Shooting sparks controversy over 'hate' designation for conservative group
The scene outside the Family Research Council after Wednesday's shooting.
August 17th, 2012
03:06 PM ET

Shooting sparks controversy over 'hate' designation for conservative group

By Michael Pearson, CNN

(CNN) - It's an online gallery of hate.

Here on the Southern Poverty Law Center website is Blood & Honour, a racist skinhead group with members who killed two homeless people they deemed inferior, according to police. A quick scroll away is the World Church of the Creator, which calls nonwhites "mud races" and preaches "racial holy war" that has, according to authorities, inspired some members to commit violent crimes.

Then there's the Family Research Council.

The SPLC says the conservative Washington policy group is listed as a hate group because "it has knowingly spread false and denigrating propaganda" about lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people.

The designation, in place since 2010, has ignited a fierce debate after an apparently politically motivated shooting Wednesday at the FRC's Washington offices.

Conservatives see FRC attack as part of broader war

A Virginia man who authorities say harbors "strong opinions with respect to those he believes do not treat homosexuals in a fair manner" is accused of shooting the manager of the council headquarters, wounding him in the arm.

The suspect was carrying 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches, leading investigators to link the attack to recent comments by the restaurant chain's CEO defending traditional marriage and the Family Research Council's staunch defense of traditional marriage.

While the SPLC defended its label Thursday, saying it was about the "demonization" of gays and a long history of anti-gay activism, the FRC and its conservative allies struck back.

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"I believe the Southern Poverty Law Center should be held accountable for their reckless use of terminology," FRC president Tony Perkins said.

In response, SPLC senior fellow Mark Potok said the FRC was looking to make gains from the tragedy.

"Perkins and his allies, seeing an opportunity to score points, are using the attack on their offices to pose a false equivalency between the SPLC's criticisms of the FRC and the FRC's criticisms of LGBT people."

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The FRC, through spokesman P.J. Duffy, declined to comment for this article.

Outside opinions were, predictably, mixed.

Tufts University political science professor Jeffrey Berry said the council is a mainstream, if very conservative, public policy shop - one of a multitude in Washington.

"I'm not comfortable calling them a hate group," he said.

"There's probably some things that have been said by one or two individuals that qualify as hate speech. But overall, it's not seen as a hate group," said Berry, who has written extensively about the influence of ideological and public policy groups in Washington.

Peter Montgomery, a blogger for the liberal think tank People for the American Way, said he backs the SPLC's designation.

"If you ask me, 'Does the FRC promote hatred towards gays and lesbians?' I would say yes it does," he said. "The FRC is not the KKK. But that doesn't also mean they deserve a free ride from being called out on their hateful rhetoric."

The FRC opened its doors in 1983, three years after founder James Dobson, then of Focus on the Family, held a prayer session with eight Christian leaders at a Washington, D.C., hotel, according to the FRC's official history.

"FRC's immediate goal was to counter the credentialed voices arrayed against life and family with equally capable men and women of faith," the group writes in its history.

According to its mission statement, the FRC "champions marriage and family as the foundation of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society."

"Properly understood," the mission statement continues, " 'families' are formed only by ties of blood, marriage, or adoption, and 'marriage' is a union of one man and one woman."

According to IRS data, the group received nearly $12 million in revenue in 2009, the latest year for which data is available.

It works on a variety of topics, including anti-abortion policy, traditional marriage, educational choice, religious liberty and family tax policy.

What has raised the SPLC's ire is the Family Research Council's stance on homosexuality. The council calls it "by definition unnatural."

"We oppose the vigorous efforts of homosexual activists to demand that homosexuality be accepted as equivalent to heterosexuality in law, in the media, and in schools," according to the council's website.

"Attempts to join two men or two women in 'marriage' constitute a radical redefinition and falsification of the institution and FRC supports state and federal constitutional amendments to prevent such redefinition by courts or legislatures."

The group says it also supports programs to help people overcome "unwanted" same-sex attractions.

But the SPLC says the group goes further than simply promoting a conservative Christian perspective. It spreads lies in pursuit of its own political agenda restricting the rights of homosexuals, the group argues.

Among other things, the SPLC says the council uses dubious science to convince Americans that gays pose a threat to their way of life, particularly that gays are a threat to children.

In 1999, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an FRC analyst co-wrote a booklet called "Homosexual Activists Work to Normalize Sex With Boys."

In the document, which is not available on the FRC website, the authors reportedly argued that "the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the "prophets" of a new sexual order," according to the SPLC.

The group also was heavily involved in the effort to prevent the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy prohibiting military service by openly gay men and women. Among other things, Perkins said, the change would force the military to pay for sex-change operations.

In 2010, the FRC was widely denounced after blogger Joe My God published documents that appeared to show the FRC provided $25,000 for lobbying efforts to defeat a congressional resolution expressing opposition to a proposed law in Uganda, which called for the imprisonment of gays and lesbians and the death penalty for those accused of spreading disease and other acts of "aggravated homosexuality."

The story was picked up by several news organizations and still appears in Internet denunciations of the group. In a 2010 statement, the FRC said that it did not support the Uganda bill or the death penalty for gays and lesbians.

In a statement published at the time, the group said it only wanted lawmakers to "remove sweeping and inaccurate assertions that homosexual conduct is internationally recognized as a fundamental human right."

Not long after that controversy, the SPLC added the FRC to its list of hate groups.

The FRC has been a "font of anti-gay propaganda throughout its history," the SPLC wrote.

However, unlike many of the groups listed in its "intelligence files," it does not accuse the group of any violent or illegal acts.

At the time of its designation as a hate group by the SPLC, the FRC called the label "slanderous" and "character assassination" in an open letter published in Washington newspapers.

"This is intolerance pure and simple," the ad read. "Elements of the radical Left are trying to shut down informed discussion of policy issues that are being considered by Congress, legislatures and the courts."

After Perkins' comments Thursday, the debate began to take off.

In The Washington Post, columnist Dana Milbank noted the controversy.

"I disagree with the Family Research Council's views on gays and lesbians," he wrote Thursday. "But it's absurd to put the group, as the law center does, in the same category as Aryan Nations, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Stormfront and the Westboro Baptist Church."

On the conservative website Newsbusters, a commenter posting as "Blonde Gator" said calling an organization a hate group doesn't make it true.

"Just because the FRC has a mission statement which doesn't align with your own agenda, does NOT make them a hate group," Blonde Gator wrote.

Elsewhere, a blogger going by the name of "Senator Blutarsky" said the designation lowered the bar for what constitutes hate.

"The Great Chicken War showed that in 2012, all one need do is subscribe to a conventional understanding of Christian teaching, and boom! You're a bigot," the commenter wrote, referring to the Chick-fil-A controversy.

On the website for "Truth Wins Out," which describes itself as a nonprofit "fighting anti-gay lies and the ex-gay myth," blogger Wayne Bessen wrote that the SPLC was "100% correct" in labeling the council as a hate group.

"As someone who reads Perkins' anti-gay fundraising letters - make no mistake about it - this group loathes LGBT people with a special passion," he wrote.

One commenter on the site said the shooting "was Lady Karma finally come a-calling on the FRC."

"GLBT people have put up with their hatred, beatings, burning, rapes, murder ... for centuries now," said the poster, writing as "Merlyn." "But the second something like this happen we are blamed and groups like the FRC ramp up the volume of their calls to incarcerate us. I'm not saying I approve of what the shooter did, but all things considered, the FRC got off very lightly."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Politics

soundoff (911 Responses)
  1. tuvia






    September 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  2. tuvia



    The Land of Israel is the Promised Land given to our forefathers Abraham Isaac and Jacob and is given to us, their seed, as an everlasting Inheritance


    the Promised Land given to our forefathers Abraham Isaac and Jacob and is given to us, their seed, as an everlasting Inheritance.


    September 6, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  3. HeavenSent Blog

    we have decided to shut down the blog. we are tired of making ourselves look like titty sucking babies. we will return to reality and get a real life. sorry for the idiotic dumbass posts.

    August 21, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  4. niknak

    We need to classify all religions as hate groups. Because that is what they are.
    Backward people who follow even more backward people from back in time.
    And they use hate, fear, violence and murder to make sure their sheep stay in line and to show the rest of us how much they love (insert fictional god-name here).
    They are about to stone to death an illiterate down syndrome 11 year old girl for burning pages from the koran because she needed fuel to cook something. No different then xtians burning woman at the stake because they thought they were witches.
    You religious people scare me, and discust me at the same time.

    August 20, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • trebor

      Very liberal thinking as usual, like most things the left don't understand,approve of or want it is wrong no matter what the truth of it is.

      August 20, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • Fred

      I love seeing another "We're smarter than you are!" post from an atheist who can't even spell.

      August 20, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • GH

      You're all idiots

      August 24, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  5. trebor

    Shame that peope hate and react upon it. To voice ones opinion is one thing but to be closed minded is another, anothers opinion might get under your skin but to allow hate to take over isn't good. Politics,religion,money and opinions have caused more hate than most realize. I may not like what one has to say about any topic but the wanton hate doesn't rule my believes. I am a conservative but believe the liberals have the right to voice their opinions as well as I do but neither side has the right to do harm or damage because they disagree with the other. I mostly watch FOX news but CNN has given me a platform to voice my opinion here and I thank them for it. IT IS your right to disagree with me but the name calling some do isn't fit because they don't agree. ALL hate groups should be reported on not just part of them, but the reporert needs to make sure they are a hate group first.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Peter

      Harm or damage, you might want to do some research on the issue of bullying in this country.There are laws against hate speech too.

      August 21, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  6. Roxana

    Shooting Conservatives and Christians is acceptable behavior, we all know that don't we?

    August 20, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Nonsense. Your mantle of victim-hood is ill fitting and undeserved.

      August 20, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  7. TX Red

    This word filter is ridiculous...

    August 20, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  8. Senator Blutarsky

    I always thought the Red Sox and their fans were just fellow citizens peacefully exercising their rights, including the right to express opinions with which I disagree. How blind I was.Thanks to the Southern Poverty Law Center, I now realize what should have been obvious all along – the Red Sox and their followers are a hate group:


    August 20, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  9. Zach

    Is there any chance we can just stop the Hate? From both sides. In the end, it won't matter who started it, or who said what. In the end it will matter that one human being tried to kill another, and another human being voiced feelings of hate towards another for whatever reason. It's cliche and old, but seriously – why can't we all just get along? We're all on this planet, in this life together. Why do you want to make this world worse for others? And this is targeted at neither group particularly. Because right now I see both at fault.

    Please, just stop the hate!

    August 20, 2012 at 8:33 am |
  10. Jerry U

    Not a word here about the New Black Panther Party that advocates killing all "whities" including women and children!
    Not a word about the muslim law that requires that any infedel (Christians) must submit or be killed!

    There are radical idiots all around us but it seems that the white Christian is the fool that gets all the bad press. I feel sorry
    for all of the "sheep" that fallow anywhere their demented leader goes but when are we going to hear the truth from the
    demented press? (including you!)

    August 20, 2012 at 1:03 am |
  11. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    August 19, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      actions cause change; prayer wastes valuable time.

      unclasp your hands, go outside and put them to work - you'll find you accomplish a lot more than getting on your knees and talking to yourself.

      August 19, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • truth be told

      Hands working without a plan are as useless as a battyfink post. Prayer provides Gods plan. A good man prays a great man acts on prayer

      August 19, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • save the world and slap some sense into a christard today!

      well i guess we could pray that you and 'truth be told' and HeavenSent (the holy trinity) gets your job back at the fortune cookie plant (who knows maybe now they would consider making special fortunes for the retarded). But that won't work since prayer and religion are both useless, so we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • truth be told

      Speaking of slapping some sense it would be hard to find a more incoherent round about statement by any normal human being.Your post gives drivel a bad name. Do you read before you post or is your entire life that disjointed? Save the world???

      August 20, 2012 at 5:51 am |
    • save the world and slap some sense into a christard today!

      truth be told said a bunch of jibberish

      See, truth, that's why they let you go. that is way too long to put in a fortune cookie.

      August 20, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Proven !

      August 20, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs! `

      August 21, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  12. cuervo jones

    hate groups identified to the public. how hateful lol

    August 19, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  13. Jack

    Hello folks. Everyone is cordially invited to visit – thestarofkaduri.com

    August 19, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      troll spam

      August 19, 2012 at 6:40 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.