Dana Milbank: The Southern Poverty Law Center’s ‘Reckless’ Name-Calling

DanamilbankDana Milbank, the generally pro-gay Washington Post columnist, yesterday published a column in which he repeatedly insisted that he wasn't blaming the non-fatal Family Research Council shooting on the Southern Poverty Law Center's labeling of the FRC a "hate group." Nevertheless, he claimed that such "reckless" label-throwing "stirs up the crazies" and leads inevitably to violence:

… the organization that deemed the FRC a “hate group,” the Southern Poverty Law Center, [should not] be blamed for a madman’s act. But [it is] reckless in labeling as a “hate group” a policy shop that advocates for a full range of conservative Christian positions, on issues from stem cells to euthanasia.

… The National Organization for Marriage, which opposes gay marriage, is right to say that the attack “is the clearest sign we’ve seen that labeling pro-marriage groups as ‘hateful’ must end.”

Milbank's argument rests on the assumption that the Family Research Council is, as he puts it, a "mainstream conservative think tank"; one which operates in good faith, eschews violence, and generally tries to manage its affairs in such a way that it will not contribute to the ruination or end of any human lives. RightWingWatch has disemboweled this argument rather neatly:

The reality is that FRC is not a “mainstream conservative think tank.” That’s why FRC is one of only a handful of the many, many groups that oppose equality for gays and lesbians to be designated a “hate group” by SPLC. There’s a big difference between being conservative and being an extremist, but many in the media are missing the distinction …

RWW pulls out the most egregious example of FRC's unique craziness: FRC president Tony Perkins's support for Uganda's "Kill The Gays Bill," about which he lied to make the bill more palatable to American audiences. In 2010, on his radio show, Perkins said:

At the recent National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama took the podium calling for greater civility in Washington, which in my opinion is a laudable goal. However, his comments quickly turned to his preoccupation with defending homosexuality.

The President criticized Ugandan leaders for considering enhance penalties for crimes related to homosexuality. The press has widely mischaracterized the law which calls for the death penalty, not for homosexual behavior which is already a crime, but for acts such as intentionally spreading HIV/AIDS, or preying upon vulnerable individuals such as children, which has been a problem in Uganda for years because the large number of orphans.

The President said that “We may disagree about gay marriage, “but surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are.” Mr. President, as long as you characterize efforts to uphold moral conduct that protects others and in particular the most vulnerable, as attacking people, civility will continue to evade us.

Actually, the bill did call for the death penalty for those convicted of "aggravated homosexuality" — which is to say, repeat offenders. Those caught engaged in homosexual acts before having the opportunity to become repeat offenders were to suffer mere life imprisonment.

The relevant bits of the bill:

2. The offence of homosexuality.

(1) A person commits the offence of homosexuality if-

(a) he penetrates the anus or mouth of another person of the same sex with his penis or any other sexual contraption;

(b) he or she uses any object or sexual contraption to penetrate or stimulate sexual organ of a person of the same sex;

(e) he or she touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.

(2) A person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.

3. Aggravated homosexuality.

(1) A person commits the offense of aggravated homosexuality where the
(a) person against whom the offence is committed is below the age of 18 years;
(b) offender is a person living with HIV;
(c) offender is a parent or guardian of the person against whom the offence is committed; (d) offender is a person in authority over the person against whom the offence is committed; (e) victim of the offence is a person with disability;

(f) offender is a serial offender, or

(g) offender applies, administers or causes to be used by any man or woman any drug, matter or thing with intent to stupefy overpower him or her so as to there by enable any person to have unlawful carnal connection with any person of the same sex,

(2) A person who commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality shall be liable on conviction to suffer death.

(3) Where a person is charged with the offence under this section, that person shall undergo a medical examination to ascertain his or her HIV status.

Very unambiguous. Which in no way means it's okay to shoot Tony Perkins or the security guards outside his office. It only means Milbank is a bit confused when he suggests that:

… the Southern Poverty Law Center should stop listing a mainstream Christian advocacy group alongside neo-Nazis and Klansmen.

Nope. That's right where they belong. Incidentally, it's not okay to shoot neo-Nazis or Klansmen, either.