(Photo: The Christian Post)
A group of pro-family Christian and Jewish leaders – including many African-American pastors – plan to rally outside the offices of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., Tuesday to protest the SPLC’s labeling of organizations, many of them faith-based, as "hate groups" due to their opposition to homosexuality and pro-gay agendas.
The SPLC categorizes "hate groups" as any organization in the nation that has "beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics."
The group of religious leaders believes the SPLC has wrongly applied that label to themselves and other members of the faith community.
Dr. Patrick Wooden, pastor at the Upper Room Church of God in Christ in Raleigh, N.C., said calling pro-family groups "hate groups" is a casualty of the politically correct culture and unfairly penalizes organizations for their religious beliefs.
"Although I have deep respect for the time honored work of the SPLC," Wooden told The Christian Post, "there is a line that needs to be drawn between groups like the KKK and skinheads, and groups who simply believe in the biblical model of marriage, and believe that you're able to disagree with homosexuals and lesbians on this issue and not somehow be labeled a 'hate group' as a result of that disagreement."
Wooden is one of many African-American pastors who will be at the rally Tuesday afternoon, which will also feature a press conference. Wooden and his peers are also upset that the SPLC seems to liken the civil rights movement for racial equality to the gay rights movement of today.
"It's an insult to me to say a deviant sexual behavior is similar to being black," Wooden said. "We've never given minority status to someone based on who they have sex with."
Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, initiated the congress of religious leaders and says the SPLC is relying on reputation to push forward its gay rights agenda.
"[Black pastors are] there to show it’s not a civil rights issue," LaBarbera told CP. "SPLC was right to label [the] Ku Klux Klan, but they were wrong to include Christian groups and they're destroying they're own credibility."
SPLC spokesperson Heidi Beirich referred to a statement issued yesterday suggesting that LaBarbera asked black pastors to accompany the group at the conference as "a presumed bid to embarrass the SPLC."
Beirich told CP that the SPLC is correct to liken AFTAH and other groups that disagree with pro-homosexual activists to the typical litany of hate groups because they "lie" and "say nasty things" about the LGBT community.
"From our perspective, this kind of defamation is just as heinous as some of those organizations [KKK, Skinheads, etc.]," Beirich said. "Gays and lesbians are victims of hate crimes way out of proportion. When you go about lying about a population, it tends to result in violence. You're vilifying a group and defaming them."
LaBarbera said even though he believes the SPLC’s judgment of his group and others is incorrect, the impact of SPLC's "hate list" has major repercussions for his pro-family agenda.
Both LaBarbera and Wooden say the modern instant media culture amplifies decisions by influential groups like SPLC, and their damning definitions are often taken as truth by media outlets and members of the general public who may not read beyond the headlines.
"They [SPLC] are trying to minimize the influence of the groups that they hate, and they know this is the way to do it because most of the media is liberal and so the media doesn't hold SPLC accountable," LaBarbera said. "Once you get called a 'hate group' … it has a huge cascading effect."
"It seems the homosexual and lesbian community," Wooden added, "to disagree with them, all of a sudden now makes you a Klansmen or a racist or bigot or someone who has some type of phobia."
Other inviduals to be in attendance at the protest include:
DL Foster, founder, Gay Christian Movement Watch, Atlanta, Ga;
Matt Barber, Director of Cultural Affairs, Liberty Counsel, Lynchburg, Va;
Tim Johnson, Fredrick Douglass Foundation, Washington, D.C.;
Rachel Conner, representing Abiding Truth Ministries
Pastor Glen Sawyer, New Mt. Zion Church of God in Christ, Elizabeth City, N.C.
Pastor Wil Nichols, Victorious Praise Fellowship COGIC, Durham, N.C.
Pastor Jon Robinson, Kingdom C.O.M.E. Ministries, Clairton, Pa.
Pastor Kenneth Jefferson, Greater Harvest COGIC
The SPLC does not plan to address the protesters at the Tuesday press conference outside their headquarters, according to the organization's spokesperson.
However, the SPLC did address the planned press conference and protest in a blog post Tuesday morning, calling the interfaith group "the nastiest gay-bashers in America."
In the blog post, the nonprofit organization writes: "Claiming that the SPLC is engaged in a 'campaign to demonize adherents of traditional Judeo-Christian morality,' the white organizers of the press conference are bringing along a set of black pastors in a presumed bid to embarrass the SPLC, a 40-year-old anti-racist civil rights organization."
Some of the faith-based groups the SPLC has targeted as "hate groups" include: the American Family Association, which describes itself as a "pro-family action site [that] promotes traditional family values;" Truth in Action Ministries (formerly Coral Ridge Ministries), which works "to introduce people to Christ, nurture and encourage Christians, and reform cultures;" and the Family Research Council, a "Christian organization promoting the traditional family unit and the Judeo-Christian value system upon which it is built."
The protest is scheduled to take place 1 p.m. ET at 400 Washington Avenue, in Montgomery, Ala.