On Prime Day, Muslim Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) — the runner-up in the race to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) — sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos demanding that Amazon.com stop selling products from organizations marked as “hate groups” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). He likely intended to call for the removal of KKK and Neo-Nazi products, but his letter also effectively demanded the banning of books published by many Christian organizations the SPLC falsely labels “hateful.”
Nonprofits have identified Neo-Nazi products on sale at Amazon, but they also drew attention to Christian literature available on the site, lumping in mainstream Christian tracts as “hateful” along with KKK baby onesies and backpacks with Neo-Nazi symbols. Ellison uncritically cited this report, and demanded that Amazon remove all “hate group” products.
“I am writing to you with my concerns about the amount of money Amazon has made from the sale of literature and music published by entities identified as ‘hate groups’ by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC),” Ellison wrote to Bezos. “I would like to know whether Amazon is committed to ceasing the sale of all products that promote hateful and racist ideologies.”
Ellison has cause to be concerned. Amazon has indeed sold products with KKK and Neo-Nazi images, despite the company’s pledge to prohibit the sale of “products that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual, or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views.”
In “Delivering Hate: How Amazon’s Platforms Are Used to Spread White Supremacy, Anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia and How Amazon Can Stop It,” the Action Center on Race & the Economy (ACRE) and the Partnership for Working Families (PWF) reported the availability of various products that seem to violate Amazon’s policy.
ACRE and PWF found that Amazon sold kid’s backpacks with Neo-Nazi symbols, a swastika necklace, baby onesies sporting a KKK-style burning cross, products with the Confederate Battle Flag of Northern Virginia — which the company banned in 2015 — and more.
Some of these findings were more debatable than others, however. The report also drew attention to Chick Publications, a company that publishes Christian gospel tracts. The SPLC has branded Chick Publications a “hate group” because its gospel tracts argue that atheism, Islam, Mormonism, and Roman Catholicism are wrong while evangelical Christianity presents the only way to get to heaven.
Sorry, but most religions are exclusive and believe other religions are false. This does not make them “hate groups.”
In his letter, Ellison directly cited the “Delivering Hate” report. He wrote, “I am disturbed that Amazon would make racist and hateful products for children available on its platform.”
“I am alarmed that hate groups can make money by selling propaganda on Amazon, and that Amazon is able to profit from these transactions,” Ellison declared.
While Ellison’s concerns — and those of the “Delivering Hate” report — about KKK, Neo-Nazi, and white supremacist products may be laudable, both Ellison and the report uncritically adopted the SPLC’s dangerous “hate group” designations.
The Democratic congressman asked Amazon, “How much money has Kindle Direct Publishing made from the sale of materials published by SPLC-identified hate groups since 2015?” He further demanded, “Will Amazon stop publishing physical and digital materials from SPLC-identified hate groups in the next three months?”
The danger of these demands is illustrated by the “Delivering Hate” report’s attacks on Chick Publications. The SPLC has branded a great deal of mainstream Christian organizations “hate groups,” mostly because of their biblical stances against same-sex marriage.
Notorious “hate groups” include: the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian legal nonprofit that has won 8 Supreme Court cases in 7 years; the Ruth Institute, a pro-family Roman Catholic nonprofit the SPLC branded “hateful” because it holds to the prohibition of homosexual activity in the Catechism of the Catholic Church; D. James Kennedy Ministries, an organization dedicated to keeping Christian sermons on the radio; and more.
Recently, the leftist smear factory paid $3.375 million to Maajid Nawaz, a Muslim reformer the group had defamed as an “anti-Muslim extremist.” In defense of this ridiculous claim, the SPLC swapped out different explanations, at one point calling Nawaz “anti-Muslim” because he went to a strip club for his bachelor party.
Similar embarrassing mistakes included the SPLC attacking Ben Carson, the SPLC marking the innocent town Amana Colonies on its “hate map,” and targeting “Stonewall Elementary School” — literally named after a stone wall, not “Stonewall Jackson” — on its Confederate monument map warning of “turmoil and bloodshed.”
Worst by far is the organization’s continued insistence that the Family Research Council (FRC), a small Christian nonprofit in Washington, D.C., still belongs on the “hate group” list. SPLC President Richard Cohen doubled down on this claim, using false arguments, last week.
In 2012, a terrorist attempted to shoot everyone in FRC’s D.C. headquarters, and he later confessed to the FBI that he chose to target FRC because of the SPLC’s “hate map.”
Ellison may think his letter is merely a demand for Amazon to remove KKK and Neo-Nazi children’s items, but by citing the SPLC he has destroyed any credibility in this attack. Amazon has taken down many of the Neo-Nazi and KKK products reported in “Delivering Hate,” but SPLC “hate groups” have tons of products available on Amazon.
There are at least 229 results for “books” by Jack Chick, founder of Chick Publications. A book by the Ruth Institute’s Jennifer Roback Morse is available on Amazon. There are 93 books by the Family Research Council, and two by its president, Tony Perkins. Mat Staver, founder and chairman of the Christian legal “hate group” Liberty Counsel, appears in a film — “Pastors, Pulpits, and Politics: Christian Rules of Engagement” — with Tony Perkins that is available on Amazon.
Were Amazon to remove all the publications from SPLC-identified “hate groups,” as Ellison suggests, that would amount to viewpoint discrimination of the highest order. Amazon is already facing a lawsuit from D. James Kennedy Ministries over denial of access to its nonprofit fundraising arm, Amazon Smile.
In the wake of the SPLC’s apology to Maajid Nawaz, Mat Staver told PJ Media that no less than 60 organizations were considering suing the SPLC for defamation. With Alliance Defending Freedom’s Supreme Court track record, Ellison, Amazon, and the SPLC had better tread carefully. “Hate” is not nearly as clear cut as their reckless attacks would suggest.