(CNSNews.com) – Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said it is worth exploring whether a greater tolerance for religion in the public square might have prevented last week's Connecticut school shooting.
“As we saw immediately after the shooting, the church doors opened. People gathered. They prayed,” Perkins told CNSNews.com Tuesday.
“It’s at these times we really turn to that thread of faith that’s woven through our culture as we progress through this. We need to ask what role faith can play on the other side of the shooting. Could a more open environment to faith in the public square prevent things like this from happening?”
After the Newtown, Conn. school shooting Friday that killed 26 people, including 20 children, mostly kindergarteners, many lawmakers and commentators called for strict gun control laws.
Perkins said the bigger issue is the culture.
“The focus should not be on the instrument, but the environment that created the individual,” Perkins said. “You go back to the first recorded murder between Cain and Abel. It doesn’t focus on the instrument he used. In fact, we don’t know what he used. The fact is he was motivated to kill. I do think there are larger questions here that need to be answered. We should be willing, as we ask the whys; we should be willing to truly search and listen to the answers.”
He said some of those questions could concern family structure and autism, but even that does not address the core issue.
“There are just so many questions we need to answer, but, we cannot lose sight of the fact that here was an individual that made a choice, a cognitive decision, to go in and take the lives of some of the most innocent human beings that walk the face of the earth, five-year-olds,” Perkins said.
“I was in New York this week and came home to Louisiana. I have a five-year-old. He was asleep when I got in late Sunday night. I just sat there and looked at him. I mean, my heart is broken for those parents. There’s something terribly wrong in our society when people can kill children without, it seems to be, without remorse,” he added.
Over the summer, a homosexual activist came into the Family Research Council headquarters in Washington and began shooting. There were no fatalities, but a security guard was shot and injured.
“As far as I know, and looking back over the last eight months or so, all the horrific shootings we’ve experienced in this nation, ours was the only one that I’m aware of that there was not a loss of life, and so for that, we obviously are very grateful,” Perkins said. “One of the aspects I was asked about is how did we cope with that?
“How did we get through that? For us, our team did remarkably well. The day after the shooting, they were all back at their posts. No one has suffered any long-term stress. One of the reasons I attribute that to is the key role that faith plays, not only in our organization, but in the lives of the individuals. Our immediate response in the wake of the shooting was to gather as a team and pray.
“The FBI had grief counselors and counselors there to talk with our folks. We were very quickly able to put the pieces together, and so that was a key component of our healing, as it is with any crisis,” Perkins said. “As we saw immediately after the shooting, the church doors opened. People gathered. They prayed.
“It’s at these times we really turn to that thread of faith that’s woven through our culture as we progress through this. We need to ask what role faith can play on the other side of the shooting. Could a more open environment to faith in the public square prevent things like this from happening?” he asked.
Perkins will begin a daily one-hour radio program called “Washington Watch,” on Jan. 7 that will air on 150 stations for the American Family Radio network at 5 p.m. He previously had a 30-minute weekend show.
Perkins said it would focus on three newsmakers each day with 20-minute segment for each guest.
“We’re not backing up. The elections are over, and people might think conservatives are in retreat, when the opposite is true,” Perkins said. “We feel we’ve got to press the issues even harder in defending and standing publicly for those traditional, core values that this nation was built upon.”
Challenges loom after the re-election of President Barack Obama, who is challenging religious freedom with a mandate that religious employers cover the cost of abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception, as well as voter-approved same-sex marriage in four states for the first time in history.
On the issue of marriage, Perkins believes the media is too quick to portray success in the already blue states of Maryland, Washington, Minnesota and Maine as turning the tide.
“There’s no question there’s a constant barrage of Hollywood, the media, even quasi-conservative pundits like George Will said this consensus is building,” Perkins said. “I hardly think that the votes of four states in that direction constitutes a consensus. You had 32 states vote the other way.
“Nobody in the media was out beating their chest saying there was a consensus for marriage, although the evidence would suggest as much. But I am not convinced that it’s inevitable, that this is going to happen. I would say the trends and forces are pushing for it. The question is time,” he said.
“Their issue is to push this quickly through before people see the ramifications and the consequences. If it trickles through and it’s a state by state, we begin to see the consequences of this redefinition. It’s not just about the marriage alter. It’s about fundamentally altering society, the resistance will grow, and I think it will be pushed back.”
Perkins also did not believe the reelection of Obama represented a significant shift to the left.
“As I looked at some of the number crunching, one of the things I said would be the case in the primary, we were correct. We said that conservatives would not be highly motivated to vote for Mitt Romney. We said that opposition to Barack Obama would get us about 80 percent of the way there. But we needed a strong candidate to get us the rest of the way,” he said.
“Basically, what we saw were flat numbers on behalf of evangelicals and social conservatives. They stayed home. They did not vote in proportion to Obama’s support. I would take nothing away from their victory. It was clearly a victory, but it was more of a strategic victory than it was an ideological victory,” Perkins said.
“It was a base election. Republicans refused to acknowledge that. They thought we’ve got to reach for the middle. It’s about jobs, the economy, while the other side was running a base-oriented election the entire time,” he added.