Even when the Family Research Council comes out of a situation not looking like total distortion artists, you can always count on the organization to louse it up for itself.
Recently, FRC head Tony Perkins made the following statement on Face The Nation regarding marriage equality:
“We’re already seeing bakers and florists and photographers forced to participate in same-sex marriages under the threat of law and in some cases even jail.”
Politifact investigated the claim and found it actually to be half true. But still, Perkins got extremely angry. Here is the part which sent him into orbit:
After the Supreme Court rulings about gay marriage, Perkins said, “We’re already seeing bakers and florists and photographers forced to participate in same-sex marriages under the threat of law and in some cases even jail.”
We didn’t find cases where people were forced to participate against their will. However, if vendors refuse service, there are consequences. There are 21 states that forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation. Vendors who refuse service there could face legal actions and fines.
The “jail” part of Perkins’ claim is an exaggeration. We couldn’t find any evidence that a vendor had been sent to jail or that any legal authority had threatened jail time. In some states, if a business owner loses an anti-discrimination case and refuses to comply with an order, the owner could face jail, but we found no evidence of that ever happening. One state, Colorado, specifically took action to remove the threat of jail.
We rate this claim Half True.
Now this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for Perkins and FRC, but Perkins didn’t seem to think so:
(Reporter, Amy) Sherman, even after talking to a series of attorneys, concluded — in an embarrassing avoidance of the facts — that my comments were only “half-true.” Apparently, Sherman’s outfit is not only the authority on facts — but the inventor of them! When Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakes was sued (one of the 13 U.S. business owners we cited who have been harassed or charged) by the Colorado State Attorney General, the law specifically stated that his penalty for violating the “public accommodation” policy could be either hundreds of dollars in fines or up to a year in jail. In the midst of the Masterpiece controversy, Colorado officials realized what a PR disaster it would be when people found out Jack could be sent to jail for supporting a position on marriage that a majority of Americans share. Immediately, the state senator who sponsored the “anti-discrimination” law raced to repeal to the jail provision, recognizing, as FRC’s Ken Klukowski does, that “the American people would recoil in horror at the thought of well-meaning citizens being thrown into jail for refusing to participate in a form of ‘marriage’ that their personal faith doesn’t recogn ize.” That said, the Colorado repeal doesn’t officially take effect until August — meaning that Phillips, who was charged in 2012, could still be threatened with a misdemeanor that includes a jail sentence. There’s nothing “half-true” about that reality for Jack and his family.
Perkins ended this rant with the following vicious comments about the media:
Unfortunately, the media, in a desperate attempt to downplay the persecution Americans will face for opposing same-sex “marriage,” is resorting to lies from its own “fact-checkers.” They understand, as we do, that it’s harder to vilify someone when you see them suffering for living out their faith. And for dozens of men and women, that suffering is taking place in the form of more than jail time. For them, the nightmare is already here in the form of thousands of dollars in fines, lawsuits, public humiliation, boycotts of their businesses, death threats, and vandalism of their property. This is the real intolerance. And one day, no amount of shoddy journalism will be able to hide it.
One has to wonder just what set Perkins off. Maybe by the claim that he was exaggerating about jail terms. However, Politifact backed up this assertion:
The Family Research Council directed us to multiple cases, including one particular case that they argue includes the threat of jail: Masterpiece Cakeshop. In 2012, a gay couple visited the suburban Denver shop in search of a cake for a Colorado celebration following their Massachusetts wedding. After the cake shop refused, the ACLU initiated a complaint on behalf of the two men. The Colorado attorney general’s office later filed a formal complaint which will be heard before the state’s civil rights commission in September. The owner has said, “We would close down the bakery before we would compromise our beliefs.” The cake shop’s lawyer, Nicolle Martin, has said if the owner loses he could face up to a year in jail.
In the meantime, though, the Colorado Legislature has taken action to repeal the criminal penalties for discrimination in places of public accommodations, which had included up to a year in jail and/or a $300 fine. The provision had never been used, and the repeal coincided with legislators passing a civil unions bill.
We reached bill co-sponsor state Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, who told us that the repeal officially goes into effect in August, and he didn’t believe that a prosecutor would use that part of the law in the last month that it remains on the books.
“A D.A. has to choose to file misdemeanor charges,” Steadman said. “It never happened. It never will.”
However, since the Masterpiece Cakeshop incident occurred in 2012, Martin said it’s still possible that the law on the books at the time — which did include jail — would apply.
“I have received no assurances from the state of Colorado that no prosecution will be pursued even in light of this recent repeal,” Martin told PolitiFact.
We checked with both the Colorado attorney general and the local district attorney; no criminal charges are pending.
In other words, it doesn’t even look like a jail sentence is even considered for the Colorado case and the elimination of jail time under the anti-discrimination law had nothing do with avoiding an embarrassing PR situation. Believe it or not, had Perkins stuck to the facts, he could have made a plausible case for taking on the exaggeration claim.
But, for whatever reason, he chose to add all of that other mess about a “plot” to stop a so-called PR disaster and another ridiculous accusation of second media “plot” to downplay so-called anti-Christian persecution.
It makes him seem like less of the leader of a noted Washington morality organization (even though THAT designation is totally undeserved) and more like a man whose tinfoil hat is on so tightly that he can’t recognize when folks are actually agreeing with his assertions.
Sounds like Perkins is starting to buy into that junk FRC pushes in order to sway its supporters. If that’s the case, then he would be well advised to remember the mantra of those dealing in narcotics:
“Don’t get high on your own supply.”