Why Not Call the Family Research Council a Hate Group?

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins says that the Southern Poverty Law Center's characterization of his organization as a "hate group" enabled the shooting of a security guard at FRC's offices yesterday. As Buzzfeed reports, at a press conference today Perkins said:

Let me be clear that Floyd Corkins was responsible for firing the shots yesterday that wounded one of our colleagues ... but Corkins was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that have been reckless in labeling organizations 'hate groups' because they disagree with them on public policy.

Now, obviously, we shouldn't have a rule that you can't criticize others (even harshly) on the grounds that it might inspire violence. As Perkins himself said, Corkins is responsible for any violence he committed. If calling FRC a hate group is out of bounds, it should be because that designation is incorrect, not because it might lead to bad outcomes.

Unfortunately for Perkins, it's pretty clear that a fair portion of FRC's business is hate.

Opposition to gay marriage is anti-gay, but it does not have to be rooted in hate. But FRC is not simply an anti-gay marriage group.  As the Law Center has documented, FRC has a broad and inflammatory anti-gay agenda. FRC contends that gays are dangerous, which its scholars argue justifies criminalizing homosexual behavior and barring gays from various professions, like teaching.

For example, see this 1999 paper co-authored by Robert Knight, who at the time served as FRC's Director of Cultural Affairs. In it, he alleges the existence of a gay conspiracy to promote pedophilia. It begins:

Although most homosexual activists publicly deny that they want access to boys, many homosexual groups around the world are working aggressively to lower the age of sexual consent.  Their cause is being aided by the professional psychiatric and psychological associations, which have moved in recent years toward normalizing pedophilia, much as they did with homosexuality in the early 1970s.

Later, it contends:

In the United States, homosexual activists are more circumspect about their efforts to gain access to children than they are in Canada or Europe.  While NAMBLA has regularly marched in homosexual pride parades in New York, San Francisco and other major cities, homosexual activists publicly disassociate themselves from pedophiles as part of a public relations strategy.

FRC senior fellow Peter Sprigg said on MSNBC in 2009 that homosexual behavior should be a crime. A 2010 FRC pamphlet says the claim that gay men are not especially likely to molest children is a "myth" used to "support the notion that homosexuals should be allowed to work with children as schoolteachers."

If we're going to talk about language that might incite people to violence, how about claims that gays are dangerous, diseased, possibly mentally ill people intent on hurting children?

Perkins defends such arguments by asserting that his organization is merely contributing to public policy discussions. Except that much of what it contributes to the discussions is hate.

Whether gays should be allowed to work in schools and whether gay sex should be legal are surely public policy questions, just as whether schools should be segregated is a public policy question. What these policy questions have in common is that the arguments on one side are hateful.

FRC's efforts to institutionalize its hate in legislation are indeed policy-related. But that doesn't get it off the "hate group" hook.

(Josh Barro is lead writer for the Ticker. E-mail him and follow him on Twitter.)


This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

    To contact the author of this story:
    Josh Barro

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.