Harry Knox under attack over White House council

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When anti-gay religious groups spew venom and criticize someone for being hateful, the irony gets a bit thick.

That’s the case with Harry Knox, the part-time Atlanta resident (and longtime gay activist) who was appointed last month to the advisory council for the White House Office of Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships. Now, a long-list of conservative and religious groups — many of which have histories of being anti-gay — are up in arms over the appointment and sent President Obama a letter describing Knox as “a virulent anti-Catholic bigot” who should be dropped from the council.

We do not know if you or members of your Administration were aware of Knox’s deplorable, abusive attitude towards the Church and Pope Benedict XVI when you named him to the Council. We assume you were not. But since then, there have been numerous press reports on Knox’s loathsome, and clearly bigoted rhetoric, so there no longer is any excuse for your failure to act. We can remain silent no longer.

Knox also came under fire Thursday from House Minority Leader John Boehner during a press conference carried live by CNN. When asked about Knox, Boehner called on colleagues in Congress to stand with him in opposition to the appointment.

“Considering his anti-Catholic rhetoric over the years, it is inappropriate and I would hope more members of Congress would raise objections as well,” said Boehner, who has also signed the letter to Obama.

The statement came as conservative Catholic activists are launching a campaign to remove Knox from the advisory council. Much of the animus seems to come from Knox’s recent comments about Pope Benedict XVI’s statements concerning the use of condoms not impacting the spread of HIV/AIDS and other criticisms of anti-gay church positions.

The groups say that Harry Knox, director of the religion and faith program at the Human Rights Campaign—the nation’s largest gay rights group—has a paper trail of anti-Catholic statements.

The activists, including the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue, the Family Research Council’s Chuck Donovan, and the Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell, hosted a conference call this morning and released a letter to President Obama demanding that Knox be booted.

Supporters of Knox are also speaking out, including Jeremy Hooper from the blog Good as You, Candace Gingrinch and the Human Rights Campaign. Hooper wrote his own letter calling Knox “a valiant opponent of bigotry,” which better matches his track record at Georgia Equality and HRC.

Harry Knox has a noble objective, which is to serve as an antithesis to the sometimes outwardly hate-filled, sometimes casually biased mindsets that have kept LGBT people unequal and vulnerable. Knox is a valiant opponent of bigotry, and has offered numerous guileful and honest criticisms of those policies that he sees as going against what the Church and Holy Father should be suggesting to the world. Not only does he have business on any Council having to do with faith or religion — it’s imperative that inclusive voices like that of Harry Knox are allowed to challenge those who brazenly suggest that they have all the answers, and that those answers are above questioning or reproach.

HRC spokesperson Brad Luna has this to say about Knox:

“Harry Knox is one of the most loving, generous souls whose faith and commitment to religious diversity is unparalleled. These critics are engaging in divisive political games that at the end of the day do nothing to reduce abortions, foster healthy families, and promote responsible fatherhood, issues Harry cares deeply about.”

Gingrich, the lesbian half-sister of the former House Speaker, came to Knox’s defense last month after Newt slammed him as “an anti-religious, left-wing zealot.”

Knox also recently discussed the workings of the council in an interview with Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. Watch the video.

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