The Southern Poverty Law Center may be best known for its “Hate Group” database. It keeps track of organizations like the KKK that promote irrational hatred of people who aren’t white and Christian groups that preach inflammatory anti-gay rhetoric by spreading lies about homosexuality. To be sure, most groups don’t make that list. Megachurches that oppose marriage equality, for example, aren’t considered hateful by SPLC standards. Neither are groups like Focus on the Family despite the hateful things that James Dobson used to say.
The “hate group” designation is one may groups have fought against, saying that SPLC is attacking them for their Christian beliefs. That’s a lie. SPLC doesn’t care if you’re Christian or not. But if you spread misinformation — like saying gay adults exhibit “predatory” behavior and try to “recruit” children — you’ve crossed the line.
And now that designation may hurt them even more.
GuideStar, the non-profit database that posts publicly available tax documents for charities, has now added a “Hate Group” tag on all organizations that fit the bill.
The company includes a disclaimer on all the hate groups’ pages saying, “The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a respected hate group watchdog. There is disagreement on some of SPLC’s specific choices, but on balance GuideStar believes the analysis is strong enough to share. We leave it to you to come to your own conclusions.”
The Christian hate groups don’t trust you to come to your own conclusions.
“The only purpose of providing the SPLC false and dangerous ‘hate group’ label is to push a liberal political agenda designed to hurt good organizations,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, an evangelical group representing clients like Kim Davis, the county clerk who refused to sign same-sex marriage licenses.
FRC vice president Jerry Boykin called the GuideStar policy “another attack on conservative Christian organizations and individuals.”
But they did write a letter to GuideStar’s President and CEO Jacob Harold urging him to reconsider:
The SPLC has no bona fides to make such determinations. It is not a governmental organization using a rigorous criteria to create its lists, and it is not a scientifically oriented organization. The SPLC is merely another “progressive” political organization. It gained credibility attacking Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and skinheads — many of whom were engaged in violence. The SPLC is now trying to export the same tactics into areas of mainstream political discourse including debates about immigration and sexual-identity politics.
Mr. Harold, we think it is a reasonable point that an aggressive political partisan like the SPLC should not be allowed to be the judge and jury of its opponents’ character and motivations. The fact that the SPLC only targets groups on the political right supports this contention.
The signers of that letter refuse to understand that violence and hate don’t just come in physical form.
And to address that last point, groups on the political left don’t have to lie about their opponents. They usually just quote them. That’s why some of the best liberal satire, including the Daily Show and Full Frontal and Last Week Tonight, is often nothing more than a showcase of clips featuring a Republican saying two completely opposite things. The hypocrisy speaks for itself.
It’s only on the far right where you see selectively-edited videos used to attack Planned Parenthood, misinformation about how to “cure” homosexuality, and blatant lies about the “motivations” of LGBTQ people.
Keep in mind that the SPLC isn’t always beloved on the left. Plenty of atheists criticized the group for including reformers of Islam — like Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali — on their list of “Anti-Muslim extremists.” The SPLC was wrong about that and they still haven’t fixed their mistake. If you were considering making a donation to the organization, you shouldn’t until they apologize for that.
If GuideStar’s hate designation prevents some donor from making a large contribution to those Christian Right groups, wonderful. Though I find it hard to believe that anyone would consider making a large donation to those organizations — to the point that they’re examining their histories on GuideStar — and still be completely oblivious about the hateful nature of those groups.