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Anti-gay nonprofit accuses post office of censorship

March 17, 2010

A Colorado Springs nonprofit opposed to gays and lesbians serving in the military accused the Postal Service of censorship Tuesday.

The accusation followed a local bulk mail employee's initial refusal to mail the group’s March newsletter, saying it violated regulations against sexually explicit language and advocating violence.

The Postal Service reversed the employee's ruling Wednesday and said the mailing does not violate any laws. But Paul Cameron, chairman of the Family Research Institute, wants an apology and a written assurance that he doesn’t face arrest for going ahead with the mailing.

Alex Turner, acting consumer affairs manager for the Wyoming and Colorado district, denied the Postal Service was trying to censor the content of the newsletter, characterizing the dispute as a disagreement over bulk mailing rates.

But Cameron, a controversial former college professor whose anti-gay activism has extended to advocating tattooing the faces of AIDS patients, said rates weren’t the issue.

“I wasn’t troubled by the rate differential,” Cameron said. “I was troubled by the possibility of being arrested.

“Does the post office have the right to say 'we don’t agree with what you are saying and that lets us violate the normal procedures'?”

The institute’s March newsletter contained an open letter from a retired Navy captain to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, protesting Mullen’s recent call for an end to the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

"Don’t ask, don’t tell" is the common term for restrictions on efforts to out gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members or applicants, while barring those that are openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual from serving in the armed forces.

The letter disparages gays and lesbians in the Navy and cites self-policing aboard ships — “clumsy” gays and lesbians falling headfirst down engine room ladders and being known to “fall” overboard.

The newsletter also has an interview with a female Navy recruit relating her experiences taking basic training with lesbians.

On March 4, according to the complaint sent to the Postal Service by Cameron’s attorney, the newsletter was delivered to the bulk mailing office on Fountain Boulevard and was initially approved for bulk mailing.

The next day, however, Cameron’s group was informed by postal supervisor Paul Hill that it did not qualify for the nonprofit mailing rate because it violated the regulations against mailing material that was “obscene” and incited forcible resistance to the government, the complaint stated.

Hill later told the group’s representative that the initial decision had been reviewed and the newsletter would be accepted at a slightly higher pre-sorted rate, which Turner said is about 3 cents per piece more than the nonprofit rate.

“No threats are made in the material to be mailed,” Cameron’s attorney wrote in challenging the post office’s decision. “There is no encouragement to violate any laws. There is no description of sexual acts.”

Turner said the review went up to Postal Service headquarters, which reversed the local official’s decision and said the newsletter qualifies for the group’s nonprofit mailing rate.

“The Postal Service determined that the ruling did not meet our regulations, that it could have been accepted and it could have been accepted at our nonprofit rate,” Turner said.

According to its Web site, The Family Research Institute was founded in 1982 to “generate empirical research on issues that threaten the traditional family, particularly homosexuality, AIDS, sexual social policy and drug abuse.”

Its founder, Cameron, is profiled on Southern Poverty Law Center’s Web site as a major player in the religious right’s “anti-gay crusade.”

Cameron, according to the profile, called AIDS a “godsend,” argued for tattooing the faces of AIDS patients and federal registering of gays, and told a conference in 1985 that the “extermination of homosexuals” might be necessary.

Cameron on Wednesday denied saying homosexuals should be exterminated.


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