Last week, the Big Tech fundraising company MobileCause abruptly canceled a years-long contract with the conservative Christian nonprofit the Family Research Council (FRC) exactly one hour before FRC’s planned “Pray Vote Stand” broadcast focused on the 2020 election. To justify its decision, MobileCause cited the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a scandal-plagued far-left smear factory with a history of branding Christian organizations “hate groups” due to their religious beliefs. The SPLC “hate group” smear against FRC inspired an attempted terrorist attack in 2012.
PJ Media reached out to MobileCause, asking why it relies on the SPLC. The company responded by saying it was not aware of the SPLC’s scandals and the terror attack. It told PJ Media it would reconsider relying on the SPLC.
“MobileCause has not only provided yet another example of big tech censorship but in their desperation to silence those they disagree with, they have now added religious discrimination to their portfolio,” FRC President Tony Perkins said in a statement. “Is it a coincidence that a big tech company pulled the plug on us one hour before the second installment of one of our most extensive evangelical voter education and mobilization efforts in this election cycle?”
Perkins charged that the company’s motives are “beyond obvious. MobileCause views evangelicals and conservatives as a political enemy that must be silenced, and so it timed its religious discrimination for maximum effect.”
MobileCause announced the abrupt termination of its FRC contract in an email FRC provided to PJ Media.
MobileCause CEO Victor Limongelli told the Christian group that his company received a warning from Sinch, its text infrastructure provider, that Sinch had received nearly 100 complaints of text spam from FRC delivered via MobileCause. “As we looked further into the organization, we came to realize that Family Research Council is listed as a ‘hate group’ by the SPLC.”
“We were previously unaware of this fact,” Limongelli added. “We have a corporate practice of not working with any organizations on the SPLC list. As a result, we are terminating your subscription with MobileCause effective immediately.” The company said it would refund FRC for the whole cost of its subscription.
Limongelli sent the email one hour before the second “Pray Vote Stand” broadcast on September 2.
Perkins insisted that MobileCause’s decision to cancel its contract with FRC proved just how important the nonprofit’s activism truly is.
“The Left’s determination to silence voices with which they disagree should make clear to every evangelical voter what is at stake in this election and why they need to pray, vote, and stand! Big tech, Hollywood, and the elites intend to decide this election, and they will resort to religious discrimination, censorship, and bullying to get that mission accomplished,” Perkins said. “We cannot, and we must not, allow them to succeed.”
The SPLC’s “hate group” accusation
As I reported both here at PJ Media and in my book Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the SPLC began as a noble civil rights organization. Yet over the years, the SPLC drifted from its original mission of helping poor people in the South to bankrupting the Ku Klux Klan and eventually to exaggerating hate to scare donors into ponying up cash. While the organization does occasionally expose white nationalists in positions of authority, it wields its “hate group” accusations as a political weapon to silence conservatives.
Last year, the SPLC fired its co-founder, Morris Dees, amid a decades-long sexual harassment and racial discrimination scandal. After Dees was fired, former employees came forward, admitting their complicity in the “con.” The SPLC’s “hate group” list not only exaggerates the number of “hate groups” by listing defunct or essentially non-existent groups along with the KKK, but it also tars the reputations of law-abiding mainstream conservative and Christian organizations like FRC, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), and ACT for America.
The SPLC has attacked Ben Carson as an “extremist” in part because he upholds the traditional and biblical definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. The SPLC also branded Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz an “anti-Islamic extremist,” listing among other issues his visit to a strip club on his bachelor party. The group settled Nawaz’s lawsuit by paying $3 million.
The SPLC faces multiple defamation lawsuits from organizations and individuals the group has targeted. In 2018, Baltimore lawyer Glen Allen sued the SPLC for getting him fired due to his former ties with a white nationalist group. Last year, a former heroin addict who tried to start an organization helping men with opioid addictions sued the SPLC after the far-left group helped get his organization shut down. Conservative groups the SPLC condemns as “hate groups” have also gone to court, including the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), D. James Kennedy Ministries, the American Freedom Law Center, and Proud Boys Founder Gavin McInnes.
Like MobileCause, Amazon’s charity program AmazonSmile uses the SPLC “hate group” list to blacklist organizations that might be unsavory. Americans from across the political spectrum have urged Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to reconsider. The non-partisan New Tolerance Campaign urged the tech company to drop the “hate group” list, calling its use a “clear case” of “the unequal application of tolerance in mainstream American culture.” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) pressed Bezos on the issue in a July congressional hearing. The Republican National Committee (RNC) issued a resolution condemning the SPLC last month.
This week, a group of 100 Orthodox Jewish rabbis sent a letter to Bezos, warning that the SPLC routinely condemns Christian organizations but overlooks the anti-Semitism threat posed by radical Islamic groups. This makes the far-left group’s “hate group” list “uniquely detrimental and even dangerous to the Jewish community.”
FRC has a point when it complains about “religious discrimination” regarding the SPLC. When the far-left smear factory targeted the small Roman Catholic charity the Ruth Institute, it zeroed in on one supposedly damning quote to prove the Ruth Institute’s “hate.” Yet that quote came directly from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the official document setting forth the convictions of the 1-billion-member Catholic Church. If the SPLC were to be consistent, it would have to mark the entire Catholic Church a “hate group.”
The SPLC’s accusation has concretely damaged FRC in particular. On August 15, 2012, a terrorist shooter entered FRC headquarters with a loaded semi-automatic pistol, 100 rounds of ammunition, and a bag of Chick-fil-A chicken sandwiches. A brave security guard foiled his attack, but the man later confessed to the FBI that he found FRC on the SPLC “hate map,” and he intended to “kill the people in the building and then smear a Chick-fil-A sandwich in their face … to kill as many people as I could.”
MobileCause reconsiders the SPLC
When PJ Media reached out to MobileCause with a brief summary of the SPLC’s scandals, the Big Tech company claimed not to have heard about the shooting or the criticism of the SPLC’s “hate group” accusation.
“MobileCause works with thousands of nonprofit organizations across the ideological spectrum. We have followed a very simple, straightforward practice. First, is the organization a nonprofit? We only work with nonprofits. Second, is the organization listed as a ‘hate group’ by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)? If so, we don’t work with the organization,” the Big Tech company told PJ Media in a statement. “When MobileCause realized that the Family Research Council was listed as a ‘hate group’ by the SPLC, we followed our practice and terminated the relationship.”
“MobileCause was not previously aware of the criticism SPLC has received toward its use of the ‘hate’ label, or of the shooting in 2012,” MobileCause told PJ Media. “We have been referencing the SPLC site as a readily and publicly available list, but given the new information that we’ve learned, we’re going to undertake an analysis of the SPLC list and the criteria it uses, and then make a determination as to whether we should rely solely on its list.”
MobileCause should reconsider its use of the SPLC list, as should Amazon and any other company that relies on this scandal-plagued smear factory as an arbiter of “hate.” Perhaps someone should write a book about it.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.