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Black Christians: SPLC Using Martin Luther King to Fundraise Is a 'Slap In the Face'

Martin Luther King speaks with fist raised.

On Tuesday, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an anti-Christian smear factory that accuses conservative and Christian organizations of being "hate groups" like the Ku Klux Klan, used civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr. in a fundraising email — for its efforts against "hate and extremism." Black leaders condemned this subversion of King's image and his battle for civil rights.

"To use Martin Luther King's struggle and try to equate it with that is wrong," Derrick Hollie, president of Reaching America (a group focused on issues central to the black community) and a member of the black leadership group Project 21, told PJ Media. He said that the SPLC using King's image against black Christians is "a slap in the face." When LGBT activists abuse King for their own purposes, "they're sullying his name and what he stood for."

"You're being demonized now for being a Christian and for having Christian views," Hollie insisted. He argued that only white liberal groups are doing this, however, "because blacks are so rooted in the church. You're not going to take God away from us. That was all black people had to look forward to and pray to in the dark days of slavery and segregation."

Indeed, the SPLC has recently come under fire for longstanding complaints of racial discrimination against black people and sexual assault against women. The group fired its co-founder, its president stepped aside, and prominent board members vanished from the website. The SPLC is currently undergoing an internal review, but it seems unlikely it will abandon the "hate group" accusations, even though they have been outed as a fundraising scheme and have encouraged many lawsuits.

The SPLC gained a powerful reputation on civil rights by bringing the Ku Klux Klan to court, but in recent decades it has falsely accused conservative and Christian groups of being "hate groups." In fact, the smear group cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church in branding the Ruth Institute a "hate group." Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a falsely accused "hate group," has won nine Supreme Court cases in the last eight years, and even ADF's ideological opponents have condemned the SPLC's false accusation.

Many of these groups have been branded "anti-LGBT hate groups" for their Christian beliefs that sex should be reserved for marriage between one man and one woman. In fact, Martin Luther King Jr. himself held to this view. So effectively, the SPLC was using King's legacy to fundraise in order to condemn King's own beliefs as hateful.

Specifically, the SPLC has long condemned and fought against alleged "conversion therapy," attempts to change a person's sexual orientation. People with same-sex attraction have been horrifically abused in such efforts by Christians and non-Christians. Yet many Christian and Jewish psychotherapists today use mainstream techniques to diagnose pathologies that may lie behind homosexual desire. The SPLC opposes these, falsely equating them with horrific practices like shock therapy.

King's only recorded statement on homosexuality supports the kind of psychotherapy that the SPLC demonizes. In his Ebony magazine column "Advice for Living," King addressed the struggles of a young boy who said, "I feel about boys the way I ought to feel about girls."

"Your problem is not at all an uncommon one. However, it does require careful attention," King wrote. "The type of feeling that you have toward boys is probably not an innate tendency, but something that has been culturally acquired. Your reasons for adopting this habit have now been consciously suppressed or unconsciously repressed."

The civil rights hero advised the young man, "Therefore, it is necessary to deal with this problem by getting back to some of the experiences and circumstances that lead to the habit. In order to do this I would suggest that you see a good psychiatrist who can assist you in bringing to the forefront of conscience all of those experiences and circumstances that lead to the habit. You are already on the right road toward a solution, since you honestly recognize the problem and have a desire to solve it."

If King delivered this advice today, the SPLC would likely brand his organization a "hate group." Yet on Tuesday, the far-left smear group used King's image to raise money — for its efforts against "hate" and for its efforts for "LGBT rights."

"It is ironic that the SPLC has no qualms using a famous Christian after their history of attacking Christians," George Yancey, a black sociology professor and co-author of the book So Many Christians, So Few Lions: Is There Christianophobia in the United States?, told PJ Media. His research shows that animus against conservative Christians — Christianophobia — is alive and influential in certain liberal circles.

While the SPLC's use of King is ironic, at the same time the professor said "it is not surprising. They have played on King's legacy for years."

"By and large the African-American community has allowed them to do it," Yancey lamented. "Until Christians of color hold them accountable, they will continue to engage in such actions."

Like Hollie, Yancey argued that the SPLC does not represent the interests of black people, but rather white liberals. "I will say that the SPLC is an organization designed to meet the interests of white progressives more than to meet the interest of racial minorities," he argued. "The literature on Christianophobia shows that this type of bigotry is more prevalent among white progressives than among other groups."

"Clearly, they do traffic in Christianophobia," Yancey concluded.

For his part, Hollie insisted that the black community is not nearly as pro-LGBT as groups like the SPLC seem to think. After all, even Barack Obama campaigned on marriage as between one man and one woman in 2008.

Hollie also insisted that it is possible to disagree with the lifestyle while treating LGBT people with respect, much the same way as Christian organizations falsely accused as "hate groups" do.

"I oppose the lifestyle, but I'm certainly not calling for any kind of violence or harm to be brought on anyone," the Reaching America president said. "If that's the lifestyle that they choose, so be it. But don't compare your struggles to civil rights."

Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.