Rev. Mark Harris. Courtesy First Baptist Church.
Rev. Mark Harris. Courtesy First Baptist Church.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — An organization known for its extreme anti-gay propaganda has endorsed Charlotte pastor-turned-politician Mark Harris in his race to take the Republican nomination for this year’s U.S. Senate rate against incumbent Kay Hagan.

Concerned Women for America’s endorsement of Harris was announced via email this morning to his supporters.

“Mark Harris possesses valuable experience and the leadership needed in Congress,” Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America’s Concerned Women Political Action Committee, said in a the release. “Dr. Harris is a pro-life, pro-family conservative who will lead on critical issues from the moment he arrives in Washington.”

[Update, Jan. 10, 2014, 3:01 p.m.: LGBT rights group Equality NC condemns Harris’ endorsement.]

Concerned Women for America has been listed as a hate group by the Montgomery, Ala.-based Southern Poverty Law Center, sitting alongside more than a dozen other right-wing organizations for their history of radical lies and propaganda against LGBT people and equality.

In the past, Concerned Women’s founder, Beverly LaHaye, has equated homosexuality with pedophilia. Other former spokesmen, including Robert Knight, Peter LaBarbera and Matt Barber, have taken propaganda against LGBT people to new levels. Knight has repeatedly cited debunked and discredited research claiming that homosexuality is harmful and poses “enormous physical and mental health risks.” Knight also once said “gay marriage entices children to experiment with homosexuality.”

Concerned Women’s radical history doesn’t seem to be a concern to Harris, who recently served as president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and pastors Charlotte’s First Baptist Church. He took the endorsement with pride.

“I have long followed Beverly LeHaye and the outstanding leadership she has demonstrated in her work with the Concerned Women for America organization,” Harris said in the release. “It is my privilege to receive this endorsement from Beverly LeHaye and Penny Nance as they have served as a voice to our Nation for the conservative principles that we cherish in this Country. I am especially grateful for the encouragement and support from the North Carolina Chapter of CWA led by Sheri Miller as they’ve been an avid force in standing for truth and change in North Carolina politics.”

Harris was a leading proponent of North Carolina’s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment banning recognition of same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Concerned Women for America’s North Carolina chapter has also landed in hot water for wildly inaccurate and radical propaganda. In 2008, state chapter president Mary Frances Forrester, the now-widow of the late, anti-gay state Sen. James Forrester, penned an op-ed full of inaccuracies and radical claims. In the piece, Forrester wholly mischaracterized a 1987 gay rights satire, using it to claim seriously that gay men wanted to “sodomize your sons.” In the same op-ed, Forrester claimed the “average life span of a homosexual is 39 years,” quoting the same discredited research often used by Knight. The inaccuracies and mischaracterizations by Forrester ultimately resulted in a correction, of sorts, from the organization which published her commentary.

Harris is running against several candidates to take the 2014 Senate primary nomination. His chief rival is North Carolina Speaker of the House Thom Tillis, who said nearly two months before it was approved that the state’s anti-gay marriage ban would likely be repealed within 20 years.

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.