- Monitors the activities of what it calls “hate groups” in the United States
- Views the U.S. as a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic nation
- Routinely smears conservatives as “haters”
- Has assets exceeding $300 million
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) describes itself as a “nonprofit civil rights organization” dedicated to “tracking and exposing” the activities of “hate groups and other domestic extremists” throughout the United States, and it periodically publishes updated lists of these entities on its website. Some of the groups that are named in SPLC’s lists 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 targeted by SPLC 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 inclusion in SPLC’s list of “hate groups” constitutes an egregious libel that is based on nothing more than SPLC’s intolerance for ideas with which it does not agree. SPLC senior fellow Mark Potok actually acknowledged this himself when he stated that his organization’s blacklists have “nothing to do with criminality or violence or any kind of guess we’re making about ‘this group could be dangerous.’ It’s strictly ideological.” By conflating actual hate groups on the one hand, with respectable conservative organizations on the other — and thereby giving the impression that conservative values are somehow inherently hateful, racist, or otherwise repugnant —SPLC seeks to shut down debate, shut down free speech, and delegitimize conservatives as odious monsters whose viewpoints do not even merit a fair hearing.
SPLC was founded in 1971 by two young Alabama lawyers, 35-year-old Morris Dees and 28-year-old Joseph Levin Jr. The latter served as the Center’s legal director from 1971-76, but it was Dees who would emerge as the long-term “face” of the organization. A leftist who views the U.S. as an irredeemably racist nation, Dees, upon launching SPLC, joined forces with an African American who would serve as a perfect complement to him ideologically — the civil-rights activist Julian Bond, who served as SPLC’s first president from 1971-79.
SPLC’s commitment to “fighting hate and bigotry” while “seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society,” is rooted in the premise that the United States is perpetually “seething” with “racial violence” and “intolerance against those who are different.” “Hate in America is a dreadful, daily constant,” says the Center, and violent crimes against members of minority groups like blacks, Hispanics, homosexuals, and Arabs/Muslims “are not isolated incidents,” but rather, ubiquitous “eruptions of a nation’s intolerance.”
To combat this purported epidemic of “bigotry,” SPLC dedicates itself, as noted above, to “tracking and exposing” the activities of “hate groups and other domestic extremists” nationwide. SPLC’s “Hate & Extremism” initiative publishes its findings in the Center’s Hatewatch blog and in its quarterly journal, the Intelligence Report, which claims to be “the nation’s preeminent periodical monitoring the radical right in the U.S.” SPLC senior fellow Mark Potok, who is chiefly responsible for maintaining the Center’s lists of objectionable organizations, has made it plain that “our aim in life is to destroy these groups, to completely destroy them.”
SPLC first gained widespread national recognition in 1987, its seventeenth year of activity, by winning a $7 million verdict in a civil lawsuit against the United Klans of America (UKA), for the role which that organization had played in the death of a black Alabama teenager. By the time the lawsuit was filed, UKA was already a destitute, impotent, disintegrating entity that virtually all white Americans had emphatically rejected; indeed, it was able to scrape together only a bit more than $50,000 of the $7 million judgment which was levied against it. The SPLC suit merely drove the final nail into the UKA coffin.
SPLC boasts that it has likewise won “crushing jury verdicts” that effectively shut down such groups as the White Patriot Party militia, the White Aryan Resistance (with a $12 million judgment in 1991), and the Aryan Nations (with a $6.5 million judgment in 2001).
This has been SPLC’s modus operandi since its inception: to initiate “innovative lawsuits” against prominent hate groups for crimes that their individual members commit. In these suits, declared Morris Dees proudly, “We absolutely take no prisoners. When we get into a legal fight we go all the way.”
SPLC claims to have some 75 attorneys at its disposal to litigate these matters. The liberal/leftist writer Ken Silverstein, who in 2000 wrote a penetrating exposé of SPLC for Harper’s magazine, notes that the targets of these suits tend to be “mediagenic villains” who are “eager to show off their swastikas for the news cameras.” As SPLC well understands, such figures stand the best chance of triggering an emotional public response that translates, in turn, into financial contributions from donors eager to combat the perceived threat.
Indeed, SPLC lawsuits commonly pave the way for huge subsequent paydays for the organization. For example, in 1987 the Center launched a massive direct-mail fundraising campaign based on the success it had recently achieved in the UKA case, and this resulted in some $9 million in donations to SPLC. As the City Journal puts it: “The die was cast; henceforth, the SPLC would pursue essentially meaningless but headline-grabbing cases, exploiting its uncollectible verdicts through sensational fundraising appeals that generated massive donations.” In the words of a disgruntled former SPLC attorney: “[Dees] was on the Klan kick because it was such an easy target — easy to beat in court, easy to raise big money on.”
Inflating the Numbers on “Hate”
SPLC defines “hate groups” as those that “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics” — i.e., nationality, ethnicity, race, physical appearance, or sexual orientation. But the Center does not restrict its definition of “hate group activities” merely to violent actions, but rather, it indicates that they “can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing”; indeed, some of the hate “groups” identified by SPLC are merely websites, publications, record labels, religious sects, or single-author blogs.
In 2018, SPLC identified 1,020 active “hate groups” in the United States. Asserting that the vast majority of such organizations are “right wing,” the Center says they include “the Ku Klux Klan,” “the neo-Nazi movement,” “neo-Confederates,” “racist skinheads,” “antigovernment militias,” “Christian Identity adherents,” and a variety of “anti-immigrant,” “anti-LGBT,” “anti-Muslim,” and “alternative Right” groups. While also identifying a tiny smattering of black separatist entities — such as the Nation of Islam and the New Black Panther Party — as hate groups, SPLC takes pains to point out that black organizations must be judged by a different standard than their white counterparts, because “much black racism in America is, at least in part, a response to centuries of white racism.” Moreover, SPLC rarely makes mention of these black groups in its emails, press releases, and fundraising appeals that warn of the rising tide of “hate” in America.
The manner in which SPLC counts the number of active “hate groups” in the United States has evolved over the years. In 1997, for instance, the Center’s hate-group tally received a substantial boost from a newly instituted procedure which conveyed the impression that “hate” in America was rising at an unprecedented rate. That year, the Center’s “Intelligence Project” began counting all known chapters or branches of “hate” organizations as separate entities, whereas it had previously tallied them collectively as a single entity. Thus, in 1998 the Council of Conservative Citizens (and its 33 chapters) accounted for more than half of the SPLC hate-group list’s growth over the previous year. Similarly, in 2000, more than 60% of the alleged increase in the nationwide hate-group tally was due to the first-time inclusion of the League of the South and its 90-plus chapters. By 2009, just 4 autonomous organizations and their many branches accounted for fully 229 separate “hate groups” — approximately one-fourth of all the entries in SPLC’s catalog.
In 2013, SPLC claimed that from 2000 to 2012, the number of hate groups in the U.S. had increased by 67% — a surge allegedly “fueled by anger and fear over the nation’s ailing economy, an influx of non-white immigrants, and the diminishing white majority, as symbolized by the election of the nation’s first African-American president” — i.e., Barack Obama. In other words, white Americans’ reflexive bigotry had allegedly triggered a host of hate-filled responses to the increased political and cultural influence wielded by nonwhites. And America’s racists, by SPLC’s calculus, are almost unanimously conservatives — as evidenced by the caption featured in the “Hatewatch” section of the Center’s website: “Hatewatch monitors and exposes the activities of the American radical right.” The radical left gets no mention at all.
SPLC’s “hate group” counts have been shown to be devoid of legitimacy a number of times. Laird Wilcox — a researcher specializing in the study of political fringe movements — reports that many SPLC-designated “hate groups” are untraceable, due either to their inactivity or nonexistence. After analyzing the SPLC Klanwatch Project’s list of 346 “white supremacist groups” in 1992, for instance, Wilcox concluded that in fact there were only “about 50” such groups “that are objectively significant, are actually functioning and have more than a handful of real numbers — not post office box ‘groups’ or two-man local chapters.”
In 2002, the Cleveland Scene investigated an SPLC claim that there were 40 active “hate or militia groups” in Ohio. Ultimately the publication concluded that “while a few groups on the monitors’ lists warrant attention, most have dissolved or amount to little more than a guy with a copy of Mein Kampf and a Yahoo! Account.” “Between their peculiar theories and a proclivity for self-destruction,” added the paper, “a majority of white-nationalist groups would have trouble staging a poker game, let alone a revolution.”
Indeed, SPLC research chief Mark Potok has acknowledged: “The SPLC does not attempt to confirm the validity of each listing…. When a group claims chapters in a given place, we list them unless we have a reason to believe it [the claim] is false.” Emphasizing the difficulty of actually tracking down hate groups, Potok added: “Very frequently, authorities in a given community are surprised to find a hate group operating in their town or operating a mailbox, especially if it turns out to be a drop box. Especially in a state like Vermont, where the Klan is not very popular, you won’t see your local Klan in public. Just because local police and local anti-racism groups don’t know about it does not make it not true.” According to Laird Wilcox, “In private [Potok] concedes that there’s no overwhelming threat from the far right and in public [he] says something altogether different.” This, Wilcox explains, is because “professionally [Potok] is just a shill. It’s his job. That’s what he’s paid for.”
On another occasion, when SPLC falsely reported that a Klan group had gained a foothold in Larkin, Kansas, Wilcox explained: “What happened in this case is that someone rented a P.O. box for a bogus Ku Klux Klan group and then kept the rent paid on it for years, thus allowing [SPLC] to list Larkin as having a ‘KKK presence’ … This was pure disinformation and an example of the terrible things the SPLC does in its campaign to keep the money rolling in from frightened liberals and blacks.” In 2005, Wilcox reported: “Several years ago with minimal effort I went through a list of 800-plus ‘hate groups’ published by the SPLC and determined that over half of them were either non-existent, existed in name only, or were inactive.”
JoAnn Wypijewski, who writes for the far-left Nation magazine, once wrote: “No one has been more assiduous in inflating the profile of [hate] groups than [SPLC’s] millionaire huckster, Morris Dees, who in 1999 began a begging [fundraising] letter, ‘Dear Friend, The danger presented by the Klan is greater now than at any time in the past ten years.’” To put Dees’s claim in perspective, the Klan at that time consisted of no more than 3,000 people nationwide — a far cry from the 4 million members it had boasted in the 1920s. Nonetheless, notes Wypijewski, “Dees would have his donors believe” that cadres of “militia nuts” are “lurking around every corner.”
In a similar vein, the late left-wing journalist Alexander Cockburn wrote in 2007: “I’ve long regarded Morris Dees and his Southern Poverty Law Center as collectively one of the greatest frauds in American life.” In 2009 Cockburn called Dees the “arch-salesman of hate-mongering,” a man who profited by “selling the notion there’s a right resurgence out there in the hinterland with massed legions of haters, ready to march down Main Street draped in Klan robes, a copy of Mein Kampftucked under one arm and a Bible under the other.” “Ever since 1971,” added Cockburn, “U.S. Postal Service mailbags have bulged with [Dees’s] fundraising letters, scaring dollars out of the pockets of trembling liberals aghast at his lurid depictions of hate-sodden America.”
To foment such fear, SPLC has shown itself to be capable of promoting a host of egregious falsehoods. For example, in the mid-1990s — by which time most Americans understood that the Ku Klux Klan had degenerated into a virtual non-entity — SPLC, lest its fundraising begin to dry up, warned of an imminent, rising new menace. To fulfill that prophecy, the Center helped lead an elaborate campaign denouncing an epidemic of racially motivated arsons that purportedly had been targeting black churches across the South. A national database search in July 1996 found that more than 2,200 news articles had been written about these black church burnings. Eventually, however, it was learned that in fact the incidence of such fires had increased only slightly, and temporarily, above their historically low levels. Moreover, on a per capita basis, black church fires continued to be significantly less common than white church fires. By the end of 1998, just three of the more than seventy black church fires investigated by the Justice Department could be tied to racial motives. The National Church Arson Task Force likewise found few racial links. It turned out, in fact, that a number of the arsonists responsible for the infamous black church fires were themselves African Americans.
But none of this stopped SPLC from relentlessly advancing its white-arson-epidemic theory. As former SPLC lawyer Gloria Browne once explained, SPLC’s programs are calculated to cash in on “black pain and white guilt.”
Contrary to SPLC’s persistent claims about the ubiquity of “hate groups” and their nefarious activities, the City Journal noted in July 2017 that “’hate crimes,’ as defined and reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, have declined over the past decade to fewer than 6,000 incidents a year, a modest number in a country with 326 million people.” The Journal further pointed out that: “The principal threats of radical extremism in the United States today are jihadist attacks (radical Islam), militant anti-police rioters (such as Black Lives Matter), and masked Antifa (so-called ‘anti-fascist’) mobs shutting down free speech on college campuses and violently protesting the election of President Donald J. Trump, while the greatest perpetrators of violence in America are criminal street gangs — including the deadly MS-13 — that have turned some of our inner cities into war zones.”
Falsely Smearing Conservatives as “Haters”
Regardless of how dramatically SPLC overstates their numbers, white racists like neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and skinheads indisputably deserve the “hate group” label. But the Center extends that designation also to conservative and libertarian organizations that harbor no ill will against any demographic group, and that merely hold positions contrary to those of SPLC on issues of social or political import.
As syndicated columnist Don Feder writes: “What makes the Southern Poverty Law Center particularly odious is its habit of taking legitimate conservatives and jumbling them with genuine hate groups (the Klan, Aryan Nation, skinheads, etc.), to make it appear that there’s a logical relationship between, say, opposing affirmative action and lynching, or demands for an end to government services for illegal aliens and attacks on dark-skinned immigrants.”
The City Journal puts it this way: “In the popular perception, ‘hate group’ is a label that appropriately describes the KKK, neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, and similar groups — and the SPLC does in fact label them as such — but the SPLC misleadingly lumps these odious groups together with mainstream organizations with which it disagrees, solely because of their views regarding, among other issues, LGBT rights, immigration policy, and opposition to Sharia Law.”
Yet another City Journal piece says: “[R]easoned discourse requires that disagreement be expressed through facts and argument, not pejorative name-calling, innuendo, and guilt by association. The SPLC deliberately blurs the distinction between true hate groups, peaceful activists, and reputable organizations with which it disagrees…. What many of the individuals and groups condemned by the SPLC have in common is a conservative orientation. Favoring traditional marriage becomes the moral equivalent of cross-burning; opposing illegal immigration or amnesty for illegal immigrants equates to advocating genocide; resisting the spread of radical Islam invokes Timothy McVeigh; and anti-tax Tea Party groups are now indistinguishable from armed militias or Holocaust deniers. Thus, dissent is de-legitimatized, and political foes are demonized. All those who oppose the Left are, by definition, ‘fascists,’ ‘white nationalists,’ ‘Islamophobes,’ ‘hate groups,’ or ‘extremists.’”
In a 2016 survey, the Chronicle of Philanthropy found that no fewer than 63 of the organizations that SPLC identified as “hate groups” or “extremist groups” were actually IRS-approved charities.
One noteworthy organization that SPLC once placed in its cross hairs was the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), which the Center, in a 2003 report authored by researcher/writer Chip Berlet, identified as part of “an array of right-wing foundations and think tanks [that] support efforts to make bigoted and discredited ideas respectable.” Especially objectionable to SPLC was AEI fellow Dinesh D’Souza, an Indian-born scholar (and former Reagan Administration adviser) “whose views,” according to Berlet, “are seen by many as bigoted or even racist.” Specifically, D’Souza has written that affirmative action is an unjust, counterproductive policy; that “many liberals have been peculiarly blind about black racism”; that “virtually all contemporary liberal assumptions about the origin of racism … and what to do about it are wrong”; and that “the civil-rights industry … now has a vested interest in the persistence of the ghetto, because the miseries of poor blacks are the best advertisement for continuing programs of racial preference and set-asides.” “D’Souza has suggested,” said Berlet incredulously, “that civil rights activists actually help perpetuate racial tensions and division in the United States.” Such sentiments — notwithstanding the repeatedly divisive rhetoric and actions of racial arsonists like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, and the late Julian Bond — are anathema to an organization whose income stream is largely dependent upon an ability to perpetuate public angst over black suffering.
Berlet’s report likewise denounced another AEI-sponsored scholar, Charles Murray — a Bradley Foundation research fellow who in 1994 co-authored The Bell Curve, which SPLC described as “a book that argues that blacks and Latinos are genetically inferior to whites and that most social welfare and affirmative action programs are doomed to failure as a result.” Addressing critiques such as this, Hoover Institution scholar Thomas Sowell wrote that widespread “demonization” by “demagogues” who were interested only in hearing “what they want to hear,” had rendered The Bell Curve “one of the most misrepresented books of our time.”
In SPLC’s 2003 report as well, Berlet charged that conservative author David Horowitz “has blamed slavery on ‘black Africans … abetted by dark-skinned Arabs’ — a selective rewriting of history.” To this, Horowitz replied:
“I never in my life blamed slavery on black Africans … abetted by dark-skinned Arabs.’ What idiot would not know that white Europeans conducted the Atlantic Slave Trade, which trafficked in 11 million black African chattel? The sentence Berlet mangles is not a historical statement about slavery but a polemical response to the proponents of reparations who are demanding that only whites pay blacks for an institution—slavery—that has been eradicated in the western world (but not Arab and black Africa) for more than 100 years. It is intended to remind people that the slaves transported to America were bought from African and Arab slavers—not to blame Africans and Arabs for sole responsibility for slavery.”
Berlet also took issue with what he called Horowitz’s “false” claim that “there never was an anti-slavery movement until white Christians — Englishmen and Americans — created one.” “Critics note,” Berlet added, “that Horowitz is ignoring everything from the slave revolt led by Spartacus against the Romans and Moses’ rebellion against the Pharaoh to the role of American blacks in the abolition movement.” And yet, Horowitz had already anticipated and discredited these very charges two years earlier, in his 2001 book Uncivil Wars: The Controversy About Slavery, wherein he wrote:
“For thousands of years, until the end of the Eighteenth Century, slavery had been considered a normal institution of human societies. In all that time, no group had arisen to challenge its legitimacy. Of course, there were many slave revolts from the times of Moses and Spartacus, in which those who had been enslaved sought to gain their freedom. But that was not the point. The freedom they had sought was their own. They did not revolt against the institution of slavery as such. What had happened in the English-speaking countries at the dawn of the American Republican was entirely unique. Before then, no one had thought to form a movement dedicated to the belief that the institution of slavery was itself immoral. What was important in this historical fact was that it showed that white Europeans who were the target of the reparations indictment had played a pivotal role in the emancipation from slavery.”
In yet another illustration of SPLC’s propensity for detecting “hate” virtually everywhere, the Center in 2006 issued a report claiming that “large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists continue to infiltrate” the U.S. armed services, as one might expect to occur in a nation rife with unbridled bigotry. Echoing the claims in that report, which were parroted repeatedly by major media outlets across the country, the Department of Homeland Security subsequently (in 2009) warned that American soldiers returning from active duty in Iraq might be particularly susceptible to recruitment and radicalization by “right-wing extremists,” and thus could present a terror threat worth monitoring.
SPLC likewise saw the 2010 ascendancy of the Tea Party movement, which advocated government fiscal responsibility and tax cuts, as an odious development. In a piece titled “Rage on the Right: The Year in Hate and Extremism,” SPLC’s Intelligence Report claimed that the movement was “shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories, and racism.”
SPLC has also identified many individuals as “haters” and “extremists.” In 2016, for instance, the Center classified Ben Carson, the retired pediatric brain surgeon who had run in that year’s Republican presidential primaries and was later appointed as the Secretary of Housing & Urban Development by President Donald Trump, as an “extremist” because of his opposition to same-sex marriage.
Other conservatives who have been branded as “haters” and “extremists” by SPLC include Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Muslim who now advocates to protect Muslim women from such widespread Islamic practices as forced marriage, honor violence, child marriage, and genital mutilation; former Cincinnati mayor and Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell; Accuracy In Media director Cliff Kincaid; Family Research Council vice president and former U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Jerry Boykin; WorldNetDaily editor-in-chief Joseph Farah; Rafael Cruz (a Cuban immigrant and the father of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz); Judicial Watch founder Larry Klayman; Federation for American Immigration Reform president Dan Stein; philanthropist Ron Unz; scholar and bestselling author Dinesh D’Souza; Center for Immigration Studies executive director Mark Krikorian; former U.S. senator and governor George Allen; U.S. attorney general and former senator Jeff Sessions; former congressman Tom Tancredo; and former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul.
One of SPLC’s bedrock beliefs is its conviction that the United States, in addition to being inherently racist, is also a homophobic nation that countenances all manner of injustice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people — who, according to the Center, are “far more likely to be victims of a violent hate crime than any other minority group in the United States.” SPLC depicts anyone objecting to transformative cultural changes involving homosexuals — such as gay marriage — as a “hate” monger whose opinions have no more legitimacy than those of an Aryan militia. Thus does the Center list the conservative Family Research Council (FRC) as a hate group, chiefly because of its opposition to same-sex marriage and its view that homosexuality is an “unnatural” condition “associated with negative physical and psychological health effects.” SPLC president Richard Cohen has defended the designation of FRC as a hate group on grounds that “it traffics in incendiary name-calling.” It should be noted that FRC expresses no malice at all toward homosexuals, as demonstrated not only by its professed “sympathy” for “those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions,” but also by its call for “every effort … to assist such persons to overcome those attractions.”
On August 15, 2012, SPLC’s allegations about FRC had serious ramifications. That morning, a domestic terrorist named Floyd Corkins walked into FRC’s Washington, DC headquarters carrying a pistol, 100 rounds of ammunition, and a knapsack filled with 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches. (The sandwiches were significant because in June and July of that year, Chick-fil-A’s chief operating officer had made some public statements supporting the traditional family structure and opposing gay marriage.) Corkins, who later acknowledged that he had intended “to kill people in the [FRC] building and then smear a Chick-fil-A sandwich in their face,” was prevented from carrying out his deadly plan by FRC buildings operations manager Leo Johnson, who physically tackled him. When an FBI agent subsequently asked Corkins why he had chosen to target FRC, he replied: “It was a, uh, Southern Poverty Law lists, uh, anti-gay groups. I found them online. I did a little bit of research, went to the website. Stuff like that.”
Below is a list of additional noteworthy organizations that the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as Anti-LGBT hate groups. While these groups clearly take moral and political positions that differ from those of SPLC, they do not preach hate against any group of people for any reason:
* Liberty Counsel is a self-described “Christian ministry” which believes that “every person is created in the image of God and should be treated with dignity and respect”; explicitly condemns “any person or group that advocates or promotes violence”; is “unshakably dedicated to protecting and defending human life, from the moment of conception until natural death”; affirms that marriage is “a bond between one man and one woman, intended for life”; asserts that “children do best in a home with a mom and a dad”; and defends Christians who believe that their rights to religious expression are being abrogated by secular society. But according to SPLC, Liberty Counsel seeks “to ensure that Christians can continue to engage in anti-LGBT discrimination in places of business under the guise of ‘religious liberty,’” and “attempts to enforce the idea that Christian beliefs and law trump all other law.” SPLC has also objected to Liberty Counsel’s “reputation for strident pro-Christian rhetoric in its campaigns to ensure that ‘public displays of religion’ are maintained during the Christmas holiday,” and to the organization’s “broader right-wing views, including the allegation that the Obama Administration has a ‘socialist liberal agenda.’”
* The Traditional Values Coalition is a conservative organization that opposes homosexuality on religious grounds and rejects the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that would designate transgendered people (cross-dressers) as a “protected class” whom employers would not be free to eliminate from job-applicant pools.
* The Pacific Justice Institute is a non-profit legal defense organization that does pro bono work “in the defense of religious freedom, parental rights, and other civil liberties.”
* The World Congress of Families opposes same-sex marriage, in accordance with its belief that “the natural family founded on marriage between a man and a woman” is the “fundamental group unit” of society.
* The Alliance Defending Freedom is a legal organization that “advocates 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.” SPLC particularly objects to ADF’s opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.
* The National Organization for Marriage believes that marriage should only involve one man and one woman, and that it should not be redefined.
* The Center for Family and Human Rights works to “monitor and affect the social policy debate at the United Nations and other international institutions”; has participated in every major UN social policy debate since 1997; strives to “defend life and family at international institutions”; and professes “fidelity to the teachings of the Church.”
* Family Watch International seeks to “preserve and promote the family, based on marriage between a man and a woman as the societal unit that provides the best outcome for men, women and children”; “provides family-based humanitarian aid to orphans and vulnerable children”; and claims that “the overwhelming preponderance of social science research shows that children fare best when raised by both their married biological parents.”
* United Families International believes that the “family is the foundational unit of society”; that “marriage between a man and woman” is the family structure that is most beneficial to society; that “life is sacred and should be protected, including the life of unborn children”; and that “religious liberty emphasizes the right to live our lives according to our religious convictions.”
* The American College of Pediatricians opposes “the termination of an in-utero human life by any means”; states that “there is sound evidence that children exposed to the homosexual lifestyle may be at increased risk for emotional, mental, and even physical harm”; asserts that “science does not support laws that prohibit minors with UHA [unwanted homosexual attraction] from receiving psychotherapy in accordance with their personal goals and values”; and has criticized “pro-homosexual organizations” that “recommend promoting homosexuality as a normal, immutable trait that should be validated during childhood, as early as kindergarten,” and that “condemn all efforts to provide treatment to gender confused students, advocating instead the creation of student groups that affirm homosexual attractions and behaviors.”
* The American Family Association believes that “God ordained the marital covenant as the exclusive context for sexual contact to be enjoyed between a husband (one man) and his wife (one woman),” and that “any extra-marital sexual contact is decried by God as sinful conduct.”
* Citizens for Community Values believes that the distribution and consumption of pornography is morally destructive to the individual and society; that all other sexually oriented businesses are likewise “detrimental to men, women, children and families”; opposes “school curricula and policies that promote and encourage sexual behaviors that are physically, emotionally or spiritually unhealthy”; and believes that “the basic building block of our society is the family — a father, mother, and their natural or adopted children.”
* Faith2Action describes itself as a “pro-active launching pad for the pro-family movement” based on Christian religious principles.
* Generations Passing on the Faith is a Christian group that opposes gay marriage.
* The Illinois Family Institute “wholeheartedly support[s] the right to life from conception until natural death, seeking legislative and judicial protection of that right against those who perform abortions”; opposes the Roe v. Wade Supreme Cort decision on grounds that “it erred in granting a ‘privacy right’ to abortion that tragically overrode the right of unborn children to live”; “support[s] state and federal efforts to recognize the preeminent role of parents in shaping their children’s lives”; “strongly support[s] the Defense of Marriage Act as enacted in Illinois to defend the institution of marriage between one man and one woman”; “oppose[s] efforts to include ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ as a categories for preferential status under civil rights statutes”; and asserts that Sharia, or Islamic Law, “is a destructive ideology incompatible with any healthy, free society that values human rights, equality, and justice.”
* The D. James Kennedy Ministries, which seek to proclaim “the Gospel of Jesus Christ” as widely as possible, oppose the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex unions. Notably in August 2017 the Kennedy Ministries filed a federal lawsuit charging that SPLC had defamed the Christian organization as an “active hate group” because it accepts the biblical view of homosexuality. “It’s completely disingenuous to tag D. James Kennedy Ministries as a hate group alongside the KKK and neo-Nazis,” said Kennedy Ministries spokesman John Rabe. “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.” “It’s ridiculous for the SPLC to falsely tag evangelical Christian ministries as ‘hate groups’ simply for upholding the 2,000-year-old Christian consensus on marriage and sexuality,” Rabe added. “It’s nothing more than an attempt to bulldoze over those who disagree with them, and it has a chilling effect on the free exercise of religion in a nation built on that. We decided not to let their falsehoods stand.”
SPLC has also criticized Focus on the Family (FOTF), which has long been a respected and influential evangelical ministry, as a “fringe group” that uses “smarmy tactics” to “make schools less safe for LGBT students and more safe for their harassers.” Most objectionable to the Center is FOTF’s suggestion that “too often, classroom materials promoted in the name of ‘safety,’ ‘tolerance’ or ‘anti-bullying’ teaching go far beyond the realm of safety prevention into political advocacy, and even indoctrination.”
“Islamophobia” and “Anti-Muslim” Groups
SPLC defines “hate groups” as those that “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics” — i.e., nationality, ethnicity, race, physical appearance, or sexual orientation. But in that definition, the word “typically” provides a conspicuous loophole enabling the Center to also smear groups that hate “atypically,” for reasons of “mutable” characteristics like class, ideology, and religious belief. As author Steven Menzies points out, “scores if not hundreds of SPLC’s ‘hate groups’ are organizations whose ‘beliefs and practices’ include disagreement with groups over doctrine, ideology, or status rather than ‘immutable characteristics.’”
Indeed, SPLC sees “Islamophobia” — hatred and fear based on the “mutable” trait of religious faith — as yet another major defect in the American character, particularly post-9/11. The June 2012 edition of Intelligence Report, for instance, featured a hit piece titled “30 New Activists Heading Up the Radical Right,” which claimed that “an anti-Muslim movement, almost entirely ginned up by political opportunists and hard-line Islamophobes, has grown enormously since taking off in 2010, when reported anti-Muslim hate crimes went up by 50%.” That seemingly ominous statistic seems less foreboding, however, when one examines the actual raw numbers that SPLC omitted from its bold-faced alarm: According to FBI data, the number of “reported anti-Muslim hate crimes” nationwide increased from 114 in 2009 to 160 in 2010 — technically a 50% increase, but hardly what could be characterized as an epidemic in a nation of 310 million people.
Further, SPLC’s report gives no indication that the anti-Muslim hate-crime count of 2010 was in fact consistent with the normal, slightly fluctuating incidence of such events in other years — e.g., 155 in 2002, 149 in 2003, and 156 in 2004. Equally noteworthy is the fact that when the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes had dropped from 156 in 2006 to 115 in 2007 — and from 481 in 2001 (the year of the 9/11 attacks) to 155 in 2002 — the Center never thought to suggest that bigotry against Muslims was declining steeply.
SPLC’s “30 New Activists” report dismisses, as purveyors of hate, a number of scholars, researchers, and journalists who have examined and discussed, in a thoughtful and responsible manner, the teachings, values, history, and objectives of militant Islamists. Among those smeared in the report are WorldNetDaily publisher Joseph Farah, American Center for Security Policy founder Frank Gaffney, blogger/activist Pamela Geller, Accuracy in Media director Cliff Kincaid, and attorney David Yerushalmi. In an effort to marginalize these individuals, SPLC lumps them together with Klansmen and neo-Nazis.
SPLC’s list of “anti-Muslim groups” likewise conflates responsible expositors of hard truths, with bands of hate mongers. For instance, the Center has, at various times, condemned such organizations as Concerned American Citizens, whose objective is to “develop a coalition with moderate Muslims … for promoting Islamic reform in America”; the Sharia Awareness Action Network, which seeks to educate “the American citizenry about how Sharia Law stands in opposition to Constitutional Law”; PoliticalIslam.com, a website that points out, quite accurately, that Islam is “a political ideology” that “divides the world into Muslims and unbelievers, the latter of whom “must submit to Islam in all politics and public life”; and the Christian Action Network, which has warned about Islamic Sharia law’s “encroachment in American society,” warned about the presence of jihadist and terrorist training camps in the United States, and pointed out how school textbooks “contain a bias toward Islam and against Christianity.” Neither the declared motives nor the public statements of these organizations call for any type of mistreatment of Muslims, but SPLC — convinced of its own ability to ascertain the hidden motives of its ideological adversaries — nonetheless maintains that “anti-Muslim” bigotry is the animating force that drives them.
In June 2015, SPLC published “Women Against Islam,” a survey of what it described as twelve conservative women who promote anti-Islamic messages. The list included Ann Coulter (author and columnist), Pamela Geller (publisher of Atlas Shrugs.com and president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative), Laura Ingraham (political commentator and radio host), Cathie Adams (former chair of Republican Party of Texas), Ann Barnhardt (blogger), Brigette Gabriel (founder of ACT!), Cathy Hinners (former police officer and editor of Daily Roll Call), Clare Lopez (former CIA officer), Jeanine Pirro (Fox News host and former district attorney), Sandy Rios (American Family Association talk show host), Debbie Schlussel (blogger), and Diana West (author and columnist).
In the introduction to “Women Against Islam,” its authors, Mark Potok and Janet Smith, stated: “The radical right, and more broadly the political right, has generally been dominated by men. And there are certainly plenty of men in the world of Muslim-bashing activism … But the universe of American anti-Muslim activists is peculiarly dominated by women. They are a mixed bag of bloggers, politicos, authors, TV personalities, radio talk show hosts, and leaders of anti-Muslim organizations. Many of them have other windmills to tilt at, from gay rights to communism to President Obama, but most have increasingly focused on attacking Muslims.” The article then presented brief profiles of the (aforementioned) “most hardline” of the “anti-Muslim” female activists in the U.S., “who do not merely criticize radical Islam, but effectively describe all Muslims as part of a serious global problem.”
In October 2016, SPLC published a report titled Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists, a blacklist profiling 15 “Islam-bashing activists” whose “propaganda” was allegedly responsible for “fueling” acts of public “hatred” against “American Muslims,” who purportedly “have been under attack” in the U.S. “ever since the Al Qaeda massacre of Sept. 11, 2001.” The subjects of these profiles included: Ann Corcoran, Steven Emerson, Brigitte Gabriel, Frank Gaffney, Pamela Geller, John Guandolo, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, David Horowitz, Ryan Mauro, Maajid Nawaz, Robert Muise, Daniel Pipes, Walid Shoebat, Robert Spencer, and David Yerushalmi.
Each of these individuals seeks, in writings and speeches that are firmly rooted in factual information, to inform the American public about the beliefs, values, agendas, and activities of Islamic jihadists, and about the potential consequences of widespread Muslim immigration to the United States. But SPLC — rather than simply asserting that the arguments or conclusions of these authors are flawed in some way — instead smears them as wild-eyed Islamophobes who, as in the case of Gaffney, are “gripped by paranoid fantasies about Muslims destroying the West from within.” Consider, for instance, some of the easily verifiable — or at least supportable — statements that SPLC has cited as evidence of unhinged bigotry:
- Corcoran’s assertion that “we have made a grievous error in taking the Muslim refugees, Somalis in particular, who have no intention of becoming Americans”;
- Emerson’s assertion that the Obama administration “extensively collaborates” with the Muslim Brotherhood, and that Europe has numerous “no-go zones” which non-Muslims cannot enter without great peril to their own safety;
- Gabriel’s assertion that any “practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Koran to be the word of Allah” and embraces Sharia Law “cannot be a loyal citizen of the United States,” and that Islamists’ “ideology … forbids them to assimilate” to Western culture;
- Gaffney’s assertion that “we’re witnessing not just the violent kind of jihad that these Islamists believe God compels them to engage in, but also, where they must for tactical reasons, a more stealthy kind, or civilizational jihad as the Muslim Brotherhood calls it”;
- Geller’s assertion that Islam is “the most radical and extreme ideology on the face of the earth”;
- Hirsi Ali’s assertion that “violence is inherent in Islam”;
- Horowitz’s 2008 ad campaign stating that the Muslim Students Association was “founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the godfather of Al Qaeda and Hamas, to bring jihad into the heart of American higher education” (SPLC had once dubbed Horowitz himself as “the godfather of the anti-Muslim movement”);
- Muise’s assertion that “stealth jihadists … covertly seek to perpetuate sharia into American society,” and that “80% of the mosques in the United States distribute literature that promotes violence against nonbelievers”;
- Pipes’s assertion that the infamous terrorist organization ISIS is “100 percent Islamic” and “profoundly Islamic”;
- Spencer’s assertion that “traditional Islam itself is not moderate or peaceful,” and “is the only major world religion with a developed doctrine and tradition of warfare against unbelievers”; and
- Yerushalmi’s assertion that “the only Islam appearing in any formal way around the world is one that seeks a world Caliphate through murder, terror and fear.”
In an October 2016 interview with the Tablet, Maajid Nawaz, a former radical Muslim who now speaks out against jihadism, stated that the SPLC staffers who had collaborated on writing the Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists were “a bunch of first-world, comfortable liberal Americans who are not Muslims [and] have decided from their comfortable perch to label me, an activist who is working within his Muslim community to push back against extremism, an anti-Muslim extremist.” Emphasizing that because SPLC’s blacklist had “put a target on my head,” Nawaz said he believed that his own life was now in danger: “This is what putting people on lists does. When Theo Van Gogh was killed in the Netherlands, a list was stuck to his body that included Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s name. It was a hit list. When Bangladeshi reformers were hacked to death by jihadist terrorists, they were working off lists.” “The left is no longer about advancing progressive values,” Nawaz added. “For them, it’s now about tribal identities, and any internal critique is seen as treachery.” A few months later, in June 2017, Nawaz sued SPLC for defamation. “They are ideologically driven to silence any voice that introspects from within the Muslim community,” Nawaz said of SPLC, adding that the group is mostly “interested in point-scoring against the right wing.”
In response to the Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists, Islam expert Robert Spencer wrote:
“They [SPLC] wish to silence those who speak honestly about the nature and magnitude of the jihad threat, blaming us for a supposed rise in ‘Islamophobia.’ If they really want to stamp out suspicion of Islam, of course, they will move against not us, but [against] the likes of … Muslims who commit violence in the name of Islam and justify it by reference to Islamic teachings. The SPLC doesn’t do that because its objective is not really to stop ‘Islamophobia’ at all, but to create the illusion of a powerful and moneyed network of ‘Islamophobes,’ who can only be stopped if you write a check to the SPLC. That’s what this is really all about.
“In constructing this illusory edifice, the SPLC labels me and fourteen others ‘anti-Muslim extremists.’ We are, of course, no more ‘anti-Muslim’ than foes of the Nazis were anti-German, but note the word ‘extremists.’ That’s the mainstream media and Obama administration’s term of choice for jihad terrorists…. [A]ll we have done is speak critically about jihad terror and Sharia oppression. The SPLC is trying to further the libel that we are the other side of the coin, the non-Muslim bin Ladens and Awlakis….”
In 2017, SPLC reported that the number of anti-Muslim hate groups in the United States had virtually tripled, from 34 in 2015 to 101 the following year. But the Center neglected to mention that a major cause of that rise was the fact that in 2016, SPLC decided to count 45 chapters of Act for America (AfA) as separate groups, whereas in 2015 it had counted AfA and its many local chapters as just one group. Notably, AfA was founded in 2007, and most of its 1,000+ chapters had been in existence for a number of years. Why, then, did it list only 45 of them as hate groups in 2016? Author Daniel Greenfield offered an explanation, speculating that in future years, SPLC could add some of the theretofore uncounted AfA chapters to its list, thereby giving the impression that “anti-Muslim hate” is spiraling out of control.
It should be noted, at this point, that SPLC’s designation of AfA as a “hate group” is a result of nothing more than the fact that, as noted earlier, the Center routinely applies that label to any organization whose political views differ from its own. Specifically, AfA: (a) accurately describes the Muslim Brotherhood as “a militant, pro-sharia law organization that has used both violent and non-violent means to achieve its ultimate goal of restoring the Muslim caliphate and the glory of the Islamic empire”; and (b) condemns “the primitive and uncivilized practices of female genital mutilation and ‘honor killings.’” A major cause of SPLC’s antipathy towards AfA is the fact that at various times, AfA founder Brigitte Gabriel has made the following five statements, which SPLC describes as examples of “wild hate speech demonizing Muslims”:
- “Europe will no longer be Europe by 2050. Europe has already become Eurabia.”
- “They are people from Libya, Tunisia, Eritrea, Egypt, the Horn of Africa. They are not only people that are escaping wars, but they are people seeking economic freedom. They are people trying to suck off of the people from the West. They know they can get a free ticket for money. They are not coming here to build empires and become great business men and entrepreneurs. They are coming here to get the free checks from you and me who work very hard to pay our taxes.”
- “[A] practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Koran to be the word of Allah … who goes to mosque and prays every Friday, who prays five times a day — this practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen of the United States.”
- “Islamic terrorists … are really just very devout followers of Muhammad. They are following his example and doing exactly what the Koran teaches and their mullahs exhort them to do.”
- “[W]e are engaged in a brutal war against a brutal enemy, the enemy of Islamic terrorism, and so many people in our country choose to look the other way, so many people in our country choose to ignore it, so many people choose to be politically correct.”
Below is a list of additional noteworthy organizations that the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as Anti-Muslim hate groups. While these groups clearly take positions that differ from those of SPLC, they do not preach “hate” against any group of people for any reason:
* The American Freedom Alliance describes itself as “a non-partisan, non-aligned movement which promotes, defends and upholds Western values and ideals.” Toward that end, it “sponsors conferences, publishes opinions, distributes information, and creates networking groups to identify threats to Western civilization and to motivate, educate and unite citizens in support of that cause.”
* The American Freedom Law Center is a public interest litigation firm that “aggressively seeks to advance and defend our Nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage in courts all across our Nation.”
* The Center for Security Policy aims “to expose the threat to America from Shariah,” some of whose adherents “seek to install Shariah as a parallel legal and political system in the United States, constituting a separate governance system for the Muslim community with respect to family law, civil society, media and political discourse, finance and homeland security.”
* The Clarion Project is a nonprofit organization that “educates the public about the dangers of radical Islam”; “expose[s] how radical Islamists use terrorism, murder, subjugation of women, indoctrination of children, religious persecution, genocide of minorities, widespread human rights abuses, nuclear proliferation and cultural jihad — to threaten the West”; and “delivers news, expert analysis, videos, and unique perspectives about radical Islam, while giving a platform to moderate Muslims and human rights activists to speak out against extremism.”
* The David Horowitz Freedom Center “combats the efforts of the radical left and its Islamist allies to destroy American values and disarm this country as it attempts to defend itself in a time of terror.”
* Family Security Matters produces reports and analyses of numerous subjects, including such topics as the dangers posed by unregulated immigration and the rise of radical Islam.
* Jihad Watch is “dedicated to bringing public attention to the role that jihad theology and ideology play in the modern world and to correcting popular misconceptions about the role of jihad and religion in modern-day conflicts.”
* Refugee Resettlement Watch claims that “it makes no sense to bring in tens of thousands of refugees and place them on welfare and other public assistance either.”
Immigrant Justice and “Anti-Immigrant” Groups
Adhering to the theme of a profoundly hateful United States, SPLC charges that Latin American immigrants, who “perform some of the hardest, most dangerous jobs in our economy — for the least amount of pay,” are “routinely cheated out of their earnings and denied basic health and safety protections”; are “denied basic protections in the workplace”; are “subjected to racial profiling and harassment by law enforcement”; and are regularly “targeted for harassment by racist extremist groups.” These trends, says SPLC, have been “encouraged” by “politicians and media figures” guilty of spreading “false propaganda that scapegoats immigrants for our nation’s problems and foments resentment and hate against them.” The growth of this “civil rights crisis,” as SPLC calls it, “has been driven almost entirely by the immigration debate.” Conspicuously absent from the foregoing assertions is any acknowledgment that it is illegal immigration — and not legal immigration — that sits at the heart of the debate.
Condemning conservatives’ supposedly mean-spirited “war on immigrants,” SPLC in 2011 was incensed by the Alabama legislature’s passage of HB 56, which the Center dubbed an “anti-immigrant law” that sent “a destructive message of intolerance” to the state’s “Latino residents.” Specifically, the law: (a) required Alabama police to try to determine a detainee’s immigration status if there was “reasonable suspicion” that he was in the U.S. illegally; (b) barred illegal immigrants from receiving public benefits or attending publicly owned colleges; (c) prohibited the transporting or harboring of illegal immigrants; (d) forbade employers from knowingly hiring illegals; (e) criminalized the production of false identification documents; and (f) required voters to provide proof of citizenship when registering. By SPLC’s reckoning, these positions were uniformly “hateful.”
In late 2007, SPLC labeled the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) — which seeks to “improve border security” and “stop illegal immigration” and ensure “that our immigration policies and laws … serve the nation’s future needs” — as a “hate group.” “What we are hoping very much to accomplish is to marginalize FAIR,” said SPLC senior fellow Mark Potok. “We don’t think they should be a part of the mainstream media.” To emphasize just how dangerous FAIR’s rhetoric could be, SPLC announced, soon after commencing its “Stop the Hate” initiative, that “hate crimes targeting Latinos increased again in 2007, capping a 40% rise in the four years since 2003” — from 426 incidents in 2003 to 595 incidents in 2007. Why did SPLC choose 2003 as the starting point? Perhaps it was because in 2002, the number of reported anti-Hispanic hate crimes in the U.S. was 480, a fact that would have failed to advance the narrative of consistently rising levels of bigoted violence. Even more inconvenient was the fact that in 2001, there were 597 reported anti-Hispanic hate crimes — i.e., twomore than in 2007, whose total allegedly represented the high point of an alarming trend.
The misleading nature of SPLC’s statistics, however, did not stop the left-wing National Council of La Raza from exploiting that “hate group” designation for use in its own “Stop the Hate” campaign, which it launched, on behalf of “undocumented immigrants,” soon after FAIR had played a key role in persuading members of the U.S. Senate to reject a sweeping immigration-reform proposal that would have created a pathway to amnesty and citizenship for millions of illegals. As part of “Stop the Hate,” La Raza president and CEO Janet Murguia cited SPLC’s designation and declared, “FAIR is a known, documented hate group.” Similarly, La Raza policy analyst Cecilia Munoz denounced the “wave of hate” underlying the anti-immigration-reform movement.
Below is a list of additional noteworthy organizations that the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as Anti-Immigrant hate groups. While these groups clearly take positions that differ from those of SPLC, they do not preach “hate” against any group of people for any reason:
* American Border Patrol monitors traffic across Southeastern Arizona’s border with Mexico — the heart of a major smuggling corridor. But according to SPLC, it is dominated by “anti-immigrant ideologues.”
* Americans for Immigration Control contends that illegal immigration is a “lawless” phenomenon that “puts the future of our country in jeopardy.”
* The Center for Immigration Studies is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit, research organization whose mission is to provide “reliable information about the social, economic, environmental, security, and fiscal consequences of legal and illegal immigration into the United States.”
* Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) “works to formulate and advance policies and programs designed to stabilize the population of California, the U.S. and the world at levels which will preserve the environment and a good quality of life for all.” “It’s important to note,” CAPS emphasizes, “that CAPS does not advocate blaming immigrants. We don’t blame people from other countries for wanting to come live here. We are pro immigrant — we strive to meaningfully uphold and nurture the American Dream for people who wants to come to the U.S. through legal channels in numbers that our environment and resources can reasonably accommodate (approximately 300,000 a year)…. It’s our government’s irresponsible immigration policy that to this day continues to import millions of people with little to no regard for whether they have a skill set that matches the country’s economic needs, whether they will take an American’s job, whether they will end up on welfare or the impact their numbers will have on our infrastructure and our environment.”
* The Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform describes itself as “pro-legal immigrant and pro-legal immigration, but at numbers consistent with assimilation and sustainability.”
* The Immigration Reform Law Institute aims “to defend the rights of individual Americans and their local communities from the harms and challenges posed by mass migration to the United States, both lawful and unlawful,” and “to monitor and hold accountable federal, state, or local government officials who undermine, fail to respect, or comply with our national immigration and citizenship laws.”
* Legal Immigrants for America “gives a voice to all Americans, including both native-born citizens and legal immigrants, who want to save the United States of America before it becomes a borderless, lawless, toothless remnant of the great nation that it once was.”
* New Yorkers for Immigration Control and Enforcement describes itself as a “grassroots activist group dedicated to having our existing immigration laws enforced.”
* ProEnglish “work[s] through the courts and in the court of public opinion to defend English’s historic role as America’s common, unifying language, and to persuade lawmakers to adopt English as the official language at all levels of government.”
SPLC has also condemned NumbersUSA, which, while favoring “reductions in immigration numbers toward traditional levels,” explicitly rejects “hostile actions or feelings toward immigrant Americans” and declares that “illegal aliens deserve humane treatment even as they are detected, detained and deported.”
In the same vein, SPLC has denounced the Minuteman Project — a nonviolent, volunteer, grassroots effort initiated by private American citizens seeking to restrict the flow of illegal border-crossers — as an entity whose ideals and tactics are rooted in “racism.”
So egregious has been SPLC’s propensity to portray conservatives as racists, that even the left-wing Obama Administration at one point chastised the organization for its irresponsible rhetoric. After a March 2016 court hearing during which SPLC had accused the Federation for American Immigration Reform of being a racist organization, Jennifer J. Barnes, disciplinary counsel for the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, wrote a letter scolding an SPLC attorney as well as lawyers from a number of partner groups for having smeared FAIR as “a discredited, extremist anti-immigrant organization espousing white supremacist, eugenicist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Catholic views.” Asserting that the attorneys’ decision to “engage in derogatory name-calling exhibited a lack of professionalism” that “overstepped the bounds of zealous advocacy,” Barnes wrote: “None of this language was related or relevant to the underlying factual or legal matters. Such language is not appropriate in a filing before the Board (or any judicial tribunal) because it constitutes frivolous behavior and does not aid the administration of justice.”
By contrast, SPLC typically gives a free pass to left-wing groups that advocate on behalf of illegal immigrants and open borders, no matter how hateful or race-obsessed those groups’ agendas may be. Consider the National Council of La Raza, whose name literally means “The Race.” Hailed by SPLC research director Heidi Beirich as “a venerable civil-rights organization,” La Raza views virtually any opposition to amnesty and to government assistance for illegal immigrants as “a disgrace to American values.”
SPLC finds no fault with La Raza, even though the latter once gave money to a branch of MEChA, a “Chicano Students” organization that: (a) calls for the people and government of Mexico to annex the American Southwest; (b) explicitly refuses (in its founding manifestos) to recognize “capricious frontiers on the bronze continent [the United States]”; and (c) vows to repel the “brutal ‘gringo’ invasion of our territories.” Not even MEChA’s slogan — which translates to “For the race, everything; Outside of the race, nothing” — draws the ire of SPLC. As Mark Potok puts it, “we have found no evidence to support charges that [MEChA] is racist or anti-Semitic.”
Other Categories of “Hate Groups”
In addition to “Anti-LGBT,” “Anti-Muslim,” and “Anti-Immigrant,” SPLC has also compiled relatively small lists of hate groups categorized as “Christian Identity,” “Hate Music,” “Holocaust Denial,” “General Hate,” and “Black Separatist” (which contains only a small number of different groups, but lists their multiple chapters as separate entities).
The “Anti-Government” “Patriot Movement”
In the spring of 2013, SPLC issued a report asserting that there had recently been a dramatic proliferation of radical anti-government “Patriot” and militia groups which “believ[e] that the federal government is conspiring to take Americans’ guns and destroy their liberties as it paves the way for a global ‘one-world government.’” According to SPLC, the total number of such groups had skyrocketed from 149 in 2008 to 1,360 by 2012. The report attributed this trend to the fact that “for many, the election of America’s first black president [Barack Obama] symbolizes the country’s changing demographics, with the loss of its white majority predicted by 2043.” Further, the report speculated: “Now that comprehensive immigration reform is poised to legitimize and potentially accelerate the country’s demographic change, the backlash to that change may accelerate as well.”
Said SPLC senior fellow Mark Potok: “We are seeing a real and rising threat of domestic terrorism as the number of far-right anti-government groups continues to grow at an astounding pace. It is critically important that the country take this threat seriously. The potential for deadly violence is real, and clearly rising.”
Depicting the Criminal Justice System As Racist
Lamenting that “the number of prisoners per capita” “has more than quadrupled” over “the past four decades” and “is now unprecedented in world history,” SPLC notes that “this vast expansion of the corrections system has been called ‘the New Jim Crow’ [and is] a system marred by vast racial disparities – one that stigmatizes and targets young black men for arrest at a young age, unfairly punishes communities of color, burdens taxpayers and exacts a tremendous social cost.”
One of SPLC’s most highly touted initiatives is its Teaching Tolerance program, which works to “foster school environments that are inclusive and nurturing,” and to help teachers “prepare a new generation to live in a diverse world.” The program produces a biannual publication, Teaching Tolerance magazine, which reaches more than 400,000 educators nationwide, as well as multimedia teaching kits, online curricula, and professional development resources. All of these are provided to educators at no cost. The Teaching Tolerance lesson kits contain reading materials and suggested classroom activities designed to steer K-12 students toward the conclusion that America is an inequitable, racist, and sexist society. As such, they bear the unmistakable imprint of Morris Dees. Click here for examples of Teaching Tolerance’s classroom lessons.
The Spring 1998 edition of Teaching Tolerance magazine featured an interview with former Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers, under the title “An Unconditional Embrace.” In the prologue to that interview, Ayers, who had become a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was described variously as “a highly respected figure in the field of multicultural education”; a man who “has developed a rich vision of teaching that interweaves passion, responsibility and self-reflection”; a professor who “helps aspiring teachers recognize and tap the potential of every child”; and someone who believes that “challenging stereotypes and reforming inner-city schools is as much about fighting for social justice as about improving the quality of teaching and learning.”
Moreover, the Teaching Tolerance program and its companion website, tolerance.org, market Ayers’s books.
The Media’s Widespread Acceptance of SPLC’s “Hate Group” Designations
Notwithstanding SPLC’s history of making inflated and reckless charges of racism and “hate,” the mainstream media, for the most part, have dutifully accepted the Center’s self-characterization as a courageous foe of those vices. Laird Wilcox puts it this way: “The SPLC has exploited the patina of the old civil-rights movement. And this has a mesmerizing effect on people, especially reporters who are naturally attracted to heroic images of racial struggles and stark contrasts of good vs. evil. I’ve been astounded at how many of the SPLC’s claims have gone unchallenged.” Wilcox further describes SPLC as emblematic of the “anti-racist industry afoot in the United States that has attracted bullying, moralizing fanatics.” “They want to marginalize certain points of view in our society,” he says, “and they do it by acting like a kind of certifying agency that decides who is extremist and who isn’t.”
The FBI Removes SPLC From Its Hate Crimes Web Page
In March 2014 the FBI scrubbed any mention of SPLC from its hate crimes web page, where the Center previously had been listed as a resource and described as a partner in public outreach. The FBI’s move apparently came in response to a letter that Family Research Council (FRC) executive vice president William G. Boykin had written to the U.S. Department of Justice. (As noted earlier, in August 2012 a gunman, inflamed by SPLC allegations that FRC was a “hate group,” had walked into FRC’s headquarters with the intention of murdering people therein.) Signed also by 14 other conservative and Christian leaders, Boykin’s letter called SPLC “a heavily politicized organization producing inaccurate and biased data on ‘hate groups’ — not hate crimes.”
Boykin’s letter further noted that SPLC was “providing findings that are not consistent with trends found in the FBI statistics.” That is, whereas FBI findings indicated that the incidence of hate crimes and the prevalence of hate groups had declined significantly during the preceding decade, SPLC was claiming that the number of hate groups had increased by 67.3% since 2000. Demanding that all ties between the FBI and SPLC be severed, the letter concluded that “it is completely inappropriate for the Department of Justice to recommend public reliance on the SPLC hate group lists and data.”
After the references to SPLC were taken off the FBI website, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said: “We commend the FBI for removing website links to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that not only dispenses erroneous data but has been linked to domestic terrorism in federal court. We hope this means the FBI leadership will avoid any kind of partnership with the SPLC.”
Using a Racial Attack in South Carolina to Justify the Removal of Confederate Statues
After a disturbed young white man named Dylann Roof murdered nine black people who were attending a Bible study at the Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina in June 2015, it was discovered that Roof had previously been photographed holding a Confederate battle flag. Reasoning from the premise that Confederate symbols represent the legacy of slavery and white supremacy and thus foster racial violence against blacks, SPLC initiated a high-profile campaign demanding the removal not only of Confederate flags from public areas across the South, but also the removal of more than 700 Confederate-themed statues and monuments nationwide. As City Journal reports, SPLC similarly called for “renaming at least 1,500 schools, highways, parks, bridges, counties, cities, lakes, dams, roads, military bases, and other public works [that bore Confederate-themed names] in 41 states, as well as eliminating official holidays or observances in six states.” “This breathtaking initiative,” said City Journal, “entails the classic elements of the SPLC’s finely honed demagoguery: false association of a repugnant killer with the SPLC’s target, in this case, Confederate symbols; raising the specter of racism to suppress dissent; and exploiting a divisive issue for fundraising purposes.”
SPLC’s Smear of a Conservative Author Leads to Campus Violence
In early March 2017, demonstrators who violently protested an appearance at Middlebury College by Charles Murray, the American Enterprise Institute scholar who co-authored the 1994 book The Bell Curve, attributed their rage against Murray to SPLC’s claim that he is a “White Nationalist” who “us[es] racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics to argue that social inequality is caused by the genetic inferiority of the black and Latino communities, women, and the poor.” Each time Murray tried to speak, the Middlebury protesters turned their backs to him and chanted slogans like: (a) “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Charles Murray, go away,” and (b) “Your message is hatred. We cannot tolerate it.” Some demonstrators stomped their feet and set off fire alarms to drown out Murray’s voice. Eventually, the college moved Murray to another location to livestream a discussion. Then, as Murray was leaving the campus after the event, he was physically assaulted by protesters who surrounded him and stomped on the hood of his car and and pounded on its windows. After Murray and his academic hosts finally managed to get away and take refuge at a nearby inn, the protesters tracked them down and forced them to flee again.
Fan of SPLC Tries to Murder Several Republican Congressmen
On June 14, 2017, a 66-year-old Illinois man named James T. Hodgkinson went to a northern Virginia baseball field where a number of House Republicans were practicing for an upcoming charity baseball game (against House Democrats), and he shot five people. Majority Whip Steve Scalise, 51, was the most seriously wounded, suffering life-threatening injuries. After the shooting, it was learned that Hodgkinson, who had volunteered for Bernie Sanders‘s 2016 presidential campaign, was carrying a list of six members of Congress in his pocket at the time of his crime. It was also learned that he had “liked” the SPLC on his Facebook page, along with other leftist organizations such as Media Matters and MoveOn.org.
Two of SPLC’s Conservative Targets File Lawsuits Against the Organization
In June 2017, Maajid Nawaz, a former radical Muslim-turned-anti-jihadist whom SPLC had labeled an “anti-Muslim extremist,” announced that he was suing SPLC for defamation. “They are ideologically driven to silence any voice that introspects from within the Muslim community,” Nawaz said of SPLC, adding that the group is mostly “interested in point-scoring against the right wing.” (In early 2018, SPLC quietly removed from its website the Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists, which had listed Nawaz as one of 15 “Islam-bashing activists” whose “propaganda” was responsible for “fueling” acts of public “hatred” against “American Muslims.”) Nawaz eventually won a settlement for $3.375 million in June 2018.
In August 2017, the D. James Kennedy Ministries, which SPLC had designated as an anti-LGBT “hate group” because of its traditional biblical view of homosexuality and marriage, likewise filed a federal lawsuit charging SPLC with defamation. “It’s completely disingenuous to tag D. James Kennedy Ministries as a hate group alongside the KKK and neo-Nazis,” said Kennedy Ministries spokesman John Rabe. “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.” “It’s ridiculous for the SPLC to falsely tag evangelical Christian ministries as ‘hate groups’ simply for upholding the 2,000-year-old Christian consensus on marriage and sexuality,” Rabe added. “It’s nothing more than an attempt to bulldoze over those who disagree with them, and it has a chilling effect on the free exercise of religion in a nation built on that. We decided not to let their falsehoods stand.”
Capitalizing on Violence at White Supremacist March in Charlottesville, Virginia
SPLC’s fundraising efforts received a significant boost in the immediate aftermath of an August 12, 2017 incident in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a group of approximately 700 members of fringe groups, including numerous white nationalists and neo-Nazis, held a “Unite The Right” rally ostensibly to protest the proposed removal of a statue of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a local park. The aforementioned demonstrators clashed with a group of hundreds of leftist counter-demonstrators, many of whom represented the Marxist/anarchist movement known as Antifa, and one woman was killed when a young white nationalist rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. (Click here for a comprehensive timeline, with video footage, of the day’s events.) Shortly after the mayhem, President Donald Trump condemned “the egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” in Charlottesville. In response, the left rose up like a chorus condemning the president for failing to specifically call out the instigators as “white supremacists,” and for choosing to assign blame not solely to the supremacists, but also to the Marxists and anarchists. Two days after that, on August 14, Trump specifically named “the KKK,” “neo-Nazis,” and “white supremacists” as objects of ridicule. But by then, the left had made it clear that it was too little, too late.
The massive publicity that this incident received, coupled SPLC’s description of the rally as the “largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades,” prompted a number of high-profile individuals and corporations to pledge money to SPLC’s professed effort to “monito[r] and expos[e] the activities of the American radical right.” For example, actor George Clooney and his wife Amal pledged $1 million to the organization, while J.P. Morgan Chase & Company pledged $500,000. The CEO of the Apple Inc., Tim Cook, announced that his company would not only give $1 million to SPLC, but would also match any donations from Apple employees at a two-to-one rate over the course of the ensuing month. Moreover, Cook stated that Apple would be setting up a system in iTunes software that would allow consumers to donate to SPLC directly. Corporate donations were also promised by Uber, MGM Resorts, and Bumble, an online dating service.
Refusing to Designate the Marxist/Anarchist Antifa Movement As a “Hate Group”
In September 2017, SPLC elected not to include the violent Marxist/anarchist Antifa movement in its list of “hate groups.” SPLC president Richard Cohen explained that while “we oppose these groups and what they’re trying to do” by censoring speech and inevitably provoking “other forms of retaliation,” Antifa does not qualify for designation as a “hate group” because its adherents do not discriminate against people on the basis of race, sexual orientation, religion, or other variables protected by anti-discrimination laws. In short, said Cohen, Antifa’s brand of hate is “not the type of hate we follow.”
SPLC’s Immense Wealth
In 1978, when SPLC’s assets were below $10 million, Morris Dees pledged that as soon as that total reached $55 million, the Center would thenceforth discontinue its fundraising efforts, use its investment interest income to cover its operating expenses, and focus exclusively on its civil-rights work. But as its assets approached that figure, the organization in 1989 revised its pledge, stating that it would actually need to accumulate $100 million before it could finally “cease the costly and often unreliable task of fund raising.” As money continued to fill its coffers, the Center persisted in depicting itself as a cash-strapped organization working on a shoestring budget. In 1995, for instance, when SPLC had more than $60 million in cash reserves, it informed would-be donors that the “strain on our current operating budget is the greatest in our 25-year history.”
SPLC’s endowment passed the $100 million plateau in the late 1990s, at which time the Center was spending about twice as much on fundraising as on legal services for victims of civil-rights violations. Yet even after reaching that lofty milestone and securing its status as the wealthiest civil-rights group in America, SPLC’s obsession with fundraising did not diminish. In 2010 alone, the Center took in more than $36.1 million in contributions and grants, plus another $2.3 million in investment income. By the end of that fiscal year, its total assets amounted to $260,547,642. These funds were derived not only from many thousands of individual donors, but also from scores of charitable foundations. Among the philanthropies that have given large sums of money to SPLC are the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the J.M. Kaplan Fund, the Minneapolis Foundation, George Soros‘s Open Society Institute, the Ploughshares Fund, the Public Welfare Foundation, the Vanguard Public Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. To view a list of additional SPLC funders, click here.
An April 2013 exposé by theWeekly Standard shows that SPLC, in comparison to other nonprofit organizations, spends an inordinately high percentage of its revenues on salaries, overhead, and fundraising:
“CharityWatch (formerly the American Institute of Philanthropy), an independent organization that monitors and rates leading nonprofits for their fundraising efficiency, has consistently given the SPLC its lowest grade of ‘F’ (i.e., ‘poor’) for its stockpiling of assets far beyond what CharityWatch deems a reasonable reserve (three years’ worth of operating expenses) to tide it over during donation-lean years. But even if the SPLC weren’t sitting on an unspent $256 million, according to CharityWatch, it would still be a mediocre (‘C+’) performer among nonprofits. The SPLC’s 2011 tax filing reveals that the organization raised a total of $38.5 million from its donors that year but spent only $24.9 million on ‘program services,’ with the rest going to salaries, overhead, and fundraising. And even that 67 percent figure is somewhat inflated, according to CharityWatch, which notes that the SPLC takes advantage of an accounting rule that permits nonprofits to count some of their fundraising expenses as ‘public education’ if, for example, a mailer contains an informational component. CharityWatch, ignoring that accounting rule, maintains that only 60 percent — about $19 million — went to program services during the year in question…. Furthermore, the SPLC spends a relatively high $26 on fundraising (according to CharityWatch, $18 according to the SPLC) for every $100 that it manages to raise.”
Philanthropy Roundtable (PR), another monitor of nonprofit groups, has characterized SPLC as a “tendentious,” “irresponsible,” and “notoriously partisan attack group,” as well as “a cash-collecting machine.” In early 2017, PR stated: “Though it styles itself as a public-interest law firm, the Southern Poverty Law Center does shockingly little litigation, and only small amounts of that on behalf of any aggrieved individuals. Its two largest expenses are propaganda operations: creating its annual lists of ‘haters’ and ‘extremists,’ and running a big effort that pushes ‘tolerance education’ through more than 400,000 public-school teachers. And the single biggest effort undertaken by the SPLC? Fundraising. On the organization’s 2015 IRS 990 form it declared $10 million of direct fundraising expenses, far more than it has ever spent on legal services.”
In a talk at Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism, Montgomery Advertiser managing editor Jim Tharpe said of SPLC: “They’ve never spent more than 31 percent of the money they were bringing in on programs, and sometimes they spent as little as 18 percent. Most nonprofits spend about 75 percent on programs.”
As of 2016, SPLC held $319.28 million worth of assets in a massive endowment fund — assets not used to bankroll any civil-rights programs.
In the fiscal year that ended on October 31, 2017, SPLC took in revenues of $136,373,624, of which the vast majority derived from contributions and grants, while $3,341,791 came from investment income. This raised the organization’s net assets to $449,834,593 (total assets of $477,046,287 minus liabilities of $27,211,694).
SPLC accumulated its vast wealth mainly through the calculated maneuverings of Morris Dees, who repeatedly tailored his fundraising tactics to suit the needs of the moment. The renowned anti-death-penalty lawyer (and former Dees associate) Millard Farmer points out, for instance, that the Center, at one point, largely stopped taking capital-punishment cases for fear that a visible opposition to the death penalty might alienate would-be donors. Similarly, Ken Silverstein notes that “in 1986, the Center’s entire legal staff quit in protest of Dees’s refusal to address issues — such as homelessness, voter registration, and affirmative action — that they considered far more pertinent to poor minorities, if far less marketable to affluent benefactors, than fighting the KKK.” In 2001, left-wing writer JoAnn Wypijewski wrote: “Hate sells; poor people don’t, which is why readers who go to the SPLC’s website will find only a handful of cases on such non-lucrative causes as fair housing, worker safety, or healthcare, many of those from the 1970s and 1980s.”
Whatever the specifics of a given case, SPLC’s profits invariably dwarf those of its clients. Consider the $7 million judgment Dees won in 1987 against the United Klans of America (UKA) on behalf of Beulah Mae Donald, whose son Michael had been killed by two Klansmen. At the time, UKA’s sole asset was a warehouse, the sale of which netted $51,875 for Mrs. Donald. The case was much more lucrative for SPLC, which raked in $9 million from subsequent fundraising solicitations built around Michael Donald’s murder, including one solicitation that featured a photo of the young man’s corpse. So profitable was the Michael Donald case, in fact, that as of 2010 the Center was still citing it in fundraising appeals.
Dees’s fundraising tactics were as varied as they were creative. In a 1985 fundraising letter to zip codes where many Jewish residents lived, he made conspicuous use of his Jewish-sounding middle name, Seligman, in his signature at the end of the document. Attorney Tom Turnipseed, a former Dees associate, recounts how, on another occasion, Dees distributed a fundraising letter with “about six different stamps” affixed to the return envelope, so as to make it appear that “they had to cobble them all together to come up with 35 cents.” “Morris loves to raise money,” Turnipseed told Cox News Service. “Some of his gimmicks are just so transparent, but they’re good.”
“He’s the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of the civil-rights movement,” attorney Millard Farmer said of Dees, “though I don’t mean to malign Jim and Tammy Faye.”
According to former SPLC legal fellow Pamela Summers, “What they are doing in the [SPLC] legal department is not done for the best interest of everybody [but] is done as though the sole, overriding goal is to make money. They’re drowning in their own affluence.”
The Baltimore Sun characterizes SPLC’s operations this way: “Its business is fundraising, and its success at raking in the cash is based on its ability to sell gullible people on the idea that present-day America is awash in white racism and anti-Semitism, which it will fight tooth-and-nail as the public interest law firm it purports to be.”
Perhaps the strongest rebuke comes from Stephen Bright, president of the Southern Center for Human Rights, who in 1996 called Dees “a fraud and a con man,” deriding him for “your failure to respond to the most desperate needs of the poor and powerless despite your millions upon millions, your fund-raising techniques, the fact that you spend so much, accomplish so little, and promote yourself so shamelessly.”
Additional SPLC Money in Offshore Tax Haven and Other Foreign Locations
Of the $319.28 million in assets that SPLC possessed as of 2016, some $69.09 million was invested in “non-U.S. equity funds,” according to the organization’s 2016 annual report. This included financial holdings (of undisclosed amounts) in the Cayman Islands, a well-known tax haven. For example, the Washington Free Beacon reports that on November 24, 2014, the Center transferred transferred $960,000 in cash to Tiger Global Private Investment Partners IX, L.P., a pooled investment fund based in the Cayman Islands. Further, on December 24 and December 31, respectively, SPLC transferred cash sums of $102,007 and $157,574 to a pair of additional Cayman Islands-based entities that shared a P.O. Box address: BPV-III Cayman X Limited, and BPV-III Cayman XI Limited. And on March 1, 2015, SPLC made two separate transfers of $2.2 million apiece to a pair of funds incorporated in Canana Bay, Cayman Islands. According to the Free Beacon: “SPLC’s Form 990-T, its business income tax return, from the same year shows that they have ‘financial interests’ in the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda” as well.
“I’ve never known a U.S.-based nonprofit dealing in human rights or social services to have any foreign bank accounts,” tax expert Amy Sterling Casil, CEO of the nonprofit consulting firm Pacific Human Capital, told the_ Free Beacon_. “… I am stunned to learn of transfers of millions to offshore bank accounts. It is a huge red flag and would have been completely unacceptable to any wealthy, responsible, experienced board member who was committed to a charitable mission who I ever worked with.” “It is unethical for any U.S.-based charity to invest large sums of money overseas,” Casil added. “I know of no legitimate reason for any U.S.-based nonprofit to put money in overseas, unregulated bank accounts.”
Former Wall Street analyst and financial adviser Charles Ortel concurred: “It seems extremely unusual for a ‘501(c)(3)’ concentrating upon reducing poverty in the American South to have multiple bank accounts in tax haven nations.”
Morris Dees Is Fired; Richard Cohen Resigns
On March 14, 2019, SPLC announced that it had fired Morris Dees, and suggested that misconduct by Dees had played a role in the decision. Said SPLC president Richard Cohen in a statement:
“Effective yesterday, Morris Dees’ employment at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) was terminated. As a civil rights organization, the SPLC is committed to ensuring that the conduct of our staff reflects the mission of the organization and the values we hope to instill in the world. When one of our own fails to meet those standards, no matter his or her role in the organization, we take it seriously and must take appropriate action. Today we announced a number of immediate, concrete next steps we’re taking, including bringing in an outside organization to conduct a comprehensive assessment of our internal climate and workplace practices, to ensure that our talented staff is working in the environment that they deserve – one in which all voices are heard and all staff members are respected.”
Nine days later, Mr. Cohen resigned his post as president, announcing his departure in a staff-wide email that said: “Whatever problems exist at the SPLC happened on my watch, so I take responsibility for them.” Said a Daily Signal report: “Current and former SPLC employees have accused the organization of turning a blind eye to sexual harassment and racial discrimination within its own ranks.” In a scathing New Yorker piece, Bob Moser, who had worked as a writer for SPLC 18 years earlier, wrote:
“For those of us who’ve worked in the [SPLC], putting it all into perspective isn’t easy, even to ourselves. We were working with a group of dedicated and talented people, fighting all kinds of good fights, making life miserable for the bad guys. And yet, all the time, dark shadows hung over everything: the racial and gender disparities, the whispers about sexual harassment, the abuses that stemmed from the top-down management, and the guilt you couldn’t help feeling about the legions of donors who believed that their money was being used, faithfully and well, to do the Lord’s work in the heart of Dixie. We were part of the con, and we knew it.”
60 Conservative Groups Mull Lawsuits Against SPLC
In an April 2019 article, PJ Media reported that more than 60 organizations that SPLC had falsely labeled as “hate groups” were considering the possibility of suing SPLC for defamation. The article cited remarks that various noteworthy individuals had recently made about SPLC and its deceitful use of the “hate group” smear as a fundraising tactic. One particularly significant remark came from former SPLC employee Bob Moser, who described SPLC’s annual “hate-group list” as “a masterstroke of [Morris] Dees’s marketing talents” which leads countless “mainstream outlets [to] write about the ‘rising tide of hate’ discovered by the SPLC’s researchers,” and leads reporters to “frequently refer to the list when they write about the groups.” Some additional examples:
- According to The Progressive‘s John Egerton, Morris Dees “viewed civil-rights work mainly as a marketing tool for bilking gullible Northern liberals.”
- Megan L. Meier, a partner at the Clare Locke legal firm, said: “The SPLC’s ‘hate group’ accusation is a financial and reputational death sentence, effectively equating organizations to the KKK. No right-thinking person wants to be associated with the KKK, so the SPLC’s ‘hate group’ accusation is incredibly effective at shaming organizations and causing them to be shunned by donors, fundraising platforms, service providers, the media, and others. Shaming and shunning are hallmarks of what makes a statement ‘defamatory’ under the common law.”
- Thomas Hern, national grassroots director at ACT for America, said: “We are happy to see that the Southern Poverty Law Center is now being exposed for the deceitful and highly political organization we have known them to be,” told PJ Media. “For years the SPLC has gone unchecked with their slanderous labels and we hope that this exposure will force a widespread denouncement of their once great organization…. The reckless behavior and blatantly defamatory actions of the SPLC has put our organization’s employees and members, including myself, in danger of radical leftist retaliation.”
- Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel and vice president of U.S. advocacy and administration at the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), said: “It is time for the media, major corporations, and big tech companies to cut ties with the SPLC once and for all. Today’s SPLC has zero credibility and its ‘making hate pay’ business model should be rejected…. [I]t is clear this group has defrauded the public for long enough…. Today’s SPLC is a corrupt fundraising scheme that capitalizes on fear by mixing legitimate societal concerns with baseless allegations against its ideological opponents. The media commits journalistic malpractice when it cuts and pastes the SPLC’s unfounded allegations and lies as fact…. The SPLC owes its donors and the public a detailed accounting of the allegations of misdeeds being made against it – in many instances by its current and former employees. The current scandal at the SPLC is devastating. I sympathize with the victims who have had to endure what appears to be an internal atmosphere marked by harassment, bigotry and discrimination.”
- Current Affairs editor Nathan J. Robinson characterized SPLC’s “hate map” as an “outright fraud” and a “willful deception designed to scare older liberals into writing checks to the SPLC.”
- Daniel Schmid, litigation counsel at the falsely accused Christian law firm Liberty Counsel, said: “If you’re admitting that it’s done for purposes of fundraising, false, and intended to deceive older liberals, you’ve basically admitted all the elements of a Lanham Act and a defamation claim…. Knowing that you’re lying to trick northern liberals, you’ve admitted that your statement is false. You know you’re lying to them in an effort to get money…. The admission that it’s a fundraising ploy will get you closer to Lanham Act actions. [In a Lanham Act case], you have to prove the speech is commercial. If you’re admitting you’re trying to raise money, that’s commercial.”
An Enormous Organization
As of late 2017, SPLC had 302 employees and 197 volunteers.
- Cited by William Norman Grigg in The New American, April 12, 2005.
- By 2017, the Klan’s national membership was estimated to be a mere 2,000, and many of those were believed to be FBI informants.
- Michael Fumento, “A Church Arson Epidemic? It’s Smoke and Mirrors,” The Wall Street Journal (July 8, 1996), p. A8.
- “Hiding Behind the Smoke,” Washington Post (June 18, 1996), p. A 13.
- Deroy Murdock, “Everyday America’s Racial Harmony,” The American Enterprise (November/December 1998), p. 25.
- “Hiding Behind the Smoke,” Washington Post (June 18, 1996), p. A 13. “Indiana Man Admits to 50 Church Arsons,” The New York Times (February 24, 1999), p. A 18.
- Information on foundation grants to SPLC, courtesy of The Foundation Center, GuideStar, ActivistCash, the Capital Research Center and Undue Influence.
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