"Religious Freedom" Bill Pushers' Insane Anti-Condom Campaign, 15 Years Later

Illustration for article titled "Religious Freedom" Bill Pushers' Insane Anti-Condom Campaign, 15 Years Later

Today Mississippi’s House of Representatives passed a law legalizing discrimination against the LGBT community. That puts the Magnolia State in such shameful company as North Carolina and West Virginia in codifying discrimination in the 21st century; Georgia recently backed off its own discriminatory law after pressure from, uh, the NFL.

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The premise of using legislated “religious freedom” to punish gay or transgender people isn’t exactly new, however. Nor is this election cycle’s obsession with “defunding Planned Parenthood.” Both were the brainchild of psychotic anti-contraception organization the American Life League—and they date back to the Reagan Era.

We’re not going to take a trip that far back today. Instead, we’re going to look at an especially fucked-up anti-condom campaign ALL ran in 2001—one with the primary goal of ending condom use (we guess?) and a secondary goal of smearing a pro-condom activist.

ALL’s anti-condom campaign was a response to one promoted worldwide by safe sex-advocation group Catholics For Choice. That group’s “Good Catholics Use Condoms” movement put ads in subways and newspapers worldwide, targeting both laypeople and the Church itself to act:

Illustration for article titled "Religious Freedom" Bill Pushers' Insane Anti-Condom Campaign, 15 Years Later

Catholics For Choice (then named Catholics For A Free Choice) also erected billboards in Brussels, Cape Town, Nairobi, Harare, La Paz, Santiago, Mexico City, and Manila on World AIDS Day 2001 with localized messages similar to these:

Illustration for article titled "Religious Freedom" Bill Pushers' Insane Anti-Condom Campaign, 15 Years Later
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The campaign came at an important time in the fight against AIDS; by 2001, the proportion of all AIDS cases reported among adolescent and adult women in the U.S. had more than tripled since 1986; furthermore, AIDS was the leading cause of death in African-American women ages 25-34.

The premise that any Catholic could promote condom use infuriated the American Life League, which had spent most of its existence focusing on anti-abortion rhetoric. It also became a personal cause of ALL leader Judie Brown, who called the CFFC campaign “morally bankrupt” and its representatives “a group of heretics.” Brown further hammered Catholics For A Free Choice president Frances Kissling as a “shill for the abortion industry.”

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Soon after, ALL released the following batshit ad:

Illustration for article titled "Religious Freedom" Bill Pushers' Insane Anti-Condom Campaign, 15 Years Later
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ALL continued the completely-inaccurate assertion that condoms don’t prevent sexually-transmitted diseases with this disgusting juxtaposition of the AIDS ribbon symbol with a skeleton:

Illustration for article titled "Religious Freedom" Bill Pushers' Insane Anti-Condom Campaign, 15 Years Later
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These ads appeared in the Washington Times as well as within the D.C. Metro system—where savvy or at least not-brain-dead riders noted the Centers for Disease Control estimate condoms’ effectiveness at closer to 98 percent. The campaign as a whole failed so badly that the ALL went back to focusing on shifting public policy toward banning abortion. They’ve had more luck in that arena, sadly. Their most recent publicly-available financials (ALL is a registered non-profit organization, after all) suggest a lot of people are backing them, too.

Timothy Burke is formerly Deadspin's Video Director.

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If 16 out of every 100 condoms you use breaks, you’re doing it wrong.