The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) treats itself as the nonideological arbiter of who is and is not a hate group—but in reality, the SPLC pursues anyone who doesn’t share its far-left agenda (and gets rich in the process). It often smears mainstream and right-of-center individuals and organizations by lumping them in with extremists like neo-Nazis and real “hate groups” for little more than voicing opinions the SPLC disagrees with.
Hannah Scherlacher, program coordinator for the Leadership Institute’s Campus Reform, is one such victim of the SPLC’s infamous “Hatewatch” list. Scherlacher discovered the SPLC had placed her name on its “Anti-LGBT Roundup of Events and Activities” list, which is reserved for people who oppose the SPLC’s mission to fight their definition of hate and bigotry.
Scherlacher called the SPLC to find out why the organization had placed her name on the list, considering she had “never said or done anything to indicate hate for the LGBTQ community.” Her “crime” was speaking on a radio show hosted by the Family Research Council (FRC), a Christian nonprofit that defends traditional marriage.
SPLC’s decision to label FRC a hate group inspired far-left gunman Floyd Lee Corkins to assault the organization’s headquarters and attempt to murder FRC employees in 2012. Corkins admitted he targeted the FRC because the SPLC labelled it an anti-LGBT hate group. He carried 50 rounds of ammunition and 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches that he planned to smear over the dead bodies of 15 dead “bigots.”
Scherlacher went on FRC’s radio show not to discuss marriage, sex, or LGBT issues, but instead to discuss millennials’ infatuation with socialism. (The show is available here, with Scherlacher’s interview beginning at 17:15.)
As Scherlacher notes,
Reckless and irresponsible hate-labeling not only stifles free speech and expression, it empowers and emboldens vicious groups and individuals to violently attack people… Nowhere is the danger more real than on our college campuses where Antifa, By Any Means Necessary, and other domestic terror groups (which are not found on any SPLC hate list) now feel emboldened to attack conservative students and shut down events … While I am lucky to have a current employer that is understanding of this injustice, many others are not willing to give the benefit of doubt. I will now have to explain to every future employer why my name is on a hate list.
America prides itself in its diversity of beliefs and tolerance of those beliefs; but tyranny built on disinformation and stigmatizing others for holding different religious or political beliefs breeds intolerance and suppresses freedom. A recent example is the case of James Damore, a Google employee who penned a memo entitled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” in which he criticized the tech giant’s liberal bias against conservative employees. He was fired not long after publishing the memo. Democratic Senator Al Franken (Minnesota) accused Amy Coney Barrett, a candidate for federal appellate court, of being unfit to hold office because she once spoke at an event sponsored by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian nonprofit. Franken identified the ADF as a “hate group” using SPLC information (ADF trains and funds attorneys to defend conservative social positions). Michael Farris, ADF president and general counsel, released a statement saying,
There is a real danger of conflating genuine hate groups, like the Ku Klux Klan, with mainstream religious beliefs that are shared by millions of Americans and people from all walks of life across the world. As a member of Congress, Sen. Franken needs to fact-check before parroting discredited attacks by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a once-proud civil rights organization that is now a left-wing smear machine known to incite violence.
There is more at stake than people’s career advancement and livelihoods when the SPLC lumps conservatives in with genuine hate groups – their very lives may be at stake.