Amazon bans Family Research Council from AmazonSmile program

Amazon, the second-largest U.S. based corporate employer in the world, lays off several hundreds of employees.
Amazon, the second-largest U.S. based corporate employer in the world, lays off several hundreds of employees. | Reuters/Charles Patiau

Amazon has banned another conservative nonprofit from its AmazonSmile program, which allows customers to choose a charity to receive proceeds from their purchases.

The tech giant's decision to ban the Family Research Council was reportedly based on recommendations from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the program's gatekeeper, which frequently labels conservative and Christian organizations as "hate groups." 

"While Amazon customers can use the AmazonSmile program to donate a portion of each purchase to left-leaning organizations like Planned Parenthood, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and the Center for American Progress (and to be fair, to many right-leaning organizations, too), Amazon has decided to single out a few well-known conservative organizations like FRC and ADF from receiving part of the tens of millions of dollars the program raises each year from customers," Kay Coles James, president of The Heritage Foundation, wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Times.

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The Scottsdale, Arizona-based Christian legal firm Alliance Defending Freedom was banned in 2018 after SPLC labeled it as a hate group due to its biblical views on sexuality.

"The SPLC itself is a completely discredited organization," James wrote. "It bills itself as being on the front lines in the fight against racial inequality and injustice, yet last year its own staffers accused its leadership of years of racial and gender discrimination and of widespread sexual harassment. Whistleblowers said that the organization had a 'systemic culture of racism and sexism within its workplace.' As a result, its co-founder and president were both forced out."

She added, "The people at the SPLC certainly have a right to disagree with these groups' policy positions; but it's unconscionable that they would label decent people as hateful and consider them on equal footing with neo-Nazis and the Klan."

At "the urging of Amazon's board of directors," shareholders recently defeated a resolution that would have ended the use of the SPLC's defamatory list, James pointed out.

After the ADF was banned from participating in the AmazonSmile program in 2018, its President and CEO Michael Farris sent a letter to Amazon to protest its decision. In the letter, he argued that the company should refrain from using the SPLC to make decisions on what groups can and cannot be eligible for AmazonSmile.

"Although the SPLC did good work many years ago, it has devolved into a far-left propaganda machine that slanders organizations with which it disagrees and destroys the possibility of civil discourse in the process," wrote Farris at the time. "The group has been discredited by investigative journalists and charity watchdogs as a 'direct mail scam' that has seen its leaders amass enormous fortunes. It is no surprise that the United States Department of Defense and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have severed ties with the SPLC."

In 2017, Amazon also banned D. James Kennedy Ministries from participating in the AmazonSmile program after it, too, was labeled as a "hate group" by the SPLC. In response, the Christian ministry filed a defamation lawsuit against Amazon and the SPLC.

Critics of the SPLC have also accused it of inciting violence against conservative individuals and organizations, linking it to the 2012 shooting at the Family Research Council and student protests against Charles Murray at Middlebury College in 2018.

After the shooting at FRC's headquarters eight years ago, the assailant, Floyd Lee Corkins II, said he was incited by the SPLC's list of "anti-gay" organizations which included the FRC, and told FBI agents after the attack that he wanted to "make a statement against people [who worked at FRC]."

At the time, the SPLC issued a statement saying, "We have argued consistently that violence is no answer to problems in a democratic society, and we have strongly criticized all those who endorse such violence, whether on the political left or the political right," the SPLC stated in 2012.

Robert Netzly, CEO of Inspire Investing, expressed concerns in an op-ed piece for The Christian Post that Amazon isn't living up to its commitment to viewpoint diversity. 

"Amazon has taken great pains to portray themselves as champions of diversity, and have made public statements about their supposed commitment to respecting diverse viewpoints," Netzly asserted. "For example, their website proclaims that 'diversity and inclusion are good for business — and more fundamentally — simply right.'"

Netzly added, "This begs the question, if Amazon is such a believer in diversity, why would its board recommend that shareholders vote against a resolution that would provide 'a full evaluation of viewpoint bias and associated risks to ensure that Amazon is making balanced decisions and that it is acting consistent with its commitment to diversity?'"

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