Recently, our friends at Right Wing Watch brought to light some startling (if not entirely surprising) comments made by Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (who among other activities, co-chaired Rick Perry’s The Response in Texas). We share their outrage over Perkins’ attack on the It Gets Better anti-suicide and anti-bullying campaign, and his attempt to brand supporters of the separation of church and state as “cultural terrorists.” You probably won’t be surprised to hear that Rev. Gaddy had a thing or two to say about this, and he did so in an editorial on Huffington Post. He also recorded a message for It Gets Better which is available here.
If you read Perkins’ comments, I believe you might easily share our frustration. As Rev. Gaddy so aptly wrote in his editorial, Perkins is not arguing for more general, non-denominational prayer in public life, but instead, exclusively Christian prayer. Perkins also seems to forget that our Founding Fathers were the ones who wrote into the First Amendment the religious freedom protections for which supporters of the separation of church and state advocate. To this, Rev. Gaddy says:
“I also know a thing or two about patriotism and American history. As I understand my label as a ‘cultural terrorist’ to be defined by Mr. Perkins, I am proud to share the honor of his label with people like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington — cultural and political heroes that neither I nor most Americans consider terrorists of any kind.”
What seems worse to me is Perkins’ other comments. In a letter, he asked his supporters to join him in condemning the It Gets Better campaign. This project, which is a source of inspiration for many LGBT youth who see no light at the end of the tunnel, is certainly not “immoral” by any means. What could be immoral about attempting to lower teen suicide rates? While Perkins is certainly entitled to his beliefs, to quote Rev. Gaddy, “that is no excuse for him or anyone else to support the continuation of the crisis of bullying that is plaguing our schools.”
Nothing comforts me about such malicious comments, but I do reluctantly force myself to remember that part of the reason Perkins can say such things is due to the religious freedom we are trying to protect. As a person of faith myself, I cannot find anything sinful about wishing to protect my faith by keeping government away from regulating my beliefs, or ensuring that my religion does not infringe upon the beliefs and practices of my neighbors. Cultural Terrorism? I don’t think so!
You can hear Rev. Gaddy discuss Tony Perkins’ past attempts at entangling faith and government on this episode, and this episode of State of Belief.