Family Research Council has built its foundation on prohibitions. Whether about abortion, gay rights or even economic stimulus, the right wing organization tows the line on "conservative values," impeding people's hopes and dreams to further their own personal agenda.
But the group's approach, so rigid and restrictive, sometimes bites them back, and FRC's relationship with outgoing U.S. Rep. Joseph Cao provides a glimpse into the organization's self-impeding, dehumanizing politics.
Back in 2008, FRC showered Cao, a Republican from Louisiana, with praise and unequivocally endorsed his candidacy.
"Joseph Cao will be a true friend of the family. We need representatives who will fight to defend the family against the radical leadership in the House of Representatives," said FRC president Tony Perkins at the time. "We will need many pro-family representatives in the next Congress and FRC Action PAC believes that Joseph Cao will be a true advocate for the issues that best uphold and strengthen families. We are proud to support his candidacy."
Like the wind, politics change, and this year FRC threw its weight against Cao, citing, among other things, his support for LGBT-inclusive hate crimes legislation and the Log Cabin Republicans.
Cao's "pro-gay" politics trump his "right to life" world view, and FRC's prepared to throw the baby out with the bath water.
As part of their effort to derail Cao this year -- an effort that was ultimately successful -- FRC unleashed ads on conservative radio denouncing his "liberal" record, "Washington doesn't need more liberal Republicans. Stop Joe Cao on Election Day."
Cao was understandably upset, and blasted back, "As a former Jesuit seminarian and practicing Catholic, it is ridiculous to say that I have ever taken a position against religious liberties," Cao said. "I am, however, a champion of human rights and justice for all."
Though Cao lost the race, he and FRC are still trading barbs, and the lawmaker this week insisted, "For a conservative Christian organization to attack a Republican pro-life candidate in a general election is as ignorant as it is inexcusable."
FRC remains unapologetic and Perkins penned a scathing self-defense, saying, "Cao repeatedly voted for key provisions of the homosexual agenda including: Hate Crimes, the overturning of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," even though military leaders said don't do it."He continued, "The straw that broke the camel's back for me was when he recently helped the Log Cabin Republicans (homosexual Republicans) raise money for their political operation."
Perkins' explanation also relies heavily on Cao's vote for health care reform, which Perkins claims shows the lawmaker's loose position on the "sanctity of life." In fact, Cao voted against health care reform and vigorously fought against federal funding for abortion, which he compares to slavery.
The political nooks and crannies aside, FRC's limited, so-called "Biblical" polity ends up perverting their calls for the "sanctity of life."
By Perkins' telling, it's more important to protect an undeveloped fetus than living humans, like the children and adults who can now receive health care, and the countless LGBT people whose lives will be improved by inclusive hate crime legislation.
As for Don't Ask, Don't Tell, our troops' health and happiness, according to Perkins, pales when compared to a less than three-month old fetus. Actualized lives, with their responsibilities, loves and friendships, become "less than" an embryo. Suddenly FRC's prohibitive politics become less humane.
FRC's staunch agenda make me think of Brazilian theorist Paulo Freire, whose work revolved around the relationship between the oppressor and the oppressed. In his seminal book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire writes, "As the oppressors dehumanize others and violate their rights, they themselves also become dehumanized."
FRC and its allies have become so obsessed with one political position, an unborn child's right to life, that they remain blind to the lives of millions of Americans. FRC's idea of humanity has become so narrow and particular that it precludes empathy for their fellow citizens. The group's "family values" and moral superiority are completely neutered. Their "respect for life" platform falls away.
All hope for the salvation of FRC's humanity, however, is not lost. As Freire writes, "As the oppressed, fighting to be human, take away the oppressors' power to dominate and suppress, they restore to the oppressors the humanity they had lost in the exercise of oppression."
By fighting for our rights, and showing our faces, LGBT people and their allies tells the world, yes, that we're here, we're queer, sure, but we're also very human. We deserve the respect every other living man, woman and child deserves.
Maybe in time some of our humanity will start to rub off.