To a chorus of yawns and ho-hum indifference from the media and most Americans, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released its annual ‘Year in Hate and Extremism’ report a few weeks ago. The group has been hit with scandals and lawsuits in recent years, widely discredited as more interested in money and denigrating Christian organizations than in really fighting hatred and violence.
Morris Dees, who founded the organization in 1971, was fired in 2019 after he and the center faced allegations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment. Not good news for an organization that allegedly fought for tolerance and equality. The organization, headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama, came under fire for having an almost $500 million endowment and for spending a large percentage of its budget on fundraising and a small percentage actually fighting legal cases.
A former employee of the organization, Bob Moser, wrote a scathing exposé of the SPLC in 2019, painting a picture of highly paid executives and “a widespread pattern of racial and gender discrimination by the center’s current leadership, stretching back many years.” Moser notes that his article was not the first to reveal the ugly underbelly of the group. More than 25 years ago, the Montgomery Advertiser had written about charges of racial discrimination within the organization. Harper’s Magazine published a report five years later, depicting the organization as spending most its time “on a relentless fund-raising campaign.”
In the chaos after Dee’s removal, SPLC President Richard Cohen and other top executives stepped down. An internal investigation was started, but a year later, no results have been reported. In the meantime, the center continues to raise money and point its finger at others. Its latest report attacks mainstream Christian groups, lumping them together with racist and anti-Semitic groups, some of which have perpetrated horrific acts of violence.
Jeremy Tedesco is a Senior Counsel and Vice President with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a religious freedom legal organization that the SPLC labels as a “hate group.” Given our country’s current focus on the coronavirus, quarantines and the economy, he writes that the “report dropped like a mistimed cymbal crash at the symphony.”
Tedesco explains that the SPLC “redefines political disagreement as ‘hate,’” and “attempts to smear principled and mainstream conservative organizations by associating them with truly deplorable groups, such as white supremacists.”
ADF was founded in 1994 by a group of Christian leaders that included Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, and founder and director of James Dobson’s Family Talk; Dr. Bill Bright, an evangelist who founded Campus Crusade for Christ, now known as Cru; and Dr. D. James Kennedy, a pastor and evangelist who founded what is now D. James Kennedy Ministries.
Since then, ADF has gone on to play a role in 56 victories at the United States Supreme Court. These include familiar cases like that of Jack Phillips, the Denver baker who did not want to use his artistic talents and be involved with a same-sex wedding ceremony; he won a 7-2 victory for religious freedom at the Court.
There’s the case of NIFLA v. Becerra, involving life, free speech and religious freedom, where the Court struck down a California state law aimed directly at pro-life pregnancy care centers who oppose abortion and offer women with unplanned pregnancies a life-giving alternative.
Or the case of a male funeral director, who wants to dress as a woman when dealing with grieving clients at Harris Funeral Homes. Tom Harris, who owns the fifth-generation family business, said, “No.” So the transgender-identified employee filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC redefined “sex discrimination” in federal law to include “gender identity.” In October 2019, ADF argued before the Court in Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, that government agencies don’t have the right to redefine federal laws, that Congress must do so.
There are numerous other cases were ADF has fought for free speech, the sanctity of life, religious freedom, freedom of association and parental rights. Sounds like a group fighting for freedom and tolerance, not a hate group. Despite these dozens of Supreme Court victories, the SPLC report says groups like ADF “engage in crude name-calling and disseminate disparaging propaganda and falsehoods” about LGBT-identified individuals.
The SPLC lists other Christian legal groups battling for religious freedom and free speech, including Liberty Counsel and the Pacific Justice Institute, defaming them with the “hate” label. The SPLC calls the American College of Pediatricians, which works to keep children with sexual-identity confusion from having bodily-disfiguring and life-altering drugs, hormones and surgeries, a “hate group.”
The list of mainstream Christian groups smeared as “hate groups” goes on and on: Family Research Council; D. James Kennedy Ministries, Probe Ministries; Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam), World Congress of Families/International Organization for the Family – and more.
Despite being so discredited, the SPLC still maintains influence with businesses and the media. Amazon excludes ADF and other groups on the SPLC list from its charitable giving program, AmazonSmile. The credit card company working with the Ruth Institute dropped them because of the SPLC designation. The Ruth Institute believes marriage is between a man and a woman and that children are best raised by a mother and a father. For that, they were told by the credit card company that the institute “promotes hate, violence, harassment and/or abuse.”
In these days of rancorous discourse around political and social issues, the SPLC, with its scurrilous attacks on Christian groups, is the one really promoting hate, violence, harassment and abuse