Is the Family Research Council a Hate Group?

Is the Family Research Council a Hate Group? August 16, 2012

Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Vice President for the Family Research Council — and I met him in the past year at a Great Objects Gathering, an event meant to gather conservative and liberal evangelical leaders together and seek common cause on the overarching causes of our era.  I had never interacted much with FRC or anyone affiliated with it, but I knew on the one hand that I sometimes found myself wincing at the things its representatives said and on the other hand that I too was committed because of my faith to the defense of unborn life and of the traditional family structure.

I interviewed Rob last week, before the shooting at FRC headquarters in Washington but after the Chick-fil-A controversy.  Chick-fil-A CEO’s Dan Cathy’s comments first aroused the ire of many gays and supporters of gay marriage, but their objection to Chick-fil-A and the Cathy family eventually settled more on the funding activities of their charitable arm, the WinShape Foundation.  It was claimed that the WinShape Foundation had given millions of dollars to anti-gay “hate groups.”  Since some of the groups that received the most funding from WinShape, like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, really had nothing to do with anti-gay hate (although they hold to traditional Christian views regarding sexuality), and since the Southern Poverty Legal Center had identified the FRC as a “hate group” a few years ago, the real “smoking gun” was WinShape’s money given to the Family Research Council.

The Family Research Council was founded by conservative Christian icon  Dr. James Dobson, was long affiliated with Focus on the Family, and was established as a separate entity under Gary Bauer.  It serves now under the leadership of Tony Perkins to lobby on behalf of conservative Christian causes, especially the sanctity of life and marriage, but also many other topics that are considered important to the support of children and family.

I should say that my views, and my sense of the best strategy for cultural engagement, are not identical to those of the FRC.  This is not about me endorsing the FRC (I don’t matter much anyway).  This is about beginning a conversation.  Also, I saw rumor that WinShape, at least in the year 2010, had only given FRC $1000.  I wanted to ask whether that was the full extent of the funding they had received from WinShape.  I did not bring up every allegation against them.  They have been, for instance, wrongly accused of supporting a Ugandan bill to punish homosexuals; on the other hand, some of the things said by FRC’s Peter Sprigg cause me concern.  Still, I wanted to hear more about official policy and how the FRC thinks about the SPLC’s designation.  Here was the conversation:


Let’s address the funding question immediately.  The Family Research Council is put forward as the clearest example of a “hate group” WinShape has supported, but how much funding have you received from WinShape?

The Family Research Council has received very modest financial support from Chick-fil-A or any related entity, including WinShape.  But if we had received more funds, would that taint them or us?  We agree with Dan Cathy that he has a right to express a political opinion when asked about it, and I would challenge anyone to find an instance where Mr Cathy has demonstrated anything but the highest personal and professional ethics in the conduct of his company’s enterprise.

So we’ve received very little funding, but more importantly, we don’t hate anyone. We just want to preserve a fundamental building block of western civilization, which is marriage and the family.  It’s a ludicrous proposition that you hate people just because you believe that marriage is between one man and one woman for life.

I’ll give you more opportunity to respond to the “hate group” accusation shortly.  But to finish off the question of funding, I’ve seen it alleged that FRC received a mere $1000 from WinShape in 2010.  But for all we know, some have said, FRC may have received far more in other years. Is $1000 a good ballpark figure for what FRC might receive annually?

Let me double-check that.  We would be honored by it, but Chick-fil-A has not been a significant funder.  [Schwarzwalder later wrote me and stated that WinShape did not give $1000 per year, but $1000 total.]

FRC and its representatives are sometimes criticized for mentioning same-sex marriage and polygamy in the same breath.  Is your point that they are morally equivalent?  Or that the argument advanced for same-sex marriage would logically entail the approval of polygamy as well? 

It’s not an equivalency.  Rather, the premise of the homosexual marriage argument is that when people love each other, and want to live together, their marriage should be recognized as fully equal with heterosexual marriage.  My point is, if you use those criteria, the ones that gay activists have established, then there really is no line that can be drawn whenever people, however many people, of whichever gender, say that they love each other and wish to be united in marriage.

One of the reasons the FRC is sometimes construed as “hateful” is because its representatives, including Peter Sprigg and Tony Perkins, have associated homosexuals and pedophiles.  What do you say to these claims?

We’ve never claimed that all homosexuals are pedophiles.  Of course not.  We would never make that claim.  Yet the data does seem to indicate that homosexuals have a significantly higher incidence of pedophilia than heterosexuals.  There are many homosexuals who are just as morally horrified by pedophilia as heterosexuals.  But the data indicates that there is a higher proportion of pedophiles amongst homosexuals. Whatever the reasons for that, it’s just a statistical fact.

But the supporters of same-sex marriage have their own studies and researchers to point to, and will claim that you’re appealing to “junk science.”  How are non-experts to sort through the competing claims and competing data?

I would only say that I know the people who have done the research that we support.  I know how rigorous and intellectually honest they are, and also how politically driven many national medical organizations have become.

What do you think sparked Chick-fil-A appreciation day?  Why did it get so much support?

What we saw last Wednesday at Chick-fil-A indicates that there is a significant proportion of the American people who are weary of being accused of being bigoted or hateful simply because they affirm the biblical definition of the family.  People distinguish intuitively between hate and conviction.  When an organization, because it stands for something that historically has been understood as good, is characterized as hateful because it is unbending in that conviction, I think most intellectually honest people will say that’s not fair.  Even if they agree that homosexual unions should be legalized, they will realize that there are people in my family, people in my church, who think that the only appropriate sexual conduct can occur in marriage between a man and a woman.

The issue of “rights” needs also to be considered in context.  A definition is not a right.  Abraham Lincoln famously said, “If you call a dog’s tail a hind leg, how many legs does it have?”  His respondent said five.  Lincoln said no, a dog only has four legs, calling a dog’s tail a hind leg doesn’t make it one.  Similarly, marriage is an institution that is monogamous and permanent between one man and one women.  Believing that that’s the true definition of marriage is not hatred.  It’s simply an understanding of what the Judeo-Christian moral teaching always has been.

Were you surprised that the Family Research Council was caught up in this argument over Chick-fil-A and its support for conservative Christian causes?

No.  The gay blogosphere is very active.  They watch FRC very closely and of course they will extrapolate rather wildly concerning FRC’s affiliation with Chick-fil-A.  But from the mainstream press, the interest has been modest at best.

Essentially what we’re seeing, in very frank terms, is the desperate efforts of homosexual activists to be socially vindicated for conduct that they know is objectionable to most people. No one, to my knowledge, is advocating that anyone should break down one’s door and invade their home life, or that people should not be able to associate with affection with those they wish. If you want to have a polygamous relationship, for instance, there are no polygamy police wandering the streets.

We’re talking about an attempt to redefine the institution of marriage as it has historically been defined around the world for at least 3500 years.  We at the Family Research Council do not accept that redefinition.  No one is talking about persecution, criminalization, or execution. I’ve been involved in the social conservative movement for more than twenty years.  I don’t know anyone who wants those things.  What we do want is to sustain the institution that has been the building block of so much that is good and beautiful in society, and that’s a marriage between a man and a woman with children.

This, of course, is not the final word.  Leave other questions you want addressed in the comments.

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  • Alex

    The FRC quotes data showing that 3% of men self-report engaging in same-sex activity, plus data showing that 1/3 of all molestations are man-on-boy, and then claim that that 3% is perpetrating 1/3 of all molestations. This completely ignores the fact that a great number of men who abuse boys would never call themselves gay or admit to same-sex sexual activity (think Jerry Sandusky).

    This is not a subtle error and despite being repeatedly told about it, the FRC continues to make it and promote the idea that homosexuals are more likely to molest children. Rob Schwarzwalder is doing it again here.

  • Daniel

    1. If making a link between homosexuality and pedophilia is “just a statistical fact” and “not an equivalency” then what exactly is the purpose of repeatedly pointing it out?

    2. How are Rob and FRC so blissfully unaware that life-long monogamy has NOT always been the Judeo-Christian definition of marriage? What happened to dowries and concubines (among other long abandoned traditions). They can call modern marriage “Biblical” all they want, but as Rob says, calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one.

    3. Rob says he doesn’t know anyone who supports outlawing homosexual activity. Are we to believe then that he does not know Peter Sprigg?

  • Gerry

    Do you feel good now, Mr. Dalrymple? Was it as easy for you as it was for your interviewee? Was it as pleasant?
    Maybe for the next part of the interview you can ask him about the other words they’ve used and thrown against LGBT people, you know, expressions like man-horse marriage, criminal sanctions, quitting ‘being’ gay, choosing being gay, pawns of satan, operating out of nature, need to ban homosexuality, and the like.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I don’t know the context for “man-horse marriage,” but I imagine it was to make the argument that we cannot simply define something as marriage and make it so. FRC is pretty clear that they do not favor criminal sanctions (or a legal “ban”) for consensual gay sex between adults, although Peter Sprigg has sometimes confused the matter. I think FRC’s view of homosexual identity is over-simple, but it’s not outside the mainstream of Christian thought to believe that people can have some power to shape their desires over time, and can at least shape the ways in which they act upon those desires. I don’t know about “pawns of satan”; citation, please? Yes, Christianity has long regarded homosexuality as unnatural.

      I took the issues that seemed the most serious to me.

  • In Seattle there was a woman who loved a building so she married the building. Maybe not legally but in her heart she was married! My prayer is that we all will put Jesus first in our lives and seek Him above all else.

  • Crick

    What confuses me about all this is that I don’t know how you can build an organization based on fighting against fellow brothers and sisters of God and call it a “Biblically based” organization. Would Christ really support the tactics, language, anger…and it seems “hatred” used by this and similar organizations? The bible is a story about God’s love for this world and the promise of the kingdom of heaven. I don’t believe it’s meant to be used as a manifest for divisiveness, segregation, and bigotry that so many of the radical right seem to believe. How are these organizations loving their brothers as Christ loves us? By name calling, legal maneuvers, lobbying, press conferences and rallies with hateful messages posted on signs? Wouldn’t it be great if all these resources were put towards real discipleship and sharing God’s love with the world instead of sitting in judgement of others? What a great world that would be.

    • Frank

      There is zero love in encouraging and accepting sinful behavior.

  • CMP2763

    I just read an interesting article regarding the rate of homo/hetero/bi offenders of child molesters. There is no scientific data to support the claim that homo and bisexual commit more of these crimes. It directly refutes the claims of the FRC, going so far as to research the footnotes in a book used by the organization to support their claims. The article shows that the research for this article (Timothy J. Dailey titled Homosexuality and Child Abuse) is outright false, by flat out lying about the data and findings from other scientific articles. You can read the report here: Anyone going to these extremes should deserve the stigma of an hate group. I, for one, am tired of the eisegesis and lies coming from these types of groups, whether they be conservative or liberal, sectarian or non! Ideology should be based on facts, not the other way around.

  • Kodos

    Be careful when citing Gregory Herek’s work. He is a Professor of Psychology but also a gay activist, which will color his research conclusions and his interpretations of data from other studies.

  • Christie

    The FRC is a hate group. They lobbied for the execution of gay people in Africa:
    According to the FRC’s official lobbying report for the first quarter of 2010, they paid two of their henchmen $25,000 to lobby Congress against approving a resolution denouncing Uganda’s plan to execute homosexuals. The resolution passed in the Senate on April 13th, but remains languished in the House almost four months after being referred to the Foreign Affairs Committee. Did the FRC’s lobbying kill it?

    You can download the report yourself here:

    The KKK will say they are not a hate group as well, but sorry they are a hate group.

    I don’t support what that gun person did at all. There is a bad apple in every bunch. Like those people who bombed abortion clinics.

    23 gay rights leaders condemn Family Research Council shooting

  • chris

    I would only say that I know the people who have done the research that we support. “”

    Exactly why you are correctly designated as a ‘hate group’. You should have no contact whatsoever with the people doing the actual research. Instead, you paid a bunch of fellow gay-hating bigots to manufacture bogus data, which you then disseminated to the public knowing full well that you were lying to them. There is no legitimate lobbying or political purpose behind doing that. It’s just there to promote an atmosphere of hostility towards homosexuals, hence we correctly label the FRC a ‘hate group”

  • Frank

    There is absolutely nothing hateful about FRC. What’s ironic is this obviously is a strategy to label anyone who does not agree with the homosexual activists as a hater or bigot. The problem with this strategy is that every time it’s used, mostly in error I might add, it loses power.

    Whoever wrote this narrative has written a failed strategy.

  • Kodos

    “Hate Group” is the new “Nazi”.
    In the old days you knew that your rhetorical opponent had no argument of substance when he used the “Nazi” label to describe your position, or compared you to “Hitler”.
    Today “Hate Group” is the insult du jour used by people who want to belittle opponents of homosexuality without trying to understand the reasons those people may be opposed to homosexuality.

  • Bobby B.

    Is the FRC a hate group? No. Is the FRC a hated group? Yes.