The American Family Association, which has been able to receive payroll deductions from state employees for more than a decade, may be removed from the list after an exchange last week with state Comptroller Kevin Lembo.
Lembo, who has asked the group to provide evidence it has a policy of non-discrimination and has engaged in the delivery of charitable and public health, welfare, environmental, conservation or service purposes, said he’s received more than 16,000 email messages from individuals in response to his original letter. However, he said he has received nothing official from AFA to “demonstrate its compliance with state and federal anti-discrimination laws.”
The American Family Association of Mississippi, which the Southern Poverty Law Center described in 2011 as part of the “most important anti-gay lobby in this country,” has been on the approved list of tax deductible donations for state employees for more than a decade.
Over the past week, the group flooded Lembo’s office with calls and emails about the group’s Biblical beliefs and what they saw as his attempt to diminish those beliefs by asking for information about discrimination. Lembo has said most of the communications were uninformed.
Lembo, who is openly gay, became the target of the AFA when he asked the group for more information about its non-discrimination clause.
The Mississippi-based group that is known for its anti-gay and anti-transgender boycotts of businesses asked its supporters to contact Lembo and ask him to retract the original “accusatory letter” asking them for the information.
In that letter, Lembo said that the group’s website doesn’t seem to comport with non-discrimination. He pointed out its boycott of Target stores because the company allows its transgender shoppers and employees to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.
Lembo also pointed out that the group has denounced Zales, a nationwide jewelry chain, for “normalizing sin” by advertising wedding bands for same-sex couples.
Between 2011 and 2016, the only direct donations AFA received from three state employees totaled $202. But since the group is part of a larger group of 13 charities eligible within the account, it’s unknown exactly how much it received in undesignated funds. The group of 13 charities under the “Neighbor to Nation” heading received a little more than $4,000 per year between 2011 and 2014.
Lembo set a Dec. 16 deadline for the group to respond.
The AFA sent a letter on Dec. 14 saying “we have no legal obligation to respond any further to your inquiry.”
Lembo’s staff said he will consult with the Connecticut State Employees’ Campaign for Charitable Giving about the next steps and likely will recommend removal of the group from the plan.