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. mhubb

    It appears to be kind of hypocritical, after seeing conservatives attack Planned Parenthood, etc. and their doctors – sometimes killing them – to hear them talk about some kind of 'conspiracy against religion' when one fruitcake causes problems at this Family Research Council location. Christians have this tendency to politicize their 'spirituality' – they have a need to force their beliefs on others. Lets face it, Family Research Council is as much a political organization as it is a christian organization.

    August 17, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • MasterWooten

      FRC NEVER used nor advocated violence against Planned Parenthood or abortion doctors, so you are factually incorrect. What stands here is the fact that you condone violence against your political opponents.

      August 17, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Snow

      @wootan.. silence in the response to an atrocity is also a conscious choice. FYI. and the FRC made that conscious choice many many times.

      August 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  2. Andrew

    woah! tin foil hat time!

    August 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  3. well

    Just because this organization has the word "Family" in its name, does make them an all-saints gallore.. They had been responsible for many many instances of spreading hate and intolerant ideas to harmless unthinking masses..

    August 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • MasterWooten

      The intolerance comes from your side of the isle. No one can have an opinion contrary to yours without it being smeered with the hate brush.

      August 17, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Snow

      ok.. lets see who is intolerant... would you support two gay men to marry and have the SAME civil rights that you have.. like visiting hospitalized mate.. or making their decisions when the other can not, etc.. ???

      Fact is, you want to keep two people who love each other apart.. and you DARE to call the people who push back as intolerant? Here are a couple of more words that describe your behavior.. Bigot.. Hypocrite!

      August 17, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  4. Bootyfunk

    FRC is a terrorist organization. ask them how they feel about abortion doctors getting killed by christian nutjobs. guess that means they support terror.

    see how easy it is to make connections when you draw out of the lines?

    August 17, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      Exactly! I have been saying the same for some time now.

      August 17, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  5. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Have you heard about the latest outrageous and shameless ploy by the GOP to score political points and make the President look bad? Well, a recent web video accusing President Obama of "taking too much credit" for the killing of OBL and allowing classified information about the raid to become public has just been released by "former Special Forces officers" more than a year after the raid. Over a picture of President Obama, the video's narrator says that the group's mission is to stop politicians from using sensitive intelligence about the Bin laden raid for political benefit. However, what's amazing about this ad is that it doesn't criticize the GOP or accuse its members of playing politics with the raid a year ago when they demanded that the President release to the public, photos of Bin Laden's corpse to prove the raid wasn't a hoax. Neither does the ad commend President Obama for saying "we don't need to spike the football" by releasing these sensitive photos to the public. And what is even more sad about this ad is that it is the GOP who are the ones using the Bin Laden raid for political gain. See, the GOP can't attack President Obama for making the courageous decision to send our Navy Seals into this mission, so to score political points, what they do is try to take credit away from the President. And to boot, since the President went to the Seals's academy more than a year ago to thank them for their service, the President hasn't once spoken about this mission. let's face it, the GOP has given a new definition to what it means to be low. Well, only in America.

    August 17, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Thinks2010

      You are so correct. This is just more hypocrisy from the party that applauded "Mission Accomplished." They had no problem with a Republican president claiming an as yet incomplete victory and using our servicemen and women as a campaign backdrop.

      August 17, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  6. Viltor

    The religious right condones murder on non christians and doctors yet the actions of one deranged man makes them cry about a war on religion. They have it backwards.The war was started by them as they looked to force their version of sharia law on everyone else.

    Where was the FRC condemnation of the killings in Wisconcin?

    August 17, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  7. William Demuth

    I wonder if it is Freudian or coincidence that so many Christians use the term "Ramming it it down our throats" when it comes to Gay rights?

    Perhaps they all were altar boys?

    August 17, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • MasterWooten

      Great more liberal/progessive tolerance and serious discourse.

      August 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  8. Snow

    Oh there is another tragedy in south africa.. quick.. lets spin that into our "war on religion" as well.. geez!

    August 17, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  9. Gay jock from Cali

    Why is it my gaydar goes off when I see this guy ? He's as qu'e'er as a 2 dollar bill.

    August 17, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • jamest297

      You have some goooood gaydar!

      August 17, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  10. John

    all of you liberals and atheists coming here and demonizing the FRC with such rhetoric are just proving their point. Do you people ever think before you type?

    August 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      it's proving the point that we have freedom of speech, that we can say what we want.

      you and the FRC are crying because people used their first amendment rights to protest an organization that gives massive amounts of money to keep g.ays from getting married. boo hoo hoo!

      want to live in a place without freedom of speech? go to north korea.

      August 17, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • jamest297

      Are you addressing liberals or atheists? Or both? I'd like to know because I am one but not the other. Please let me know so I can provide you a proper reply.

      August 17, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      Any person who uses violence to further their position is wrong but opposition does not equal hate.

      August 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • mabear87

      There are no Christians in the FRC and there are very few in the evangelical group. They are all bigots and practice old testament ideas, but NO ONE in these groups practice the teachings of Jesus. They judge others, they are bigots and they do not treat their neighbor as themselves. So how dare they get upset about other people. They are the ones who will be the first admittees to Hell. The rednecks and so called bible belt Christians in the US need to open their bibles, read the new testament, forget the old and practice the teachings of Jesu Christ. Tony Perkins is the devil incarnate and only a fool would follow him.

      August 17, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • kithope

      John, you need to take a close look at the FRC's rhetoric when it comes to gays. Hateful doesn't begin to describe it.

      August 17, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Thinks2010

      The FRC, like far too many far-right extremist evangelical so-called christian groups, are wolves in sheep's clothing. They claim christian values while practicing and preaching hate. I am a christian (and far from perfect). While I do not expect or demand that all christians follow my particular branch of christianity, I am always surprised by those who practice and preach hate as the thing that set Jesus apart from the other holy men of his day was that all he did and taught was based on love. I also find the far right's habit of claiming that anyone who is not in lockstep with their thinking is at war with them bizarre and their practice of derogative name calling abhorrent. If they desire the respect, they should practice respect.

      August 17, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  11. TonyK

    War on religion? I am religious, and I think the FRC should be stopped–they are not religious, they are simply self-righteous ideologues who have confused their own opinions for god's word, have, in other words, committed the sin of presumption, one of the sins against hte Spirit that cannot be forgiven.

    August 17, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • saneCanadian


      August 17, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Thinks2010

      Well said.

      August 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • MasterWooten

      "Religious" you're not really Christian if you support the stuff the FRC opposes which is biblically based. Its not self riteous to be opposed to that which scripture tells you to oppose.

      August 17, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • oh gee

      wootan.. the bible also say very very explicitly to kill people for a variety of sins.. from adultery to being gay.. do you also support that? if not, then you are not a true christian either

      and don't pull that BS about OT vs NT because I do know about what your christ said about following/changing the old laws as well.

      August 17, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  12. Jerry

    Aw! It's all the Obamboozzeler's fault. Really!!! He started the war on religions; other than the Muslim religion, that is.

    August 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Bob

      Your post is further proof of the stupidity of many in the right wing.

      August 17, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  13. Dyslexic doG

    to find out why athiests and agnostics comment as they do on this site, check out au . org which is a site devoted to the first amendment and the separation of church and state.

    many christians (but by no means all) in this country are behaving like the taliban and trying to change the laws to force the christian religion down everyone's throats. this has got to stop.

    August 17, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Thinks2010

      I'm a christian and I totally agree with your comment.

      August 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  14. Dyslexic doG

    to explain why athiests and agnostics comments as they do on this site, see au . org which is a site devoted to the first amendment and the separation of church and state.

    There are many christians (but by no means all) in this country, that are behaving like the taliban and trying to change the laws to force the christian religion down everyone's throats. this has got to stop.

    August 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  15. DeeCee1000

    This hate group had it coming. They want the right to hate and spread all types of disgusting evil propaganda about citizens of this country then cry foul when there's a backlash. Tony Perkins and his followers are such idio ts that they will probably continue spreading all of their disgusting hate as if nothing ever happened.

    August 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • JWT

      While there are people in the world who need to die none of these peopple are included,

      August 17, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • MasterWooten

      So you disagree with their opinion and they should have been shot at as a result? Now who's being intolerant? NOT the FRC!

      August 17, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  16. Nilkinggary

    It's more like a war on nuts.

    August 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • MasterWooten

      You're the example of what we're talking about. Intolerant and irrational discourse.

      August 17, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  17. Dyslexic doG

    au . org is a site devoted to the first amendment and the separation of church and state. it will show you a large part of the reason for athiest and agnostic comments on this site.

    There are many christians (but by no means all) in this country, that are behaving like the taliban and trying to change the laws to force the christian religion down everyone's throats. this has got to stop.

    August 17, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  18. Godoflunaticscreation

    Violence is never the answer to Christian aggression but it is fitting to see Christians burned by the same fire they have used to subjugate and oppress non Christians for centuries. That being said, the best route would be to first get these churches and religious organizations off tax exempt status. Currently these religious groups have NPO status and all the perks that go along with it, yet they refuse to follow the laws required to hold that status. Legally they can and should be stripped of that status. Another fact to consider is that it has been proven that these Christian groups pocket most of the money they collect to "help the poor" whereas more secular groups actually give the money to the groups they are collecting it for. The study was done and is available to anyone with an internet connection.

    August 17, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  19. Rev. J.T.

    War on religion? What nonsense! These FRC folks probably still believe the sun revolves around the earth and that the earth is flat.

    August 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  20. brich22

    The FRC incites violence against gay people when they spew forth their venom.

    They are not the victim as they wish everyone to believe.

    Hate groups like the FRC are the very ones that conservatives and liberals should be afraid of. They are dangerous.

    The KKK, skinheads, are exactly like them. Misguided groups that have lost touch with reality.

    August 17, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • The Truth

      Last I checked the FRC did not go into a facility operated by gay supporters and fired guns. So who has more hate?

      Lets make it easy for the less intelligent:
      -Having an opinion on what is an acceptable lifestyle and supporting it through legal means is called Beliefs.
      -Demanding others change their beliefs to your beliefs through illegal means and especially through violence is called Hate.

      If you plan in saying the FRC is the second you must provide specific incidents along with links to the credible news sources or police reports. Otherwise you are just making stuff up.

      August 17, 2012 at 2:15 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.