* An Amazon.com program that allows customers to direct 0.5% of their expenditures to charitable nonprofit organizations of their choice
* Prohibits participation by conservative organizations classified as “hate groups” by the Southern Poverty Law Center
AmazonSmile is a program that Amazon.com has administered since 2014. Through this program, any customer can purchase whichever Amazon products he wants, at their regular prices, and can then indicate, at checkout, that he wishes to have Amazon siphon off 0.5% of his payment and redirect that sum to a charitable nonprofit organization of the customer’s choice. In fiscal 2018 alone, AmazonSmile funneled some $44 million to nonprofits in this manner.
AmazonSmile takes pains to warn that “organizations that engage in, support, encourage, or promote intolerance, hate, terrorism, violence, money laundering, or other illegal activities are not eligible to participate.” To determine whether an organization fits into one of those foregoing categories, AmazonSmile relies on the judgment of the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control and, even more significantly, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) — the latter of which is famous for its frequently updated list of “hate groups.”
Some of the entities that are named in SPLC’s well-known list can, in fact, be accurately described as hate groups whose platforms are founded upon values like racial separatism, racial supremacy, or the promotion of discrimination or violence against people because of their race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, etc. But many of the organizations named in the list are not “hate” groups in any legitimate sense of the word. Rather, they are thoughtful, articulate conveyors of conservative values and principles that are anathema to SPLC, and their classification as “hate groups” constitutes an egregious libel that is based on nothing more than SPLC’s intolerance for ideas with which it does not agree. By conflating actual hate groups on the one hand, with respectable conservative organizations on the other, SPLC seeks to shut down debate, shut down free speech, and delegitimize conservatives as repugnant monsters whose viewpoints do not even merit a fair hearing.
AmazonSmile’s relationship with SPLC began in 2017. As one AmazonSmile spokesperson put it in 2018: “We remove organizations that the SPLC deems as ineligible.”
Among other things, SPLC depicts any organization objecting to transformative cultural changes involving homosexuals — such as gay marriage — as a “hate” group whose opinions have no more legitimacy than those of an Aryan militia. Thus does the Center classify the conservative Family Research Council (FRC), a Christian public policy ministry, as a purveyor of hate — chiefly because of the latter’s opposition to same-sex marriage and its view that homosexuality is “associated with negative physical and psychological health effects.” It should be noted that FRC expresses no malice at all toward homosexuals, as demonstrated by its clearly articulated “sympathy” for, and desire to “assist,” those “who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions.” But AmazonSmile, in accordance with SPLC’s guidance, has removed FRC from the list of charities eligible to receive AmazonSmile funds.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is also ineligible for the AmazonSmile program. ADF, by its own telling, provides legal advocacy “for the right of people to freely live out their faith,” with a specific focus on “cases involving religious liberty issues, the sanctity of human life, and marriage and family.” In short, ADF contends that if a religious organization opposes taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand, or believes that marriage should be defined explicitly as a sacramental union between one man and one woman, such an entity should be allowed, in accordance with the First Amendment, to freely espouse those particular values. But in the eyes of SPLC and AmazonSmile, such values signify that ADF is a “hate group.”
The D. James Kennedy Ministries (DJKM), which seek to proclaim “the Gospel of Jesus Christ” as widely as possible, oppose the notion that marriage should be redefined to include same-sex unions. But there is not the faintest trace of “hate” in DJKM’s message. As Ministries spokesman John Rabe has said: “We desire all people, with no exceptions, to receive the love of Christ and his forgiveness and healing. We unequivocally condemn violence, and we hate no one.” SPLC, however, has nonetheless classified DJKM as an “active hate group” because of its biblical view regarding homosexuality. And AmazonSmile, in turn, refuses to direct any of its customer funds to DJKM.
The Religious Freedom Coalition (RFC) is a nonprofit organization that aims to “inform the American public about the persecution that Christians face around the world,” and to “advocate for their religious freedom.” But because RFC opposes same-sex marriage, SPLC categorizes it as a “hate group.” Therefore, AmazonSmile deems the Coalition unworthy of any funding.
The Ruth Institute is a global interfaith coalition whose foremost concern is to help ensure that “every child be welcomed into life in a loving home with their own mother and father, married to each other.” But because it “upholds the ancient Christian teachings about marriage, family, and human sexuality,” the Institute is considered an “anti-LGBT” “hate group” by SPLC. And thus, by logical extension, AmazonSmile has decided that the Institute should not be permitted to collect a 0.5% share of anyone’s Amazon expenditures.
Yet another Christian entity which SPLC has tarred as a “hate group” — and which AmazonSmile has consequently removed from its list of eligible charities — is the pro-Israel evangelical organization, Proclaiming Justice To The Nations. In 2020, the organization’s president, Laurie Cardoza-Moore, attributed the “hate group” designation by SPLC to the fact that she and Proclaiming Justice had recently spoken out “against the antisemitism of Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib,” two high-profile Democrat congresswomen.
A New Hampshire-based Catholic organization known as the St. Benedict Center has likewise been removed from the list of charities eligible for AmazonSmile. When a spokesman for the Center, Brother André Marie, asked Amazon for an explanation, the company told him candidly: “We rely on the Southern Poverty Law Center to determine which charities are in certain ineligible categories. You have been excluded from the AmazonSmile program because the Southern Poverty Law Center lists Saint Benedict Center Inc in an ineligible category.” Brother André subsequently informed the press that SPLC’s and AmazonSmile’s major bone of contention was his organization’s opposition to “divorce, abortion, birth control, pornography, sodomy and public education.”
In stark contrast to its treatment of the aforementioned Christian entities, AmazonSmile has had absolutely no objection to passing along 0.5% of its customer expenditures to:
Another particularly noteworthy beneficiary of the AmazonSmile program is the Southern Poverty Law Center itself, which was, as of May 2020, the 33rd leading recipient of AmazonSmile contributions.