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August 24, 2012

Shooting at anti-gay group leads to accusations about hate

Washington, D.C.--An August 15 shooting at the Family Research Council has added fuel to the debate between left and right in the culture wars, while the accused shooter is in custody and being given a psychiatric examination at the request of prosecutors.

Floyd Corkins II is said to have walked into the lobby of the FRC, an anti-gay, conservative Christian lobbying organization, carrying a bag full of Chick-fil-A sandwiches and a 9 mm handgun with extra ammunition. After telling a guard he did not like the organization’s politics, he allegedly shot the guard, Leonardo Johnson, in the arm. Johnson, though wounded, then wrestled the gun away from Corkins and subdued him.

The District of Columbia police chief called Johnson a hero. He is now recovering from a single gunshot wound.

A preliminary hearing on August 16 brought the request for Corkins’ psychiatric evaluation. He is being held without bond, facing charges of bringing a firearm across state lines and assault with intent to kill.

Corkins allegedly had the address of another anti-gay group, the Traditional Values Coalition, in his possession.

LGBT organizations, including the D.C. LGBT center where Corkins had volunteered, were quick to condemn the attack.

The Family Research Council, however, directed their condemnation elsewhere: at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which two years ago added the FRC and a dozen other anti-gay organizations to its list of hate groups. The SPLC labeled the FRC a hate group because of their repeated use of false propaganda to defame the LGBT community and push for the denial of rights to gay and lesbian people. This includes repeating an old, disproven myth about gays being more likely to molest children.

Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, held a press conference on the shooting, saying that Corkins “was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center. I believe the Southern Poverty Law Center should be held accountable for their reckless use of terminology.”

During the press conference, anti-gay slogans were visible, including on a man’s T-shirt.

Mark Potok, senior fellow of the SPLC, countered, “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,” Potok continued. “An FRC official has said he wanted to ‘export homosexuals from the United States.’ The same official advocated the criminalizing of homosexuality.”

On August 17, FRC executive vice president William Boykin, a retired general, called SPLC dangerous, evil, “anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, Marxist,” according to Bloomberg News. Boykin’s comments were on Glenn Beck’s internet show.

The Southern Poverty Law Center was founded in 1971 to track hate groups, and is located in Montgomery, Alabama. It was started to fight racism in the wake of the civil rights movement.

The FRC was founded 12 years later to push a Christian agenda in politics, and is “strategically located in Washington, D.C.” according to its web site.

The SPLC’s web page on the FRC notes, “The FRC often makes false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science. The intention is to denigrate LGBT people in its battles against same-sex marriage, hate crimes laws, anti-bullying programs and the repeal of the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. To make the case that the LGBT community is a threat to American society, the FRC employs a number of ‘policy experts’ whose ‘research’ has allowed the FRC to be extremely active politically in shaping public debate.”

It then goes on to use direct quotes from Family Research Council documents and figures to back up its claim that the organization is an anti-gay hate group.

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