Religious liberty, hate and every American's rights

Chick-fil-A sales have broken all records after being threatened by ultra-left wing activists. The restaurant chain, attacked for its CEO’s affirmation of marriage as an institution between a man and a woman, became a rallying cry for freedom of speech and religious expression.

America is a center-right country, with a majority that respects traditional values and simple common decency, both of which inform their consumer and investment decisions.

The past month highlighted issues in America’s culture war, culminating in a shooting that could have been perhaps the deadliest act of domestic terrorism ever driven exclusively by a social issue. Several related episodes showcase the nexus between these social controversies and economic prosperity.

First, when Chick-fil-A officer Dan Cathy made an orthodox Christian statement regarding same-sex marriage it set off a firestorm on the Left, calling for economic retribution by boycotting the 1,600-store restaurant chain. This evoked a national response across the political spectrum, calling those who value our First Freedoms to eat chicken in support of the embattled corporation.

Second, a gay-rights activist entered the building of our organization, Family Research Council (FRC), where he told our operations manager that he objected to our politics and opened fire with a handgun. Our political beliefs reflect our Christian faith.

This comes in the context of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) designating FRC a “certified hate group” because of our biblically-based beliefs regarding marriage and human sexuality. We encourage love and respect for all people including those seeking to redefine marriage, and we have made clear we abhor and reject all violence directed against anyone for their sexual behavior.


Yet some associate “hate group” with advocating physical harm or other deplorable actions. As we work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, we now know that the man who shot our employee was also targeting at least one other organization labeled a “hate group” by SPLC.

This war of words launched by the SPLC as cover for its allied organizations on the left has led to an open assault upon those with whom they disagree. This type of demonizing must stop.

FRC’s belief in marriage has prevailed in 32 states where the voters have spoken, is the official position of the Republican Party, and until three months ago was Mr. Obama’s position. If the religious foundation of our convictions makes us a “hate group,” then every other Christian ministry or historically orthodox church could be likewise designated.

SPLC’s tactics are intended to intimidate and ultimately silence. Nothing could be more threatening to the future of our republic.

Combined, we three have over a hundred years of fighting for freedom on battlefields, in legislative halls, diplomatic circles, marketplaces, and the public square. We approach these matters from economic and security vantage points, not just social and legal.

Religious liberty is the most important of our human rights. Without religious freedom, people exist only as political or economic entities, not as free human beings. Religious liberty is the first of all rights, for it implies the dignity and sacredness of human conscience, that a person’s duty to his Creator precedes his duty to the state. A person’s faith is the most profound aspect of personhood.

Conventional wisdom is that this election will be driven by economic issues, rather than social issues. The reality is that social issues are economic issues, as marriage and childrearing entail profound implications for fiscal issues of consumption, investment, and government entitlements.

Pursuing good policy with civility is beneficial both socially and economically. We should debate these things with civility, and eschew name-calling and marginalization.

Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council (FRC) and a former Louisiana legislator. William G. Boykin is FRC’s executive vice president and former commanding general of U.S. Army Special Operations Command. J. Kenneth Blackwell, former US Ambassador to the UN Commission on Human Rights, is FRC’s senior fellow for economic issues.