Family Research Council shooting: Time to change the conversation from demonizing to finding common ground

GETTY IMAGES Local and federal investigators work to gather evidence after an employee was shot in the arm at the … Continued

GETTY IMAGES

Local and federal investigators work to gather evidence after an employee was shot in the arm at the headquarters of the Family Research Council Aug. 15, 2012.

After a lone gunman opened fire at the headquarters Wednesday of the Family Research Council, 25 groups representing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people signed a statement indicating they condemned the shooting and stood in solidarity with the Christian advocacy group.

The following day, FRC President Tony Perkins shattered this solidarity by accusing the Southern Poverty Law Center of sparking the shooter’s hatred.

In federal court Thursday, Floyd Lee Corkins II was charged with assault with intent to kill for the shooting that injured FRC building operations manager and security guard Leonardo Johnson.

Linda Davidson

THE WASHINGTON POST

Charles Harkleff holds a picture of Leonardo Johnson circa mid 1980′s who was shot and survived at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 16, 2012.

Bryan Fisher of the American Family Association expressed similar rhetoric.

In a statement released Wednesday , Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said the shooting “is the clearest sign we’ve seen that labeling pro-marriage groups as ‘hateful’ must end.”

In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center added the Family Research Council, the American Family Association and 11 other groups to a list of anti-gay hate groups that they monitor. (The National Organization for Marriage was already on this list.) During a conference call held when they announced the recent additions, SPLC President Richard Cohen and SPLC’s Intelligence Project Director Mark Potok said the designation doesn’t mean the groups engage in illegal activities or advocate violence, but that their ideology demonizes and spreads myths.

On the SPLC blog Thursday, Potok reiterated why his organization designated the FRC as a hate group because the Family Reseacrh Council “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.”

John Becker, director of communications for Truth Wins Out, said such as designation is justified .

Along those lines, in lieu of calling for an outright ban on pro-family/anti-LGBT pundits, the Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) launched the Commentator Accountability Project.

The effort is “designed to shine a big, bright light on the extreme views of the vast majority of prominent anti-LGBT talkers,” wrote Aaron McQuade, GLAAD’s director of news and field media, in a guest column for Mediate. “Bizarre allusions to Nazi Germany. Frequent accusations of satanic influence. Apocalyptic predictions for a world in which LGBT citizens are treated equally. Vile claims that the AIDS epidemic is God’s judgment. Dehumanizing comparisons of loving same-sex relationships to crime, drug abuse, alcoholism, or ‘jumping off a 10-story building.’”

Perhaps now is the time to change the conversation from demonizing the other into exploring what we might have in common in our shared global humanity. Instead of hearing from the same Christian voices who keep singing the same old song, why not change the channel? For example, over at Believe Out Loud, an online network and advocacy movement, one can hear from a range of Christian voices who seek to explore what it truly means to live out the baptismal covenant to welcome all.


View Photo Gallery: A security guard a was shot and wounded after a scuffle with a man who expressed disagreement with the group’s conservative views.

Becky Garrison
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  • rawhide99

    I think that Americans can judge for themselves whether the statements from these organizations are “false,” “denigrating,” “slanderous,” etc. The examples of such purported slander that I have seen are almost laughable. To a “progressive,” disagreeing or refusing to roll over for them constitutes “hate.”

  • tjk1

    Yes, it’s time to change the tone when the person getting shot is not is not a Democrat and the people getting blamed aren’t the Tea Party.

    Otherwise, it’s okay to blame the “incivility” and the climate of ‘heated rhetoric” that people-other-than-you are promoting.

  • Joseph Hilger

    “Perhaps now is the time to change the conversation from demonizing the other into exploring what we might have in common in our shared global humanity. Instead of hearing from the same Christian voices who keep singing the same old song, why not change the channel?”

    You appear to completely dismiss the decades of behavior of the Southern Poverty Law Center of whom identified Family Research Council as a hate group. By thus promoting a religious concept has hate speech, the SPLC created a justification and environment for anyone with a desire to kill in the name of their cause.

  • martyinlb

    Oh, give me a break! One lone nutjob shoots someone and suddenly LGBT Community is suddenly waging war “literally.” We have NEVER advocated hate, let alone, violence. That is the stock in trade of the opposition!

    One shooting, wrong and evil as it was, is mere dust in the wind compared to the THOUSANDS of murders and beatings of LGBT people.

    I note that our community stood in solidarity with the FRC in condemning this senseless act of violence! I’d like to see ONE instance of them standing in solidarity with US against the murder/mutilations against even one LGBT person.

  • martyinlb

    Pray tell how the statements of this organization provides justification for killing anyone? That is a specious and laughable statement. Just as reversing it and saying that religious condemnation of homosexuality creates justification and an environment for those people to kill in the name of their cause. Really? I suggest you get a grip before making such incendiary remarks.

  • martyinlb

    I certainly agree with your first sentence. However, I am a “progressive” and do not label the speech of people that disagree with me as hateful. As an American, it is the right of all parties to be heard, regardless of which end of the spectrum they reside in, if any. Honest discourse is the civilized method.

    Old saying (and I believe it), “I may disagree with what you say, but I would die to defend your right to say it!”

  • hillsideslide

    “Perhaps now is the time to change the conversation from demonizing the other into exploring what we might have in common in our shared global humanity.”

    A lone gunman commits violence- a terroristic act- and is denounced by LGBT groups immediately.

    Statements appear on LGBT comment threads reiterating that violence does not contribute to a society that is just, caring or respectful.

    Likewise, many of my Christian friends & writers hit the proverbial pavement of the blogosphere/social media immediately with similar pleas for peace, understanding & the desire for civil discourse.

    Lots of us are already working diligently at changing the conversation.

  • slightlycrazy

    rawhide that’s demonizing, you know

  • slightlycrazy

    what would you suggest, jh? hate them back just as hard?

  • leftcoaster

    When FRC characterizes a minority as tools of Satan, that meets the threshhold of hate speech. Calling for an end hate speech is the opposite of promoting violence.

    Compare this to the muder of Dr George Tiller, after which pro-life groups said their actions had “the intended effect.”

  • dc78759

    Ok, fine. Inflammatory rhetoric is bad. But I find it remarkable that we have not heard a similar outcry from these people in response to incidents where gay citizens have been not just wounded in the arm, but savagely beaten, disabled and killed. How about if these folks quit hiding behind calling their campaign a debate on public policy and call it what it is…and attack on the rights of individual citizens…citizens whose personal choices have zero impact on their own lives. Let’s have a public policy debate about matters that impact all of equally…say about whether we give tax credits to encourage more coal mining or more windmills. That is a matter of public policy. We are Americans. Equal protection under the law is not a matter for policy debate. It is the nugget of the law of the land…kind of like “Love your neighbor as yourself” is the highest commandment for Christians. The Southern Poverty Law Center is calling a spade a spade. If the Family Research Council wants off the list, they should change their ways.

  • GerriM

    Left coaster,
    What is your point?

  • GerriM

    I have NO idea what slander you are talking about??

  • GerriM

    “By thus promoting a religious concept has hate speech, the SPLC created a justification and environment for anyone with a desire to kill in the name of their cause.”

    I have heard accusations against FRC but know little about them.
    But , Joseph, SHAME ON YOU for accusing SPLC of wrongdoing by simply citing FRC for hate. IMO, your thinking is really off and unbalanced. SPLC did not justify anything. You apparently resort to rationalizations rather than rational thinking.

  • GerriM

    Too bad FRC and the others cited above are not working diligently to
    change the conversation. They had a golden opportunity but instead showed their true colors. (And I previously had no opinion about them one way or another and am not gay!)

  • GerriM

    Too bad that FRC et al could not stop itself from continuing the demonizing.

  • martyinlb

    Well, I agree with you. But you missed something. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is NOT the highest commandment, it is the second. The first is to “Love thy God with all thine heart, soul, and mind”

  • judderwocky

    i agree with leftcoaster… their statements really are hate speech in no uncertain terms. they have weighed in on many issues… attempting for years to bar gay people from teaching, supporting some incredibly violent legislation in uganda, promoting horrible myths and stereotypes and fabricating fraudulent “studies” to back up their ridiculous claims. they are beyond filth.

  • martyinlb

    Awful presumptuous of you to assume the guard was a Republican, now isn’t it?

  • larryclyons

    Given the hatred that these so called Christians preach, there is no common ground. Remember these are the same people that wanted gays rounded up and put in concentration camps because a minority had HIV.

  • schweezy

    How do you find “common ground” with a bunch of lying, psychopath, sociopath freaks? And I’m talking about the FRC here… Their “evangelical reality” is warped on 500 different levels.

  • schweezy

    The people who run FRC are liars to the core. They can’t stop lying because the basis of their organization is a bunch of lies.

    The devil takes many forms. Who would’ve though that it’d take the form of a D.C. “think tank?”

  • schweezy

    It’s hard for everyday americans to decide when groups like the FRC change their own history … a history that consists of “gaybashing for profit” under the guise of tax exempt religious status.

    It’s not a matter of simply disagreeing and you know it.

  • schweezy

    Exactly. The real terrorists in this country are the Evangelical Christian whack jobs who think it’s OK or “doing Gods work” to scapegoat gays in order to raise tax exempt donations for what ??? Nobody really knows exactly. It’s not about Christianity that’s for sure.

    Oh wait I know what FRC is about! It’s about getting the fringe right to the polls !!!

  • equalitygal

    Aaron McQuade’s insightful guest column mentioned here — MEDIATE — wants to hold accountable those anti-gay spewers of lies and vitriol. Tony Perkins, Peter LaBarbera, Bryan Fischer, Peter Sprigg and their ilk have all been given free passes in TV interviews … never asked hard questions about their continual demonizing and denigrating of GLBT. Over the decades their organizations have no doubt raked in millions of dollars from followers … followers afraid of ‘the radical homosexual agenda out to indoctrinate your children into homosexuality!’ It’s time to shine the glaring light of accountability on the spewers.

  • MrDarwin

    People like Tony Perkins, Bryan Fischer,and Brian Brown have no interest in changing the conversation or finding common ground–they’re already capitalizing on this tragedy for all it’s worth. Here’s what Mr. Brown’s National Organization “for” Marriage (NOM)–a group that despite its name is devoted solely to opposing same-sex marriage and is not yet a certified hate group but seems to be trying hard–has had to say, making blatantly defamatory and racially inflammatory comments about the SPLC in their latest blog post, “SPLC Claimed No Difference Between FRC and KKK” (Post won’t let me include the link so go to nomblog dot com):

    “SPLC’s research director Heidi Beirich told Talking Points Memo on November 24, 2010, that there was no difference between Family Research Council and the Ku Klux Klan” (she said no such thing)… “The SPLC can see no difference between Family Research Council and a group that lynched black people in order to keep them from voting.”

    No demonization (or dishonesty) there, right? Seems like they’re doing exactly what they’re complaining about the SPLC doing, and then some. So if somebody goes after the SPLC, or a gay rights organization, will anybody point their fingers at FRC and NOM?

  • MrDarwin

    BTW the very fact that Mr. Perkins is bringing the SPLC into this, when there is NO connection between the shooter and that group, shows that Mr. Perkins and the FRC have no interest whatsoever in finding any “common ground”. They are using this tragedy to score political points against the SPLC and to complain about their hate group designation by that group, plain and simple. The fact is that Mr. Corkins said nothing about the SPLC and carried nothing to make that connection.

  • jjlc125

    “Along those lines, in lieu of calling for an outright ban on pro-family/anti-LGBT pundits…”

    Such a ban would violate the First Amendment, for which far too many groups on the political and social left have little use.

  • jjlc125

    “In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center added the Family Research Council, the American Family Association and 11 other groups to a list of anti-gay hate groups that they monitor. (The National Organization for Marriage was already on this list.)”

    Who’s monitoring the Southern Poverty Law Center, and what business do they have labeling organizations as “hate groups” just because they oppose same-sex marriage?

  • jay2drummer

    “The SPLC classifies as hate groups organizations that denigrate or assault entire groups of people, typically for attributes that are beyond their control.” This is an organization that has been at the forefront of legal victories against white supremacist groups and other racially motivated crimes. That’s who they are to be saying this. And FRC absolutely fits in with that definition. They target gays for having lesser rights, support violence against gays, and work to weaken the families of gays. And being gay is out of the person’s control. Therefore, FRC fits in with the definition of agate group.

  • jjlc125

    “‘SPLC’s research director Heidi Beirich told Talking Points Memo on November 24, 2010, that there was no difference between Family Research Council and the Ku Klux Klan’ (she said no such thing)”

    Maybe she said no such thing, but SPLC’s labeling of the FRC as a “hate group” implies a level of moral equivalence.

  • jjlc125

    “And FRC absolutely fits in with that definition”

    Sorry, but you’re incorrect and so is the SPLC.

  • jay2drummer

    How exactly am I incorrect? That is the definition they use, and it’s a pretty good definition. And I’ve explained how the FRC fits in with that definition. So please explain how I and the SPLC are in any way incorrect.

  • jay2drummer

    The SPLC classifies as hate groups organizations that denigrate or assault entire groups of people, typically for attributes that are beyond their control. In what way does FRC not fit that to a T? It’s not a religious belief that’s being opposed. It’s efforts to treat a group of people like second class citizens, and worse, supporting violence against those people.

  • Secular1

    jjlc125, you are absolutely right when SPLC labels FRC as hate group, it implies a level of moral equivalence. No body is disputing that. FRC is no better than KKK. Perhaps one distinction is Tony Perkins et al do not go around in sheet after dusk and burn crosses in the LGBT people’s front yard. That is a distinction without much of a difference. These guys want to be invited on “Hard ball”.

  • Secular1

    Martyinlb, what is your point? As to “Love thy God with all thine heart, soul, and mind”, is for the delusioned..

  • Catken1

    Depends on what and who your god is. Those who serve Love as their god do not seek to harm their neighbors to promote their own sense of self-righteousness.

  • Catken1

    One can acknowledge and defend another’s right to speak, and still point out that the speech is lying, hateful and cruel.

  • itsthedax

    Well, JJL, I’m glad that you consider this sort of behavior to be beyond the pale. This of course means that you consider Gays, Lesbians and Transgendered people to be fully protected under the constitution, and entitled to marry the persons of their choice and form families. Good for you!

  • AmyMarie

    Facts are not open to interpretation. Re-read the article, focusing on the paragraph that talks about just what FRC actually HAS said about the LGBT community. Those are ALL false statements – meant to scare and inflame those who buy into the FRC propaganda. You can have opinions, but facts are immutable.

  • AmyMarie

    Indeed. Let the bigots and racists speak. Let us know who they are, and where they are. Let them be socially ostracized by decent people, cut off from civilized society. This is what they deserve.