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Family Research Council

The Family Research Council (FRC) bills itself as “the leading voice for the family in our nation’s halls of power,” but the group’s real specialty is defaming LGBTQ people.

FRC often makes false claims about the LGBTQ community based on discredited research and junk science. The intention is to dehumanize LGBTQ people as the organization battles against LGBTQ rights. In the past, this included stances against same-sex marriage, hate-crime laws, anti-bullying programs and the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. FRC continues this work but has also revived long-debunked pedophilia and grooming myths in its work against transgender rights, opposition to drag performances, and support for conversion therapy. The latter is in response to state-level and international bans on conversion therapy for minors. FRC has amplified and even co-opted some queer rhetoric and social science about the mutability of identity to imply LGBTQ people can and should change to become straight and cisgender despite research showing such practices cause harm to LGBTQ children.

To make the case that the LGBTQ community is a threat to American society, the FRC employs several “policy experts” who have allowed the FRC to be extremely active politically in shaping public debate. Its research fellows and leaders often testify before Congress and appear in the mainstream media. It also works at the grassroots level, conducting outreach to pastors to “transform the culture.” In advancing the cause of “religious freedom,” which they understand as the freedom to discriminate against anyone they find morally inferior, FRC has also established itself as a “network of churches,” which limits public scrutiny of its political activity.

In Their Own Words

“The reality is, homosexuals have entered the Scouts in the past for predatory purposes.”
– FRC vice president Rob Schwarzwalder, on radio’s “The Janet Mefferd Show,” Feb. 1, 2013

“Homosexual activists vehemently reject the evidence which suggests that homosexual men … are … relative to their numbers, more likely to engage in such actions [childhood sexual abuse] than are heterosexual men.”
– Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at FRC, on why the Boy Scouts should not allow LGBTQ scouts or leaders, FRC blog, Feb. 1, 2013

“Family Research Council believes that homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed. It is by definition unnatural, and as such is associated with negative physical and psychological health effects.”
– Family Research Council website, 2016

“The position of social conservatives regarding homosexuality is based on the conviction that homosexual conduct is objectively harmful.”
– FRC senior fellow Peter Sprigg, “How to Respond to the LGBT Movement,” pamphlet published February 2018

“People with gender dysphoria or transgender identities are more likely than the general public to engage in high-risk behaviors, which may result from or contribute to psychological disorders (or both). … High rates of suicide exist even among those who have already received gender reassignment surgery, which suggests that suicidal tendencies result from an underlying pathology.”
– FRC senior fellow Peter Sprigg, “How to Respond to the LGBT Movement,” pamphlet published February 2018

“I know they’ll mock at that idea, but look, if you are a male – genetically you are a male, biologically you’re a male – and you say, ‘Well, I’m not a male. I’m a female.’ I mean, what’s to keep you from saying that you’re an animal?”
– Tony Perkins on being transgender on his “Washington Watch” radio show, May 14, 2018

“Three years since the decision that redefined marriage for America, the Left is still bulldozing their way through every possible social norm. The country finally realized – too late – that this isn't about two people who love each other. It's about obliterating every moral and cultural boundary humans have ever known.”
– Tony Perkins, “Military’s ‘Don’t Ask’ the Turning Point in Bigger War,” July 19, 2018

“For years, LGBT activists wanted to keep the goal of luring children into sexual confusion under wraps. Now that they’ve hoodwinked a lot of the country on their agenda, these extremists no longer have to hide. In fact, they are increasingly bold–even boastful–about their real intentions of recruiting kids.”
– Tony Perkins, “‘I Have a Girl Brain but a Boy Body’: Virginia Kindergartners Are Read Transgender Story,” posted at The Daily Signal, March 6, 2019

“By ignoring underlying conditions, the demands of transgender supremacy ignore our unique kids, especially those with autism and mental health diagnoses. They deflect much-needed resources away from the pandemic of autism.”
– Sarah Perry, FRC director of partnerships and coalitions coordinator, falsely implying that transgender people prey on autistic children, Oct. 8, 2019

“Our country understands that Scientology is a cult. But we still don’t seem to understand how much the transgender movement mirrors cults like Scientology.”
– “The Regressive Cult of Transgenderism,” FRC website, Nov. 18, 2019

“So, when did religious freedom become an excuse to discriminate? From the beginning. We discriminate any time we make a moral judgment. The primary purpose of the First Amendment has always been to prevent governments from labeling the beliefs of people they disagree with as ‘dangerous’ and punish them as a result. The biggest change is in the marketing. The things we once celebrated as ‘freedom’ are now ridiculed as ‘discrimination.’ ”
– “An Excuse to Discriminate?” FRC Website, Oct. 7, 2022

“While LGBT activists currently demand access to minors without their parents’ knowledge, the possible future implications of this civilizational erosion are even more concerning. For instance, once the age of consent for gender transition procedures is lowered to age 12, what prevents it from being lowered any further? What prevents other ages of consent (that of intercourse or marriage, for example) from being lowered just as far? If there is no problem with, say, a 13-year-old and a 24-year-old hanging out in an online chat room for “support” without the knowledge of any guardians, what prevents them from one day eloping? Worse, what prevents a 24-year-old Mr. Wickham from taking advantage of a 13-year-old Lydia Bennett – in a society that will merely shrug at his actions?

“It’s no longer conservatives suggesting a connection. Leftists are openly avowing pedophilia as the next “sexual minority” (aka sexual perversion) to achieve legitimacy. Once our society takes the small remaining step, how can our government protect anyone from abuse? Without a clear and coherent moral framework for sex – as Christianity has long provided – there is no bottom to our society’s slippery slope of immorality.”
– Joshua Arnold, staff writer for FRC’s Washington Stand, Dec. 15, 2022

“Every front that you look at with the transgender ideology, you see this disconnect between science and the practice, the ethics and the practice, the knowledge of what we know about development and the practice. It is the most disassociated ideology.”
– Jennifer Bauwens, Director of FRC’s Center for Family Studies, Dec. 19, 2022


The Family Research Council (FRC) emerged from a 1980 White House conference on families. James Dobson, founder of the religious-right powerhouse Focus on the Family, met and prayed with a group of eight Christian leaders at a Washington, D.C., hotel, leading to the creation of FRC in 1983 under the initial direction of Gerald Regnier (formerly of the Department of Health and Human Services).

The group became a division of Focus on the Family in 1988 under Gary Bauer, a religious-right leader who would use his post as a launching pad for a failed 2000 run for the presidency. Bauer had been the undersecretary of education and a domestic policy adviser to President Reagan.

Bauer raised FRC’s profile, increased its effectiveness and built a national network of “concerned citizens” during the Clinton Administration. But FRC separated from Focus on the Family in 1992 over concerns that its very political work might threaten Focus’ tax-exempt status; Dobson and two other Focus officials joined FRC’s newly independent board. Ironically, despite its continued political work, by 2020, FRC requested and was granted special tax status as a “network of churches,” which allows it to shield salaries and donors from public scrutiny.

As an independent nonprofit, FRC continued its work in “pro-family” areas, working against abortion and stem-cell research, fighting pornography and LGBTQ equality and promoting “the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society.” That work would establish FRC as one of the most powerful far-right advocacy groups.

Bauer brought in several anti-LGBTQ researchers who pumped out defamatory material about LGBTQ people. Robert Knight, a longtime conservative writer, journalist and major anti-LGBTQ propagandist, served as FRC’s director of cultural affairs from 1992 until 2002, when he went to Concerned Women for America (CWA).

Knight later moved on to be a senior writer at Coral Ridge Ministries, which would later become Truth in Action Ministries, and then D. James Kennedy Ministries. He is currently a senior fellow at the right-wing American Civil Rights Union. During his years at FRC, Knight penned anti-gay tracts that used the research of thoroughly discredited psychologist Paul Cameron, head of the Colorado-based hate group the Family Research Institute.

Knight authored numerous anti-LGBTQ papers, and even used Cameron’s infamous “gay obituary” study in testimony he offered before Congress to oppose the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in 1994. In his prepared statement on that topic, he said, “A study of more than 6,400 obituaries in homosexual publications reveals that homosexuals typically have far shorter life spans than the general population.” Cameron’s study has been thoroughly discredited for several reasons, one of which is its deeply flawed methodology. When asked in 2004 about using Cameron’s work, Knight, by then with CWA, responded: “Yes, we have used his research. So what?”

While at FRC, Knight also co-wrote (with Robert York, a former editor at Focus on the Family) a 1999 booklet with the attention-getting title of “Homosexual Behavior and Pedophilia.” Among its more remarkable claims was the baseless assertion that “one of the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the ‘prophets’ of a new sexual order.” The same publication argued that the “homosexual rights movement has tried to distance itself from pedophilia, but only for public relations purposes.” The booklet has since disappeared from FRC’s website, but the organization has not withdrawn the claims it made.

Since Bauer left the group in 1999, FRC has had two presidents and emerged as one of the most powerful religious-right lobbying groups in the country, with a bevy of policy researchers and writers and numerous email feeds geared to a variety of causes. Kenneth Connors, a Florida attorney and leader in the pro-life movement, served as president from 2000 to 2003. During his tenure, FRC’s agenda focused on abortion, so-called “traditional marriage” (i.e., one man, one woman), religious liberty, parental choice in education, and tax relief for families, though a central part of its mission is still working against equal-rights legislation for LGBTQ Americans.

FRC also strongly promotes the “ex-gay” movement to combat LGBTQ civil rights measures, though professional organizations have repeatedly called so-called “reparative therapy” (which seeks to make LGBTQ-identified people heterosexual and cisgender) into question and issued statements that don’t support it. For instance, the American Psychological Association issued a report in 2009 reviewing studies of “ex-gay” therapy. The report found that “contrary to the claims of … practitioners and advocates, recent research studies do not provide evidence of sexual orientation change as the research methods are inadequate to determine the effectiveness of these interventions,” according to Dr. Judith Glassgold, the lead author.

Tony Perkins became president of FRC in 2003. Before that, he served two terms as a Louisiana state representative from 1996 to 2004. He is also a former police officer and television news reporter. In addition to his numerous appearances in the media and his work with FRC, he co-authored Personal Faith, Public Policy (2008) with Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., the senior pastor at anti-LGBTQ Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland. He is a leader in an effort by white and Black religious-right preachers to work together against LGBTQ equality.

In his official FRC biography, some facts about Perkins’ life do not appear. According to a 2005 article in The Nation, while Perkins served as an officer in Baton Rouge in 1992, he failed to report to his superiors that anti-abortion activists were planning to break through police lines. That was Operation Rescue’s “Summer of Purpose,” when the group targeted the Delta Women’s Clinic in Baton Rouge. Perkins was splitting his time between his police work and his job as a reporter for “Woody Vision,” a right-wing television station owned by Louisiana state Rep. Louis “Woody” Jenkins, Perkins’ mentor.

Perkins and his camera crew were often outside the clinic, The Nation reported. Victor Sachse, a local business owner and volunteer patient escort for the clinic, said Perkins’ reporting was so skewed and incendiary that the clinic demanded Perkins’ removal from the facility’s grounds.

To control an increasingly tense situation, the police chief had a chain-link fence erected to separate anti-abortion activists from pro-choice protesters. He called in sheriff’s deputies and prison guards as extra forces. Perkins publicly criticized the department and the chief. After learning about plans by anti-abortion activists to break through police lines, Perkins failed to notify his superiors. As a result of his actions, he was suspended from duty in 1992, according to The Nation, and subsequently quit.

Varying accounts have circulated about a link between former Klan leader David Duke and Jenkins’ 1996 U.S. Senate campaign, which was managed by Perkins. A Federal Election Commission (FEC) document describes what the FEC found. The conciliation agreement shows that the Jenkins campaign hired Impact Mail & Printing after Duke contacted Jenkins and suggested he use the group’s services for automated phone calls.

People who received the calls from the campaign complained because Duke’s name appeared on caller IDs. Jenkins tried to cancel the transaction with Impact Mail but could not because Perkins had already signed a contract. Jenkins allegedly instructed Perkins to stop payment on the check to the company and “directed that Impact Mail be paid through Courtney Communications, the campaign’s media firm,” according to the conciliation agreement, which said Jenkins “did not want his campaign to be associated with Impact Mail.”

The Jenkins campaign “knowingly and willfully filed false disclosure reports” showing its media firm as the vendor of $82,500 in services provided by Impact Mail, according to the FEC document. The campaign settled with a $3,000 fine.

Five years after working on state Rep. Jenkins’ unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign, Perkins gave a speech to the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white supremacist group that advocates against miscegenation and whose website once referred to black people as “a retrograde species of humanity.”

Perkins addressed the group on May 17, 2001, while standing in front of a Confederate flag. He claimed not to know the group’s ideology at the time, but it had been widely publicized in Louisiana and the nation. In 1999 – two years before Perkins’ speech to the CCC – Senate majority leader Trent Lott became embroiled in a national scandal over his ties to the group. GOP chairman Jim Nicholson urged Republicans to avoid the CCC because of its “racist views.”

The FRC strategy of demonization

A major component of FRC’s strategy is to emphasize the false claims that LGBTQ people are more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual people and that LGBTQ people are recruiting children. The American Psychological Association, among others, however, has concluded that “homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men are” The ‘recruitment’ trope has long been used by extremist groups to demonize and minoritize groups they despise.

Despite being debunked, Perkins and FRC continue their defamatory campaign to link LGBTQ people with pedophilia and the “recruitment” myths.

In a debate with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok on the Nov. 30, 2010, edition of MSNBC’s “Hardball With Chris Matthews,” Perkins stated: “If you look at the American College of Pediatricians, they say the research is overwhelming that homosexuality poses a danger to children. So, Mark is wrong. He needs to go back and do his own research.”

In fact, the SPLC did its research. The college, despite its professional-sounding name, is a tiny, explicitly religious-right breakaway group from the similarly named American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the 60,000-member association of the profession. The American College of Pediatricians (ACP) splintered from the AAP because of the AAP’s support of LGBTQ parents. Publications of the ACP, which has some 200 members, have been roundly attacked by leading scientific authorities who say they are baseless. They also accuse the college of distorting and misrepresenting their work. (MSNBC’s Matthews offered a clarification on a follow-up show that described the American College of Pediatricians and separated it from the AAP).

Two contemporaries of Perkins at FRC who are also consequential anti-LGBTQ propagandists are Peter Sprigg and Timothy Dailey. Sprigg was senior fellow for policy studies at FRC from 2001-21 and is now the director of research and advocacy at Family Watch International. Dailey was a senior fellow for policy and senior editor at FRC from 2000-10. After leaving FRC, in 2018, Dailey appeared on Janet Mefferd’s American Family Radio show, which is produced by the anti-LGBTQ hate group American Family Association, to claim Bigfoot and UFOs are real, but are part of a demonic conspiracy to “engender fear.”

In 2004, Sprigg and Dailey co-authored the book Getting It Straight: What the Research Shows About Homosexuality. In it, they repeat claims that gay men “commit a disproportionate number of child sex abuse cases,” that LGBTQ people are promiscuous, and that lesbians exhibit “compulsive behavior.” Much of the book’s content can be found in separate articles by the FRC.

In March 2008, Sprigg responded to a question about allowing the non-American same-sex partners of American citizens to immigrate to the United States by saying, “I would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than import them.” He later apologized, but in February 2009, he told MSNBC’s Matthews, “I think there would be a place for criminal sanctions on homosexual behavior.” “So, we should outlaw gay behavior?” Matthews asked. “Yes,” Sprigg replied.

Sprigg authored a 2010 brochure touting “The Top Ten Myths about Homosexuality.” In it, Sprigg claimed that ex-gay therapy works, that sexual orientation can change, and that LGBTQ people are mentally ill simply because being LGBTQ makes them that way. The brochure also claims that “Sexual abuse of boys by adult men is many times more common than consensual sex between adult men, and most of those engaging in such molestation identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual.” He also claims that “homosexuals are less likely to enter into a committed relationship” and “less likely to be sexually faithful to a partner.”

Sprigg’s sources are a mixture of junk science issued by groups that support ex-gay therapy and legitimate science quoted out of context or cherry-picked – a tactic long used by anti-gay groups to bolster their claims about gay people. Several legitimate researchers, such as New York University’s Judith Stacey (a source Sprigg uses), have issued public statements condemning the practice and requesting that anti-gay groups stop misrepresenting their work.

Dailey is the author of the book Dark Obsession: The Tragedy and Threat of the Homosexual Lifestyle as well as several similarly themed policy papers. In Dark Obsession, he describes the tragic life of one young man who died of AIDS. He also includes claims about homosexuality and pedophilia, the instability of LGBTQ relationships, and links homosexuality to a variety of sexually transmitted diseases. In some of his other papers like “Homosexuality and Child Abuse,” Dailey links homosexuality to pedophilia, and claims that “a tiny percentage of the population (gay men) commit one-third or more of the cases of child sexual molestation.”

In another paper titled “Homosexual Parenting: Placing Children at Risk,” Dailey quotes from a study that claims, “A disproportionate percentage – 29 percent – of the adult children of homosexual parents had been specifically subjected to sexual molestation by that homosexual parent. … Having a homosexual parent(s) appears to increase the risk of incest with a parent by a factor of about 50.” Dailey took that data from Paul Cameron, whose work has been repeatedly denounced by the scientific community as shoddy and biased.

Since then, FRC has put into practice an advocacy strategy that relies on the same debunked and dangerous myths about LGBTQ people that FRC senior fellow Meg Kilgannon described in 2017 as “divide and conquer.” At the 2022 Pray, Vote, Stand event (previously Values Voter Summit), panelists indicated their intent to frame their anti-LGBTQ activism as a method of protecting children. The implication is obvious: FRC will attempt to activate anti-LGBTQ prejudice and demonizing LGBTQ people by falsely portraying them as pedophiles and “groomers,” i.e., recruiters of children. One panelist at the event noted: “For 50 years we did very well defending our children in the womb. It’s time to defend our children outside of the womb, and our families.” By focusing on transgender people and falsely equating transgender rights with harm to children, FRC intends to roll back LGBTQ rights.

In 2022 and 2023, FRC refined its strategy and highlighted its willingness to use disinformation about transgender people. Their efforts especially focus on gender-affirming care and demonizing both transgender people and health care workers who provide life-saving care to transgender people. In an article published in FRC’s The Washington Stand, staff writer Joshua Arnold falsely accuses an Oregon hospital of developing an app that targets children for “gender transitions.” In actuality, the hospital newsletter cited by FRC discusses a range of surgical services provided to the public. In one section, the newsletter discusses the development of an app designed to reduce anxiety among young surgery patients by, for example, helping children understand what an IV is and why it is needed. At no time does the newsletter link the app’s development with gender-affirming care. In a separate section of the newsletter, the hospital discusses gender-affirming care services. Notably, that section of the newsletter never discusses care for minors.

Following this pattern, FRC publicizes disinformation, advances anti-LGBTQ pseudoscience and targets specific hospitals that provide gender-affirming care, even sharing details about planned protests of medical providers, to inflame anti-transgender sentiment, perpetuate falsehoods and roll back LGBTQ rights.

Ironically, while FRC claims to advocate for children, their own advocacy belies their willingness to exploit children, especially LGBTQ children. Notably, another central component of FRC’s strategy of demonization is the promotion of conversion therapy for both adults and minors and amplification of the “ex-gay” and “detransition” movements.

In February 2018, FRC released a pamphlet written by senior fellow Peter Sprigg, called “How to Respond to the LGBT Movement.” In it, Sprigg not only relies on right-wing anti-LGBTQ sources as “scientific” and distortions of legitimate medical and scientific research, but he also attempts to exonerate anti-LGBTQ sentiment among “social conservatives” (Sprigg’s term) by claiming that social conservatives approach the topic of being LGBTQ using a “more sophisticated” paradigm that is “more consistent with the research on human sexual orientation” than what he calls the “gay identity paradigm.”

According to Sprigg, social conservatives are concerned about “homosexual conduct,” and that’s what they oppose, rather than LGBTQ people. Social conservatives do not argue that LGBTQ people are inferior, Sprigg contends, but rather that “homosexual conduct is harmful – first and foremost to the people who engage in it, but also by extension to society at large.”

The pamphlet then goes on to claim that people can stop being LGBTQ through conversion therapy (a pseudoscientific and harmful practice) and that sex between people of the same sex is dangerous. He also links being LGBTQ to mental illness, claims the “transgender movement” is lying about human sexuality, and asserts that “there is no rational or compassionate reason to affirm a distorted psychological self-concept that one’s gender identity is different from one’s biological sex.”

The 2019 Values Voter Summit (now Pray, Vote, Stand) featured an anti-trans panel that illustrated the anti-LGBTQ right’s shift to storytelling to further marginalize trans people and battle against affirming care for them. The panel featured Lynn Meagher, an activist with the anti-trans group Hands Across the Aisle. Two of Meagher’s children identify as trans, and they no longer speak to her.

Andre Van Mol, co-chair of anti-LGBTQ hate group American College of Pediatricians’ Committee on Adolescent Sexuality, used pseudoscientific claims telling the audience that “desistance” from gender dysphoria is “the norm,” citing a problematic study that lumped trans children with non-trans children to study gender identity. Other damaging and false claims that Meagher and Van Mol made include that most trans children are also autistic, making it easier for them to “be recruited” into being transgender; and that affirming care causes gender-dysphoric children to commit suicide.

The panel also featured Kathy Grace Duncan of Portland, Oregon-based Portland Fellowship, which claims on its website to offer people “freedom” from homosexuality. Duncan claimed she detransitioned and offered this as proof that transitioning is always wrong, when in fact affirming and appropriate care for anyone experiencing gender dysphoria is helpful, even if those people determine that they aren’t trans after all.

FRC launched a page on its website called “The Cult of Transgenderism,” which includes several pieces written in 2019 by someone referred to as “Lisa.” The page is devoted to erasing transgender people by claiming it’s not “reality” for them to live as the genders they best identify with. The site also claims there is a “transgender movement” that physicians around the world are involved in so that they can make money from transition treatments. Other claims on the site include that hormone treatments and sex-reassignment surgeries are “the lobotomies of our time”; that being transgender and engaging in civil rights for transgender people are evidence of “a cult”; and that transgender people are more mentally ill than LGB people.

Defending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

FRC also worked unsuccessfully to ensure that the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy remained in place. In late 2010, Perkins held a webcast to discuss the dire consequences of allowing LGBTQ people to serve openly in the military, using dubious statistics from a poll FRC commissioned. According to the “Mission Compromised” report authored by retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis, FRC’s senior fellow for national security, allowing LGBTQ people to serve openly would undermine morale and discipline. The report also said doing so would infringe on the religious freedom of military chaplains.

Maginnis predicted that heterosexual service members would be forced to take “sensitivity classes” that promote the “homosexual lifestyle” and added, “Homosexual activists seek to force the U.S. military to embrace their radical views and sexual conduct, no matter the consequences for combat effectiveness.” DADT was repealed in 2011 under the Obama administration.

FRC has also waded into the debate over anti-bullying policies, which became a matter of national discussion after several LGBTQ children committed suicide in late 2010. On Oct. 11, 2010, Perkins managed to get The Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog to run his op-ed, in which he reiterated his point that anti-bullying policies are not really intended by their supporters to protect students: “Homosexual activist groups like GLSEN [Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network] … are exploiting these tragedies to push their agenda of demanding not only tolerance of homosexual individuals, but active affirmation of homosexual conduct and their efforts to redefine the family.”

In August 2012, Floyd Corkins, then 28, walked up to FRC’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., and shot and wounded a security guard, who managed to subdue him. Corkins claimed he was opposed to the group’s socially conservative policies.

Corkins, who was volunteering at an LGBTQ community center at the time of the shooting, told authorities that he had targeted groups that oppose same-sex marriage and that he was going to “smother Chick-Fil-A sandwiches in their faces,” 15 of which he was carrying in his backpack. Chick-Fil-A was making national headlines at that time because of its foundation’s funding of some anti-gay groups and statements CEO Dan Cathy had made against marriage equality.

Corkins told FBI agents that he used the SPLC website to determine that the Family Research Council was anti-gay, prompting Perkins to claim that the SPLC had “given a license” to Corkins’ attack because it had named FRC an anti-LGBTQ hate group starting in 2010. “Only by ending its hate-labeling practices will the SPLC send a message that it no longer wishes to be a source for those who would commit acts of violence that are only designed to intimidate and silence Christians and others who support natural marriage and traditional morality,” he said.

In fact, the SPLC designation was based on FRC’s distortion of known facts to demonize gay men as child molesters and make similar false claims, and it had nothing to do with FRC’s support of “natural marriage” or its belief that being LGBTQ is a sin.

The day he made the statement about the SPLC, Perkins claimed on CNN that allowing LGBTQ people into the Boy Scouts would put children in danger of sexual assault. When pressed by the CNN host, Perkins again resorted to FRC’s stock claim, as Perkins once put it, that pedophilia “is a homosexual problem.” “They [Boy Scouts] are trying to create an environment that is protective of children,” he said. “This [allowing LGBTQ Scouts and Scout leaders] doesn’t make it more protective. There is a disproportionate number of male on boy – when we get on pedophilia, male on boy is a higher incident rate of that.”

Corkins would plead guilty in February 2013 to interstate transportation of a firearm, assault with intent to kill while armed, and committing an act of terrorism while armed. He was sentenced on Sept. 19, 2013, to 25 years in prison. Prosecutors had asked for 45 years, but Corkins’ attorney requested a sentence of 11½ years, noting that his client was mentally ill and receiving treatment at the time of the shooting.

On July 19, 2018, FRC posted one of Perkins’ “Washington Watch” columns on its website on the 25th anniversary of President Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” announcement, which prohibited military officials from discriminating against or harassing closeted service members. Perkins lamented that announcement as a “turning point in a bigger war” and claimed that it was the “first major crack in the foundation of marriage and human sexuality.” Then, he went on, the 2003 Supreme Court ruling Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned sodomy bans in the U.S., was “the next shoe to drop,” ostensibly because it overturned the criminalization of sex between adults of the same sex. Citing late Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent, Perkins stated, “With prophetic insight, [Scalia] explained how six justices had just given the far-Left the only hammer they'd need to destroy thousands of years of human history.” He continued, “Anyone being intellectually honest knew this was where LGBT extremists were pushing America.”

Immigration and Sharia law

FRC expanded its mission by bringing on decorated retired Lt. General William G. “Jerry” Boykin in 2012 as executive vice president. Boykin served as the undersecretary for defense under President George W. Bush and is known for his anti-Muslim views and statements.

Boykin garnered controversy in 2003 when he spoke at several churches while wearing his uniform and claimed that the United States was engaged in a “spiritual battle” against Satan. Boykin couched Islam as the enemy and cast the war on terror in religious terms. Detractors noted that such statements could endanger American troops.

The Department of Defense investigated his remarks and determined that Boykin had violated three internal regulations. He had failed to obtain clearance for his remarks, failed to clarify that his remarks were personal and failed to report reimbursement of travel expenses from participating religious groups. The investigation also determined that Boykin had spoken at 23 religiously oriented events and worn his uniform at all but two since 2002. The investigation and findings, however, amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist.

Boykin helped author the report “Shariah: The Threat to America,” published by the Center for Security Policy, which SPLC named an anti-Muslim hate group in 2015.The report is filled with conspiracy theories and anti-Islamic claims, including that every prominent Muslim organization in the United States is a front for the Muslim Brotherhood, which, according to the report, is trying to implement Sharia law across America. The report is also known as the “Team B II Report” (2010), an homage of sorts to a 1976 “Team B” report written to counteract prevailing U.S. intelligence regarding the Soviet Union. “Team B” refers to a countervailing opinion to “Team A,” a designation for the U.S. government.

Boykin has also claimed that Islam is evil because it calls for innocent blood. He has said that the U.S. government is infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood and that the continent of Europe is lost to it. He has even claimed that there is a “cabal, a group of very nefarious people, who very much want to create a global government,” and that American billionaire George Soros is part of it – a prevalent conspiracy theory on the right.

In March 2019, Perkins spoke at a right-wing conference titled “Make Families Great Again,” hosted by the Hungarian embassy at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Hungary’s authoritarian government under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has implemented policies that are designed to encourage Hungarian families to have more children, which U.S. evangelicals support, while referring to migration by Muslim refugees as “surrender.”

Orbán is notoriously anti-immigrant and anti-Roma and has used antisemitic dog whistles against Hungarian-born philanthropist George Soros while he defends the need to protect “Christian culture.”

The FRC after marriage equality

After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional in June 2013, FRC continued its anti-LGBTQ crusade, including opposition to the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

According to Perkins, President Obama was working with the “totalitarian homosexual lobby” to sneak ENDA into law, and should that happen, freedom of religion would be “destroyed.”

Perkins also worked to keep America safe from Betty Crocker that year. In September 2013, he called for a boycott of the iconic brand because General Mills, which produces it, donated custom cakes to three LGBTQ couples in Minnesota who were married after the state legalized same-sex marriage a month earlier.

The 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges made same-sex marriage legal throughout the United States, sending anti-LGBTQ groups into fury. FRC was no exception, as it worked in tandem with other groups to support so-called “religious liberty” laws, which allow people who object to same-sex marriage to deny goods and services to same-sex couples and possibly LGBTQ people in general.

Also in 2015, FRC faced a scandal of sorts when Josh Duggar, the executive director of its political arm, FRC Action, was hit with child-molestation allegations. Duggar, one of the 19 children of the Arkansas-based Duggar family featured in the reality television show “19 Kids & Counting,” was married and had children of his own.

Duggar’s parents confirmed on Fox News that as a teen he had molested several girls, including some of his sisters. In a statement on Facebook, Duggar said he had “acted inexcusably,” was “extremely sorry” and regretted actions taken as a teenager that “hurt others, including my family and close friends.” He resigned from FRC, which posted a brief message on its website, stating that Duggar had resigned after “concerning events” were made public.

Rather than admit defeat on marriage equality, in 2018, Tony Perkins claimed in the “Washington Watch” piece that “the Left is still bulldozing their way through every possible social norm.” The goal of the left, he said, “Isn’t same-sex marriage, but any kind of marriage.” He then went on to link pedophilia to these goals, using a controversial TEDx talk (since removed) as proof that this is happening. The talk, Perkins argued, is “using the same born-that-way playbook as LGBT activists,” and is “trying to legitimize child abuse as the latest acceptable expression of sexuality.”

Mainstreaming hate: The FRC, the GOP and the Trump administration

FRC played a pivotal role in the Trump administration, especially regarding anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ policy. Perkins told Politico in 2018 that ex-President Trump gets a mulligan, or a “do-over,” and that he and other evangelicals will continue to support him if his policies line up with what organizations like FRC want. Trump officials appeared on Perkins’ “Washington Watch” program in 2019, including then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former HHS secretary Alex Azar. Pompeo also appeared in January and March 2020 on Perkins’ show. The transcripts of both those interviews were posted on the Department of State website.

The Campaign for Accountability noted in 2019 at that Perkins had the ear of Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Pompeo. Equity Forward executive director Mary Alice Carter was quoted in the piece saying that as a result, “We’re seeing a radical change and restructure of organizations that were supposed to be protecting all people equally,” which is allowing the dialing back of access to rights and the promotion of denial of health care to specific groups.

The access to the Trump administration was the culmination of FRC’s efforts to mainstream its anti-LGBTQ extremism. In 2016, Perkins was a delegate from Louisiana for the Republican National Committee and helped craft the most anti-LGBTQ platform in the party’s history. Perkins himself reportedly proposed a plank that supported conversion therapy for minors, though the wording, apparently revised from the original, does not specifically mention conversion therapy. Rather, the platform committee passed a resolution affirming “the right of parents to determine the proper medical treatment and therapy for their minor children.” The platform also condemned “redefining sex discrimination to include sexual orientation or other categories” and called for the overturning of marriage equality.

Perkins, with his political experience and connections, has also been part of the executive committee of the secretive and powerful Council for National Policy (CNP), a group of hundreds of the most powerful conservatives in the country. The group is so tight-lipped that its members are instructed never to admit membership or even name the group.

Perkins was vice president of the organization in 2014 – one of its three executive officers. On the CNP board of governors in 2014 were Michael Peroutka, who served for many years on the board of the neo-Confederate League of the South. Another is Mathew “Mat” Staver, head of the virulently anti-LGBTQ hate group Liberty Counsel; Joseph Farah of the far-right conspiracist website WND (formerly World Net Daily); and Alan Sears, head of the anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom, which opposes same-sex sexual relationships.

After the election of Donald Trump to the presidency in November 2016, FRC senior fellow for human rights and constitutional governance Ken Blackwell joined the Trump transition team as head of domestic policy. Through Blackwell, FRC worked to undo progress made for LGBTQ people. It created a list of executive orders, executive guidance and administrative regulations that President-elect Trump should rescind.

The list included rescinding the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s guidance assuring that federally funded emergency shelters will house transgender people in accordance with their gender identity; reinstating a rule from the George W. Bush administration providing “conscience protections” for health-care workers who refuse to care for people for religious reasons; and rescinding President Obama’s executive order banning federal contractors from engaging in anti-LGBTQ discrimination. FRC also positioned itself with the Trump administration to undo Obama’s work promoting LGBTQ equality and reproductive health abroad.

Blackwell is a former Ohio secretary of state. In 2004, he became embroiled in a controversy over voter-suppression measures, which included last-minute voter registration requirements that dictated the paper size and quality of voter registration cards. Registration cards failing to meet the requirements would not be processed. A report issued by U.S. Rep. John Conyers found Blackwell’s actions had helped disenfranchise thousands of Ohio voters.

When running for governor in 2006, Blackwell called homosexuality a “lifestyle” that “can be changed,” like that of kleptomaniacs or arsonists. He attempted to smear his Democratic opponent, Ted Strickland, by claiming Strickland voted in line with the North American Man-Boy Love Association, which advocates for lowered age-of-consent laws.

Blackwell lost the race, garnering 37% of the vote, but landed his current position at FRC, where he continued his anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. In a 2009 column, he opposed same-sex marriage in Washington, D.C., calling it “counterfeit” marriage. Blackwell warned that it would destroy religious liberty and lead to incest and polygamous marriage.

In 2010, he wrote that if the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding LGBTQ people were lifted, President Obama might implement “quotas” for LGBTQ soldiers. He also claimed that LGBTQ soldiers would bring a “health crisis” into the military.

In 2014, Blackwell, who has longstanding ties to the National Rifle Association, saidthe California mass shooting perpetrated by Elliot Rodger was caused by attacks on “natural marriage” and the family. Rodgers, who shot himself after killing six others and wounding 14, had been part of misogynistic men’s-rights websites, where he advocated an overthrow of “this oppressive feminist system” and envisioned a world where women “fear you.”

FRC and other conservative evangelicals enjoyed unprecedented access to the White House during the Trump administration. Perkins claimed in August 2017 that he had been there “I don’t know how many more times in the first six months this year than I was during the entire Bush administration.”

Perkins may have also been one of the driving forces behind Trump’s ban on transgender troops in the military; he claimed that he had been pressing Trump for months to implement a ban on transgender troops, which eventually resulted in Trump announcing in July 2017 that he would do so. The announcement blindsided the president’s defense secretary and Republican congressional leaders.

The ban was struck down by four separate courts, but in March 2018 the administration announced a new plan to enforce it. The military did enact the ban on transgender troops on March 23, but a U.S. District judge blocked the ban from taking effect in April, saying that it was the same ban as the earlier and would “exclude skilled and qualified service members.”

In March 2019, Perkins spoke at a right-wing conference titled “Make Families Great Again,” hosted by the Hungarian embassy at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Hungary’s authoritarian government under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has implemented policies that are designed to encourage Hungarian families to have more children, which U.S. evangelicals support, while referring to migration by Muslim refugees as “surrender.”

Orbán is notoriously anti-immigrant and anti-Roma and has used antisemitic dog whistles against Hungarian-born philanthropist George Soros while he defends the need to protect “Christian culture.”

Promoting discrimination in the guise of ‘religious freedom’

FRC has a history of couching its anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in the language of Christianity. However, their extreme interpretation of “religious freedom” holds that LGBTQ people and rights are incompatible with the religious freedom of conservative white heterosexual and cisgender Protestant Christianity. This zero-sum perspective is the basis for FRC’s advocacy of “religious freedom,” which would, in fact, mean the legal privilege of the group to discriminate against others whom they deem morally inferior. FRC has also pursued “religious freedom” as an economic strategy that would allow it to skirt democratic accountability mechanisms such as campaign finance regulations so it can continue to perform its overtly political work while retaining its status as a nonprofit network of churches – a designation it has held since around 2020.

FRC has often voiced its support for “religious freedom,” for example citing it as an important national security issue during the Trump administration. However, recent developments show the extent to which FRC is willing go to exploit democratic protections for faith and religious expression – key components of a thriving multiracial democracy – to dehumanize LGBTQ people and obscure their political work.

For example, in a 2021 policy brief opposing two measures that would prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination, FRC said: “The problem with bills like the Equality Act and the Fairness for All Act is that they cement into law the government’s enforcement of an ideology and belief system about family, marriage, and human sexuality. This wrong narrative perpetuates the destruction of religious liberty.”

Not only does FRC promote the idea that religious freedom comes at the expense of LGBTQ rights, but it also promotes the idea that “religious freedom” includes a right to discriminate against LGBTQ people. In a 2022 article, FRC senior fellow for Biblical worldview and engagement Joseph Backholm asked, “So, when did religious freedom become an excuse to discriminate?” The response? “From the beginning. We discriminate any time we make a moral judgment,” Backholm said, suggesting discrimination against LGBTQ people or people of other faiths is a moral right. “The primary purpose of the First Amendment has always been to prevent governments from labeling the beliefs of people they disagree with as ‘dangerous’ and punish them as a result. The biggest change is in the marketing. The things we once celebrated as ‘freedom’ are now ridiculed as ‘discrimination,’ ” Backholm concluded.

In another 2022 article, co-authored with former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Tony Perkins highlights FRC’s zero-sum approach to religious freedom. While using white and Christian supremacist dog whistles about threats to “Western culture,” Perkins and Brownback take aim at the growing acceptance of LGBTQ people by claiming, “Western culture is growing increasingly hostile to foundational Christian beliefs about marriage, sexuality, and ethical behavior.”

Although fears about the overtly political activity of FRC led to their separation from Focus on the Family in 1992, FRC has since attempted to push the limits of American tax law that prohibits nonprofits from engaging in political activism. In 2022, it was reported that FRC’s annual revenue nearly doubled from the previous decade as it profited from sewing division over transgender rights. Importantly, the increase in revenue coincides with FRC’s petition to the IRS (and approval) for designation as a “network of churches” with Perkins as its religious leader.

In the U.S., churches face fewer reporting requirements than other nonprofits and do not have to disclose salaries paid to leadership, nor disclose their donors. To receive these benefits, however, churches must not engage in overt political activity like influencing political campaigns. As ProPublica reported in 2022, however, FRC’s Perkins signed a letter calling on state lawmakers to “override the election of President Joe Biden” as “President, Family Research Council.” Also, the same report notes Perkins also “rarely makes a delineation about whether he is speaking as head of the FRC or the head of Family Research Council Action – an organization that can legally engage in political activity.

In January 2023, FRC hired ex-Georgia Rep. Jody Hice as a senior adviser to Tony Perkins. Hice, who lamented on an episode of “Washington Watch” that “extreme gender ideology here in the United States is driving us to provide transgender medical care to younger and younger children,” is also widely known for his attempts to repeal the Johnson Amendment (a portion of U.S. tax code that prohibits nonprofits from explicitly endorsing political candidates or engaging in overly partisan political activity) and for endorsing then-presidential candidate John McCain in a 2008 sermon and sending the text of the speech to the IRS.

FRC’s blurring of the lines between anti-LGBTQ activism and “religious freedom” has already proven fruitful by shielding them from democratic accountability measures like nonprofit financial disclosure laws. This allows them to potentially raise millions of dollars sewing division and demonizing LGBTQ people, funneling the money into political advocacy, and then hiding its source and distribution by claiming church status under federal law.