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August 17th, 2012
11:40 AM ET

Conservatives see Family Research Council attack as more evidence of what they call war on religion

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

Washington (CNN) - For many conservative Christians, this week's Family Research Council shooting that wounded a security guard and that the FBI is investigating as a possible act of domestic terrorism was hardly a one-off attack.

Rather, they say the incident is the latest evidence in what they allege is a growing war on religion from the left, an offensive they say extends from the Obama White House down to the liberal grass roots and even foreign governments.

“It's easy to brush aside this incident as one act of a crazy man until you consider the past two weeks,” activist Dana Loesch wrote on the conservative site Breitbart.com in a piece titled “A literal war on religion?”

Like other conservatives and officials at the Family Research Council, Loesch tied the shooting to recent criticism of Chick-fil-A, the restaurant chain that recently came under attack for remarks its CEO made that appeared to oppose same-sex marriage. CEO Dan Cathy said he supported "the biblical definition of the family unit."

Conservatives decried the outspoken opposition to Chick-fil-A - which included some high-profile American mayors saying the restaurant chain wasn’t welcome in their cities - as evidence of the purported war on religion and religious liberty.

The suspect in the Family Research Council attack, Floyd Lee Corkins II, was carrying 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches in his backpack - along with a pistol and extra ammunition - and told a security guard, “I don’t like your politics,” before opening fire Wednesday, according to a criminal complaint filed by authorities.

“The Family Research Council is affiliated with Chick-Fil-A,” wrote Loesch, who is a CNN contributor, on Breitbart. “Chick-Fil-A came under fire due to the free speech of CEO Dan Cathy by militant anti-Christian and anti-free speech activists.”

The American Family Association, a conservative evangelical group, also tied Wednesday's attack to what it said was a broader liberal offensive.

"This near-tragic incident marks an alarming turn in our cultural battle over values," the group said in a statement Thursday. "The left’s war on religion and Christianity has now gone from symbolic to literal."

For decades, conservatives have alleged a liberal war on religion, dating the effort to the 1963 Supreme Court decision that outlawed state-sanctioned school prayer.

Conservatives renewed their argument this year after an Obama administration rule that requires employees to be given free contraception coverage in health insurance plans, even if they work for a Catholic institution.

A recent campaign ad from presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney says that "President Obama used his healthcare plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith.”

In a press conference Thursday, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins pinned blame for the attack partly on the Southern Poverty Law Center, which had labeled the council a hate group over its pronunciations against homosexuality.

While saying the alleged gunman was ultimately responsible, Perkins said that he "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."

“The cornerstone of our society is freedom of speech and freedom of religion,” Perkins said. “If we lose those, we lose our future.”

In an interview with Fox News Channel, Perkins framed the incident as an attack on Christians everywhere.

“Terrorism is designed to intimidate, to drive people back and make them fearful,” he said, adding that the incident was designed to scare “the Family Research Council and by extension family values supporters and Christians across the nation.”

Liberal groups said efforts to paint the Family Research Council incident as an attack on religion were disingenuous.

“Religious Right groups have long equated any criticism of their positions or tactics as attacks on their freedom of speech and religion,” the group People for the American Way said in a post Friday on its “Right Wing Watch” site. “Now they are taking it a step further to say that critics must stop calling out their hateful rhetoric and naming it as such. ...

“FRC was not labeled a hate group because of a simple policy disagreement, as FRC's backers would have you believe,” the post continued. “The SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) cited very specific examples of FRC's wildly inflammatory anti-gay language."

But Erick Erickson, a conservative blogger and CNN contributor, framed this week's attack as part of a campaign against Christianity that extends past American shores.

"Christianity has become an acceptable target for an increasingly secular western world," he wrote in an e-mail message. "In much of Europe and Canada, preaching orthodox Christian tenets about gay lifestyles, etc. can see a preacher punished by the state.

"While the left routinely accuses mainstream Christian leaders of intolerance," he continued, "what many Christians see in turn is a secular media and society showing increasingly open hostility toward Christians for believing what secular society considers incorrect values."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity

soundoff (900 Responses)
  1. Regis990

    Religion is for the weak.

    August 17, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  2. ART

    arun take the pipe put it down you are obviously high

    August 17, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  3. S. Zaman

    Hey you neo-con nazi's. How does it feel to get a taste of your own medicine. Tough pill to swallow. So for your facists, it is okay to spread hate about others, but heaven forbid someone should spread the same hate on you.

    August 17, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  4. Mop

    We all know who started this war.
    It wasnt gay people.
    Its about time we started fighting back.
    Do it within the law, not the law of the jungle.

    August 17, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      Tax the churches!

      August 17, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Vote Obama/Biden 2012!

      August 17, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  5. Connie in Tennessee

    When churches start paying property taxes, like any other business) then I'll start defending them more.

    August 17, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Dan

      If churches cannot exist without being indirectly subsidized by the American people then they shouldn't exist at all.

      August 17, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  6. Dan

    It is not a war on religion.Those who think so are utterly clueless.Many of us are tired of Christian conservatives twisting and perverting the Bible for their own selfishness.We also find totally unacceptable the lies,hate and discrimination that you exhibit all in the name of God.Many of us who find your value unacceptable ( the true majority) are Christians.We reject your false and grotesque interpretation of the Bible.

    August 17, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  7. JimM

    First off, I detest what the shooter did. But that being said, I feel that the FRC is 100% hyprocritical when they and other conservative groups promote violence against abortion providers and fight stricter gun laws or even enforcing current laws.

    August 17, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  8. atroy

    Say "wolf" a little louder Ms. Perkins....you poor little victim.

    August 17, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  9. bigDizzle

    Please. The shooting is wrong. This is no more an attack on the right than bombing abortion clinics and the Oklahoma City bombing was an attack on the left.

    Advancing your political views inside your own country is terrorism and actions of a terrorist shouldn't be taken as a representation of people who may or may not share some of the same views. This is terrorism, and while I don't mean to downplay its impact it is nothing more than terrorism.

    August 17, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      It was a "terrorist" attacking a "terrorist" organization.

      August 17, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  10. Testing123

    I don't have a problem with Christianity as a faith. I don't have any problem with their beliefs.

    What I have a problem with is religious people trying to force their beliefs on everyone else by using the Law as though it were the Sword of God.

    So many of the far right talk about the need for religious freedom while looking the other way as people of non-christian faiths are persecuted by those same far right people. Mosques burning...What's the problem? Want to build a mosque in our neighborhood...No way! Someone says anything negative about Christians...IT'S A WAR ON RELIGION.

    That makes all the sense in the world.

    August 17, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Testing123,

      Yep. Christians, the most persecuted 78% of Americans. Shaking in their little boots because 4% of Americans (Atheists and Agnostics) know that their emperor has no clothes. Their philosophy is built on such a flimsy foundation that the 'truth' of the 4% terrifies them.

      So the American Taliban speak the doctrine that IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH: Put your faith in the Lord and trust not the the sight of your own eyes or the thoughts of your own mind, for they are wicked.

      August 17, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Testing123

      I didn't claim to be atheist or agnostic. You are making assumptions.

      One of the basic ideas going back through American History has been that it is important to protect minorities, whether they be religious, cultural or political.

      I respect using your Faith in God as Armor, but I do not respect using Him as a Weapon for the advancement of your ideological agenda.

      August 17, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Testing123

      My apologies, I misread your statement. I take back pointing my response at you, and will specify that this was intended for those who try to use God as a tool of force for social and political change.

      August 17, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  11. Aaron

    The attacker said "I don't like your politics," not "I don't like your religion."

    August 17, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  12. Joey

    While I do not believe that violence is appropriate under any context, it does not surprise me that a deranged individual would attack an organization that spews hatred towards their fellow man, instead of love. This organization shrouds itself under Christian values, but even Christ himnself would come under attack by them if he were here preaching his gospel. They need to learn the "Love hy neighbor as you you yourself" part of the bible and if they would not want to be descriminated gainst, they should not descriminate. They also need to learn, that they should not judge others because by that same measure they use to judge others, they will be judged. As a fellow Christian, it is not our job to preach hatred and discrimination, the command from Jesus himself was to "Go out and preach the good news". Most of the crap coming out of this fringe group is anything but good news.

    August 17, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  13. Redleg

    Are Eric Rudolph and Timothy McVeigh the victims now?

    August 17, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  14. KLARGAR

    Is god willing to prevent evil, but not capable ?
    Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing?
    Then from whence does evil come?
    Is he neither able or willing?
    Then why call him god?

    August 17, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • arun

      God does not interfere with the minute free will of the individual soul. If the individual soul wants to act whimsically and independent of God then to fulfill his wish he is sent to this material realm (as opposed to God's spiritual realm - our real home). Deluded by forgetfulness of God and his own essential spiritual nature, the individual soul experiences various evil and good scenarios that are of his own free will's making according to law of karma. But he does have an escape by surrendering to the will of the Lord and stop acting on his own account and by acting on account of the Lord, he can escape this material realm and return back to God's kingdom.

      God is able - but he does not want to interfere in soul's exercise of free will. Love is voluntary, it cannot be forced by Lord's ability to do so. It is upto individual soul whether to love God or not. His omnipotence is seen as owning both the spiritual and material potencies.

      He is willing - that is why he sends prophets and saints and makes available scriptures - He himself comes in form of many incarnations - He is willing and calling through saints and scriptures but we are not listening - again He does not interfere with our choice not to listen.

      SO he is is both able and willing - and He is all merciful - but ARE YOU READY?

      August 17, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Testing123

      Arun those Prophets and Saints of which you speak are nothing more than con men. Of course they use the trappings of religion and the name of god...because it works. It makes them money, and the gullible lap it up.

      August 17, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • Hindu

      @Testing123 - you have a free will to think like that .... LOL!

      August 17, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  15. canniwander

    Hey, that dose of your own medicine tastes pretty bad, huh christians?

    August 17, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • bigDizzle

      As an atheist, shame on you. No one deserves this and taking the opportunity to rub it in shows complete disregard for decency and respect. You're no better than the people you ridicule.

      August 17, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      Big diz, stop playing all high and mighty. If you saw a 200 pound man beating a 60 pound kid and then another 200 pound guy starts beating that first guy don't tell me you wouldn't feel some sense of justice albeit tinged by remorse for seeing any person being beaten. It is a human sense of justice that makes him say that and it is within every human.

      August 17, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  16. Kevin

    “The cornerstone of our society is freedom of speech and freedom of religion,” Perkins said. “If we lose those, we lose our future.”

    Perkins forgot "separation of church and state".

    August 17, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  17. a slozomby

    please stop using the term conservative when discussing religious whackjobs. they are not synonymous.

    August 17, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  18. Jeff Cox

    War on religion from the left?

    Yes, I'm sure those guys who attacked the Sikh temple in Michigan and the ones who burned down the Islamic mosque were leftists!

    Oh ... wait ... you meant YOUR religion? Got it.

    August 17, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  19. arun

    @nofaith – empirically you cannot even prove that it is wrong to steal or murder ... which equation or law in physics, maths or chemistry proves that?

    August 17, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  20. ART

    Oh boy I'am sick of listening to the voices of the American Taliban. It may serve you religious freaks better if you stayed out of peoples business i.e. gay peoples bedrooms and womens privates. You do what makes you happy and leave other people to do what makes them happy.

    August 17, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • arun

      Stealing, murdering makes some people happy ... should be let them?

      August 17, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • arun

      empirically you cannot even prove that it is wrong to steal or murder ... which equation or law in physics, maths or chemistry proves that? so what is the basis? morality? ok then what is basis of morality? is morality a law of physics or chemistry or maths?

      August 17, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • arun

      is ethics a law of physics? or maths? or chemistry? how do you prove ethics or morality on empirical basis. should we all come up with our own laws to follow because there is no empirical basis for morality and ethics?

      August 17, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • CNNuthin

      Arun, maybe you missed the "You do what makes you happy and leave other people to do what makes them happy." IF you do something to ruin another's happiness, you are not satisfying that second condition. What is so hard to understand about this concept? Stop assuming that without Religions we instantly forget about "Do unto others..." The goal should be for everyone to do what makes them happy, without taking away from anyone else what makes them happy. Aside from your dissatisfaction with two men or women kissing, or whatever mental image pops in your head when they do, it should not be anyone's say to whether or not they do these things. You can have morals without religion. Religion was just a bunch of bedtime stories to tie those morals and rules into something children could relate to. Well, grow up and start acting like you can make the right decisions about your life and stay away from the decisions of others if they are not causing you harm, stealing, murdering and so on. Be adult about things already and stop with the elementary school logic.

      August 17, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      Coming up with your own laws because you lack an empirical basis is the definition of religion.

      August 17, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Hindu

      @CNNuthin - you cannot measure happiness using empirical means - using physics, maths and chemistry - you cannot argue happiness empirically - you have to introduce spirit and consciousness and then you have to introduce God and you cannot avoid Him ...

      August 17, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.