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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. Angie

    I don't get why the guy had a bag of Chick-Fil-A. Shouldn't he have been boycotting them?

    August 17, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Angie,

      I don't think anyone (other than the paranoid Mr. Perkins) is suggesting that Mr. Floyd Lee Corkins II had thought out his plan rationally.

      August 17, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • nofaith

      Yeah really! Shouldn't he have beenm hauling around a bunch of Big Macs or whatnot? And why 20 of them?

      August 17, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  2. spartan74

    The Christians are at war with everyone who don't believe like they do. Hell, they're even at war with each other because of different interpretations of the Bible. Christians have murdered countless people, destroyed civilizations and completely wiped out entire cultures for no other reason than for refusing to worship their Christian God. Now they want to whine because some of the hatred and evil they've inflicted onto the world has come back to live on their door step.

    August 17, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Then the atheist carpetbaggers go in and grab the spoils of war and sell them to the highest bidder.

      August 17, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  3. Godoflunaticscreation

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0xXd80NVw4&w=640&h=360]

    August 17, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  4. Bob, NY

    Hey Christians...Which party loves war? Which party is known for taking from the poor and giving to the rich? Which party wants to let "Big Oil" destroy our oceans and aquifers? Which party wants to judge women...even though God said that was his claim? Which party thinks the ninth commandment was just a suggestion? Which party wants voters to carry Government issued, photo IDs? Is this the start of "The Mark" mentioned in the Bible? Maybe, they will have us tattoo it on our heads or forearms. You guys better pay attention to which Lord you're serving... that just might be why we were given a brain.

    August 17, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      LOL. The mark of the beast is what's in between the gray matter of the nonbeliever.

      August 17, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Bob, NY

      You guys still put bones in your noses, dance around a campfire, and toss perfectly good virgins in a volcano? We have that gray matter between our ears to THINK! Truth and fiction are everywhere. Don't we have knowledge of good and evil etched in our hearts? I'd hate to imagine what your mind images as heaven. Creepy, Scary! God created infidels for you guys to judge and kill? Have we become "The Twilight Zone"?

      August 17, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • nofaith

      Love the part about the 9th commandment being a sugegstion. LOL.

      August 17, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  5. lexgreen

    ' . . . growing war on religion from the left . . '

    What we really need in this country is a war on the conservative tendancy to exaggerate, mis-represent, or create and sustain idiotic myth... then think its ok because it was done for a good ideological cause.

    August 17, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Myto Senseworth

      .......and the Cival War is on.

      August 17, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      lex, it's you atheists that are the cancer on society. Own that truth.

      August 17, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • nofaith

      Hey Heaven – Know what scares the hell out of me? That we in 21st century America are actually considering putting a man who believes in the power of "magic underwear" into an office where he has his finger on America's nuclear trigger. I would much rather have a rational athiest in that position than someone who believes the absoluely crazy claims of the LDS crowd – or for that matter anyone who spends even one minute of one day talking (praying) to his imaginary friends.

      August 17, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • nofaith

      Hey Heaven – sorry to pee on your parade, but the public school system did not exist in the 1600s. Also Jefferson, etc were around just a little bit later.

      August 17, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  6. Sivick

    When some nut shoots a democratic congresswoman in the head he's just some random nut. When someone shoots a security guard at a right wing lobbist firm it's a liberal war on religion. they just love playing the victim.

    August 17, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      All this senseless violence started on the rise since 1962-63 when atheists lied, twisted and contorted a private letter of Thomas Jefferson supporting religious beliefs, into the atheist lies of the opposite. Brought those lies into court and had Jesus' truth wiped from the public schools as the atheists lies took it's ugly place.

      August 17, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • Wrong

      "Brought those lies into court and had Jesus' truth wiped from the public schools as the atheists lies took it's ugly place."

      Many people honestly believe that prayer is not allowed in the public schools. This is wrong. Unfortunately, this mistaken notion sometimes extends to teachers, principals and school boards.

      Students have many opportunities to pray:
      -They can attend one of the over 350,000 places of worship in the United States, which promote "every conceivable creed, sect and denomination."
      -Prayer is allowed - and in fact is a protected form of free speech - throughout the public school system. Students can pray in school busses, at the flag-pole, in student religious clubs, in the hallways, cafeteria, etc.
      -If the school has as few as one extra-curricular student-led and student-organized group, then students have a legal right to organize a Bible or other religious club to meet outside of classroom time.

      August 17, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  7. lexgreen

    And so what are attacks on abortion clinics... a war for religion?

    August 17, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  8. Hindu

    God is ABLE, WILLING AND ALL MERCIFUL ....

    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 by nature is voluntary, it cannot be forced by Lord's ability to do so. It is up to individual soul whether to love God or not. Lord's omnipotence is seen in HIs owning both the spiritual and material potencies.

    He is willing – that is why he sends prophets and saints and makes available scriptures – Lord Himself comes in form of many incarnations – He is willing and therefore He is calling us through saints and scriptures but we are not listening - again He does not interfere with our choice not to listen. Love by its nature cannot be forced.

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

    August 17, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  9. 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?"

    Hindu – it is easy to prove that murder and theft are wrong by the effect each has on the well being of a society as a whole. Look at failed stated like Iraq and Somalia for the worst case examples – there's all the proof you need. .

    August 17, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • Hindu

      how do you measure well-being of a society - empirically - physically, chemically or mathematically? Dont use any other means ... simply empirically .... means using those 3 branches of science ...

      August 17, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • Hindu

      @nofaith - sorry my friend .... happiness and well being cannot be measured empirically - you cannot weigh them, measure their length or volume or density, you cannot make them react with chemicals in lab, you cannot put them in a mathematical equation - they are out of the empirical scope you talk about - so how do you deal with them since all evidence must be empirical. SO you should not even be using an argument based on happiness and well-being ... LOL!

      August 17, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • Wrenn_NYC

      Hindu

      Social science. and Philosophy.

      You are arbitrarily trying to limit the field.

      It's like me asking who was the best baseball player, amongst the national basketball league.

      August 17, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Wrenn_NYC

      Hindu..

      Social scientists have no problem measuring how happy a person is.

      There is also the field of Psychological Statistics (one of my favorite classes 20+ years ago when I was in college).

      August 17, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Wrenn_NYC

      See Hindu... 'empirical evidence' means it's based on observation and/or experimentation.

      you can both observe people, and put them into situations (and thus experimenting) on them.

      You really need to learn more about Sociology.

      August 17, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Hindu

      Wrenn_NYC - nofaith was talking strictly about empirical evidence. sorry, social sciences and philosophy are not subjective humanities - these are not empirical evidence - because even Christianity is also a philosophy with a social angle to it ...

      August 17, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • YeahRight

      Religious people find it very annoying that people don't need God to be good, as science has now incontestably proved.

      For millennia, we've been brainwashed into believing that we needed the Almighty to redeem us from an essentially corrupt nature. Left to our own devices, people would quickly devolve into beasts, more violent, tactless, aggressive, and selfish, than we already are.

      Today, we know that this isn't true. With the discovery of mirror neurons by Italian neuroscientist Giaccomo Rizzolatti in the 1990s, we now have physiological proof of why - and how - our species became hard-wired for goodness. Mirror neurons are miraculous cells in the brain whose sole purpose is to harmonize us with our environments. By reflecting the outside world inward, we actually become each other - a little bit; neurologically changed by what is happening around us. Mirror neurons are the reason that we have empathy and can feel each other's pain. It is because of mirror neurons that you blush when you see someone else humiliated, flinch when someone else is struck, and can't resist the urge to laugh when seeing a group struck with the giggles. (Indeed, people who test for "contagious yawning" tend to be more empathic.) These tiny mirrors are the key to most things noble and good inside us.

      It is through mirror neurons - not God - that we redeem ourselves, achieve salvation, and are "reborn" in virtuous ways once co-opted by religions. Evolution knew what she was doing. A group of successful cooperators has a much higher chance of thriving than a population of selfish liars. In spite of what we read in the headlines, the ratio of bad to good deeds done on any given day across our planet holds at close to zero any day of the year. Although we are ethical works-in-progress, the vast majority of us are naturally positive creatures - meaning not harmful to our environments - most of the time in most of the ways that matter. And God has nothing to do with it.

      Spirituality does but God doesn't. Evolutionary psychologists tell us that our brains are hard-wired with a five-toned moral organ that focuses on a quintet of ethical values - one of which is purity, or sacredness. In a world that can sometimes be disgusting, we evolved an upper tier of emotional longing - the aspiration for purity - to keep us balanced in this satyricon of carnal delights (where animality beckons and frequently wins). Our need for sacredness is part of our ancient survival apparatus, and manifests in what we call faith, the need to connect with that sacred dimension. This has been the primary purpose of religion, of course - to congregate people for the Greater Good - but God has been, in fact, the divine carrot. The important part was communion, a context in which to transcend ourselves, if only for an hour on Sundays. Without this ability "to turn off the Me and turn on the We," moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt tells us, our species would still be wandering around as groups of nomads, unable to create a civilization.

      Aside from mirror neurons, there's oxytocin, the molecule of connection (also known as the molecule of love). It's fascinating to learn that the vagus nerve produces more oxytocin when we witness virtuous behavior in others that makes us want to be better people ourselves. We are wired by nature to be elevated at the sight of other people's goodness, mirror neurons and oxytocin conspiring to improve the species. Miraculous though it is, this natural human phenomenon has nothing to do with theology.

      August 17, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Hindu

      @Wrenn_NYC - as soon as you talk about philosophy and social sciences - you have to admit religion and faith as well because religion has been integral part of philosophy since time immemorial ... so then you cannot separate faith and religion .... LOL!

      August 17, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • nofaith

      "sorry my friend .... happiness and well being cannot be measured empirically – you cannot weigh them, measure their length or volume or density, you cannot make them react with chemicals in lab, you cannot put them in a mathematical equation – they are out of the empirical scope you talk about – so how do you deal with them since all evidence must be empirical. SO you should not even be using an argument based on happiness and well-being ... LOL!"

      Hey Hindu – good point, but you can directly measure the reverse...declining or non existent basic services like power, sanitation, health care, lack of personal security, etc. These things directly impact happiness, which to your point, is completely personal and cannot be measured in emperical terms.

      Another thing that can be measured empirically is incidents of mental illness in a population. If you look at the statistics, the western countries with the lowest rates of mental illness (including suicide rates) are also the most secular (least religious). I'm not sure how that really equates to yours or my personal happiness becasue mental health is really defined by a society's norms, but the suicide stats serve as a pretty good starting point. 🙂

      August 17, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  10. Myto Senseworth

    ...Unfortunatly, this is just the start......

    August 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  11. rbooker

    Let's just admit it. Some of us are at war with religion.

    August 17, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Still Divided

      Thanks for being honest.

      August 17, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • nofaith

      Yep. And being at war with religion should not be confused with being at war with people who do or do not believe in the devine.

      August 17, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  12. Siggie

    I wonder which side NATO and the UN will support in this Civil War.

    August 17, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  13. just wondering

    What happen's when to set's of IDIOT'S disagree? GUESS

    August 17, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • Myto Senseworth

      Civil war is what results. Use the Middle East as an example.

      August 17, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  14. Pete

    If liberals were the cause of this like FRC says, then Gabby Giffords is perfectly justified in blaming Sarah Palin for her shooting.

    August 17, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Jace

      FAIL because that's EXACTLY what the Dems like Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and others like her and MSNBC (or rather, MSDNC) were claiming after the Gabby Giffords shooting – that the Tea PArty and Sarah Palin were to blame. So don't be complaining here when Repubs claim the same for SPLC.

      Only problem for the Dems was that Gabby Giffords shooter was in fact a leftist.....

      August 17, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  15. JohnK

    Leave it to the right wing to take a shooting by a deranged man and make it into a "war on religion".

    They spend millions smearing every person who disagrees with their ultra-religious claptrap and then scream when their "rights" are questioned in any way.

    What a bunch of whiners!!!!!!!!!

    August 17, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  16. sftommy

    GOP's problem is with God and how they're offending the Almighty by attacking minorities in His name. The price of that GOP sin is eternal damnation, for which I, a God Fearing Liberal, pray that they find salvation before it's too late for them and all the follows of GOP's anti-Christian messages.

    August 17, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  17. J.W

    Why are we forgetting about the conservative War on Sikhism?

    August 17, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  18. Jessica

    Gee, The Right Wingers have had no issue protesting and boycotting any company or person that is good to LGBT people the last four decades, but we have one boycott against them and they are now trying to be a giant false victim. What the shooter did was undefendable and he deserves a lot of jail time as well as psychiatric help.

    FRC, we don't care about your religion, a lot of us are Christian even though you say were not. What we hate about you is you using religion to deny us our Founding Father given civil rights and you getting your noses all up in our business. Stop your obsession with LGBT people and your inane interest in our private lives.

    August 17, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Myto Senseworth

      The gay community made this an issue for me. I am not a Christian and I was supportive of the live and let live spirit. ........NO MORE!..Go away and get out of my face.

      August 17, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • tnfreethinker

      Myto, the gay community has done nothing wrong. They are not responsible for the RNC shooting. One deranged man is.

      August 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Jessica

      @Myto, We will never go away.

      If one crazy act of a loon is enough for you to stop supporting LGBT people then you were never really a friend to LGBT people. Personally I think your a right wing troll.

      August 17, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Still Divided

      Myto has touched on a very real phenomenon. As I have heard many gay people say, the efforts of the loud obnoxious fringe element in the gay world is doing more harm than good. Someone in an earlier post brought up the bombings of abortion clinics. The serious among us on the right were horrified by the bombings and knew they would harm our efforts. Well, the in-your-face crowd in the gay movement are doing the same. I was very unconcerned about gay marriage, gay rights-let them have it, I said. It won't hurt anyone. Now? Forget it. I'll fight to the bitter end. Mny of us now feel that way.

      August 17, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  19. GJGVT

    If Tony Perkins were a real Christian, as in, following and adhering to the words and deeds of Jesus, he would NOT be pointing fingers, he's be first, asking for forgiveness, then forgiving his fellow man, regardless of the crime. Jesus did not say, "when you are struck on one cheek, point your finger and blame the person who did it", he simply said, "offer the other cheek." You can't claim to be Christian and then only pay attention to Christ's teachings you agree with, it's an all-or-nothing deal. Then again, St. Peter will be the judge.

    August 17, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  20. samij

    OK, let's be more objective here. This shooting most likely reflects the actions of a deranged person. It's not a liberal "war on religion" that one deranged person committed this crime. There's no evidence of an organized group inspiring him to act. But consider the murderer who shot the abortion doctor in his own home. Is that a conservative "war on liberals"? There certainly is an organized group that inspired him to act, even though antiabortion groups officially deny it. Both perpetrators are antiAmerican in their disrespect for the rule of law, both are unChristian in their disregard for human life, in the later case, supposedly in the defense of life and in the name of Christ, and both are nuts. Both sides need to stop whining so much, and maybe spend a little time asking why any sort of extreme stance seems to attract the losers to their cause.

    August 17, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • nofaith

      Hi Samij..you wrote "both are unChristian in their disregard for human life." There is something here that I don't understand and made allusion to in an earlier post. Christian doctrine holds that all people are guilty of sins against god simply by birth. That is called Original Sin. So, if all of mankind is collectively born bad, why should christians care so much about human life when we've offended the christian god just by coming into the world. This dichotomy makes absolutely no sense.

      August 17, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • nofaith

      Hey again..."Both sides need to stop whining so much, and maybe spend a little time asking why any sort of extreme stance seems to attract the losers to their cause."

      This is absolutely right on. Maybe we are all looking at the wrong "set of enemies." Maybe our real enemies are those who stand to profit from the divisions orchestrated among us. In all situations ask "who gets paid" and that's where the reall fault lies. You and I can both peacefully co-exist, enjoy each other's company, banter and debate issues – but then "leadership" marches in and starts making pronouncements. Then our heretofore civilized banterings and debates turn ugly. Politically, we would be best served as thinking of ourselves as Americans first and everything else second.

      August 17, 2012 at 6:12 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.