Kenneth L. Connor, introduced today as the new president of the Family Research Council, is a Religious Right activist dedicated to a hard line on social issues, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
At a press conference in the U.S. Capitol this morning, Cooper was named as the new leader of the FRC, the most prominent Religious Right lobbying group in Washington, D.C.
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said he expects Connor to continue the FRC's long and unfortunate history of promoting the Religious Right's intemperate perspective on religious and political issues.
"The Family Research Council wraps its incendiary rhetoric around a narrow interpretation of the Bible," said Lynn. "Connor appears to be a new conductor who will keep the FRC's train on the same intolerant track."
Lynn cited the following recent examples of FRC hostility towards tolerance and diversity:
* Just last week the FRC issued a statement attacking the House of Representatives for allowing a Hindu priest to say a prayer before its opening session.
"(W)hile it is true that the United States of America was founded on the sacred principle of religious freedom for all, that liberty was never intended to exalt other religions to the level that Christianity holds in our country's heritage," said the statement. "Our Founders expected that Christianity -- and no other religion -- would receive support from the government as long as that support did not violate peoples' consciences and their right to worship. They would have found utterly incredible the idea that all religions, including paganism, be treated with equal deference."
After the statement was condemned by Americans United and came under press scrutiny, the Council issued another statement conceding that under the First Amendment, non-Christian groups have the right to offer prayers before Congress.
* Earlier this year the FRC began promoting a project called "Hang Ten," which is designed to persuade public schools to post copies of the Ten Commandments. FRC launched the project even though the Supreme Court and several lower federal courts have struck down these displays. The project, therefore, risks launching school systems into costly and futile litigation.
* In April, the FRC suggested Earth Day celebrations may be linked to communism. In a "CultureFacts" alert headlined "Of Leo and Lenin," the group said Leonardo DiCaprio and "several other entertainment types" were descending on the nation's capital the following weekend to "celebrate population control, economic redistribution and the environment." The FRC added, "The socialist-leaning movement known as environmentalism is observing the 30th Annual Earth Day, which happens to coincide with communist dictator Nikolai Lenin's birthday."
* The FRC frequently uses offensive rhetoric to criticize abortion rights and gay rights. During a 1999 "Reclaiming America for Christ" conference in Florida, FRC staffer Robert Knight ridiculed women who take part in abortion rights marches. "They are usually pretty big, heavyset women who look like they've been over working Oktoberfest for the last six years," Knight said. "You know, there's six beer mugs in each arm. All right, it's a stereotype, but I swear looking at the footage, that's what you see -- a lot of people who are angry, women who have shed their femininity and adopted a masculine outlook and are fiercely protective of abortion, which is the holy sacrament of feminism."
The FRC's Knight also faced criticism for a 1995 report in which he said that a study of fruit fly mating behavior suggests that homosexuality is a learned behavior.
* Five years ago the FRC joined forces with Focus on the Family to issue a report attacking America's public libraries. The report asserted that libraries are discarding classic works in favor of materials that are pornographic or that promote homosexuality.
The FRC, a spin-off of James Dobson's Focus on the Family, has suffered from a lack of money and publicity since the departure of the group's former president Gary Bauer, who left the organization to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 1999.
Lynn noted that Connor's track record is consistent with the FRC's agenda.
Connor, best known as the former president of the Florida chapter of Right To Life, ran in the 1994 Republican gubernatorial primaries in Florida. His positions reflect a hard line on most social issues.
On abortion: Connor is opposed to abortion rights under any circumstances.
On education: Connor supports public funding of private religious school vouchers, the teaching of creationism in public school science classes and is a supporter of the home school movement.
On religion and politics: During his 1994 campaign, Connor ignored federal tax law bans on church involvement in partisan politicking and distributed 85,000 campaign fliers in churches statewide. He also campaigned every Sunday during the race in Baptist churches. The Orlando Sentinel referred to him as the only gubernatorial candidate with a "stump sermon" instead of a "stump speech."
On tolerance: Connor told the Palm Beach Post in August 1994 that backers of the ''homosexual agenda'' often forget that there's a right and wrong.
"America is a diverse nation and the FRC should recognize that fact," concluded AU's Lynn. "It's disappointing that the group has selected a new leader who will keep it headed in the wrong direction."
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization represents 60,000 members and allied houses of worship in all 50 states.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.