A prominent civil-rights organization just published its annual list of hate groups, lumping right-wing and religious groups with neo-Nazis and the KKK. The list has caused damage to several non-profit charitable organizations and has been labeled as fraudulent by many, but is still used as the standard for judging an organization because it is the only list of its kind.
Last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization specializing in civil rights and public interest litigation, published its annual list of hate groups. The list, allegedly an unbiased and objective compilation, contains 917 groups with “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics”. The list and the group that produced it have come under fire from both liberals and conservatives.
The Washington Examiner immediately published an editorial by Emily Jashinsky, criticizing the list, claiming the SPLC’s claim to objectivity was “fraudulent”.
“The SPLC routinely lumps conservative advocacy groups in with legitimate hate organizations, putting proponents of traditional family values in the same category as neo-Nazis and the KKK.”
In fact, the list does contain several self-proclaimed neo-Nazi groups, like Aryan Nations and Blood & Honour. But the list also contains groups with an anti-abortion or anti-gay marriage agenda.
This biased and hodge-podge approach has attracted criticism even from left-wing sources. Liberal journalist Ken Silverstein wrote about the list in Harpers, calling the list a “fraud” while noting that the SPLC is “the wealthiest civil rights group in America”. Silverstein criticized the group for “a habit of casually labeling organizations as ‘hate groups’.”
“In doing so,” Silverstein wrote, “the SPLC shuts down debate, stifles free speech, and most of all, raises a pile of money, very little of which is used on behalf of poor people.”
Being included in the list has serious consequences. Organizations on the SPLC list are given a ‘hate group’ label by websites that track charities, and this label has a drastically detrimental effect on contributions.
The hate group label also attracts undeserved negative attention. In 2012, Floyd Corkins attempted to massacre employees at the Family Research Council in Washington DC. He admitted to the FBI that he was motivated by SPLC’s description of the Christian pro-family research organization as a hate group.
More recently, James Hodgkinson, the sniper who opened fire on Republican members of Congress during a baseball practice for a charity event, was a follower of the SPLC. In 2014, SPLC published a false story alleging that Steve Scalise, gravely injured in the shooting, was a white supremacist.
Despite the controversy surrounding the list, it is still widely referenced and considered authoritative because, as Dakin Andone, an associate writer for CNN reported, “since the FBI doesn’t keep track of domestic hate groups, the SPLC’s tally is the widely accepted one.”
Though Several groups, such as EURO and the National Alliance, are listed for their anti-Jewish agendas, the Jewish Defense League (JDL), whose stated goal is to “protect Jews from anti-Semitism by whatever means necessary”, is also listed. The JDL has been criticized for reacting violently to anti-Semitism, but according to the SPLC, its real crime was its political agenda of “denial of any Palestinian claims to land and the calling for the removal of all Arabs from the ‘Jewish-inherited soil’.”
Some groups that feel they have been unjustly labeled are taking action. Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit organization that promotes litigation related to evangelical Christian values, has brought a suit against Guidestar. Guidestar is an information service specializing in reporting on U.S. nonprofit companies, and they labeled all the groups on the SPLC list as hate groups. Mat Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel, was also critical of CNN’s publicizing the list as authoritative.
“The SPLC ‘hate’ label applied to nonviolent, peaceful groups like the Family Research Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom, Liberty Counsel, and others is purely political and an attempt to silence groups with which it disagrees,” Staver told Breaking Israel News. “I am outraged. I work with many in the Jewish community and have many friends who survived the Holocaust or who lost family in the Holocaust. I condemn racism, anti-Semitism, violence, and hatred. The SPLC must stop this false, defamatory, and dangerous labeling of peaceful, nonviolent groups.”
Staver’s organization is considering legal recourse against the SPLC.
D. James Kennedy Ministries (DJKM) filed a defamation suit against the SPLC. Dr. Wright, the president of DJKM, issued a statement on Wednesday explaining the suit:
“We embarked today on a journey to right a terrible wrong. Those who knowingly label Christian ministries as ‘hate’ groups, solely for subscribing to the historic Christian faith, are either woefully uninformed or willfully deceitful. In the case of the Southern Poverty Law Center, our lawsuit alleges the latter.” Wright went on to say, “These false and illegal characterizations have a chilling effect on the free exercise of religion and on religious free speech for all people of faith. After having given the SPLC an opportunity to retract, we have undertaken this legal action, seeking a trial by a jury of our peers, to preserve our own rights under the law and to defend the religious free speech rights of all Americans.”
Fox News listed some of the other questionable entries on the list:
Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian nonprofit organization dedicated to defending religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.
Family Research Council, a nonprofit, charitable and conservative Christian group and lobbying organization whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a Christian worldview.”
American Family Association, a nonprofit group that promotes fundamentalist Christian values and opposes same-sex marriage, pornography, and abortion.
American College of Pediatricians, a socially conservative advocacy group of pediatricians and other health-care professionals. The group was founded in 2002 as a protest against the American Academy of Pediatrics’ support for adoption by gay couples.
Family Research Institute, a Colorado-based, non-profit that states it has “… one overriding mission: to generate empirical research on issues that threaten the traditional family, particularly homosexuality, AIDS, sexual social policy, and drug abuse.”