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Debate over the tone of American political discourse continues a week after a gunman walked into the lobby of the Family Research Council’s Washington office and shot a security guard in the arm.
Following the arrest of suspected shooter Floyd Lee Corkins II of Herndon, Va., the FRC was quick to lay blame not only with the 28-year-old Corkins, who was also a volunteer at The DC Center for the LGBT Community, but with LGBT advocacy organizations that have labeled the FRC a ”hate group.”
Speaking to reporters at a press conference a day after the shooting, FRC President Tony Perkins said 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 as ‘hate groups’ because they disagree with them on public policy.”
During the press conference, Perkins was asked if the shooting should be investigated as a possible hate crime. Perkins replied that he is not a ”big supporter” of hate-crime laws.
Corkins has been charged with assault with intent to kill.
Hate was clearly visible as Perkins spoke to reporters. Maryland Minister Leroy Swailes stood over Perkins’s shoulder throughout the eight-minute press conference, although whether his presence was sanctioned by the FRC remains unclear.
“Minister Leroy,” who has linked homosexuality to beastiality and the anti-Christ, is the founder of the anti-gay group Tears for Children, which works to “teach the children true love” and “speak truth in spite of evil and wickedness.”
The group is sponsored by Third Gender 666, also overseen by “Minister Leroy,” which argues that God made only man and woman and “anything else has come from evil and will eventually die.”
According to their website, Third Gender 666 must “defend the planet or destroy the planet” and start by “protecting defenseless children from satan.”
Although Tears for Children lists the FRC as a partner on their website, repeated requests for comment on the FRC’s connection to Swailes and his groups were not returned by the FRC.
A day later on FRC’s Washington Watch Weekly radio show, Perkins went a step further and implicated President Barack Obama in the shooting.
Speaking to Rick Santorum, Perkins said the Obama administration’s hostility to religious freedom has created an environment where religious groups are openly threatened with physical violence.
“Well, I think as we witnessed this past week at the Family Research Council, clearly linked to that same atmosphere of hostility that’s created by the public policies of an administration that’s indifferent or hostile to religious freedom and groups like, as I mentioned, the Southern Poverty Law Center that recklessly throws around labels giving people like this gunman who came into our building a license to take innocent life,” Perkins said.
In an interview with Glenn Beck, FRC Executive Vice President Jerry Boykin called the SPLC an ”anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, Marxist organization.”
Boykin went on to label the SPLC, which is a nonprofit civil rights organization, ”evil” and ”dangerous.”
Although the White House has not addressed Perkins’s charges, the Southern Poverty Law Center has, standing firmly behind their decision in 2010 to designate the FRC a hate group.
”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,” said SPLC senior fellow Mark Potok in a statement. ”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.”