Tony Perkins (politician)

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Tony Perkins
4th President of the Family Research Council
Assumed office
September 1, 2003
Preceded byKenneth Connor
Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
In office
June 17, 2019 – June 16, 2020
Preceded byTenzin Dorjee
Succeeded byGayle Manchin
Member of the Louisiana House of Representatives
from the 64th district
In office
January 3, 1996 – January 12, 2004
Preceded byMike McCleary
Succeeded byBodi White
Personal details
Anthony Richard Perkins

(1963-03-20) March 20, 1963 (age 60)
Cleveland, Oklahoma, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
SpouseLawana Perkins
EducationLiberty University (BS)
Louisiana State University (MPA)

Anthony Richard Perkins (born March 20, 1963) is an American politician and evangelical lobbyist.[1] He is president of the Family Research Council, a Christian conservative policy and lobbying organization based in Washington, D.C.[2] Perkins, an ordained Southern Baptist pastor,[3][4] was previously a police officer and television reporter, served two terms as a Republican member of the Louisiana House of Representatives and unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 2002. On May 14, 2018, he was appointed to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.[5]

Early life and career[edit]

Perkins was born and raised in the northern Oklahoma city of Cleveland and graduated in 1981 from Cleveland High School. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Liberty University.[6] He later earned a Master of Public Administration degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. After college, Perkins entered the United States Marine Corps.[6] Following his tour of duty, he became a reserve deputy with the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office and also worked with the U.S. State Department's Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program instructing hostage negotiation and bomb disposal to hundreds of police officers from around the world.[6][7][8]

After the federal contract for the anti-terrorism program ended, Perkins left law enforcement to work for KBTR, the Baton Rouge TV station owned by then-State Representative Woody Jenkins. At KBTR, Perkins opened a news division.[8]

Political career[edit]

Louisiana House of Representatives[edit]

Perkins won an open seat in the Louisiana House representing District 64 (the eastern Baton Rouge suburbs, including part of Livingston Parish) when he defeated Democrat Herman L. Milton of Baker 63% to 37% in the nonpartisan blanket primary held on October 21, 1995.[9][10] He was elected on a conservative platform of strong families and limited government. Four years later, he was reelected without opposition.[11] He retired from the legislature in 2004, fulfilling a promise to serve no more than two terms.[12][13]

While in office, Perkins authored legislation to require Louisiana public schools to install Internet filtering software, to provide daily silent prayer, and to prevent what he termed "censorship of America's Christian heritage".[14] Perkins also authored the nation's first covenant marriage law, a voluntary type of marriage that permits divorce only in cases of physical abuse, abandonment, adultery, imprisonment or after two years of separation.[6][15]

Perkins opposed casino gambling in Louisiana, calling a 1996 plan to restrict the location of gambling riverboats to one side of the river, "putting lipstick on a hog". It doesn't make the bill any better, it just looks a little better."[16] Perkins was described as "staunchly anti-abortion" by Public Broadcasting Service which also credited him with working on law and order and economic development issues while in the state house.[6] Perkins was instrumental in increasing state regulation of Louisiana abortion clinics; he sponsored a law to require state licensing and sanitary inspections.[2][17]

2002 U.S. Senate election[edit]

Perkins ran for the United States Senate in 2002 as a social and religious conservative Republican.[6] Louisiana's then-Governor, Murphy J. Foster Jr., and the National Republican Senatorial Committee backed other candidates.[6] Perkins finished in fourth place in the nonpartisan blanket primary with just under 10% of the vote.[2] The Democratic incumbent, Mary Landrieu, was re-elected in the general election against another Republican, Suzanne Haik Terrell.

USCIRF appointment[edit]

On May 14, 2018, he was appointed as one of nine commissioners to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).[5] His appointment was opposed by the Hindu American Foundation for his track record of "hateful stances against non-Christians."[18]

On June 17, 2019, the USCIRF elected Perkins as chair for the commission.[19] On June 16, 2020, he became the USCIRF vice chair.[20]

Political future[edit]

Perkins was floated as a potential Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate against Mary Landrieu in the 2014 election.[21] Despite strongly criticising Bill Cassidy, the main Republican challenger to Landrieu, as "pretty weak on the issues", Perkins said in an interview in January 2014 that he would not run against Landrieu. He did however express interest in running for David Vitter's U.S. Senate Seat, should Vitter be elected Governor of Louisiana in 2015.[22] Vitter lost the election and announced he would not run for re-election to the Senate, but Perkins declined to run in the 2016 election and endorsed John Fleming for the seat.[23]


Perkins at CPAC in 2015
Perkins speaking at the annual Values Voter Summit in 2011

Louisiana Family Forum[edit]

According to the Baptist Press, Perkins' "concern about the influence of the homosexual movement" led to his involvement in the 1998 founding of the Louisiana Family Forum, a conservative, faith-oriented, anti-abortion, and non-profit group.[24][25]

Family Research Council[edit]

In September 2003, Perkins withdrew from the race for Louisiana state insurance commissioner to become the president of the conservative Christian Family Research Council (FRC).[26] He replaced Ken Connor.[27][28] In addition to his duties as president of the FRC, Perkins hosts a radio program, Washington Watch with Tony Perkins.[29]

Perkins was involved in the 2005 controversy over the disconnection of life support for Terri Schiavo, a woman who had been in a "persistent vegetative state" for a number of years. After a final court order permitted Schiavo's husband to remove her feeding tube and thereby cause her to die, Perkins stated, "we should remember that her death is a symptom of a greater problem: that the courts no longer respect human life."[30]

In October 2008, Perkins called the passage of California Proposition 8 (which prohibited same sex marriage in the state) "more important than the presidential election", adding that the United States has survived despite picking bad presidents in the past but "we will not survive if we lose the institution of marriage."[31]

In 2010, Perkins dismissed the SPLC hate group designation as a political attack on the FRC by a "liberal organization" and as part of "the left's smear campaign of conservatives".[32]

Political positions[edit]


Perkins speaking at a Ted Cruz presidential campaign rally in 2016.

In 2015, Perkins affirmed the debate over Obama's birth certificate as "legitimate", remarking that it "makes sense" to conclude that Obama was a Muslim. That year, a survey reported that "54 percent of GOP voters thought Obama was a Muslim".[33]

In 2016, Perkins endorsed Ted Cruz for the Republican presidential nomination.[34]

In 2017, some supporters of a political candidate, Wesley Goodman, who was alleged to have committed a sexual assault in 2015, complained that Perkins did not reveal information to the public about Goodman's actions.[35]

In 2018, Perkins was willing to overlook Donald Trump's past, stating that President Trump should be given a "Mulligan". Perkins opined that Trump was "providing the leadership we need at this time, in our country and in our culture."[36]


In 2014, Perkins released an editorial explaining why he supports Israel.[37]

Judicial nominees[edit]

In 2005, Perkins opposed the filibustering of certain right-leaning federal judicial nominees by U.S. Senate Democrats, arguing that the Democrats were waging a "campaign against orthodox religious views",[38] and that the judicial nominees were being persecuted for their Christian faith.[39] He became one of the organizers and hosts of Justice Sunday, a series of events that sought to mobilize the evangelical Christian base in support of the nominees.[40]

LGBT issues[edit]

In 2010, Perkins opposed the overturning of the "Don't ask, don't tell" law that prohibited people who were openly gay or lesbian from serving in the U.S. military. Perkins argued that the repeal would, among other things, infringe on the religious liberty of military chaplains and other service members holding orthodox Christian views.[41]

In 2006, Perkins urged Congress to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would define marriage in the United States as the union between one man and one woman.[42][43] He explained his reasoning in a 2006 Human Events column:

The definition... is rooted in the order of nature itself. It promotes the continuation of the human race and the cooperation of a mother and a father in raising the children they produce. This union can only be protected through amending the United States Constitution. If it's not, activists will continue using the courts to sell a five-legged dog.[44]

Perkins believes natural disasters are divine punishments for homosexuality. His own home was destroyed in the 2016 Louisiana floods, which he described as "a flood of near-biblical proportions". News outlets noted the irony.[45][46]

Minimum wage[edit]

Perkins opposes any increases in the minimum wage, which he stated in a book that he co-authored with Harry R. Jackson, Jr. in 2008.[citation needed] Jackson stated that the minimum wage is rooted in racism.[47]


In June 2019, Perkins advocated for the "fundamental human right of religious freedom" for non-Christians.[48]

He criticized the persecution of Uyghurs in China and religious minorities in Iran.[19]

In September 2010, Perkins claimed that "the ultimate evil has been committed" when Muslims interpret the Quran in its literal context,[49] that Islam "tears at the fabric of democracy,"[50][51] and that world history classes dishonestly portray Islam in a positive light by providing an "airbrushed" portrait of the religion itself.[52]

In 2007, Perkins opposed the first-ever Hindu prayer before the United States Senate, saying, "There is no historic connection between America and the polytheistic creed of the Hindu faith." He also opposed a US Marines yoga and meditation program for PTSD prevention, characterizing the Hindu and Buddhist practices as "goofy".[18]

Second Amendment[edit]

Perkins is a self-described "ardent supporter of the Second Amendment" who is "willing to talk about laws regarding the ownership and use of guns by those who should not have them."[53]

2020 election results[edit]

Perkins signed a December 10, 2020, letter from the Conservative Action Project asking state legislatures in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Michigan to exercise their plenary power under the Constitution to overturn Joe Biden's victory by appointing pro-Trump slates of electors to the Electoral College.[54]


On May 17, 2001, Perkins gave a speech to the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white supremacist group that has described black people as a "retrograde species of humanity".[55] Perkins said he did not know the group's ideology at the time. In an April 26, 2005, article in The Nation, Max Blumenthal reported that while managing the unsuccessful U. S. Senate campaign of Woody Jenkins in 1996, Perkins "paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,500 for his mailing list." Perkins denied knowing about the purchase. A document authorizing the payment was reported to contain Perkins' signature. The incident resurfaced in the local press in 2002, during Perkins' unsuccessful Senate run.[56]

Personal life[edit]

Perkins is married to Lawana Perkins (née Lee), with whom he has five children.[12] He also adopted 16-year-old Boko Haram-held captive, Nigerian Leah Sharibu.[19]

He has been affiliated with the National Rifle Association, the American Legion, the Christian Coalition, and the Baton Rouge Rescue Mission.[7] Perkins served as president of the Council for National Policy.[57]

Perkins' family was affected by the 2016 Louisiana floods, and had to evacuate their Louisiana home by canoe.[58][59]


  1. ^ "Tony Perkins Elected Chair of Bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom". United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. Retrieved 2022-11-25.
  2. ^ a b c Blumenthal, Max (May 23, 2005). "Good Cop, Bad Cop". The Nation. Retrieved May 20, 2012.
  3. ^ Foust, Michael, "Family Leader & Baptist in La., Named FRC President", Baptist Press, August 13, 2003. Accessed May 3, 2019.
  4. ^ "Tony Perkins". Fox News. 2020-10-12. Retrieved 2020-10-12.
  5. ^ a b "May 14, 2018 115th Congress, 2nd Session Issue: Vol. 164, No. 78 — Daily Edition". Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Banville, Lee (2002). "Vote 2002. State Rep. Tony Perkins (Republican)". PBS Online Newshour. Archived from the original on May 21, 2012. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
  7. ^ a b "House District 64". Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved November 14, 2009.
  8. ^ a b Maggi, Laura (October 9, 2002). "Perkins: From pulpit to politics". The Times-Picayune. New Orleans. Archived from the original on October 30, 2002. Retrieved July 5, 2022.
  9. ^ "Louisiana election returns, October 21, 1995". Retrieved November 14, 2009.[dead link]
  10. ^ "Our Campaigns - LA State House 064 Race - Oct 21, 1995".
  11. ^ Dyer, Scott (October 9, 1999). "ELECTION '99 House District 64". The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La.). p. 6 A.
  12. ^ a b "Biography, Tony Perkins, President". Family Research Council. Retrieved May 20, 2012.
  13. ^ "Our Campaigns - LA State House 064 Race - Oct 23, 1999".
  14. ^ Organization Profile: Family Research Council | Right Wing Watch. Retrieved on 2012-04-24.
  15. ^ Crary, David (February 11, 2001). "Love & Marriage". The Day (New London, Ct.). p. C8. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
  16. ^ Dyer, Scott (April 21, 1996). "Gambling foes fear local-option bill no improvement. Movement limit called merely "lipstick on hog"". The Baton Rouge Morning Advocate. p. 23–a.
  17. ^ "Clinics brought under state licensing". The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La.). June 2, 1999.
  18. ^ a b "Appointment of Far-Right Evangelist Tony Perkins Strains Credibility of USCIRF". Hindu American Foundation. 2018-05-16. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  19. ^ a b c "Tony Perkins Elected Chair of Bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom | USCIRF". June 17, 2019. Retrieved October 12, 2020.
  20. ^ "Commissioners: Advocates for Religious Freedom | USCIRF". October 10, 2020. Retrieved October 12, 2020.
  21. ^ Social conservatives make big money plans Politico
  22. ^ Mollie Reilly (January 22, 2013). "Tony Perkins Suggests He May Run For David Vitter's Senate Seat: 'I Never Say Never'". The Huffington Post. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  23. ^ Roarty, Alex; Yoakley, Eli (February 26, 2016). "Tony Perkins to Endorse John Fleming in Louisiana Senate Race". Roll Call. Archived from the original on February 27, 2016. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
  24. ^ Foust, Michael (August 13, 2003). "Tony Perkins, pro-family leader & Baptist in La., named FRC president". Baptist Press. Archived from the original on April 15, 2013. Retrieved May 20, 2012.
  25. ^ Nossiter, Adam (June 2, 2008). "n Louisiana, Inklings of a New (True) Champion of the Right". The New York Times.
  26. ^ "Covenant-marriage author to lead conservative group. Family Research Council board names Louisiana lawmaker to post". The Washington Times. August 14, 2003.
  27. ^ "(DV) Berkowitz: Tony Perkins' Family Research Council".
  28. ^ "Archives". Los Angeles Times. 16 August 2003.
  29. ^ "Washington Watch, Live Daily with Tony Perkins, radio program". Retrieved October 15, 2007.
  30. ^ Milbank, Dana (April 1, 2005). "GOP, Democrats Look for Symbolism in Schiavo Case". Washington Post. p. A12.
  31. ^ Goodstein, Laurie (October 26, 2008). "A Line in the Sand for Same-Sex Marriage Foes". The New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2012.
  32. ^ Thompson, Krissah (November 24, 2010). "'Hate group' designation angers same-sex marriage opponents". Washington Post. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
  33. ^ Coates, Ta-Nehisi. "My President Was Black: A history of the first African American White House--and of what came next". The Atlantic. Retrieved December 15, 2016.
  34. ^ Teddy Schleifer. "Tony Perkins backs Ted Cruz". CNN. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
  35. ^ Kindy, Kimberly; Viebeck, Elise (November 17, 2017). "How a conservative group dealt with a fondling charge against a rising GOP star". Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 19, 2017. Retrieved October 12, 2020.
  36. ^ Edward-Isaac Dovere (January 23, 2018). "Tony Perkins: Trump Gets 'a Mulligan' on Life, Stormy Daniels". Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  37. ^ "Tony Perkins: My Journey to the Holy Land, Spending Time In Bomb Shelters and Why America Needs to Support Israel". 29 August 2014.
  38. ^ Perkins, Tony (May 14, 2005). "It Is About Religious Belief". Washington Post.
  39. ^ Blumenthal, Max (2010-07-13). Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party. Nation Books. pp. 140–. ISBN 978-1-56858-417-1. Retrieved 20 May 2012.[permanent dead link]
  40. ^ Helguero, Francis (August 15, 2005). "'Justice Sunday II' Calls on Evangelicals to Action". The Christian Post. Retrieved 20 May 2012.
  41. ^ Marshall, Kelly (May 27, 2010). "Tony Perkins: Repealing 'don't ask, don't tell' threatens military chaplains". CNN. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
  42. ^ Tony Perkins, "Connecticut Fails to Connect with People on Marriage," Washington Update, Family Research Council, April 14, 2005.
  43. ^ Whitlock, Reta Ugena (2007-01-01). This Corner of Canaan: Curriculum Studies of Place & the Reconstruction of the South. Peter Lang. pp. 151–. ISBN 978-0-8204-8651-2. Retrieved 20 May 2012.
  44. ^ Perkins, Tony (July 21, 2006). "Congress Fails Americans on Marriage". Human Events. Archived from the original on 6 February 2012. Retrieved 20 May 2012.
  45. ^ US pastor, who believes floods are God's punishment, flees flooded home. BBC. August 18, 2016
  46. ^ A Man Who Says God Punishes Gays with Natural Disasters Had His Home Destroyed in the Flood. Esquire. August 18, 2016
  47. ^ Jackson Jr., Harry R. (April 1, 2014). "Minimum Wage: All Jacked Up". Christian Post. Retrieved 2020-10-12.
  48. ^ Perkins, Tony (June 19, 2019). "Why Christians must support religious freedom for everyone". Religion News Service. Retrieved October 12, 2020.
  49. ^ Parker Spitzer. CNN. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved December 3, 2014.
  50. ^ Tashman, Brian (September 12, 2014). "Tony Perkins: US Constitution Doesn't Protect Muslims". Retrieved December 3, 2014.
  51. ^ Perkins, Tony (September 11, 2014). "Washington Watch". Retrieved December 3, 2014.
  52. ^ Perkins, Tony (September 18, 2014). "America Will Perish Without a Vision to Defeat ISIS". Retrieved December 3, 2014.
  53. ^ "Tony Perkins: Solution to gun violence isn't what you think, says former police officer". Associated Press. Associated Press. August 25, 2019. Retrieved 2020-10-12.
  54. ^ "Conservatives Call on State Legislators to Appoint New Electors, in Accordance with the Constitution".
  55. ^ Perry, Barbara (2009-03-05). Hate Crimes. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 110–. ISBN 978-0-275-99569-0. Retrieved May 20, 2012.
  56. ^ Fargen, Jessica (October 16, 2006). "Attack on Gay Marriage". Boston Herald. Archived from the original on May 24, 2013. Retrieved May 20, 2012.
  57. ^ "Tony Perkins, President". Retrieved 2020-10-12.
  58. ^ Louisiana Flood Strips Evangelical Political Leader of Everything; Family Evacuated in Canoe, Living in Motorhome Christian Post
  59. ^ Nelson, Kate (August 18, 2016). "Louisiana floods destroy home of Christian leader who says God sends natural disasters to punish gay people". The Independent. London. Retrieved August 27, 2017.

External links[edit]

Louisiana House of Representatives
Preceded by
Mike McCleary
Member of the Louisiana House of Representatives
from the 64th district

Succeeded by
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Kenneth L. Connor
President of the Family Research Council