In a victory for civility and free speech Monday, the charity rating website GuideStar reversed its decision to mark various groups, including the Christian nonprofit the Family Research Council (FRC) as “hate groups,” following a list of such groups published by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). That list inspired a domestic terror attack on FRC in 2012, and the Steve Scalise shooter James Hodgkinson “liked” the SPLC on Facebook.
“We are generally encouraged by GuideStar’s decision to remove the labeling of non-profit webpages like ours based on characterizations made by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a bitterly partisan political organization that has been linked in federal court to a domestic terrorist shooting,” FRC’s executive vice president, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, said in a statement to PJ Media.
“The SPLC continues to list on its website people such as House Majority Whip Steve Scalise who was recently shot by James Hodgkinson who ‘liked’ SPLC’s Facebook page,” Boykin added. Last week, FRC joined a coalition of 41 conservative leaders and organizations in releasing a letter to GuideStar USA expressing disagreement with its use of the SPLC’s defamatory “hate group” labels.
Boykin said that “GuideStar correctly decided to end its reliance on the SPLC, a decision that is in line with organizations like the FBI and the U.S. Army under Secretary McHugh.” He further condemned the verbal attacks and threats GuideStar reportedly received after it adopted the SPLC’s “hate” list. “We at FRC know directly what it is like to be on the receiving end of threats and life-threatening violence, so we do not take such matters lightly.”
“Over many years we have come to know our constituents very well and have no doubt that they, as followers of the Lord Jesus, share our condemnation of threats and violence,” Boykin concluded. He denounced the SPLC for creating “a toxic environment of hostility and animus toward those they seek to silence.”
When the SPLC president, Richard Cohen, spoke at a Senate hearing on free speech, Boykin sent a letter of protest denouncing the organization as anti-free speech. “The SPLC bullies and dehumanizes many ordinary Americans by calling them names and portraying them grotesquely in photographs and sketches,” Boykin wrote in the letter. “It seeks their silence and submission and not an honest, open debate with opponents.”
In 2012, that “hate” labeling inspired a terrorist attack in Washington, D.C. Floyd Lee Corkins III broke into the FRC armed with a semi-automatic pistol and Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwiches. Corkins testified that he intended to kill everyone in the building and place chicken sandwiches near them. The unarmed security guard Leo Johnson wrestled him to the ground, saving lives and sustaining a gunshot in the process.
In February 2013, Corkins pled guilty to committing an act of terrorism and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. During an FBI interrogation, the shooter said he targeted FRC because it was listed as an “anti-gay group” on the SPLC website. It was this very list that GuideStar adopted earlier this month.
The connection between Hodgkinson and the SPLC only further solidified the connection between the liberal organization and armed domestic terrorism.
GuideStar’s decision to reject the SPLC “hate” list is a step in the direction of civility, and it should teach the SPLC that their list is not something to be proud of. At a time when the Left attacks Trump as a “traitor” or as the “worst and most dangerous” president in history, and when celebrities joke about killing him, such violent rhetoric arguably contributes to the toxic atmosphere of a politically-motivated shooter like James Hodgkinson, and the SPLC is at the forefront of such vitriol.
Words are important, and both Corkins and Hodgkinson show that “hate” can be a spur to violence. The SPLC needs to rethink its violent characterizations of its political enemies, and it needs to do so now. America’s civility — and the safety of its citizens — depends on it.