The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has long weaponized its civil rights past to demonize mainstream conservative and Christian organizations as “hate groups,” including them with the Ku Klux Klan on a list of organizations singled out for exclusion from polite society. Democrats, corporate America, Big Tech companies, and others resort to the SPLC list, blacklisting conservatives and Christians based on the far-left smear factory’s defamation.
Yet two lesser-known organizations the SPLC once branded “anti-Muslim hate groups” have secretly disappeared from the leftist group’s list. Both organizations sent the SPLC cease-and-desist letters before they mysteriously vanished from the influential blacklist.
Citizens for the St. Croix Valley
Citizens for the St. Croix Valley aims to “educate, engage, and mobilize citizens of the St. Croix Valley (Western Wisconsin and Eastern Minnesota) through grassroots efforts to affect the security, economic stability, and preservation of the Constitutional republic form of government.” The SPLC first accused the organization of being an “anti-Muslim hate group in 2018 when it released its 2017 list of “hate groups.” The SPLC’s 2018 list, released in 2019, still included Citizens for the St. Croix Valley. Yet the 2019 list, released this past March, no longer includes this notorious “anti-Muslim hate group.”
“We recently discovered that our group, Citizens for the St. Croix Valley, has been taken off the SPLC Hate Map,” Darla Meyers, co-founder of the organization, told PJ Media. “Why? We don’t know. We’ve left inquiries with the SPLC, with no one returning our call.”
The SPLC did not respond to PJ Media’s request for comment, either.
“We sent a Cease and Desist [letter] in July 2018 to the SPLC and received a response,” Meyers noted. “After that, none of us thought to keep checking the SPLC website, which has changed since all the staffing changes. Someone with a fresh brain discovered we were no longer listed.”
Last March, the SPLC fired its co-founder, Morris Dees, amid a decades-long sexual harassment and racial discrimination scandal. The president of the organization also resigned, and the SPLC announced an internal review, the results of which have not yet been released. Amid the scandal, former employees confessed to having been part of the “con,” exaggerating hate to bilk donors.
Meyers shared the cease-and-desist letter, along with the SPLC’s response, with PJ Media.
“Under Wisconsin and Alabama law, it is unlawful to engage in defamation of another’s character and reputation. Defamation consists of (1) a statement that tends to injure reputation; (2) communicated to another; and (3) that the speaker knew or should have known was false,” the letter warns. “Your defamatory statements involved the ‘anti-Muslim’, ‘hate group’ and ‘hate map’ designations” as appeared in local news articles citing the SPLC.
“The ‘anti-Muslim’ and ‘hate group’ designations are false and defamatory,” the letter alleges. It references the attempted terrorist attack against the Family Research Council (FRC) in Washington, D.C., in 2012. The letter, quoting a PJ Media report about defamation claims against the SPLC, notes that “a terrorist broke into FRC with a semi-automatic pistol, aiming to kill everyone in the building. In later FBI testimony, he admitted to targeting FRC because it was on the SPLC’s ‘hate map,’ and that he intended to shoot up other organizations once he finished there.”
“The Citizens for the St. Croix Valley have received disturbing correspondence from anonymous sources. In addition, people have unsubscribed from our communications, some of whom have been donors in the past and may have been donors for the future,” the letter notes.
“If you do not comply with this Cease and Desist Demand within 10 calendar days of receipt of this Cease and Desist Demand, the Citizens for the St. Croix Valley are entitled to seek monetary damages and equitable relief for your defamation. In the event you fail to meet this demand, please be advised that the Citizens for the St. Croix Valley may pursue all available legal remedies, including seeking monetary damages, injunctive relief, and an order that you pay court costs and attorney’s fees. Your liability and exposure under such legal action could be considerable,” the letter warns.
The SPLC responded to the cease-and-desist letter, standing by the “anti-Muslim hate group” accusation. “The SPLC’s opinion that Citizens for the St. Croix Valley (CSCV) should be listed on its Hate Map is entitled to First Amendment protection and is not defamatory,” the response letter argues. It cites Meyers’ warnings about radical Muslims engaging in “civilization Jihad” and also faults CSCV for promoting “a number of anti-Muslim speakers associated with various anti-Muslim hate groups,” specifically mentioning women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Despite this firm defense of the “anti-Muslim hate group” accusation, the SPLC secretly removed CSCV from the “hate group” list in 2020.
The American Constitution Center
CSCV is not the only organization to mysteriously disappear from the SPLC “hate group” list following a cease-and-desist letter. The 2016 “hate group” list included the American Constitution Center in Nashville, Tenn., as an “anti-Muslim hate group.”
Louie E. Johnston Jr. noted, “My American Constitution Center.org was removed from their list after I sent them a letter demanding removal or face my lawsuit. This was around 2017 as well.”
Indeed, the 2018 “hate group” list did not include the American Constitution Center, and neither did the 2019 list.
According to its website, the American Constitution Center aims “to restore Americans to the system of fundamental principles, values and virtues our Founding Fathers wove into our indestructible national fabric.” Its website promotes historical documents like the Magna Carta, the Geneva Bible, and, of course, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
Legal threats have not often convinced the SPLC to remove organizations from its “hate group” list, however. Conservative groups the SPLC condemns as “hate groups” have gone to court over the accusations, including the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), D. James Kennedy Ministries, the American Freedom Law Center, and Proud Boys Founder Gavin McInnes. The SPLC has not removed these more high-profile organizations from its list.
However, the stories of Citizens of the St. Croix Valley and the American Constitution Center do suggest that cease-and-desist letters may have some impact in convincing the SPLC to rescind its attacks on less prominent organizations.
The SPLC also faces defamation lawsuits from 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.
SPLC’s troubled history of ‘anti-Muslim’ smears
Early this month, a coalition of 100 Orthodox Jewish rabbis sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, warning him not to rely on the SPLC’s “hate group” accusations (Amazon’s charity platform, AmazonSmile, excludes organizations on the SPLC list). In particular, the rabbis claimed that “the SPLC ‘hate map’ is uniquely detrimental and even dangerous to the Jewish community” because it overlooks “groups which ally with international terror organizations, openly glorify murder under the guise of ‘resistance,’ and frequently descend into clearly anti-Semitic expression.”
“The SPLC specifically avoids identifying radical Islamic groups as the leading source of modern-day anti-Semitic violence,” the rabbis charged. Indeed, when the SPLC attacked Holocaust denial in 2018, the far-left group failed to mention the fact that anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are widespread in the Muslim world. The SPLC’s article even went on to warn that Holocaust denial poses a threat to Muslims.
The rabbis also noted that the SPLC partners with the Council on American-Islamic Relations CAIR), which conspired to provide material support to Hamas, “an internationally-recognized terrorist group with beliefs rooted in radical Islam and genocidal anti-Semitism written into its charter.”
While the SPLC covers for groups like CAIR, it “falsely stamps numerous groups as ‘anti-Muslim’ and hateful because they call attention to the dangers of Islamic terrorism — even including those whose founders or family members thereof have been directly victimized by that same Islamic terror.”
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 rabbis said this situation “would be comical, were the consequences not so deadly serious.”
The SPLC’s attacks against Nawaz, a practicing Muslim who warns against radical Islam, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Muslim who experienced torture at the hands of Middle Eastern Muslims, should alert Americans to just how despicable this far-left smear factory is.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.