FRC shooter's plea renews criticism of 'hate group' label

Security Guard Shot In Washington DC Credit Chip Somodevilla Getty Images News Getty Images CNA US Catholic News 2 7 13 Local and federal investigators work to gather evidence after a security guard was shot in the arm at the Family Research Council offices Aug. 15, 2012 in Washington, DC. | Chip Somodevilla/Gett

Following the guilty plea of the man who shot a security guard at the Family Research Council last summer, pro-family organizations are renewing their calls for an end to the label "hate group."

"For far too long, media outlets and reporters have allowed activist groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center to label opponents of same-sex 'marriage' as 'hate groups,'" said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, in a Feb. 6 press release.

"But words have consequences," he continued, and the use of such terms "can lead to harassment and even violence against members of those organizations."

Brown was one of several prominent marriage defenders who reacted to the Feb. 6 hearing of Floyd Corkins II, a Virginia man who admitted to planning a mass shooting at an organization that opposes efforts to redefine marriage.

Last August, Corkins entered the Family Research Council's headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he shot and wounded a security guard before being wrestled to the ground and disarmed.

He pleaded guilty to transporting a firearm and ammunition across state borders, armed assault with intent to kill and an armed act of terrorism.

According to the plea agreement, Corkins told FBI agents that he wished to "make a statement against the people who work in that building ... and with their stance against gay rights."

He acknowledged during the hearing that he intended to "kill as many people as possible" in the August shooting. He had planned to target other pro-family organizations if he was not arrested, reported CBS News.

In addition, Corkins said that he wanted to smear Chick-fil-A sandwiches in the faces of his victims to make a point. He had been carrying 15 sandwiches from the fast food chain on the day of the attack.

Shortly before the shooting, the president of Chick-fil-A had attracted media attention by stating his support for the biblical view of marriage. Family Research Council had once received a donation from fast food chain.

Corkins also confirmed in his plea agreement that he had picked the Family Research Council as a target based on the Southern Poverty Law Center's label of the organization as a "hate group."

According to its website, the law center gives the designation of "hate group" to organizations that "have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics."

The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Family Research Council as a "hate group," asserting that it is "anti-gay."

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins responded in a statement by saying that "while Corkins was responsible for the shooting, he had been given a license to perpetrate this act of violence by groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center which has systematically and recklessly labeled every organization with which they disagree as a 'hate group.'"

The law center "can no longer say that it is not a source for those bent on committing acts of violence," Perkins said of Corkins' plea and admission of motive.

"Only by ending its hate labeling practices," he said, will the Southern Poverty Law Center "send a message that it no longer wishes to be a source for those who would commit acts of violence that are only designed to intimidate and silence Christians and others who support natural marriage and traditional morality."

Brown added that media outlets should also consider their use of such labels, which he termed "deplorable."

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"(S)tanding up for traditional marriage does not make anyone 'anti gay,'" he stressed, and such designations can be dangerous.

He called it "reckless for news reports to allow the charge of 'hate group' to be applied to any organization because their beliefs affirm a traditional Judeo-Christian view of marriage and sexual morality,"

"We hope that media organizations will seriously reflect on these issues knowing that irresponsible 'hate group' charges nearly led to a massacre at the Family Research Council," he said.

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