Contrary to what many believe about those of us who work in “The Media,” we don’t make up the news. That’s even more true for those of us who are working freelance and for small publications – we don’t have a staff of newshounds who spend their day scouring the internet for every tidbit that comes up, or even a program sending us news alerts.
No, the vast majority of what I write about comes from you, the readers. I’m incredibly grateful to those of you that have reached out to send us tips, screenshots, tidbits, and other information in the hopes of helping us tell a story that is important to our community. You are the backbone of Big Easy Magazine – and I am forever grateful for that.
Earlier this week, a reader sent me a link to a video starring none other than the Saints superstar quarterback Drew Brees. In that video, Mr. Brees encouraged children across the country to participate in “Bring Your Bible To School Day,” in order to live out their Christian values and encourage others to share their faith. At first glance, I saw nothing troublesome about the video, or its content, beyond the fact that I personally find the idea of encouraging children to proselytize distasteful. However, upon closer examination, I saw that the video was posted by Focus On The Family.
My heart sank. As a pansexual member of the LGBTQ+ community, I am well aware of who Focus On The Family is and the agenda that they support. I didn’t want to believe it. In fact, my initial reaction was the same as many of you – to assume that he didn’t know who he was working with.
But I couldn’t let the story go just because of what I wanted to believe. That’s not what I’m here to do. So I researched. Focus on the Family wasn’t mentioned in the video itself, so I went to the website for Bring Your Bible to School Day: bringyourbible.org. It was there that I found that Bring Your Bible isn’t an organization, but an event. And that event is run and promoted by Focus On The Family and the Alliance Defending Freedom.
The Southern Poverty Law Center labels the Alliance Defending Freedom as an active hate group, and has stated that “On Focus’ 47-acre campus in Colorado Springs, some 1,300 employees battle against gay rights, sex education and women’s rights with an enormous annual budget of $130 million.” Their splinter arm, the Family Research Council is also listed as an active hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, though Focus On The Family itself is not.
There are some who have claimed that Focus on the Family does not support conversion therapy, however, a quick Google search can clear that up. In 1998, Focus on the Family formed Love Won Out, an ex-gay ministry. According to Wikipedia:
Love Won Out’s stated objective was to help men and women “who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions”, believing that “same-sex attractions can be overcome”, and asserting that “there are no conclusive studies supporting any specific biological or genetic cause for homosexuality”.
Love Won Out was known for collaborating with the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, an organization that promotes and practices conversion therapy in an attempt to change the sexual orientation of those who identify as LGBTQ+.
Upon doing further research, I also found that this isn’t the first time that Mr. Brees had associated with the Focus on the Family organization. In 2010, he appeared on their radio show, a segment that they continue to sell on CD in order to help fund their activities, and in 2015 his family was featured in an article on their website.
But this isn’t the only anti-gay and conversion-therapy advocate that Brees has spoken to and appeared with. In 2012, the Rock Church in San Diego, led by Pastor Miles McPherson held an all-day “ex-gay therapy” (conversion therapy) event. And in 2015, Mr. Brees appeared quite friendly with Pastor McPherson when he chose to appear at the Rock Church:
Having done this research, I presented the information to my publisher, who gave me the go-ahead to write the story. As you know, I did, also sending messages in an attempt to contact Mr. Brees through his Foundation, as well as through the Saints organization so that he could have an opportunity to comment.
On any given day, Big Easy Magazine publishes a number of news stories. The majority of them are not picked up by other news outlets – even when they’re about famous figures. Some pieces, however, like our report on the Mayor of Kenner attempting to ban Nike products, and our coverage of New Orleans’ charter school system do get noticed.
Each outlet that views our story has its own news team. Each outlet has the opportunity to vet the information given in the article and present their own research. Each outlet has the opportunity to either verify or deny the facts as we have presented them. This is what I mean when I say, “I don’t create the news.” I simply report it. When a story resonates, when other news outlets find the information to be true and begin to pick it up, citing Big Easy Magazine as a source, then the story grows. As each outlet adds its own information, the public can become more informed on the facts of an issue. Whether other news outlets find information that we have published valuable enough to share with their readers is beyond my control. Whether the public finds a story I have written valuable enough to share is also beyond my control. I don’t create the news – I simply report it.
I’m not going to apologize for reporting the facts as they are. Mr. Brees stated today that I “made up” a headline in an attempt to get views, clicks, or what have you. That is simply not the case. The headline contained the main facts of the story – Mr. Brees filmed a video in support of an event run by a well-known anti-LGBT organization. That is a fact, and I am not ashamed of reporting it. There is no officially recognized “National Bring Your Bible To School Day,” as Mr. Brees stated at today’s press conference. There is the “Bring Your Bible To School Day” event organized by Focus on the Family and the Alliance Defending Freedom.
I hope that this controversy leads Mr. Brees to end his associations with these hateful, hurtful organizations. I hope that Mr. Brees chooses to issue a real apology to the members of the LGBTQ+ community who have been bullied and hurt by the organizations that he chose to affiliate with.
Jenn Bentley is a freelance journalist and editor whose work has also been featured in publications such as Wander N.O. More, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, Examiner.com, and others. Follow her on Twitter: @JennBentley_