We were wrong

My friend Quinn McKay has helped facilitate several sessions in Sutherland Institute’s Transcend Series. Quinn’s focus is honesty and integrity. Early in each session Quinn invites a member of the audience to stand and asks the person, “Have you ever lied?” Usually, with a bit of nervous context added, the person says, “Of course, I have.” Whereupon Quinn asks the person, “So, do you think it is factual for me to introduce you to others as a liar? – as in, ‘Hey, this is Bob, he’s an admitted liar.’ ” Everyone in the room understands the point Quinn makes.

In his book The Bottom Line on Integrity Quinn quotes author Robert Louis Stevenson, “To tell the truth, rightly understood, is not just to state the true facts, but to convey a true impression.” Quinn adds, “In other words, when I fail to convey a true impression, by whatever means, I am lying.”

I raise this issue because I have been accused of lying about “gay rights,” same-sex relationships and nondiscrimination laws – and through me, Sutherland Institute.

As a part of Sutherland Institute’s First Freedoms campaign, we paid for three television ads speaking generally about nondiscrimination laws. One of the ads mentions the potentially difficult situation for landlords who contract with a religious college to house students – a not-so-subtle reference to Brigham Young University private student housing. The text of the commercial states,

Nondiscrimination laws might sound reasonable. We all care about fairness, and they sound fair. But imagine you’re a landlord, renting to private university students in accordance with the university’s honor code and a young man decides that he wants to live in women’s housing. Those special rights would trump your rights as a landlord and, ultimately, the honor code. How fair is that? We can do better here in Utah. Visit FairtoAll.org for more information.

Late last night (January 29), I saw a comment on Twitter to the effect that the ad is inaccurate – that Senator Urquhart’s nondiscrimination bill would not permit that result. I contested, confidently. As it turned, much to my chagrin, the critic was correct. I knew Urquhart had amended his current bill, SB 100, to exempt “approved” housing that would cover the situation described in the television ad – and I thought he had amended the bill recently. Turns out, the “approved” housing exemption was in last year’s version as well.

I was wrong. I immediately apologized and thanked the critic for pointing it out and mentioned that we would pull that particular ad.

Trust me, I felt awful. I don’t claim to know everything about a lot of things, but I do pride myself in accuracy about what I do know. I felt sick – mostly for me – it’s a pride thing. But we move on. We immediately pulled the ad from You Tube and from our FairToAll.org web site. No problem. The process to pull the ad from airing on television is more complicated[i], but it’s being done.

For my public confession and immediate actions to correct my mistake, I am now a “liar,” at least according to some homosexual activists with a proven record of animus toward me and Sutherland Institute’s work in defense of traditional marriage and the natural family. Here’s what that sounds like:

From @EricEthington: “@paulmero & @SutherlandInst admit they’re lying to Utah about nondiscrimination laws.”

From @EricEthington: “@Brooke4Trib @BenWinslow Did you see Sutherland’s @paulmero admit their pro-discrimination TV ads are false?”

From @TroyWilliams: “@paulmero & @SutherlandInst have no problem lying about LGBT families.”

From @HunnerWoof: “When you can’t win with truth, I guess it’s OK to lie to get your way.”

From @betterutah: “Looks like @SutherlandInst admits anti-lgbt discrimination ads are lies. Think tank? Think not!”

From @EricEthington: “@theleftshow Waiting to hear back. Of course, there’s quite a bit dishonest in ALL of @SutherlandInst’s videos, not just the one.”

From @Jojomewing: “@SutherlandInst @paulmero Stop deceiving Utah!”

From @dhutch24: “Sutherland Institute lied!”

From @FirstRateDrew: “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness. Will you obey this commandment? Or openly defy Him?”

You get the message: “Paul Mero and Sutherland Institute are liars and purposefully ran deceptive television ads – they’re evil and can’t be trusted.” Right?

I know. Consider the sources. They are full of animus.

But what will be interesting to me is how the “mainstream” media might respond. Will it assume these critics filled with animus are correct about my and Sutherland’s motives? Or will it see it for what it is, an error, and let it go – perhaps even give us credit for unhesitatingly admitting the error and making the correction?

I ask because the “mainstream” media sometimes fails, in my opinion, to fact-check “gay rights” activists.

For instance, and this is just the big “oversight”: There’s no evidence of discrimination in Utah. Senator Urquhart and supporters of his nondiscrimination bill argue that his bill is needed to address the widespread discrimination in Utah against LGBT. But there is no evidence. On Nov. 27, 2013, the Legislature’s Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel released a memo showing that out of 18 municipalities in Utah that have passed local nondiscrimination ordinances, and over a four-year span since 2009, only three complaints of discrimination were filed (all in Salt Lake City) – all three investigated and ruled unsubstantiated.

 

Municipality

Complaints Filed

Substantiated Complaints

Alta 0 n/a
Grand County 0 n/a
Harrisville 0 n/a
Logan 0 n/a
Marriott-Slaterville 0 n/a
Midvale 0 n/a
Moab 0 n/a
Murray 0 n/a
Ogden 0 n/a
Park City 0 n/a
Salt Lake City 3 (1 Housing, 2 Employment) 0
Salt Lake County 0 n/a
South Salt Lake 0 n/a
Springdale 0 n/a
Summit County 0 n/a
Taylorsville 0 n/a
Washington Terrace 0 n/a
West Valley City 0 n/a

Totals:

Municipalities with Nondiscrimination Ordinances: 18 (Source: Equality Utah)

Housing Complaints: 1

Employment Complaints: 2

Substantiated Complaints: 0

The idea that discrimination against LGBT is rampant, or even a real concern, in Utah is misinformed. It’s not a “true impression.” And that is just one false impression among many from supporters of same-sex marriage and Senator Urquhart’s nondiscrimination bill.

To every critic of Sutherland Institute, our work is on display. One thoughtful critic found an error – and we salute him – and I apologized personally, on the spot, and we took care of it immediately. At Sutherland Institute, it’s our promise to be honest and candid in leaving true impressions, and not just isolated fact. We hope everyone working these hot-button issues tries to do the same.

But we understand how the game is played. Most opponents in policy and politics are ever ready to magnify a misstep of their adversaries in an effort to discredit everything they disagree with. We understand that’s the world of politics, but we don’t operate that way.

So we know the assaults on our integrity will continue. But that’s because Sutherland Institute is effective and has constructive educational influence in this state.

This has been a valuable lesson for us and should be a valuable lesson for everyone. Again, I apologize.



[i] Early this morning, Sutherland requested the ad in question be pulled. As a result, all stations have either pulled the spot or have a few more running through today (Jan. 30), mainly on Comcast. Comcast requires a 24-hour turnaround because its traffic center is out of market and it takes longer for the changes to occur. Dish and DirecTV require a three-day turnaround.