner. She's put up a sign in front of her restaurant showing her support for the effort.

PAT ELDEAN: I think we lose business for various reasons. And if I did, so be it. But this is how I believe. This is my core value, is equality.

SMITH: The Piper Restaurant even hosted a fundraising gala last month for a new organization that's pushing city council members to change their vote. The group is known as Until Love is Equal. It was founded by Erin Wilson. He lives in Grand Rapids with his wife and three kids.

ERIN WILSON: There are economic concerns for West Michigan like attracting and retaining youth, customers coming here and feeling good about spending their money here. So we've got an image problem, and it traces back to a very small number of people who've got loud voices, who are clouding and murking up the water for the rest of us, and that's why we're here.

But apparently the "very small number of people" with "loud voices" win at the City Council...and can barely be noticed by NPR.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis