First up from the God Machine this week is the latest development in the shooting at the Family Research Council's headquarters, where the religious right powerhouse seems eager to exploit public sympathy and give up the moral high ground.
To briefly recap, Floyd Corkins stands accused of shooting an unarmed guard at the FRC offices in Washington this week, motivated by his political opposition to the group's far-right, anti-gay message. Fortunately, the victim, Leo Johnson, will recover and no one else was hurt.
On Thursday, FRC president Tony Perkins said the Southern Poverty Law Center gave the gunman "license" by criticizing the Family Research Council's work -- an argument the right generally rejects. Yesterday, Perkins went even further.
After trying to blame the Southern Poverty Law Center for the deplorable shooting that occurred at the Family Research Council’s office this week, FRC president Tony Perkins today also implicated the Obama administration in the shooting. While speaking with Rick Santorum today on Washington Watch Weeklyabout the Obama administration’s “attack on religious freedom,” Perkins said that what “we witnessed this past week at the Family Research Council” is “clearly linked to that same atmosphere of hostility that’s created by the public policies of an administration that’s indifferent or hostile to religious freedom.”
This shameful attempt to connect the Obama administration to the shooting is just the latest sign of the FRC’s attempt to exploit the tragedy for political purposes.
This seems like an exceptionally bad idea. As Perkins sees it, the Obama administration, presumably because of its support for contraception access, has created an "atmosphere of hostility" that led to some nut shooting a security guard.
The Family Research Council received an outpouring of well wishes and sympathy this week, because decent people everywhere, whether they're offended by the FRC's work or not, reject this kind of violence. That said, there's just no reason for the far-right organization to squander that goodwill so quickly, recklessly trying to blame its perceived enemies for an incident they had nothing to do with.
Perkins is making a mistake with these tactics, and I can't help but wonder if he'll look back at this moment in the near future, wondering whether he should have chosen a classier path.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* A Roman Catholic group in Wisconsin got to work this week, praying for Republican Paul Ryan to change his policies as they relate to the poor. "This group, which includes Franciscan friars, joins in the growing protests from Catholic clergy concerned about the impact Ryan's deep cuts in social programs will have on vulnerable members of society."
* Republicans in Kentucky's state legislature successfully pushed to tie the state's testing program to national education standards, but are now regretting the decision -- the standards include modern biology and they believe "the biblical account of creationism ... should be taught in Kentucky classrooms" (thanks to reader R.P. for the tip).
* Vatican City: "A Vatican judge on Monday ordered the pope's butler and a fellow lay employee to stand trial for the alleged pilfering of documents from Pope Benedict XVI's private apartment, in an embarrassing scandal that exposed power struggles and purported corruption at the Holy See's highest levels."