“He Said Something About Not Liking FRC’s Policies”: Domestic Terrorism Against the Family Research Council

News broke around midday today that a lone gunman had opened fire inside the Washington DC offices of the Family Research Council.  Little was known about the shooter, the security guard who was shot, or the reason behind the shooting.  I’m actually able to report some new details, having spoken with a source close to FRC.  Although I have great confidence in the source, I’m not able to verify these details independently, so it’s always possible that corrections or other important details will emerge that change the way in which we interpret the story.  Nonetheless, the story is starting to emerge as thus:

After the assailant had gained entry into the FRC building lobby by posing as an intern or an applicant for an internship, he said something about not liking FRC’s policies and opened fire.  FRC security guard Leo Johnson, even after he took a gunshot in the arm, ran toward the shooter and took him down.  As DC Police Chief Kathy Lanier said, Leo is a hero.  I’ve been to the FRC building in Washington and there is a large lobby with a security guard.  Post the lobby, there is only an elevator leading to several floors of offices.  If the assailant had been able to gain the elevator, he could well have killed a lot of people.

The assailant is now in custody, and the scene at FRC has been extraordinary, with 30 or so police, FBI and ATF cars and vans.

I was asked not to mention that the FBI was investigating the incident as an act of “domestic terrorism,” but this is already being published at CBN.

For a bit of context, the Family Research Council received attention recently in the Chick-fil-A imbroglio.  After Dan Cathy’s comments drew attention to Chick-fil-A and the Cathy family’s support for pro-traditional-marriage causes, the focus of same-sex marriage supporters shifted to the money that Chick-fil-A and the Cathy family delivered to Christian organizations through their WinShape Foundation.  It was claimed that the WinShape foundation delivers “millions of dollars” to “hate groups,” though most of that money went to tame if traditional ministries such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  The main group that was put forward as a “hate group” — because the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified it as such — was, you guessed it, the Family Research Council.

There will be more to say on this, but many Christian leaders, even if they were not big fans of the FRC approach, objected when the SPLC identified the FRC as a hate group.  And it’s questionable in the first place why the FRC stood front and center as one of the organizations that received “millions” of dollars from the WinShape foundation, when the FRC has only — ever (I verified this with the organization) — received $1000 from WinShape.

I have not always approved of the actions or words of those in the FRC, but I do believe in the defense of life from conception and in supporting the traditional family structure.  I know that same-sex marriage supporters have specific complaints against the group, and I will address those in an interview I’m going to post shortly, and let people make their own judgments.  But surely gunmen trying to blast their way through lobbies is not the way we want to go.

Opposition to same-sex marriage — that is, support for preserving the traditional family unit — has been identified as “hate.”  I’m afraid that this very radical (and in my view grossly unfair) way of defining a traditional Christian viewpoint is leading to greater and greater hate against traditionalist Christians.  We’ll have to learn more about the shooter’s story and his motivations, but if it’s true that he voiced his opposition to FRC policies before opening fire, I hope this inspires those opposed to the FRC to reconsider their overheated rhetoric.

About Timothy Dalrymple

Timothy Dalrymple was raised in non-denominational evangelical congregations in California. The son and grandson of ministers, as a young boy he spent far too many hours each night staring at the ceiling and pondering the afterlife.
 
In all his work he seeks a better understanding of why people do, and do not, come to faith, and researches and teaches in religion and science, faith and reason, theology and philosophy, the origins of atheism, Christology, and the religious transformations of suffering

  • http://trommetter.com/log/ Jason

    It can’t possibly be domestic terrorism!
    * The FRC is a conservative group, some might even say they’re a hate group
    * There’s a chance the shooter was gay, so he’s a member of an oppressed minority
    Doesn’t fit the media template for domestic terrorism.

  • http://aspecialmotherisborn.blogspot.com/ Leticia Velasquez

    I have given talks and conferences at FRC and found their environment to be extremely welcoming to a diverse community, yet they were founded on Christian principles and have earned a reputation for their fidelity to traditional morality.

  • Bob Wiley

    What, no one putting the blame on the Tea Party? Then file this incident in the same category as the hundreds of shootings and killings that have taken place in Chicago in recent years.

  • Eric L

    The SLPC didn’t designate the FRC a hate group for simply “opposing same-sex marriage”. The designation is because the FRC deliberately uses known falsehoods and junk science to support its opposition to same-sex marriage. Lying about a minority group in order to supress their rights certain sounds like hate to me. It certainly isn’t love.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      You use quotation marks as though you’re quoting me, but you’re not. I didn’t say that the SPLC designated the FRC as a hate group for opposing same-sex marriage, much less that they did it “simply” for that reason. I know it’s more complicated than that.

      If you’re interested in something more than accusations and slogans, I hope you check back for the interview. It won’t change your mind, but it’s worth giving people at FRC an opportunity to respond to some of the accusations.

      • Rob W

        Hi Timothy… your exact quote was “Opposition to same-sex marriage — that is, support for preserving the traditional family unit — has been identified as “hate.” ” Eric L seems to be quoting exactly what you said.
        You may realize that it is more complicated…but it is not what you said.

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          Oh, I see the miscommunication. Thanks, Rob.

          I can completely see how you would think that I had SPLC’s “hate group” designation in mind there. I was referring more generally to the general thrust of many arguments I’ve seen recently — at places like the “slacktivist” blog — that opposing same-sex marriage is intrinsically hateful. Whatever your motives might be, whatever you might feel when you’re doing it, it simply *is* hateful (this argument goes) to deny people their rights, to treat them as somehow less human than yourself, and so on and so forth. I’ve been composing a piece about this, and this was what I had in mind in this comment. Not calling FRC a “hate group” but calling opposition to same-sex marriage “hate”.

  • Christina Johnson

    Excuse me?! This is an organization (whether or not they recieved money from CFA is a moot point, btw) who consistently lies about GLBT people! That’s why they’ve been labelled as a hate group by the SPLC (who also got the KKK that same designation). So, your family, Mr Dalrymple, may well be tradition. Great. Wonderful. However, my family is not. Then again, we teach are children to be kind and loving and honest, and encourage them to reach out to those pushed to the margins. If groups like the FRC, the AFA, and NOM had their way, GLBT people would be kept in a second-class citizenship status not able to keep our own children, with no protections against discrimination in jobs, housing, and public accommodations. Bryan Fischer, for example, one of the leaders of AFA, said that it’s perfectly right for Christians to discriminate against GLBT people. He has also had the audacity to claim that gay men started the Nazi party, and that all GLBT people are pedophiles. NOM has taken a picture about the real definition of Biblical marriage (including scriptural references for polygamy, levirate marriage, concubines, and taking women by force) that’s been passed around on Facebook and is lauding it as proof that they are right to fight against the rights of GLBT people. NOM also funded a poorly-performed study to debunk years of social science research that states that the children of GLBT parents don’t really turn out any different than children raised in so-called “traditional” households. Tony Perkins of the FRC has claimed that we, simply by being GLBT, don’t know how to engage in interpersonal relationships properly. Furthermore, Pat Robertson has made the claim several times that we’re GLBT because of demonic possession, and questioned at one point what we may have to be proud of.

    So, what now? Are we supposed to sit idly by while these people slander us? While they make outlandish claims about us, about our families, and even support having our children taken away from us? I agree with you that gunning people down isn’t the answer, and will go further to say that the shooter probably had a few screws loose (they always do). What do they expect, though? They consistently lie about us, they fight to keep us from having the same rights as everyone else when it comes to jobs, housing, and public accommodations. These are not special rights, like these hypocritical organizations claim. Like I said before, I don’t care how much money FRC has recieved from Chick-Fil-A. However, I do care that these organizations are working actively to try to destroy families, just because we aren’t who they want us to be.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      We’re not talking about the AFA or NOM. We’re not talking about Pat Robertson or Bryan Fischer. We’re talking about FRC. And the fact that the SPLC rightly designates the KKK as a “hate group” does not automatically confer legitimacy on their designation of the FRC.

      The FRC is not trying to take your children away from you, and they want gay individuals to have all the same rights as heterosexual individuals. They do not believe that gay unions are marriages, however, and so they believe that the privileges granted to married couples ought not to be granted to gay couples. But we’ll get into this a bit more in the interview. But let’s try to focus on FRC and getting clear on exactly what they are saying and doing. It’s a fair bit more complicated than you’re making it out to be. For example, saying that the Texas sodomy case was wrongly decided (which could mean that it reached the right conclusion but in the wrong way) is not the same as saying that homosexuality should be criminalized. And seeking changes in a House resolution condemning the Ugandan law is not the same as supporting the Ugandan law, which FRC opposed.

      I don’t expect you to change your mind regarding the FRC, but I hope you get a more nuanced picture of who they are and what they do.

      • Alex

        But the FRC is indeed saying that homosexuality, in some cases, should be criminalized. Tony Perkins, in November 2011, objected to a Senate bill that would have repealed the sodomy proscription in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Also, they’ve objected to Google’s public relations campaign against sodomy laws in other countries (the “Legalize Love” initiative).

        Perkins also says things like this: “The research is overwhelming that homosexuality poses a danger to children” (on “Hardball”, November 29, 2011). I hope that your interview covers this statement.

        • Tom Wiley

          Alex,

          Tony Perkins clarified their position on the same Hardball interview you refer to, so you know that while they were not in favor of repealing the sodomy law, they also do not intend for it to be re-instated. In fact their position was that this is how it’s been for generations and there is no need to change.
          If you disagree with the research statistics, your argument is with the researcher, as they say, don’t shoot the messenger.

      • Christina Johnson

        Okay then. We’ll focus on what the FRC has to say. They have consistently and relentlessly linked homosexuality with pedophilia using junk science that has been discredited by many in the scientific community. Leaders of the organization have said that they would support efforts to criminalize homosexual behavior in the US. They support reparative (or ex-gay/ex-trans) therapy, which the American Psychological Association has stated does far more harm than good. They have called GLBT people disordered solely on the basis that we are GLBT people, and that our “disorder” results from that. They have claimed that GLBT activists want to abolish age of consent laws (NAMBLA does not count as GLBT activists). So, I guess… what do they want to call what they do if not hate? Libel? Slander? Verbage with a poison-elemental attack added to it? I mean, if I can’t call my marriage a marriage, and have the legal ramifications that go along with that (the “civil union” part of it), why can’t I at least call haters and liars what they really are? I mean, if they want to have their own space where they can have their own misguided views about what family really means, that’s fine. I’m cool with that. However, that is not they case. They are trying to legislate GLBT people and families out of existence based on fear, and they use lies to do it. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to…

        …being a member of the FRC or like-minded organizations who say the same kinds of things and engage in the same tactics (also known as the Dark Side of the Force, whose followers also deal flatly in absolutes and deception).

        Sorry for the “Star Wars” reference. I’m a geek. Hardcore.

  • Gerry

    So, reading the above comments, who do you think represents a hate group?

    • ron chandonia

      I support the teachings of the Catholic Church on homosexuality, which call for loving treatment toward those who suffer from what is rightly described as a disordered condition. I am frightened that this teaching is being distorted in the way Christina Johnson (above) has done with the obvious aim of branding Christian moral teaching so hateful that it should be proscribed. There are hate groups at work in this, but my church is not among them, and I doubt FRC is either.

      • Christina Johnson

        I’m not trying to brand “Christian moral teaching” as hateful. The Catholic Church is like a fast food chain: there are some congregations who are open and affirming of GLBT people, even if in secret. There are others who vehemently oppose GLBT rights in any given instance. Much like McDonald’s: some of them will have discounts on Quarter Pounders, and some of them will not at any given time. However, I think it’s interesting to note that it seems like there is a disconnect between the laypeople and lower levels of Catholic Church authority and the higher levels of Catholic Church authority. I’ll read news articles about some Bishop talking crazy about how all gay people are pedophiles (irony of ironies), and then I’ll have my Catholic friends consistently show me an outpouring of love. They don’t do this to try to make me convert to Catholocism, but because they actually get that whole “love your neighbor” thing and try themselves to be right with God while allowing other people to get right with God in their own time in the way that they need to. As one of my friends put it: “I’ve got way too many of my own sins to worry about the sins of others!” As for myself, I’m a protestant. It makes sense for me. I hope being Catholic makes sense for you. I’m sorry if it seemed like I was trying to say that all Christians are hateful, with a focus on the Catholic Church. However, if I specifically bring up the Catholic Church, I try to mention a specific person in a specific position along with that because I understand that there is a large spectrum of viewpoints within the Catholic Church, some aligning with doctrine, others that kind of bend the rules, and still others opposed to Catholic doctrine.

        I guess what I’m trying to say is: don’t accuse me of something that I never did. “Christian moral teaching” covers a lot more than sexuality, and while I disagree with most mainline denomination Christian views on sexuality, that doesn’t mean that I’m “branding Christian moral teaching [as] hateful”. I have only mentioned various “traditional values” organizations and why I think their designations as hate groups makes perfect sense. If you can give me something to go on that would prove otherwise, then by all means, gimme gimme gimme that info.

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          Christina, can you produce a link to an article that quotes a Bishop saying that all gay people are pedophiles? I’d be interested to see that.

          For me, it’s not a matter of trying to convict other people of sin. I am keenly aware of my own sins, and I believe most people are aware of theirs as well. And I don’t think any of my gay friends, colleagues or students can deny that I have sought to love my neighbor. I’m sure there are times when I stumble or get angry or etcetera, but the fact that a person is gay has literally nothing to do with the fact that I am called to love, and do love, that person. But I also believe there is a value in standing up for the truth in the public square, and that condoning something that is self-destructive is not at all what love does. So even if we don’t agree at the end of the day, I hope at least my motives can be clear.

          By the way, the best treatment of the “hate group” designation I’ve seen comes here, from someone who formerly worked at FRC: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/08/19/debatable-is-the-christian-church-a-hate-group/

  • Alex

    This shooter could end up being charged with a hate crime – either a Federal hate crime (based on religious affiliation) or a DC one (based on political affiliation). The FRC is on the record as opposing any and all hate crime laws, dismissing them as “Thought Crime laws” [capitalization theirs]. Do you suppose that the FRC will argue for clemency towards this shooter and request that he not be charged with a hate crime?

    You call this act “domestic terrorism”. Does this mean that you believe the crime is greater than, say, a shooting during a convenience store robbery? Do you believe that hate crime laws are justified? Is there any distinction between “domestic terrorism” and “hate crimes”?

    • andom

      SPLC lists 1,018 active hate groups in the United States (i.e. 186 KKK, 196 neoNazis).
      How strange: of all these groups only one who defends the family was the target of an attack.
      It seems that neoNazi or KKK’s hate groups are less reprehensible than FRC.

      • Christina Johnson

        Or maybe people see the KKK or Neo-Nazi designation and don’t take them seriously. They are crazy, but they have no power except for random, small scale attacks on innocent people. However, pre-emptive strikes against violent groups are considered crimes… kinda reminds me of Iraq in 2003. At any rate, Tony Perkins has KKK ties. So does this count as a violent attack against the KKK? When he was a campaign manager for a certain candidate, he bought a mailing list from a KKK grand wizard and lied about it. Why can’t he just admit to being a hateful bastard, eh?

        • andom

          “They are crazy, but they have no power except for random, small scale attacks on innocent people”.
          What is your meaning of ‘innocent’? Tell me, FRC’s people and Perkins are they ‘innocent’?

          • Christina Johnson

            By all means, no. FRC’s rhetoric has been hateful from day one. The difference is the fact that FRC has a lot more lobbying power than the KKK does. And the kinds of laws that they lobby for are discriminatory in nature. However, that doesn’t make violence a plausible solution. Even if the kind of vitriol they spread results in violence against the GLBT community (which it does), responding with violence only begets more violence. Not only that, violence in the vast majority of cases is morally reprehensible, including the attack on teh FRC. However, that does not make them innocent. Not by a long shot. If they would just admit that they are wrong, close up shop, go home, and make love to their spouses, this would all just blow over and…

            …maybe they can do something good for the world instead. I’m sure they’ve got something going for them that doesn’t involve obsessing over the sexuality of complete strangers.

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          Perkins bought a mailing list from David Duke. Really, although the optics are terrible and I wouldn’t want to do any business with Duke, if your purpose is simply to win an election for someone in Louisiana, it’s not a bad idea to buy a mailing list from David Duke. It doesn’t mean that Perkins “has KKK ties.”

          There are legitimate points on which to criticize Tony Perkins, but this, in my view, is probably not one of them. At least, the way in which it’s being used here is probably unfair.

  • Joel

    Unfortunately, I think this is just going to hyperpolarize our nation even more. The political atmosphere where you can’t eat at Chick-fil-A just because you like their food or not eat htere just for health reasons is only going to get worse.

    Do you support the Republican party line on guns, Tim? I know you don’t follow them on immigration.

  • Kubrick’s Rube

    Hey Tim. My full comment keeps getting stuck in the spam filter, so I’ll give the one paragraph version:

    Let’s say the law was that everyone had the same right to marry one non-related consenting adult of the same sex instead of the opposite sex. Would you find the fact that we could marry each other but not marry our wives acceptable because everyone has the “same rights”? Or would you consider the right to marry from a pool of potential life partners that featured 0% of the people you could plausibly have a legitimate conjugal relationship with to be not much of a right at all? Someone supporting such a scenario or its opposite does not “want gay individuals to have all the same rights as heterosexual individuals.”

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      You put this well, Scott, but there is no Constitutional “right” to marry. There’s a right to equal treatment under the law. You could see that as entailing that every person should be equally free “to make a lifelong commitment to any single consenting adult and receive the imprimatur of the state and the advantages it confers.” That would be one way to construe equal protection.

      I don’t see it that way, of course. I believe that marriage is not sociologically defined by theologically defined — i.e., that we are not free to decide what marriage means, since marriage was created/ordained by God. I believe that the sacrament of marriage ordained by God is for a man and a woman to become one for the purpose (in general) of forming a family and raising children. So the freedom to “marry” simply *means* the freedom for a man and woman to make a lifelong covenant, in this view. Now, the state needn’t accept my theology to accept that marriage is in fact a union of male and female.

      My points are (1) there is no such thing as a “right” to marry, especially a “right” to marry and define the terms of what marriage means; and (2) equal protection (the clearest route to argue from a Constitutional right to the act of marriage) does not entail that a person should be free to covenant with any non-related consenting adult and call it a marriage.

      All that aside, I have to say, yes, I do feel badly for gays who would like for their lifelong commitments to be honored as marriages. I’m sure I would be frustrated if I were in the same situation and believed the things they do.

      • Kubrick’s Rube

        Thanks for the response, Tim. Putting aside whether there actually is a right to marry (as important as that question is), the FRC does believe one has been established, so it’s the description of that organization as wanting “gay individuals to have all the same rights as heterosexual individuals” that I am focusing on here.

        On the FRC website, Peter Sprigg writes, “The ‘fundamental right to marry’ (as recognized by the U. S. Supreme Court) is one that belongs to every individual, not to every couple or group….” As per my other comment, I find the second part of this quote to be a hollow and meaningless distinction in the case of gay individuals (this applies to “equal protection” in the same way). It would be inaccurate to say then that the FRC “want gay individuals to have all the same rights as heterosexual individuals” in any functional sense. In the abstract and semantic sense you laid out above, sure, but not in any sense that most gay people hearing the conversation would find constructive. (I think this is a good example of the cross-talk our two sides often end up in- we can each hear the same words- from whichever side- and intuit completely different meaning/implication/motivation than is intended.)


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