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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. DRE

    The FRC while claiming to be Christians they continue to put forth their agenda and spread their hate for years. The shooting while I do not condone it they are perhaps getting back a little fo what they put out. In biblical terms, you put out hate and you are going to receive it; just like those that live by the sword will die by the sword.

    Think about it...

    August 17, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Canada

      Biblicly, you're very right. Many thought they were doing right for God, in turn because they did not uphold his teaching were punished, even for doing what they thought was right. based on acting without knowledge of the word. They do not remember the Mercy trumps Judgement.

      August 17, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  2. nofaith

    Shooting at these people is not the way to null out the christian right. Exposing christian hypocracy, christian bigotry and the christian agenda to remake the country along whatever lines they see fit is the way to go. Violence plays right into thier hands becasue it allows them to take on the "morally superior" (written tongue and cheek) role of victim.

    August 17, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  3. Astr0n0my

    There's no "war on religion" but there is a religious movement to turn the USA into a theocracy. What many "religious" folks perceve as an attack is the secular resistance to their subtle coup attempt. Antidisestablishmentaryenism. Yes, it's a real word with real meaning.
    America wasn't established for "religious freedom" it was established to protect the masses from religious tyranny. When the "religious right" attempts to impose their views, such as a womans freedom to choose, or marriage equality, on the population via government intervention (passing laws to support those views) that isn't freedom, it's facsism. It's no different than the Taliban enforcing sharia law. They'll tell you they're acting on "gods' word to uphold god's laws" just like the whack-jobs from Westboro church.

    August 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  4. Martin

    More wars, hatred and evil have been done in the name of religion than any other reason in human history. If we eliminated religion from the world a lot of evil would go with it.

    August 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  5. SokrMom

    This is the silliest thing I have ever heard. Christians have been making war on everyone else for several decades now, such as the numerous posts here suggesting that people who aren't Christian should leave the U.S. The whole idea of a "war on religion" is just a piece of spin that popped into somebody's head after the GOP was attacked for its war on women.

    August 17, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • asdf

      I mean really – ONE guy gets winged in the arm and suddenly there's a war on? Even North and South Korea do a better job of keeping their cools.

      August 17, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      Yes, spot-on.

      Peace...

      August 17, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • tobyspeeks

      Several decades? Christians have been waring on people since its advent.

      August 17, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  6. Greg s

    Odd and how it was a Liberal attacking conservatives and in the past every time someone fired a gun the CNN shouted Teaparty! Must have really confused the media on how to report this......well here we have it....CNN has decided this leftist attack is the rights fault....who new!

    August 17, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • NP

      wow.. you are so blind. The blame game is a GOP sport please don't play victim here.

      August 17, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  7. JAB62

    Guilt, fear, and mass insanity! Three cheers for Christianity!

    August 17, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • My belly hurts

      GOP – Guilt Oppression Puritanism / Perfidy / ... how's that?

      Let's throw some oil on the fire... since everything said here already works as an incendiary spark no matter...

      August 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  8. heyheyhey

    Trying to drum up a war???? We don't need anymore war. People who tend to belive there is a war make it happen. If people would all get along and stop the blame game maybe things would be better? No controversy is a good thing 🙂 I see no war just crazy people shooting people who have nothing better to do with their lives, but get all caught up in maddneess.

    August 17, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  9. rick

    What about the right wing murder of Dr. george Tiller? what about the Olympic games bombing. in Alanta 1996?. What about the 162 lives killed by the right winger Timothy Mcveigh in OKC.? What about all the violence against clinics that perform a legal act? Separation of church and state means that churches cannot legislate from the pulpit.

    August 17, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      If citizens united teaches us that Corporations are people too, then organized religions are the creepy older uncle your parents never let sleep over when you were a kid.

      August 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      And... a lot of people have forgot about the 500 or so whackos out in the Michigan boonies just a few years ago, where the FBi stopped them from their plan of murdering government officials, as they were reading from the book of "Revelation" to substantiate their beliefs. They were loaded to the teeth with high-powered weapons.

      Yes... the religious nut-jobs are out there.

      Peace...

      August 17, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  10. Mass Debater

    "“The cornerstone of our society is the freedom to lie and freedom of religion to profit off those lies,” Perkins said. “If we lose those, we lose our future profits.”

    August 17, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  11. therealpeace2all

    Reblogged this on peace2alldotme.

    August 17, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  12. Ray

    Narrow minded Republicans.

    August 17, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  13. seanarussell

    This is what the right-wing does in every country. They're doing the same thing in Russia- covering their suppression of dissent with the same language, 'attack on religion'.

    Now they're going use this as a pretext for a war on all their 'enemies'. Gays, non-believers, feminists, and even civil rights grps are going to be targeted. Sad thing is; that they're so quick to use this but one guy got a flesh wound in this so-called 'attack on religious freedom"; when untold numbers have been killed by them. Of course, if you mention that abortion doctors or whatever have been killed; these loving, peaceful christians will immediately justify those killings as part of 'god's work'. Just look at some their comments that will follow this. You even mention that you're an atheist and they call for your death. Jesus would be so proud.
    And for the rest of you christians that say that you don't approve of all this hateful rhetoric- SPEAK UP or you're just as bad as them. That is the same standard that is applied to muslims who say that they don't agree with their extremists.

    August 17, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • P U S S Y R I O T

      Fvck the Putin Police!!

      August 17, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  14. Barry G.

    It will, no doubt, come as a surprise to many that the greatest challenge and foe that Jesus faced was religion and religious people.

    As Landon Saunders pointed out: Religion drove the nails.

    Furthermore the book of Revelation shows that religion can be manipulated to do the most harm, the most evil, in the quickest and most efficient manner.

    For this reason Jesus taught his followers to treat others the way you would like to be treated.

    August 17, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      "Jesus taught his followers to treat others the way you would like to be treated" But I don't WANT to be vilified and mistreated. You've got it wrong, Christians. Calling me a terrorist while you shoot Gabby Giffords with the other hand.

      August 17, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  15. therealpeace2all

    The Family Research Council's, 'Peter Sprigg' has stated..."H o m o s e x uals should be 'exported' " and that there should be "criminal penalties and sanctions" against gays. And that's just for starters. Let's not get into their apparent stance on the Ugandan Law that was to put gays to 'death' and imprison them. They have tried to deny this... but, we're not fooled by them, given their extreme beliefs.

    The SPLC classifying them as a hate group is spot on. We need to watch these idiots. They will stop at virtually nothing to take away the rights of other humans who they deem possessed by "Satan" etc...

    As is often the case throughout history, and it appears it is happening in the here and now, secular society has to spear-head bringing the ultra-religious 'kicking-and- screaming' into modern times, and equality based for everyone.

    Peace...

    August 17, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • J.W

      Peace you said that you were not atheist. Are you agnostic?

      August 17, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  16. eddie

    so do me a favor...re-read ALL of the comments posted in this blog and try to convince me that there is no war on Christianity.

    August 17, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      "no war on Christianity" Defending yourself isn't war, you poor blind mole. Do you expect anyone to actually agree with Perkins' idiotic statements? You can worship dirt for all I care, but when you get powerful enough to force my children to worship dirt at school, and close all the stores on dirt's favorite day, we're going to put you in your place. Free country, remember?

      August 17, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Ted

      Why don't you re-read these comments and tell me there isn't a war being waged against people who aren't not christian or who don't believe what christians believe.

      August 17, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      There is no 'war on religion', -eddie... We just debate your beliefs, and you guys typically can't stand when they get shredded.

      Peace...

      August 17, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • eddie

      express your views but why with such hatred? as a christian i don't agree with a lot of people's views but i don't reply back with such hatred. i'm just sayin'.

      August 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • asdf

      of course you don't "reply back with hatred"...you're winning! it's easy to keep your cool when you aren't the one getting screwed by the current situation.

      August 17, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • sam stone

      i wouldn't try to convince you there is no war on christianity. first of all, your post indicates your mind is set. secondly, you are free to feel as persecuted as you wish, i don't care. maybe it gives you a jesus chubby.

      August 17, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • RickN

      Considering christianity's 2000 year history of murder and persecution, we should all be wary of any pronouncements from these people about anything. It's in their dna to persecute those that don't believe as they. Their mantra is, convert to the religion of our God of love,..................or we will kill you. How do you think christianity became so widely known? Check history. It isn't pretty. What the right wing christians in our country are saying, is that they don't like being prevented from persecuting others. That's what they describe as a war on chrisitianity.

      August 17, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • sam stone

      really, eddie? why all the hate? perhaps people are tired of others implying they speak for god. perhaps they are pi$$ed off because the faithful use their faith to deny others their civil rights. keep your religion private and you would not see this kind of backlash.

      August 17, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Velo

      No war on religion...just a need to keep it out of government so as not to use government to force a faith on those of other faiths or those who abstain from religion. The founders were adamant about this...regardless of what some religious government officials say otherwise. Government has to stay secular...and what you practice in your home and church, as long as it doesn't impede on others rights, can't be touched by government. Simple really.

      August 17, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Jeffision

      If religious people would keep their bizarre beliefs and world view to themselves, there'd be no push back. There will be push back against religious tyranny.

      August 17, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
  17. FRC Sucks

    Tony Perkins – "Terrorism is designed to intimidate and to drive people back and make them feel fearful."

    Sounds like what the FRC has been doing to gay people since day 1.

    August 17, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • sam stone

      Sounds like religion in general

      August 17, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  18. J.W

    Oh so its liberals that are responsible for all the violence in the world now huh?

    August 17, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      Well, FOX 'news' says so, and we all know they are fairly unbalanced.

      August 17, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • My belly hurts

      ..and I thought liberals / libtards / obama lovers are pacifist sissies, gun scared and gun opposers, tree huggers and weaklings? Mmmm must have misunderestimated them liberals...

      August 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  19. Sy2502

    Oh the irony... the Left is using terrorist tactics against freedom of religion? So what do we call the Right wing bigots who killed abortion doctors? And the shooter at the Sihk temple? Oh but I forgot, when THEY do it, it's freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

    August 17, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Dan Cathy

      "when THEY do it, it's freedom of religion and freedom of speech." We are the LORD'S people, and we may kill or enslave you as we see fit. Read your Bible, victims, and cower!

      August 17, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Erik

      Hate crimes are wrong, no matter which side you are on. Hate is wrong, no matter which side you are on.
      I am a Christian, a follower of Christ, as best as I can. I do not condone any violence, no matter the cause. But peace is not something we can force on another, true peace comes from our own selves. I am to live at peace with all people, as far as it depends on me.
      How about we all just own our faults and sins, and do a little less shouting at the other side? "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" and there will be no stones thrown.

      August 17, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  20. Bible Clown©

    How exactly did they determine that the shooter represented all liberals? Same way they made themselves the official spokespersons for all Christianity? No, a nut shot someone. That's not war, pogrom, or an organized campaign of fund-raising and lobbying against human rights, no matter how hard you try to spin it that way.

    August 17, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
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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.