Calling pro-gender marriage supporters hateful is common. For example, in a Time opinion, Art Smith asked Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy to “take the hate off the plate.” And at Huffington Post, “nationally recognized LGBT leader in higher education” Shane L. Windmeyer wrote about Cathy’s “anti-gay remarks” and “Chick-fil-A's secretive donations to . . . a documented hate group.”
But does using the word “hate” lead to more hatred?
In the Washington Post, Dana Milbank cautions against throwing the word “hate” around so recklessly. And “stop listing a mainstream Christian advocacy group alongside neo-Nazis and Klansmen.”
Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights organization, posted an alert on its blog Tuesday: “Paul Ryan Speaking at Hate Group’s Annual Conference.”
The “hate group” that the Republicans’ vice presidential candidate would be addressing? The Family Research Council, a mainstream conservative think tank founded by James Dobson and run for many years by Gary Bauer.
The day after the gay rights group’s alert went out, 28-year-old Floyd Lee Corkins II walked into the Family Research Council’s Washington headquarters and, according to an FBI affidavit, proclaimed words to the effect of “I don’t like your politics” — and shot the security guard. Corkins, who had recently volunteered at a gay community center, was carrying a 9mm handgun, a box of ammunition and a backpack full of Chick-fil-A — the company whose president recently spoke out against gay marriage.
Human Rights Campaign isn’t responsible for the shooting. Neither should the organization that deemed the FRC a “hate group,” the Southern Poverty Law Center, be blamed for a madman’s act. But both are reckless in labeling as a “hate group” a policy shop that advocates for a full range of conservative Christian positions, on issues from stem cells to euthanasia.
I disagree with the Family Research Council’s views on gays and lesbians. But it’s absurd to put the group, as the law center does, in the same category as Aryan Nations, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Stormfront and the Westboro Baptist Church. The center says the FRC “often makes false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science.” Exhibit A in its dossier is a quote by an FRC official from 1999 (!) saying that “gaining access to children has been a long-term goal of the homosexual movement.”
Offensive, certainly. But in the same category as the KKK?
The National Organization for Marriage, which opposes gay marriage, is right to say that the attack “is the clearest sign we’ve seen that labeling pro-marriage groups as ‘hateful’ must end.”
The Family Research Council’s president, Tony Perkins, said Thursday that “Corkins was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center.” This goes too far. Nobody gave Corkins a license to kill. But at the same time, “hate,” a strong word, has been used too loosely — whether it’s Mitt Romney telling President Obama to take his “campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago,” or the Southern Poverty Law Center lumping a Christian policy group in with hooded bigots.