The Southern Poverty Law Center, under attack from ultra-conservative groups that claim it shares the blame for an Aug. 15 shooting outside the Family Research Center in Washington, D.C., has responded to its critics.
The SPLC's Mark Potok called the attack on the FRC, which resulted in the wounding of a security guard and ended with the arrest of a 28-year-old Virginia man, a tragedy.
"The Southern Poverty Law Center deplores all violence, and our thoughts are with the wounded victim, Leo Johnson, his family and others who lived through the attack," Potok said.
He continued, "For more than 40 years, the SPLC has battled against political extremism and political violence. We have argued consistently that violence is no answer to problems in a democratic society, and we have strongly criticized all those who endorse such violence, whether on the political left or the political right.
"But this afternoon, FRC president Tony Perkins attacked the SPLC, saying it had encouraged and enabled the attack by labeling the FRC a 'hate group.' The attacker, Floyd Corkins, 'was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center,' Perkins said. 'I believe the Southern Poverty Law Center should be held accountable for their reckless use of terminology.'"
The SPLC called Perkins' accusation outrageous.
Acknowledging that it has listed the FRC as a hate group since 2010, the Alabama-based group explained that the FRC 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."
Potok said, "As the SPLC made clear at the time and in hundreds of subsequent statements and press interviews, we criticize the FRC for claiming, in Perkins’ words, that pedophilia is 'a homosexual problem' — an utter falsehood, as every relevant scientific authority has stated. An FRC official has said he wanted to 'export homosexuals from the United States.' The same official advocated the criminalizing of homosexuality."
The organization said Perkins and his allies were trying to score points using the attack on the FRC office.