A senior researcher with the Southern Poverty Law Center called claims that it gave "license" to a shooter who injured a security guard at the Family Research Council on Wednesday "outrageous," saying the conservative group his organization calls a "hate group" is using the shooting as "an opportunity to score points."
In a statement, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, Mark Potok, wrote, "The SPLC has listed the FRC as a hate group since 2010 because it has knowingly spread false and denigrating propaganda about LGBT people — not, as some claim, because it opposes same-sex marriage. The FRC and its allies on the religious right are saying, in effect, that offering legitimate and fact-based criticism in a democratic society is tantamount to suggesting that the objects of criticism should be the targets of criminal violence."
Earlier today, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said that the Southern Poverty Law Center gave "license" to the violence at the Family Research Council's Washington headquarters on Wednesday.
Potok wrote, "Perkins and his allies, seeing an opportunity to score points, are using the attack on their offices to pose a false equivalency between the SPLC’s criticisms of the FRC and the FRC’s criticisms of LGBT people."
Although Thursday's statement by Perkins linking the Southern Poverty Law Center to the violence on Wednesday was stark, the conservative religious political group's opposition to the "hate" listing, however, is the latest act in a running battle over whether social conservatives have themselves become the victims of the kind of bigotry of which their foes often accuse them.
When the Southern Poverty Law Center added the Family Research Council to its listing of hate groups in 2010, it wrote: "Generally, the SPLC's listings of these groups is based on their propagation of known falsehoods — claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated, groundless name-calling. Viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups."
The Family Research Council responded by placing full-page ads in two Washington-area publications — the Washington Examiner and Politico — in December 2010, decrying the "hate" listing and stating, "This is intolerance pure and simple. Elements of the radical Left are trying to shut down informed discussion of policy issues that are being considered by Congress, legislatures, and the courts."
The advertisement was signed by several prominent social conservatives and several members of Congress, including the incoming House Speaker, Republican John Boehner of Ohio, and the incoming House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor of Virginia. Among presidential contenders and possible vice-presidential nominees, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Herman Cain, Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Sen. Rick Santorum signed on to the advertisement's statement.
Among the Republicans not signing on to the ad's statement: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.