The Hate Debate, Ctd

Aug 20 2012 @ 2:43pm

After last week's shooting at the Family Research Council (FRC), where, thankfully, no one died, the FRC blamed the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which labels the FRC a "hate group." Josh Barro defends the SPLC:

Opposition to gay marriage is anti-gay, but it does not have to be rooted in hate. But FRC is not simply an anti-gay marriage group.  As the Law Center has documented, FRC has a broad and inflammatory anti-gay agenda. FRC contends that gays are dangerous, which its scholars argue justifies criminalizing homosexual behavior and barring gays from various professions, like teaching. For example, see this 1999 paper co-authored by Robert Knight, who at the time served as FRC's Director of Cultural Affairs. In it, he alleges the existence of a gay conspiracy to promote pedophilia. 

Adam Serwer is on the same page:

The SPLC's decision to categorize the Family Research Council as a hate group, while subjective, nevertheless relies on FRC's record of purveying stereotypes, prejudice, and junk science as a justification for public policy that would deny gays and lesbians equal rights and criminalize their conduct. Accusing someone of purveying "hate" does not contain a justification for violence, explicit or implicit. It's a free country, and hating is one of the rights Americans have under the First Amendment. But if an organization were putting forth papers arguing that blacks, Latinos, or Jews were inherently prone to committing certain crimes and recommended laws specifically tailored to restricting their behavior, would we call them a hate group? At the very least, the SPLC has evidence for its decision beyond simply disliking FRC's politics.

I just wish we could do away with the word "hate" in these debates. It's far too crude a designation. When opposition to minority rights is rooted in the kinds of lies and conspiracy theories and smears that FRC trafficks in, best to call it bigotry. When it is rooted in genuine secular concerns about the social consequences of, say, marriage equality, it is completely legitimate. Along the same lines, in response to Gwynn's post from last week on on the topic, a reader writes:

Guilford cites Dreher and Milbank's essays that insist that the FRC is not in the same category as, for instance, the KKK.  Guilford might have wanted to note that Perkins, the head of the FRC, actually has long standing ties with the KKK and the White Power movement.  In 1996, for instance, the Federal Election Commission fined Perkins for attempting to hide a payment to David Duke for the KKK's mailing list, a list he used in the Senate campaign for Woody Jenkins.  Moreover, in 2001, Perkins gave a speech to the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Concerned Citizens and this organization fights against not only homosexuality but also the intermixing of the races, i.e. it is an overtly racist organization.  Perkins has since claimed that he had no idea about their ideological positions, but such efforts at deflection, even if true, raise suspicions about Perkins' sense of responsibility (who speaks before a group without knowing what they stand for). So, in my opinion, Dreher and Milbank are missing some tangible connections between Perkins and organized racist organizations, including the KKK, connections that the SPLC notes in their report on the FRC.

Besides that, the FRC participates in constructing 'homosexuals' as threats by spreading libels, i.e. homosexuals are after 'your' children, which is analogous to the blood libel against Jews, for example, which presumably most people would classify as 'hate speech.'  Oddly, whenever LGBT folks face such unsubstantiated accusations, they are simply ideological differences, small policy (!) differences that should not inhibit dialogue.  I am not sure how I can have a productive dialogue with an organization that imagines I am a predator.

Me neither. But just engaging in dialogue can dispel some of the myths the bigots hold in their hearts and minds. Look how far we've come through dialogue about the core issues, like marriage or military service. There are times when the "hate debate" actually prevents this from happening.