We’ve heard a lot of rhetoric in the last couple of months after the Newtown tragedy to the effect that the National Rifle Association was responsible for the murder of the children killed in that atrocity and other mass shootings. Whatever one might think of the NRA’s stand in opposition to any change in the gun laws, this sort of over-the-top attempt to delegitimize advocates of a point of view did nothing to help us understand that or similar crimes. But there has been at least one instance in which a national advocacy organization did directly incite and abet a crime involving gun violence.
As the Washington Examiner reports, the person charged with an attack on the Family Research Council in which a security guard was shot last summer did so after he read an entry on the Southern Poverty Law Center website designating the conservative organization as a “hate group” because it opposed gay marriage and helped him find its offices.
After holding off on making any statement about the shooting attack on his group’s Washington headquarters by a critic of their positions on social issues, the Family Research Center’s Tony Perkins spoke out today and placed at least some of the blame for the incident on the Southern Poverty Law Center, a generally respected liberal watchdog group. This will come as a shock to many whose knowledge of the SPLC comes from the good press it gets for its work over the years monitoring extremist hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. But in recent years, they have expanded their definition of a hate group to include not just the likes of David Duke and neo-Nazis but non-violent conservative advocacy groups. While the SPLC says it condemns violence, their actions have placed a bull’s eye on groups it dislikes and rendered them vulnerable to intimidation.
According to the SPLC’s way of thinking groups like the Family Research Center that oppose abortion and gay marriage are pretty much the moral equivalent of the Klan. Shockingly, the SPLC also lists on their website’s roster of haters people like Washington think tanker Frank Gaffney because of his position on the threat from Islamist terror groups like the Muslim Brotherhood which they interpret as a form of Islamophobia. Indeed, Gaffney is listed on the SPLC’s website on a roster of profile of hatemongers such as Louis Farrakhan and a leader of a white nationalist militia. While one may disagree with the Family Research Council’s religious conservatism or Gaffney’s ideas about the threat from shariah law, the idea that they deserve to be placed in such a context is outrageous. In doing so, they are also responsible for creating an atmosphere in which those who take such positions are to be intimidated into silence. Yesterday’s events ought to cause the Law Center to rethink its irresponsible labeling of political opponents.