January 27, 2014

I have no idea why C-SPAN's producers, or anyone on cable or broadcast news for that matter, keep putting this homophobic hate monger, the Family Research Center's Tony Perkins on the air, but he was allowed to rear his ugly head again this week on their half hour long interview show, Newsmakers.

In a civilized society where people are not allowed to be profiting off of hatred and dehumanizing rhetoric toward their fellow citizens, this man would not be allowed anywhere near a television screen or a microphone, but sadly, he's allowed both and treated as someone who should be respected by our corporate media.

C-SPAN host Susan Swain asked Perkins about the shooting of one of the guards at his facility back in 2012 and if there's anything he and his ilk could do to prevent something like that from happening again:

SWAIN: I'm wondering if there's a big ramp up in the social issues debate in this country over the next election cycle, is there anything more that leaders of groups such as yours, on both sides of these very heartfelt issues can do to discourage violence?

After first doing his best to skirt her questions and rambling on about our political process cutting people out of the debate and living with the consequences of your rhetoric, Swain repeated the question, and then allowed Perkins to pretend that there hasn't been any violent rhetoric coming from conservative groups, which of course is a lie.

SWAIN: I don't think anyone would disagree with that, but the question is, can leaders of organizations do anything more proactively than they are to discourage this?

PERKINS: Well, you know, I mean, we have repeatedly said that we do not believe in violence and speak out when it does occur. I actually, quite frankly don't see a lot of that type of rhetoric coming from conservative organizations.

And I don't see it from the mainstream liberal organizations either. I do see it from some activists, like, those influenced, like Southern Poverty Law Center, that influenced Floyd Corkins, so I wouldn't say that on either side there is this move towards violence.

I do think it gives rise to it though, when there are those that are wanting to shut off one side of the debate, because when you bottle up things that people are very passionate about, it's going to come out somewhere.

Adam Serwer did a nice job of explaining just how full of it Perkins is on this issue back in 2012, shortly after the shooting:

On Thursday, Corkins was charged with a firearms violation and assault with intent to kill, but anti-marriage equality activists believe the responsibility for the incident goes beyond one man. Anti-gay rights groups quickly pointed to pro-LGBT rights groups as unindicted co-conspirators. The National Organization for Marriage's President Brian Brown said Wednesday that "Today's attack is the clearest sign we've seen that labeling pro-marriage groups as 'hateful' must end," referring to the Southern Poverty Law Center's categorization of FRC as a "hate group." Brown noted that the Human Rights Campaign, a pro-LGBT rights group, had "even specified that FRC hosts events in Washington, DC, where today's attack took place." To Brown, LGBT rights activists had all but drawn Corkins a map.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told reporters at a press conference yesterday that while "Floyd Corkins was responsible for the wounding of one of our colleagues and friends at the Family Research Council," the shooter "was given a license to do that by a group such as the Southern Poverty Law Center who labeled us a hate group because we defend the family and stand for traditional orthodox Christianity." Harsh criticism, according to Perkins and Brown, had laid the stones on Corkins' path to violence.

In light of the power Perkins and Brown ascribe to the words of the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Human Rights Campaign, we should examine their own.

Spokespeople for the National Organization for Marriage, such as Rev. William Owens, who exaggerated his civil rights background to justify his opposition to same sex marriage, have compared homosexuality to bestiality and child abuse. NOM's man in Maryland, Bishop Harry Jackson, has compared gay rights groups to Nazis whose actions recall "the times of Hitler." Most of NOM's more high-profile spokespersons are more careful with their words, but beyond rhetoric, NOM has argued that gay judges should be barred from ruling on LGBT rights issues and embraced junk science to argue that gays and lesbians make worse parents.

Still, Perkins' Family Research Council has practically cornered the market on anti-gay junk science. The Southern Poverty Law Center's classification of the FRC as a hate group stems from FRC's more than decade-long insistence that gay people are more likely to molest children. Spokespeople for the FRC have said that homosexual sex should be outlawed, and Perkins himself has said as recently as 2010 that "the research is overwhelming that homosexuality poses a danger to children." Research from non-ideological outfits is actually firm in concluding the opposite. Some of the FRC's more outrageous "studies," such as the 1999 paper claiming that "one of 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," have been scrubbed from the group's website, but the FRC has not disavowed their contents.

Anti-gay rights organizations are not often the targets of this kind of violence. The incidence of violence against gays and lesbians in the United States is far higher. According to the FBI's hate crimes statistics, there were 247 incidents of aggravated assault and 495 incidents of simple assault against people on the basis of sexual orientation in 2010. The Bureau counts two incidents of bias-motivated murder/manslaughter in the same year. If labeling the FRC a hate group armed Corkins with a justification for violence, should we be holding groups like the Family Research Center and the National Organization for Marriage responsible for every homophobe who lashes out violently? After all, listening to what the FRC and NOM have to say about gays and lesbians, one might reasonably conclude non-heterosexuals are a public menace, if not a threat to the republic.

The SPLC's decision to categorize the Family Research Council as a hate group, while subjective, nevertheless relies on FRC's record of purveying stereotypes, prejudice, and junk science as a justification for public policy that would deny gays and lesbians equal rights and criminalize their conduct. Accusing someone of purveying "hate" does not contain a justification for violence, explicit or implicit. It's a free country, and hating is one of the rights Americans have under the First Amendment. But if an organization were putting forth papers arguing that blacks, Latinos, or Jews were inherently prone to committing certain crimes and recommended laws specifically tailored to restricting their behavior, would we call them a hate group? At the very least, the SPLC has evidence for its decision beyond simply disliking FRC's politics.

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