About Tony Perkins
Since joining the FRC, Perkins has taken the group in a harder anti-LGBT direction, using it to publish false propaganda about that community and contending that gay rights advocates intend to round up Christians in “boxcars.”
In His Own Words:
“While activists like to claim that pedophilia is a completely distinct orientation from homosexuality, evidence shows a disproportionate overlap between the two. … It is a homosexual problem.”
— FRC website, 2010
“Those who understand the homosexual community — the activists — they’re very aggressive, they’re – everything they accuse us of they are in triplicate. They’re intolerant, they’re hateful, vile, they’re spiteful. .... To me, that is the height of hatred, to be silent when we know there are individuals that are engaged in activity, behavior, and an agenda that will destroy them and our nation.”
— Speaking to the Oak Initiative Summit, April 2011
“The videos are titled ‘It Gets Better.’ They are aimed at persuading kids that although they’ll face struggles and perhaps bullying for ‘coming out’ as homosexual (or transgendered or some other perversion), life will get better. … It’s disgusting. And it’s part of a concerted effort to persuade kids that homosexuality is okay and actually to recruit them into that lifestyle.”
— FRC fundraising letter, August 2011
The marriage debate “is literally about the entire culture: it’s about the rule of law, it’s about the country, it’s about our future, it’s about redefining the curriculum in our schools, it’s about driving a wedge between parent and child, it’s about the loss of religious freedom, it’s about the inability to be who we are as a people.”
— "The Janet Mefford Show," May 22, 2014
“Those who practice Islam in its entirety, it’s not just a religion. It’s an economic system, it’s a judicial system, and it is a military – a military system. And it is – it has Shariah law that you’ve heard about and those things will tear and destroy the fabric of a democracy. So we have to be very clear about our laws and restrain those things that would harm the whole. We are a nation – let me be very clear about this. We are a nation that was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, that’s the foundation of our nation, not Islam, but the Judeo-Christian God.”
— "Washington Watch" radio show, September 2014
“What most people either don’t realize or willfully ignore is that only 16 percent of Islam is a religion — the rest is a combination of military, judicial, economic, and political system. Christianity, by comparison, isn’t a judicial or economic code — but a faith. So to suggest that we would be imposing some sort of religious test on Muslims is inaccurate. Sharia is not a religion in the context of the First Amendment.”
— FRC email, December 2015
“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
Anthony Richard “Tony” Perkins, who since 2003 has served as president of the anti-LGBT Family Research Council (FRC), was born and raised in Cleveland, Oklahoma. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from Liberty University, a far-right Christian college in Lynchburg, Virginia, established by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. He earned a Master of Public Administration degree from Louisiana State University.
After college, Perkins became a Marine. Following his service, he became a Baton Rouge police officer, where he also served as a law enforcement trainer for the State Department’s Antiterrorism Assistance Program, which trains law enforcement around the world.
According to a 2005 article in The Nation, while serving as an officer in Baton Rouge in 1992, Perkins failed to report to his superiors that anti-abortion activists were planning to break through police barriers. 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.
In order to control an increasingly tense situation, the police chief had a chain-link fence erected to separate anti-abortion activists from pro-choice protesters and 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.
In 1996, Perkins managed the U.S. Senate campaign of Woody Jenkins. During the campaign, former Klan chieftain David Duke contacted Jenkins and suggested he hire Impact Mail & Printing and use the group’s services for automated phone calls, according to a Federal Election Commission (FEC) conciliation agreement, which shows “Jenkins purchased several rounds of calls from Impact Mail.”
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 actually provided by Impact Mail, according to the FEC document. The campaign settled with a $3,000 fine.
Beginning in 1998, Perkins served as a Louisiana state representative for eight years. On May 17, 2001, he gave a speech to the state chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white supremacist group that advocates against miscegenation and whose website once described black people as a “retrograde species of humanity.” Perkins addressed the group 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 — U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott had been embroiled in a national scandal over his ties to the group. GOP chairman Jim Nicholson then urged Republicans to avoid the CCC because of its “racist views.”
Perkins does not mention this scandal on the FRC’s website. Speaking of his political career, he instead claims that he authored and passed the nation’s first covenant marriage law in Louisiana in1997. A covenant marriage, according to the largely Christian movement behind such laws, is a legally distinct marriage, in which spouses agree to obtain premarital counseling and accept more limited grounds for divorce.
As a state legislator, he ran for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2002, but suffered a fourth-place finish in the primaries and ended up joining FRC in the fall of 2003. He left the Louisiana Legislature the next year after serving two terms.
Perkins at the helm
Under Perkins’ leadership, the FRC has continued to peddle false claims about homosexuality and has made combating the “homosexual agenda” a seemingly obsessive interest. Part of the FRC’s strategy is to tout the false claim that gay men are more likely to sexually abuse children. The American Psychological Association, among others, has concluded that, “homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men are.”
That doesn’t matter to the FRC, though. Perkins has defended the “gay men as pedophiles” claim, including in a debate with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok on the November 30, 2010, edition of MSNBC’s “Hardball With Chris Matthews.” As the show ended, 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 gay and lesbian parents.
Publications by the ACP, which has only about 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.)
In late 2010, Perkins held a webcast to discuss the dire consequences of allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military. Dubious statistics from a poll commissioned by the FRC and the Center for Security Policy — which was named an anti-Muslim hate group in 2015 — were used during the webcast. The webcast also mentioned the FRC report, Mission Compromised, written by retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis, the FRC’s senior fellow for national security. The report contended that allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly would undermine morale and discipline and infringe on the religious freedom of military chaplains, who would be forced to accept homosexuality and would no longer be permitted to express their religious beliefs about it.
In addition, Maginnis predicted that heterosexual service members would be forced to take “sensitivity classes” that promote the “homosexual lifestyle.” He 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.”
Taking on anti-bullying policies
Under Perkins, the FRC also waded into the debate over anti-bullying policies, which became a matter of national discussion after several LGBT children committed suicide in late 2010. On October11, 2010, The Washington Post published a commentary by Perkins in which he repeated his argument that anti-bullying policies are not really intended 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 2013, Perkins claimed on CNN that allowing gay people into the Boy Scouts would put children in danger of sexual assault. When pressed by the CNN host, Perkins again resorted to the 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 LGBT 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.”
Despite gains made for LGBT equality, Perkins and the FRC have continued their anti-gay activities, 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 will be “destroyed.”
Perkins also has worked to keep America safe from Betty Crocker. In September 2013, he called for a boycott of the iconic brand because General Mills, which produces it, donated custom cakes to three LGBT couples in Minnesota who were married after the state legalized same-sex marriage a month earlier.
In 2014, Perkins made a series of anti-LGBT statements, claiming that LGBT people are a danger to Christians. In June, he said that gay rights advocates are “going to start rolling out the boxcars to start hauling off Christians.” In August, he agreed with a caller who predicted on his Washington Watch radio show that anti-Christian violence will erupt in America. After the caller wondered if we are “going to find ourselves being loaded in cattle cars like it was when the Nazis took over before we realize we are in such terrible danger,” Perkins hailed her claim as an “excellent point.”
“You’ve just hit the nail on the head,” he exclaimed, warning that “isolationist” and “libertarian” politicians like Rand Paul are leaving America’s national security vulnerable and that violent anti-Christian persecution taking place in the Middle East could soon find its way here.
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 influential conservatives in the country. The group is so tight-lipped 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-LGBT hate group Liberty Counsel; Joseph Farah of the far-right conspiracist website WND (formerly World Net Daily); and Alan Sears, head of the anti-LGBT Alliance Defending Freedom, which supports the criminalization of homosexuality.
In 2015, as the FRC tilted into anti-Muslim sentiment – especially with the hiring of retired Lt. General William “Jerry” Boykin – Perkins said that Islam is such a danger that Muslim Americans should not have the same religious freedoms as other citizens.
In an email to FRC followers in 2015, Perkins made the strange claim that “only 16 percent of Islam is a religion,” and that the rest is a “military, judicial, economic, and political system.” Perkins warned that “we lose our identity in the shadow of multiculturalism.” He cited France and Britain as examples.
“If people want to live in America — including Muslims — they need to embrace our Constitution and our culture,” he continued. “Others have said in less artful ways what conservatives have been warning for years: there is no such thing as coexistence between Sharia law and our constitutional republic. That isn’t religious prejudice, but an ideological reality.”
After a man with radical Islamic beliefs fatally shot 49 people at an Orlando LGBT nightclub in June 2016, Perkins pointed the finger at the Obama Administration – claiming that the administration marginalized Christians and elevated Islam. “We have to deal with the underlying issue, which is an ideology that’s incompatible with American liberty,” Perkins wrote. “An ideology, tragically, that this administration has empowered through its public policy and private diplomacy.”
Perkins has continued with the anti-LGBT mission of the FRC. He even waded into the battle over allowing transgender people to use public restrooms and facilities in accordance with their gender identities. Perkins, like other anti-LGBT activists, claims that allowing transgender people to use restrooms in this way endangers women because predatory men could pretend to be transgender.
In a 2016 FRC email to followers about the issue, Perkins warned: “If government can force the ‘normalization’ or even the celebration of something as universally unnatural as men using women’s restrooms and vice versa, then it can force the rest of its agenda on the American people very easily,” resulting in “social chaos” and the breakdown of all “sexual inhibition and morality.”
During 2016, Perkins was part of the Republican committee as a delegate from Louisiana that created the GOP platform. Perkins reportedly proposed a plank that supported conversion therapy for minors, though the wording, apparently revised from the original, does not specifically mention conversion therapy – a pseudoscientific practice that claims to change a person’s sexual orientation from gay to straight, and has been denounced by every major U.S. medical and mental health association. The platform committee ultimately passed a resolution affirming “the right of parents to determine the proper treatment or therapy, for their minor children.”
Perkins opted to support then-presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016, even after Trump’s statements about groping women without consent came to light. Perkins called the candidate’s remarks “immoral” and “very concerning,” but he claimed he wasn’t backing Trump because they have shared values but “shared concerns.”
After Trump’s election, the FRC and Perkins were heavily involved in the formation of policy for the new administration. FRC Senior Fellow Kenneth Blackwell was named the head of domestic policy for the transition team. The FRC also took steps to ensure the new administration would undo President Obama’s work advancing LGBT equality – efforts that come after Perkins’ June 2016 claim that a Trump presidency would be better for the LGBT community than a Hillary Clinton presidency.
FRC and other conservative evangelicals continue to enjoy unprecedented access to the White House since the Trump administration took office. 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 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.
In May 2018, Perkins was appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Freedom, where he will serve a two-year term along with fellow anti-LGBT appointee Gary Bauer, who also has a long history of right-wing activism. Perkins will continue to serve as FRC president during his term on the Commission.
The appointment is in line with FRC’s push to treat international religious freedom in U.S. policy as a national security issue rather than simply a human rights issue, as demonstrated in an April 2018 issue analysis paper written by FRC’s Travis Weber. “Despite a pattern of ongoing persecution and instability in various countries around the world, which is clearly related to a lack of religious freedom in those places,” Weber wrote, “we have nevertheless resisted the possibility that homeland security threats exist because we have failed to cultivate religious freedom elsewhere.”
FRC was also part of the July 2018 “Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom” gathering sponsored by the Department of State and hosted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a darling of the U.S. Christian Right. Perkins was in attendance and praised Pompeo for convening the event, which he claimed is a “turning point for millions.” He also stated that religious freedom would somehow decrease the likelihood of terrorism.
On July 19 2018, FRC posted one of Perkins’ “Washington Watch” columns on its website on the twenty-fifth 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.”
And three years after the legalization of same-sex marriage in the U.S., 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” and then he 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.”