Traditional Values Coalition

Emma Best filed this request with the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States of America.

It is a clone of this request.

Tracking #

1363816-000, DOJ-AP-2017-002410

Due Jan. 25, 2017
Est. Completion None
Awaiting Response


From: Michael Best

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the following records:

Records relating to or mentioning Traditional Values Coalition. Presbyterian minister Lou Sheldon founded the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) in 1980 to spread a “moral code and behavior based upon the Old and New Testaments” and to warn Americans of the rising “gay threat.” The traditional values the TVC fights for include: the right to life (opposition to abortion and euthanasia), chastity and patriotism, along with opposition to homosexuality, pornography, the teaching of evolution in public schools and illegal immigration.

Louis P. Sheldon founded the Traditional Values Coalition in Anaheim to focus on California politics. It was initially named the American Liberties Institute and later, the California Coalition for Traditional Values, before establishing its headquarters in Washington, D.C. Sheldon is a protégé of Christian Right televangelist Pat Robertson and already was a long-standing opponent of gay rights when he founded the TVC in 1980. Sheldon claims that homosexuality is a “deathstyle” and that child molestation is the real “homosexual agenda” — a claim that has been thoroughly debunked by all the relevant major professional and medical associations.

In 1985, Sheldon suggested forcibly rounding up AIDS victims into “cities of refuge,” like leper colonies, to protect the general population. After a hate crime bill was signed into law in the 1990s, Sheldon told a reporter that the new law would “protect sex with animals and the rape of children as forms of political expression,” which was completely false. The law did no such thing and could not legally.

In 1992, columnist Jimmy Breslin reported that Sheldon told him that “homosexuals are dangerous. They proselytize. They come to the door, and if your son answers and nobody is there to stop it, they grab the son and run off with him. They steal him. They take him away and turn him into a homosexual.” Sheldon later denied making those comments, but his website contains strikingly similar language: “[S]ince homosexuals can’t reproduce, they will simply go after your children for seduction and conversion to homosexuality.” Elsewhere, it claims that “[t]he effort to push adult/child sex … is part of the overall homosexual movement.”

Three years later, in 1995, Sheldon successfully lobbied for a congressional hearing on gay activists’ alleged infiltration of public schools in an attempt to garner support for Senator Jesse Helms’ bill to cut federal funds for public schools “encouraging or supporting homosexuality.” The hearing, however, was a disaster for Sheldon and his supporters. The hearing’s main witness was Claire Connolly, a lesbian who falsely accused gay male activists of using federal AIDS funds to host orgies.

Like her father, Andrea Lafferty, now TVC’s president, has also made a number of LGBT-bashing remarks over the years. In February 2013, Lafferty compared homosexuality to drunk driving after U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) changed his views on gay marriage when his son came out as gay. After the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June of that year, Lafferty lamented that a “great darkness” had overtaken the country. When the House of Representatives held a historic hearing on transgender discrimination in the workplace in 2008, Lafferty called it a “freak show,” and insisted transgendered individuals were “deeply disturbed individuals who need therapy not coddling and affirmation by a liberal majority in the House of Representatives.”

After Congress introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in 2013, the TVC released a slew of anti-transgender press releases attacking ENDA with allegations that the bill would force every school district to hire transgender teachers and bring “gender confusion” into schools. One such press release likened school-aged children to “human shields” who were being used in the attempt to “force the acceptance of transgenders and transsexuals into mainstream culture.” After California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the School Success and Opportunity Act, a bill that allows students to participate in activities, sports teams, programs, and locker room and restroom facilities that match their gender identities, the TVC released a memo labeling transgender children “psychologically unhealthy.”

In spite of their homophobic and very often flatly false remarks and claims, Sheldon and Lafferty have enjoyed considerable political access. During the George W. Bush administration, Sheldon and Lafferty visited the White House a combined 69 times, meeting personally with President Bush in eight of those visits.

In June 2014, state Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam (R-N.C.) distributed a TVC flier that compared being lesbian or gay to mental disorders such as apotemnophilia (sexual arousal associated with an amputee's stump) and coprophilia (sexual arousal associated with feces). The same language was included in Scott Lively’s 2009 book Redeeming the Rainbow: A Christian Response to the “Gay Agenda.” Lively is best known for an infamous book wrongly blaming gay men for the Nazi Holocaust.

The TVC also has adopted Islamophobia in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. In 2008, Sheldon claimed “Islamists” want to destroy America and western civilization by “conquering nation after nation” and imposing Shariah religious law upon them. In 2010, Lafferty publicly opposed the planned Park51 mosque in Lower Manhattan, stating: “We cannot allow the standard for decision-making to become whether or not an action disappoints violent Muslim fanatics. We cannot give the homicide bombers a veto over the lives of free people.” Lafferty’s husband founded an anti-Muslim organization, the Virginia Anti-Shariah Law Task Force (VAST).

In 2011, the TVC started a grassroots campaign called “The Task Force to Stop Shariah Law.” It was intended to raise over $3 million to educate and mobilize Americans against Shariah law, launch a website for the campaign, train pastors and activists to confront the “Shariah threat,” and cover Lafferty’s travel expenses so that she can lobby against Shariah law across the country. In its campaign mailings, the TVC falsely claimed “Shariah Law trumps the law of any land – including our own Constitution” and that Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan “believes in Shariah Law and has actively worked to advance it the United States” because she allegedly pushed for the establishment of the “The Islamic Legal Studies Program,” funded with Saudi oil money, while she was the dean of Harvard Law School. Later in 2011, the TVC co-hosted a conference called “The Constitution of Sharia – Preserving Freedom Conference” in Nashville, Tenn., with other far-right groups.

In 2012, VAST and the TVC launched a smear campaign against the Islamic Society of North America Convention (ISNA), an important event in the American Muslim calendar. Both organizations published an article titled “ISNA Convention Offers Two Views of Islam – the Manufactured Public Persona and the Truth.” VAST and TVC have jointly tried to portray ISNA as a subversive organization on the basis of “several key briefings and meetings.” They claimed that ISNA discourages fellow Muslims from talking to the FBI. VAST and the TVC also attacked immigration lawyer Rabia Chaudry, a member of the ACLU board of directors and president of the Safe Nation Collaborative, for talking about the negative impact of the New York City Police Department’s controversial spying on the Muslim community.

That same year, Jim Lafferty pushed the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in Virginia to reject the proposed renewal of the Islamic Saudi Academy’s building lease. Lafferty said the Islamic Saudi Academy, an elite college prep school, is an “incubator for a new generation of domestic terrorists,” funded and owned by the Saudi government. (The valedictorian of the school’s 1999 class was convicted on charges of supporting Al-Qaeda in 2005. Local residents began protesting the renewal of the Islamic Saudi Academy’s building lease in 2010.) The Saudi government, according to Lafferty, has shown “no interest in cleaning up the pro-violence, anti-Semitic, and anti-Christian teaching and textbooks.”

In 2013, VAST and other “pro-freedom organizations” hosted a press conference at a Muslim cemetery in Caroline County, near Richmond, the burial site of Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. At the conference, Lafferty said Tsarnev’s burial at the cemetery was “an awful sneak attack on the people of Virginia.”

Jim Lafferty is also the executive director of the Christian Seniors Association (CSA), a front group started by the TVC as a “strong conservative Christian alternative to the ultra-left AARP,” formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons. The CSA has a longstanding history of producing fear-mongering fundraising letters, some of which resemble government documents. In 2006, for instance, the CSA mailed out fake “U.S. Taxpayer Census” forms, which included a survey about Social Security and ominous warnings about politicians who promote a far-left agenda that hurts seniors. Two years later, the CSA again sent out these bogus forms, which many seniors believed were actual government documents. In 2010, the CSA sent out a survey with a letter asking for donations to combat the AARP and Obama’s “socialist” agenda. In 2011, the CSA mailed a fundraising letter to its members alleging the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, which made sexual orientation a protected class under federal hate crime legislation, “makes the Bible illegal hate literature.” Although other religious right groups have made similar claims, or at least said the federal hate crime statute could have such an effect, the claims are universally false.

In 2014, Lafferty said Hobby Lobby’s challenge to the contraception coverage mandate in Obamacare was essential in stopping the Obama administration and Planned Parenthood’s “agenda of population control.” She claimed that that effort was part of a larger attack by “Islamic Shariah law both at home and abroad.”

Please conduct a search of the Central Records System, including but not limited to the Electronic Surveillance (ELSUR) Indices, the Microphone Surveillance (MISUR) Indices, the Physical Surveillance (FISUR) Indices, and the Technical Surveillance (TESUR) Indices, for both main-file records and cross-reference records of both HQ and all field offices for all relevant names, agencies, organizations, companies and events including but not limited to those cited in the previous paragraphs and/or links as well as a cross-reference with the Southern Poverty Law Center to include any information provided by the SPLC. My request includes but is not limited to 137, 157, 176, 177, 183, 184, 188, 214 and 266 files. If previously released records are available, then I request a rolling release consisting of those records while additional records are located and processed for release.

I am a member of the news media and request classification as such. I have previously written about the government and its activities for AND Magazine, MuckRock and Glomar Disclosure and have an open arrangement with each. My articles have been widely read, with some reaching over 100,000 readers. As such, as I have a reasonable expectation of publication and my editorial and writing skills are well established. In addition, I discuss and comment on the files online and make them available through the non-profit Internet Archive, disseminating them to a large audience. While my research is not limited to this, a great deal of it, including this, focuses on the activities and attitudes of the government itself. As such, it is not necessary for me to demonstrate the relevance of this particular subject in advance. Additionally, case law states that “proof of the ability to disseminate the released information to a broad cross-section of the public is not required.” Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Dep’t of Justice, 365 F.3d 1108, 1126 (D.C. Cir. 2004); see Carney v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 19 F.3d 807, 814-15 (2d Cir. 1994). Further, courts have held that "qualified because it also had “firm” plans to “publish a number of . . . ‘document sets’” concerning United States foreign and national security policy." Under this criteria, as well, I qualify as a member of the news media. Additionally, courts have held that the news media status "focuses on the nature of the requester, not its request. The provision requires that the request be “made by” a representative of the news media. Id. § 552(a)(4)(A)(ii)(II). A newspaper reporter, for example, is a representative of the news media regardless of how much interest there is in the story for which he or she is requesting information." As such, the details of the request itself are moot for the purposes of determining the appropriate fee category. As such, my primary purpose is to inform about government activities by reporting on it and making the raw data available and I therefore request that fees be waived.

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.

In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.


Michael Best

From: FOIPARequest

Dear Mr. Best,

The FBI has received your Freedom of Information Act/Privacy (FOIPA) request and it will be forwarded to Initial Processing for review. Your request will be processed under the provisions of FOIPA and a response will be mailed to you at a later date.

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Thank you,

David P. Sobonya
Public Information Officer/GIS
Record/Information Dissemination Section (RIDS)
FBI-Records Management Division
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From: Federal Bureau of Investigation

A no responsive documents response.

From: Michael Best

I am appealing the integrity of the search, based on but not limited to the failure to perform searches for ALL indices specified, the failure to search field offices as specified and the failure to perform the cross-reference searches requested using the ample information I provided in the original request.


02/17/2017 05:11 PM FOIA Request: DOJ-AP-2017-002410


DOJ-AP-2017-002410 has been processed with the following final disposition: Completely reversed/remanded.

  • Best, Michael 17-002410 FBI (2-24-17) limited.scope.remand.cross.refer

From: Muckrock Staff

To Whom It May Concern:
I wanted to follow up on the following request, copied below. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response.
Thanks for your help, and let me know if further clarification is needed.

From: Muckrock Staff

To Whom It May Concern:
I wanted to follow up on the following request, copied below. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response.
Thanks for your help, and let me know if further clarification is needed.