Robert Knight

When a man shot and wounded security guard Leo Johnson at the Family Research Council (FRC) on August 15, the shooter left little doubt as to why.

According to the FBI, Floyd Lee Corkins II fired a nine-millimeter 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. And, 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 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 find out that Mr. Corkins had been a volunteer at the D.C. Center for LGBT Community, a group for “lesbian, gay, 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.”

Since 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 U.S. Army Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, who shouted “Allah hu Akbar” while killing 13 of his colleagues at Fort Hood in 2009, after which 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 August 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 unevenly applied.

The Family Research Council shooting came in the wake of FRC’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 Gray, who has hundreds of thousands of church-goers 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 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,” Potok called 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 overcame homosexuality and in many cases went 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 October 11 of that same year, two men abducted college student Matthew Shepard outside a bar in Laramie, Wyoming, beat him and tied him to a fence. He died early the next morning at a hospital.

Sensing an 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: 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 Barack 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, Colorado 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 because 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 in Mr. Corkins’ backpack did not get used.

And we can hope and pray that the leftwing campaign to demonize Christians with the “hate” label will lose power now that it’s been exposed.


Robert Knight

Robert Knight is an author, senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a frequent contributor to Townhall.