On August 15, a gunman, apparently hostile to our positions on the issue of homosexuality, shot one of my colleagues in the lobby of the Family Research Council headquarters. In the wake of this attack, even liberal journalists, such as Dana Milbank of The Washington Post and James Kirchick (named Journalist of the Year in 2007 by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association), have called on the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and other homosexual activists to back off on their inflammatory labeling of FRC as an anti-gay hate group.

The SPLC refused. Since SPLC has doubled down on the hate group charge, FRC recently posted a brief response to some of the key charges made by SPLC in support of this defamatory label. At the end, the piece addressed what would seem to be the key issue with the following question and answer:

Does FRC “hate” homosexuals?

As a Christian organization, we have an obligation to love our neighbor—including our neighbors who experience same-sex attractions. However, we believe sexual acts between persons of the same sex are objectively harmful to those who choose to engage in them and to society at large, in addition to being forbidden by Scripture. Since the essence of love is to desire the best for a person and act to bring that about, we believe the most loving thing we can do is discourage such self-destructive conduct, rather than affirm it. We are happy to debate those who disagree with us regarding the harms of homosexual conduct, but there is no justification for anyone to impugn our motives with false labels such as “hate.”

One homosexual blogger (and regular critic of FRC) did a detailed critique of the FRC Issue Brief. To this final point, he emphasized that the SPLC hate group label is not because of our political positions, but because we support those positions by saying things which (they claim) are untrue.

After reiterating this SPLC definition of an anti-gay hate group, the writer then says the following:

Now whether or not FRC hates gays is irrelevant.

Say what?

[W]hether or not FRC hates gays is irrelevant (emphasis added) to the question of whether we are an anti-gay hate group?

I certainly appreciate the (implicit) concession that FRC may not, in fact, actually hate homosexuals at all.

If you are going to call someone a hate group, however, shouldnt it be a minimum necessary condition that they actually hate someone?

I think this statementwhether or not FRC hates gays is irrelevant—is what lawyers call an admission against interest. It shows, quite clearly (albeit perhaps accidentally), that the hate group label is not meant to be a description of reality.

That label is, instead, a weapon—merely a tool to be used against certain pro-family groups to cut us out of the public debate on crucial issues. (For example, in a webcast shortly after the SPLCs designation of FRC as a hate group in 2010, SPLC President J. Richard Cohen said, We dont believe these people should be put on TV.) The hate group label is a rhetorical weapon, in the minds of those who coined it—but a weapon nevertheless.

If FRC says things that other people find offensive, such people should say, That offends me (but those same people should also then listen to the explanation). If FRC says things other people think are untrue, such people should say, I dont believe that (but those same people should then examine the evidence). That is all part of political and social debate.

But when homosexuals and other pro-homosexual activists have been told over and over, first by the SPLC and then by others who parrot their line, that Family Research Council is an anti-gay hate group, someone may actually begin to believe that FRC hates homosexuals. And that person may hate us back. But the weapon he uses may not be words.

The debate over homosexuality and the redefinition of marriage must continue, and not be stifled.

The false hate group label must go.