The wound on security guard Leo Johnson’s arm wasn’t stitched up before National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown hopped on CNN’s Early Start to blame pro-LGBT organizations for the shooting at Family Research Council headquarters yesterday morning in Washington, DC.
“Everything points to the fact that this was politically motivated,” said Brown. “Groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center which has labeled the Family Research Council, which is a mainstream group, a hate group. That sort of talk… is totally irresponsible and unacceptable and I think this incident makes that clear.”
Not to be outdone, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins himself came forward today to also blame the SPLC for the shooting: “Floyd Corkins 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,” Perkins told Fox News today. “I believe the Southern Poverty Law Center should be held responsible that is leading to intimidation of what the FBI has characterized as domestic terrorism.”
Okay, so we admit there was a teensy part of us that thought Perkins might take the high road and just call for unity and respect after such a shocking assault. We won’t make that mistake again.
If SPLC is expected to apologize for the rogue actions of Corkins, shouldn’t NOM, FRC and their ilk be on their knees apologizing for the deaths of Matthew Shepherd, Lawrence King, Tyler Clementi, and the thousands of other kids whose lives were lost—either directly or indirectly—because of anti-gay attacks?
We’re trying to remember if Perkins, Brown or any of their peers expressed empathy (forget about regret) over the countless of gay-bashings and suicides that have plagued our nation in just the past few years alone.
Did they condemn Pastor Charles Worley when he said gays and lesbians should be put in concentration camps behind electrified fences?
Or minister Scott Lively, who advised the Ugandan government on its still-being-discussed “Kill the Gays” bill?
Did they come out against the horrible murder of two people at Tel Aviv’s LGBT center in 2009?
When you think of all the things fundamentalists have called gay people, “hate group” seems pretty soft.
Mark Potok, Senior Fellow of the Southern Poverty Law Center, addressed Perkins’ accusations (in a much more civil tone than we would have taken):
Yesterday’s attack on the Family Research Council and the shooting of a security guard there was a tragedy. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) deplores all violence, and our thoughts are with the wounded victim, Leo Johnson, his family and others who lived through the attack.
For more than 40 years, the SPLC has battled against political extremism and political violence. We have argued consistently that violence is no answer to problems in a democratic society, and we have strongly criticized all those who endorse such violence, whether on the political left or the political right.
But this afternoon, FRC President Tony Perkins attacked the SPLC, saying it had encouraged and enabled the attack by labeling the FRC a “hate group.” The attacker, Floyd Corkins, “was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center,” Perkins said. “I believe the Southern Poverty Law Center should be held accountable for their reckless use of terminology.”
Perkins’ accusation is outrageous. The SPLC has listed the FRC as a hate group since 2010 because it has knowingly spread false and denigrating propaganda about LGBT people — not, as some claim, because it opposes same-sex marriage. The FRC and its allies on the religious right are saying, in effect, that offering legitimate and fact-based criticism in a democratic society is tantamount to suggesting that the objects of criticism should be the targets of criminal violence.
As the SPLC made clear at the time and in hundreds of subsequent statements and press interviews, we criticize the FRC for claiming, in Perkins’ words, that pedophilia is “a homosexual problem” — an utter falsehood, as every relevant scientific authority has stated. An FRC official has said he wanted to “export homosexuals from the United States.” The same official advocated the criminalizing of homosexuality.
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. The FRC routinely pushes out demonizing claims that gay people are child molesters and worse — claims that are provably false. It should stop the demonization and affirm the dignity of all people.
In other words, the difference between us and them, is that we can see the distinction between criticizing and calling (sometimes literally) for someone’s head.