Column: Tony Perkin's No-Good Not-So-Bad Idea

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Tony Perkins (Family Research Council)

They say even a stopped clock is right twice a day…

The (Not Your) Family Research Council’s head honcho, Tony Perkins’, latest scheme to persecute LGBT people is actually a not-so-bad idea. Every now and then, he stumbles across something that actually makes sense - at least until he screws it all up again.

While decrying non-discrimination ordinances that include public accommodation protections for LGBT people on his radio show, Perkins floated the idea that business owners who provide a service to the queer community should turn around and donate the profit to an ex-gay group and post a sign announcing they would do so. I have no problem with most of that, but, as Perkins tends to do, he took things a step too far.

Right Wing Watch reports that “scoffing at the notion that anti-discrimination ordinances provide protection for marginalized groups, Perkins dismissed the laws as ‘clubs’ that can be used by gay people to ‘force everybody to accept and participate and facilitate their lifestyle choices’ and 'sue people of faith.’"

First, let's all acknowledge that while Perkins claims he opposes nondiscrimination ordinances, he only opposes them if they include LGBT people; he has no problem whatsoever with the religious protections they provide. Let a business post a sign saying, “No Christians Allowed” and see how fast he gets his knickers in a twist.

More importantly, business owners are free to do what they want with their money. They can give it to charity, buy porn, pay their mortgage or invest in tech stocks for all that it matters to the consumer. Granted, if the customer disagrees with how the money will be used, the business might change its decision, but that’s the free market, baby. 

You see, that’s the point of public accommodation nondiscrimination laws; they require business owners to serve the public equally without regard to what they’re going to do with the product or how they live their private lives. Business is business, as they say. If you’ve got the money to pay for a good or service offered to the public, the business is required to serve you.

That being said, Perkins tries to sidestep the nondiscrimination laws by asking business owners to post a sign saying they will donate any profit from gay clients to an anti-gay cause. By pointing out LGBT people for special consideration, once again he steps out of bounds. Posting the sign discourages LGBT people from shopping at certain places, when instead the business should simply follow the law and do what they wish with the profits.

That's the problem with Tony Perkins. He's obviously bright and knows how to manipulate the media. He just can't help going one step too far in his zeal to persecute minority groups while claiming victim status for himself. If he ever managed to pull back to Mike Huckabee-level bigotry, he’d be dangerous.

Instead, he uses his gifts to swindle the gullible and feed them lies. He twists and turns things to confuse his audience by stirring together facts and religious propaganda. Sadly, Perkins isn’t the first charlatan to feed his flock a mixed bag of truth and hysteria. As the 19th century political philosopher Lysander Spooner said, “Those who are capable of tyranny are capable of perjury to sustain it.”

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