Just weeks after GuideStar, the charity database, began using the Southern Poverty Law Center’s data to highlight “hate groups” for people looking for information on those organizations, they’ve backed down and removed the designation.
This comes after dozens of hate group leaders wrote a letter to GuideStar’s CEO urging him to reconsider the decision. They claimed that “SPLC should not be allowed to be the judge and jury of its opponents’ character and motivations.” It’s one thing for SPLC to make the claims on their own site. It’s different when GuideStar treats those designations as definitive.
To be sure, the SPLC isn’t perfect. 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.” Nawaz is planning to sue the SPLC for defamation.
But the SPLC’s criticisms of Christian groups was typically on point. They went after the ones that are known to spread objective lies, especially about homosexuality, not merely ones that opposed LGBT rights.
Still, they relented after the pushback (and harassment):
… we have heard from both supporters and critics of this decision, many of whom have presented reasonable disagreements with the way in which this information was presented. We are always open and willing to have conversations with our users and nonprofit groups and welcomed this feedback. We acknowledge there is a deep, nuanced conversation to be had with Americans of all political, cultural, and religious backgrounds regarding how we address — and identify — hate groups.
Dismayingly, a significant amount of the feedback we’ve received in recent days has shifted from constructive criticism to harassment and threats directed at our staff and leadership.
With this development in mind — driven by both our commitment to objectivity and our concerns for our staff’s wellbeing — we have decided to remove the SPLC annotations from these 46 organizations for the time being. This change will be implemented during the week of June 26, 2017. In the meantime, we will make this information available to any user on request.
That’s too bad for a number of reasons, but GuideStar is doing what it has to do. The designations haven’t gone away. They’re simply not being highlighted on the website.
Don’t expect the hatred of GuideStar to abate anytime soon, though. Just look at how one hate group leader reacted to the site providing more information to its readers:
FRC’s Executive Vice President Jerry Boykin told the Daily Signal recently that he thought GuideStar’s listing of “hate group” designations is “another attack on conservative Christian organizations and individuals.”
“GuideStar says that they are neutral, but they are anything but neutral,” Boykins was quoted as saying. “In fact, they are, I would say at this point, they are becoming an arm of the ultra-left.”
Yes, the ultra-left. Which must be the liberal wing that says giving people more information to work with is better than keeping them ignorant.
If nothing else, GuideStar’s actions this month brought more attention to why these Christian groups — and not other ones — are considered hateful. It’s hard to defend their brand of bigotry and lies, and the Bible alone doesn’t cut it.
***Update***: Liberty Counsel says it will sue GuideStar for defamation for using the SPLC’s data. Despite GuideStar’s retraction, the lawsuit is still happening as long as GuideStar continues to make SPLC’s hate group data available to people interested. And Mat Staver will keep getting angrier every time anyone refers to his hate group as a “hate group.”
“GuideStar has not retracted its ‘hate group’ label and continues to provide false, defamatory and harmful information it pushes as fact to the public,” Staver, Liberty Counsel’s founder and chairman, said in a statement. “The damage by GuideStar is far reaching because this false and defamatory labeling has been spread through scores of media sources and the internet. It also appears on the GuideStar [Wikipedia] page.”
“GuideStar and its political ally, the Southern Poverty Law Center, are intent on destroying pro-family organizations. The ‘hate group’ label is false and dangerous,” Staver asserted. “GuideStar’s CEO, Jacob Harold, is using GuideStar as a weapon to defame, harm, and promote his liberal agenda by using the SPLC to falsely label good nonprofit organizations as ‘hate groups.’ The only purpose of providing the SPLC false and dangerous ‘hate group’ label is to inflict reputational and financial harm to Liberty Counsel.“
That’s a stretch. GuideStar almost certainly doesn’t care about Liberty Counsel one way or the other. They wanted to provide useful information to readers, they assumed SPLC’s data was useful, and they’ve since reconsidered. I highly doubt the GuideStar people sat in a dark room and asked themselves, “How can we royally screw over Christian Right groups?” (Staver says in the lawsuit that GuideStar’s actions were “purposefully deceitful and intended to tarnish Liberty Counsel’s reputation.” I’m not sure how he can prove that.)
Maybe Staver should ask himself why his group, and not other Christian groups with similar beliefs, is considered beyond the pale.
(Thanks to Sean for the link)