Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas expressed frustration yesterday with the anti-family Liberty Counsel, a religious-right organization that assists allies such as Exodus International in filing frivolous lawsuits and legal threats against families and pro-equality advocates.

The LC’s latest effort to harm children begins like many similar stories: With foster children whom religious rightist couples decline to adopt.

The story began during the 2004 Christmas season, when state social workers brought two brothers to foster parent Frank Gill. They picked him because of his experience and success in dealing with the hard-luck cases.

The boys certainly were that.

John, 4, wore filthy clothes, suffered from a severe case of ringworm and was all but comatose, responding only to his 4-month-old brother, James. He had become James’ main caregiver, feeding him and changing his diaper as his parents huffed their drugs.

John shunned affection. He grunted instead of talked. He hoarded food because in the world he came from, it was not a commodity to take for granted.

James was so young, he healed quickly. But it took Gill and his partner, Tom Roe, two years of relentless compassion to reach John. And now both brothers are thriving. They have friends, a school, a safe neighborhood, loving parents and, most of all, structure.

Gill saved their lives.

Everyone who knows the boys, including a state-appointed guardian and a child therapist, say this house is where they belong.

A circuit-court judge agreed, granting Gill permission to adopt the boys. This prompted an appeal from the Attorney General’s Office, charged with defending an archaic state law that bans gay adoptions in Florida.

The Family Law Section of the Florida Bar Association then decided to get involved. Its executive committee voted unanimously to file a brief in support of the two boys, and then won the unanimous approval of the Bar Association’s Board of Governors to do so.

But the Liberty Counsel and Christian Coalition see things differently. No two-parent heterosexual household has Gill’s qualifications or experience, nor the willingness to take on the challenge. So the two organizations want the children placed in orphanages or with a string of reluctant and unqualified (but heterosexual and evangelical) strangers instead. Thomas observes:

Can you imagine the effort Gill put into rescuing John? Can you imagine the baggage that boy arrived with and the love and patience required to overcome it? You think your kid is a handful? Imagine a boy who knew only the kind of abuse we couldn’t even imagine the first four years of his life.

And the Liberty Counsel reduces this to giving him a pair of pants, filling his cereal bowl and taking him to tennis lessons. I would like to see one member of the Liberty Counsel who has exhibited anything close to this level of Christian compassion exhibited by Frank Gill.

Instead, the Counsel sits back in judgment, painting blindly with its broad brush, oblivious to the fate of these two boys if they ever were yanked from the only family they’ve ever known.