October 2012 Church & State | People & Events

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), wasted no time seeking to exploit a tragic shooting at his organization’s Washington, D.C., office.

In mid-August, a young man named Floyd Lee Corkins walked into the FRC offices carrying a 9 mm pistol in his backpack. He was disarmed by building manager Leo Johnson, who was shot in the arm during the scuffle.

Corkins reportedly expressed opposition to the FRC’s anti-gay views. (Johnson is expected to recover fully from the wound.)

Numerous organizations that oppose FRC’s agenda issued statements condemning the violence, among them Americans United.

AU’s statement read in part, “Over the years, we have strongly disagreed with the stands of the Family Research Council and have engaged in spirited debates with the organization on a number of issues, but those discussions and debates have occurred within a framework of decency and respect. We categorically reject all forms of violence directed against any policy organization – left, right or center – that is engaging in its First Amendment right to spread its views. Violence is never an appropriate response to political disagreements. Yesterday’s shooting was a deplorable act that is condemned by all reasonable people.”

The day after the shooting, Perkins held a press conference and denounced the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has designated the FRC a “hate group” for its baseless anti-gay rhetoric. Perkins did this even though the Southern Poverty Law Center had condemned the violence.

A day later, Perkins went even further. During a radio interview, he decided that President Barack Obama shared some blame for the incident as well. Obama’s “attack on religious freedom,” Perkins asserted, must have inspired Corkins. He presented no evidence to buttress this allegation.

Commenting on the incident on AU’s “Wall of Separation” blog, AU Senior Policy Analyst Rob Boston observed, “Perkins’ tawdry determination to milk this tragedy for all he can get is more proof of the simple lack of ethics that plagues many Religious Right organizations. (And these are the groups that feel entitled to lecture the rest of us on morality?) The man simply has no sense of decency. He ought to be ashamed of himself, but I’ve long since concluded that Perkins can’t experience that emotion.”