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The Religious Right and race: skeletons in the 'family' closet.

Like a lot of Religious Right leaders, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins often attempts to link the goals of his organization to the civil rights movement.

Commenting on the recent death of Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Perkins, in a message to supporters, saluted the "brave" stands taken by Dr. King and noted that Mrs. King "courageously supported her husband's pioneering work for civil rights in America."

Perkins went on to write, "Although we came to differ with her on the critical issue of marriage, we nonetheless pay tribute to her great achievements."

You would think Perkins was a veritable champion of civil rights. In fact, his organization has worked to undercut them at every turn. Since the election of President George W. Bush, Perkins' congressional allies have worked repeatedly to repeal key civil rights protections by allowing "faith-based" groups to accept tax money and still discriminate on religious grounds when hiring staff. Perkins' FRC has egged them on every time.

The FRC is also a vociferous opponent of the public school system and frequently calls for voucher plans, even though private schools, unlike public institutions, serve only the children they choose to.

Mrs. King knew all too well the threats vouchers proposed. She had watched the rise of "segregation academies" in the South--all-white private schools funded with tax dollars in the 1960s as a way to get around court-ordered segregation.

Addressing the Wisconsin Education Association in 2005, Mrs. King blasted that state's voucher program, remarking, "Anything that undermines [public schools] does a shameful disservice to children.... I see no good reason private schools should be subsidized by taxpayers."

Perkins was also strangely silent on his own checkered past on race relations. In 1996, Perkins, while managing the U.S. Senate campaign of Louisiana state legislator Woody Jenkins, paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard and notorious white supremacist David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list. Perkins tried to keep the deal quiet, but the facts came out during a post-election investigation.

That was hardly Perkins' only brush with racist groups. In 2001, as he prepared to run for the U.S. Senate himself, Perkins addressed the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white supremacist organization. The CCC grew out of the White Citizens Council, an organization formed in the 1950s to oppose school desegregation.

In July, Perkins was asked about his speech to the CCC by a Canadian newspaper. He bristled, "Never spoke to them again. That was over a decade ago."

It wasn't "over a decade ago." The speech took place in 2001. And it doesn't matter that Perkins only did it once. Once is bad enough. As a Southerner, Perkins certainly knew what the CCC was all about. He should have declined the invitation.

Perkins and his FRC have a lousy track record on racial justice. That record is there for anyone to see. Nice words on the death of Mrs. King don't ameliorate it. In fact, Perkins' hypocrisy only makes matters worse.
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Title Annotation:Family Research Council's President Tony Perkins
Publication:Church & State
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2006
Previous Article:'That Godless Court'? An interview with church-state scholar Ron Flowers.
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