Weighing ‘Hate’ on Uneven Scales
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published August 17, 2012 on The Washington Times website.
When a man shot and wounded security guard Leo Johnson at the Family Research Council (FRC) on Wednesday morning, the shooter left little doubt why.
According to the FBI, Floyd Lee Corkins II fired a 9 mm Sig Sauer handgun in the lobby of the Washington-based pro-family group. He also had 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches in his backpack, plus 50 rounds of ammunition. According to Fox News, he said as Mr. Johnson disarmed him: “Don’t shoot me, it was not about you, it was what this place stands for.”
The motto of the Family Research Council, where I worked for 10 years and where we helped draft the federal Defense of Marriage Act, is “Faith, Family and Freedom,” which is over the building’s entrance.
You have to dig deep into most media reports to learn that Mr. Corkins was a volunteer at the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, a group for lesbian, homosexual, bisexual and transgender people. This contrasts sharply with other media reports, such as the ones about the Swedish mass murderer Anders Breivik, who was quickly and incorrectly identified as a “fundamentalist Christian.”
Because this is a column and not a court of law, I’ll make the common-sense observation that the FRC shooter’s motive seems clear. In fact, it’s as unmistakable as that of Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army major who is alleged to have killed 13 of his colleagues at Fort Hood in 2009, shouting “Allahu Akbar.” Authorities said they could not determine a motive.
So far, law enforcement won’t say whether the FRC shooting was a “hate crime.” By contrast, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told a memorial service on Aug. 10 for victims of the mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin by a white supremacist that it was “an act of terrorism, an act of hatred, a hate crime.”
It’s not that hate is not a factor in these tragedies — just that the label is applied unevenly.
The Family Research Council shooting came in the wake of the council’s defense of Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy’s remarks defending marriage, which had triggered threats from big-city mayors against the Atlanta-based fast-food chain.
Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent C. Gray, who has hundreds of thousands of churchgoers in his domain who view marriage the same way Dan Cathy does, sent a tweet about “hate chicken.” I would love to hear him explain all this to the Bible-believing pastors whom he counts as friends.
On Thursday, the mayor who equates support for traditional marriage with “hate” was calling for more gun control as an answer to the FRC attack.
Another artful dodger was Mark Potok, senior fellow of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which characterizes pro-family groups, including the Family Research Council, as “hate groups” because they oppose the homosexual political agenda. After FRC President Tony Perkins told the media that SPLC has been “reckless in labeling organizations ‘hate groups’ because they disagree with them on public policy,” Mr. Potok called Mr. Perkins’ remarks “outrageous.” The best defense is a good offense, and if the SPLC knows how to do anything, it’s to be offensive.
Mr. Potok also rejected the suggestion that the SPLC’s hate list had anything to do with making “the objects of criticism” into “the targets of criminal violence.”
The press has not been shy about making such instant connections, as long as the victim is part of a favored group.
In 1998, the Family Research Council and other Christian public-policy groups and ministries ran full-page “Truth in Love” ads in major newspapers featuring men and women who had overcome homosexuality and in many cases had gone on to marry and have children. The “ex-gays” credited Jesus Christ, who, they said, loves homosexuals as much as he does anyone else.
On Oct. 11 of that same year, two men abducted college student Matthew Shepard outside a bar in Laramie, Wyo., beat him and tied him to a fence. He died early the next morning at a hospital.
Sensing a historic opportunity, public relations teams of homosexual activists went into overdrive in Laramie, pushing the narrative that Mr. Shepard had been murdered simply for “being gay” and that the “hate-filled” pro-family “Truth in Love” ads were complicit.
Major network figures such as NBC’s David Gregory suggested that Mr. Shepard was the victim of “a new cultural war against gays and lesbians” by “religious right groups.” Katie Couric of NBC’s “Today” show asked a homosexual activist, “Do you believe this ad campaign launch by some conservative groups really contributed somehow to Matthew Shepard’s death?” The activist, Elizabeth Birch, quickly replied “I do, Katie,” and said “they happen because people’s minds have been twisted with cruel stereotypes about gay and lesbian people.”
Apart from the slander, the truth is far more complicated, as an ABC News “20/20” investigative report revealed:
“Former Laramie Police Detective Ben Fritzen, one of the lead investigators in the case believed robbery was the primary motive. ‘Matthew Shepard’s sexual preference or sexual orientation certainly wasn’t the motive in the homicide,’ he said. ‘If it wasn’t Shepard, they would have found another easy target. What it came down to really is drugs and money.'”
There’s more, but the point is that the media did not let facts get in the way of their narrative: Pro-family Christians and their hateful message killed this poor young man.
Using Mr. Shepard’s tragic death as a rallying point, liberals rammed through the federal hate crimes law, which President Obama signed in October 2009. The law adds penalties on top of a criminal conviction if the criminal has actionable thoughts when assaulting the victim. That makes some victims more valued under the law than others. The mass killings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. on July 20, for example, don’t meet the standard for a “hate crime.”
Hate-crime laws are wrong because they violate the concept of equal protection and they allow the government to criminalize thoughts and, thereby, speech.
It’s also wrong to hang the “hate” tag on opponents with whom you disagree.
We can thank God that Mr. Johnson was only wounded in the attack on FRC and is recovering well and that the 50 rounds of ammunition in Mr. Corkins’ backpack did not get used.
We also can hope and pray that the left-wing campaign to demonize Christians with the hate label will lose power now that it’s been exposed.