The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., insisted Thursday that the organization is still in a relationship with the Federal Bureau of Investigations after the Bureau recently scrubbed it as a resource from its hate crimes website.
Several Christian groups had complained about the relationship labelling it "inappropriate" last month pointing out the SPLC's link to domestic terrorism and erroneous research.
Up until at least Feb. 10, the FBI promoted the SPLC, which produces a controversial list of "hate groups" many of which are mainstream Christian groups, as a resource for hate crimes across the United States.
On Wednesday, the Washington Times reported that the Bureau had removed the SPLC as a hate crimes resource, but did not give a reason for it.
When contacted by The Christian Post on Thursday, the FBI said they removed the SPLC because it isn't a federal entity.
"Upon review, the civil rights program only provides links to resources within the federal government. While we appreciate the tremendous support we receive from a variety of organizations, we have elected not to identify those groups on the civil rights page," said Christopher Allen of the FBI's Office of Public Affairs in an email response to CP about the move.
When asked why the decision was made to have the SPLC listed as a resource in the first place, and if that decision was a mistake, he declined further comment.
"I don't have anything to add. Sorry," he said.
No mention was made of a Feb. 10 letter signed by the Family Research Council and 14 other Christian organizations addressed to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI director James B. Comey criticizing the relationship between the FBI and the SPLC.
"It is completely inappropriate for the Department of Justice to recommend public reliance on the SPLC hate group lists and data. The links to the SPLC as a FBI 'resource' must be taken down immediately, leaving only official, trustworthy sources listed on the agency's webpage. Furthermore, we urge FBI leadership to end any current 'partnership' with the SPLC in public outreach given the SPLC's erroneous data and offensive mischaracterizations of groups such as FRC, AFA and TVC," said the letter.
Prior to that request, the letter highlighted inaccurate research promoted by the SPLC and argued that it was also erroneously labeled Christian groups as hate groups simply because they oppose same-sex marriage.
"The SPLC is a heavily politicized organization producing biased and inaccurate data on 'hate groups' – not hate crimes," charged the Christian organizations before pointing to the SPLC's flawed hate crimes research.
"Many organizations have been tagged with the 'hate group' label because they are ardent defenders of marriage and sexuality as defined in the Hebrew and Christian Bible. We may disagree on how marriage should be defined, but there must be some recognition that reasonable people can approach this subject thoughtfully and passionately and come to different conclusions," the letter continued.
Reacting to the news of the removal of the SPLC as a resource on the FBI's hate crimes page the FRC's Executive Vice President Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin called the SPLC's data "dangerous" on Thursday.
"What we have been concerned about is that the FBI had provided links to the SPLC website as though it were an authentic source," said Boykin.
"The SPLC's history with the FBI is undeniable and can be found on the FBI website. The fact that there are no longer links to the SPLC website is exactly what we asked for in our correspondence with the FBI. The SPLC's link to domestic terrorism was established in federal court and can also be found with just a little research. This is not about history, but about using SPLC's data which is specious and dangerous," he said.
CP reached out to the SPLC for comment on the FBI's decision to remove them as a resource Thursday and Heidi Beirich, director of the organization's Intelligence Project, indicated that although the FBI no longer promotes the SPLC as a resource on the hate crimes page, they are still very much in a relationship.
"You may want to take a look at these pages," she said.
On its 'Hate Crime – Overview' page, the FBI notes:
Public Outreach: The FBI has forged partnerships nationally and locally with many civil rights organizations to establish rapport, share information, address concerns, and cooperate in solving problems. These groups include such organizations as the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, the National Organization for Women, the Human Rights Campaign, and the National Disability Rights Network.
The organization is also listed as a partner on African American Outreach.
Beirich did not respond, however, to questions on whether or not the FBI had informed the SPLC of its decision to stop listing them as a resource on the main hate crimes page.
The Anti-Defamation League, which was also removed as a resource along with SPLC, told CP that they were not told about the website changes and were "shocked" and "disappointed" by the change.
"We are shocked, surprised and disappointed that this would be done without any consultation with groups such as ours who have been working closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation on issues of hate crime. We look forward to having further conversations with them on this issue," said national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham H. Foxman.
Read the complete letter sent by Christian organizations on Feb. 10 to the FBI and DOJ about the SPLC below.