The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) had to make an embarrassing apology recently. A few weeks back, the leftist smear factory paid $3.375 million to Maajid Nawaz, a Muslim reformer the group had defamed as an “anti-Muslim extremist.” This week, SPLC President Richard Cohen tried to salvage his organization’s reputation by doubling down on false attacks that inspired a terrorist attack in 2012.
When the SPLC apologized and paid Nawaz, that action led about 60 organizations — most of them falsely maligned as “hate groups” and lumped in with the Ku Klux Klan on the SPLC’s list — to seriously consider suing the SPLC for defamation. Besides Nawaz, two other groups have pending lawsuits against the SPLC — the Christian ministries Liberty Counsel and D. James Kennedy Ministries.
Amid this storm, Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen took to the Montgomery Advertiser (the SPLC is based in Montgomery, Ala.) to reveal this slanderous organization for what it is. “After years of smearing good people with false charges of bigotry, the Southern Poverty Law Center has finally been held to account,” he wrote. Thiessen urged people to “stop giving it money and the media stop quoting it or taking it seriously.”
When the SPLC “declares Maajid Nawaz, the Family Research Council, Ben Carson and Charles Murray as moral equivalents of the Klan, it loses all integrity and credibility,” Thiessen concluded.
Naturally, SPLC President Richard Cohen could not let that stand. He shot back with a column of his own, saying “it’s Thiessen who’s doing the smearing.”
Cohen admitted that his group “made a mistake” in smearing Ben Carson and Maajid Nawaz, but he argued that these were “rare instances.” Most of the SPLC’s “hate group” labeling, he argued, involves “calling out organizations that routinely vilify whole groups of people based on their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or some other characteristic.”
The SPLC has admitted in the past that its “hate group” designations are based on ideology and “opinion.” Cohen defended slamming organizations that might not be considered “hate groups” as an important public service.
“A handful [of these groups] operate within the political sphere and are seen by some as closer to the mainstream. In our view, that makes it even more important to expose their bigotry. It’s easy to recognize the hater in a white sheet for what he or she is. It’s the wolf in sheep’s clothing that’s harder to identify,” he argued.
This is a fair claim. People like Thiessen would point to the SPLC itself as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” and evangelical Christians would also point to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which released a spiritually dangerous “guide” for LGBT evangelicals yesterday.
To justify his claim, however, Cohen pointed to the Family Research Council (FRC), a group “Thiessen claims we’ve wronged.” But the SPLC hasn’t just “wronged” FRC. In 2012, a terrorist attempted to shoot everyone in FRC’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, and he later told the FBI that he chose to target FRC because of the SPLC’s “hate map,” a map plotting “hate groups.”
Cohen conveniently ignored this terrorist attack — which Thiessen mentioned — deciding instead to smear FRC.
“The FRC’s label as an anti-LGBT hate group is richly deserved,” the SPLC president wrote. “This is a group that portrays gay people as sick, evil, perverted, incestuous and a danger to the nation.”
Cohen leveled three direct charges against the FRC, one of which is true, one of which is outdated, and one of which is a blatant twisting of the facts.
FRC’s website does say “homosexual conduct… can never be affirmed.” Cohen characterized this as “clearly outside the mainstream,” but FRC is a Christian organization and the Bible clearly condemns same-sex sexual activity as a sin.
Cohen’s second charge is the “most dangerous lie that pedophilia is a ‘homosexual problem,’ in the words of its president, Tony Perkins.” The SPLC president went on to attack this as “a myth that’s been debunked long ago by groups like the American Psychological Association.”
Here’s the problem: FRC has never said, and does not believe, that most homosexuals are child molesters. The group does claim “it is undisputed that the percentage of child sex abuse cases that are male-on-male is far higher than the percentage of adult males who are homosexual. This suggests that male homosexuality is a risk factor for child sexual abuse.”
While LGBT activists claim that men who molest boys are not actually homosexual, FRC claims that “scholarly evidence undermines that claim.” More troublingly, “there is a sub-culture within the homosexual movement that advocates ‘intergenerational’ sexual relationships.” The FRC cites NIH research on this. This is undeniable, as the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) continues to exist.
Finally, Cohen attacked FRC’s rejection of the “It Gets Better” campaign. Cohen described this as “an initiative designed to give LGBT students hope for a better tomorrow.” FRC President Tony Perkins called the campaign “‘disgusting’ and part of an effort to ‘recruit’ children into the gay ‘lifestyle.'”
What Cohen failed to mention is that “It Gets Better” was started by LGBT activist Dan Savage, who has launched into profanity-laced tirades smearing evangelical Christians, pastors, parents, and conservatives for opposing LGBT pride. Savage once said he wished all Republicans were “f**king dead,” and expressed a desire to drag former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) behind a pickup truck “until there’s nothing left but the rope.”
Thiessen suggested SPLC marked FRC as a “hate group” because it “opposes abortion and same sex marriage,” while FRC said the SPLC attacked them for their religious beliefs. Cohen said “they both know they’re not telling the truth.”
But the disagreement does indeed come down to support for homosexual activity and religion.
“The SPLC simply assumes — but makes no attempt to prove using scientific evidence — that ‘being gay’ is an innate, immutable, and innocuous condition,” Peter Sprigg, FRC’s senior fellow for policy studies, told PJ Media. “It is only this unfounded presupposition that allows them to compare disapproval of homosexual conduct with, for example, racial bigotry.”
“However, even gay-affirming scholars acknowledge that ‘sexual orientation’ is not a unitary characteristic (it is an umbrella term that can encompass attractions, behaviors, and/or self-identification, which are not always consistent with each other and can change over time), and some have called for an end to claims that people are ‘born gay and can’t change,'” Sprigg added.
Some scholars have even found that “arguments based on the immutability of sexual orientation are unscientific.”
The FRC’s Christianity leads the organization to disagree with LGBT pride, considering same-sex sexual activity sinful, as the Bible proclaims. SPLC’s pro-LGBT bias leads them to consider homosexuality innate, immutable, and innocuous, but those are rather debatable and scientifically unjustified claims.
The anti-Christian bias does not stop with FRC, however. The SPLC has branded Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) — a Christian legal group that has won 8 Supreme Court cases in 7 years — a “hate group” for similar reasons. It even tarred the small pro-family group the Ruth Institute a “hate group,” explicitly citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church in justifying this smear. More than 1 billion people belong to churches holding these “anti-LGBT” views. You can’t get much more “mainstream” than that.
It was rather telling that Cohen never addressed the terrorist attack against FRC — and certainly did not apologize for his organization’s contribution to it. Did he mean to suggest that such terror attacks are justified, since SPLC considers FRC a “hate group”?
Thiessen also noted that the SPLC lists Charles Murray — a colleague of Thiessen’s at the American Enterprise Institute — a “White Nationalist.” An angry mob, citing the SPLC’s designation, physically attacked Murray during a speech at Middlebury College.
It is notable that Cohen did not even respond to this. Perhaps he knew that he could not justify the attack on Murray, and perhaps he wishes to deny the fact that people have engaged in violent protest thanks to the SPLC’s reckless labels.
When asked about the situation, FRC Executive Vice President Lt. Get. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin told PJ Media, “It is gratifying that their leftist political agenda is now being routinely exposed. It is costing the SPLC millions of dollars to preserve what’s left of their plummeting credibility.”
Worse, the SPLC does not respond to the cogent arguments against them, insisting that the “hate group” labels are defensible when they are not, and conveniently ignoring the violence directly connected to their smear tactics.