The Family Research Council (FRC) ran a full-page open letter advertisement in print editions of Politico and of the Washington Examiner on Wednesday calling for a “civil debate” with the Southern Poverty Law Center, the liberal group that labeled the FRC and other social conservative organizations as “hate groups” in early December.
Among the 150 influential conservative leaders who signed on to the FRC’s open letter are Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, soon-to-be House Speaker John Boehner, soon-to-be House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Indiana Congressman Mike Pence. The open letter calls for the SPLC to “start debating” and “stop hating.” FRC President Tony Perkins told The Daily Caller he had to cut names from the list to fit them all on the advertisement.
In the open letter, the FRC said, “The surest sign one is losing a debate is to resort to character assassination. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a liberal fundraising machine whose tactics have been condemned by observers across the political spectrum, is doing just that.”
Perkins told TheDC that his group has “just begun getting signatures,” and plans to launch a nationwide tour getting people all around the country to sign onto FRC’s call for halting labeling.
“We’re not afraid to debate the issues,” Perkins said in a phone interview. “We are not running from the debate. We are confident on the issues we advocate for based on empirical, peer-reviewed research.”
The FRC commended the SPLC for what is “was once known for,” which was “combating racial bigotry,” but said the SPLC “is now attacking several groups that uphold Judeo-Christian moral views, including marriage as the union of a man and a woman.”
“Number one, it basically sent the message that the SPLC is off their rocker, and, if they think we’re going to run in the other direction, they’re wrong,” Perkins said. “We’re going to full-speed but not in the direction they want us to. The left wants to say these issues are beyond debate. If we, as a country, decide there is no debate, it becomes a totalitarian state.”
The letter also says the SPLC’s “hate group” designation is similar to tactics used against other conservative groups and movements.
“These types of slanderous tactics have been used against voters who signed petitions and voted for marriage amendments in all thirty states that have considered them, as well as against the millions of Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement,” the letter says. “Some on the Left have even impugned the Manhattan Declaration – which upholds the sanctity of life, the value of traditional marriage and the fundamental right of religious freedom – as an anti-gay document and have forced its removal from general communications networks.”
The SPLC failed to return TheDC’s request for comment.