One of the nation's leading sources of information about nonprofit organizations is receiving backlash after it labeled dozens of conservative advocacy groups, many of which advocate for traditional marriage, as "hate groups."
On Wednesday, the leaders of 41 conservative nonprofit organizations sent a letter to the president of GuideStar USA, which is considered to be the "world's largest source of information on nonprofit organizations" and a "neutral" source, outlining their concern with the fact that it is now applying "hate group" labels on the profiles of 46 different organizations on the GuideStar website.
GuideStar relies on "hate group" designations issued by the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center, which has been known to apply such negative and misleading labels to conservative groups that voice their opposition to things like same-sex marriage, abortion, immigration or radical Islam. The SPLC produces a "hate map," which shows each supposed "hate group" by state.
"The SPLC has no bona fides to make such determinations. It is not a governmental organization using a rigorous criteria to create its lists, and it is not a scientifically oriented organization. The SPLC is merely another 'progressive' political organization," the letter states. "It gained credibility attacking Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and skinheads – many of whom were engaged in violence. The SPLC is now trying to export the same tactics into areas of mainstream political discourse including debates about immigration and sexual-identity politics."
Among the groups listed as hate groups include the Family Research Council, the Center for Security Policy, the Liberty Counsel, the American College of Pediatricians, the American Freedom Defense Initiative and the Alliance Defending Freedom.
"The 'hate group' list is nothing more than a political weapon targeting people it deems to be its political enemies. The list is ad hoc, partisan, and agenda-driven. The SPLC doesn't even pretend to identify groups on the political left that engage in 'hate,'" the letter to GuideStar president Jacob Herald explains. "Mosques or Islamist groups that promote radical speech inciting anti-Semitism and actual violence are not listed by the SPLC even though many have been publicly identified after terrorist attacks. Radical, violent leftist environmentalists or speech suppressing thugs – like the Rioting "antifa" movement – receive no mention from the SPLC."
The letter also argues that the "method of ostracism and dehumanization" being used by SPLC can "foreseeably lead to violence."
In fact, the SPLC website has been associated with violent acts toward conservatives in the past.
In 2012, a gunman named Floyd Lee Corkins attacked the Family Research Council headquarters in Washington, D.C. to "kill as many as possible." Corkins was asked by federal investigators how he knew about the organization.
"Southern Poverty Law lists anti-gay groups," Corkins said in a video obtained by FRC from the FBI. "I found them online, did a little research, went to the website, stuff like that."
In an detailed overview about the history behind SPLC, Real Clear Politics notes that although SPLC's connection to Corkins' crime led to the FBI dropping SPLC as a resource for hate crime cases, "it prompted no such soul searching in academia."
In March, students at Middlebury College in Vermont violently protested when Charles Murray, a libertarian conservative American Enterprise Institute researcher and author, was scheduled to speak on campus, which ended with a hospital trip for a professor who supported his right to speak. The students cited SPLC's listing of Murray as a "white nationalist" "extremist" as a reason for protesting his free speech rights.
It should be noted that SPLC President Richard Cohen recently defended student rights to invite the likes of Murray to speak on campus without being prevented by other students or faculty "no matter how repugnant one may find a speaker's views," in a written testimony for a United States Senate committee.
It was also reported that gunman James Hodgkinson who shot up the Republican congressional baseball practice last week in Virginia and injured House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and others "liked" SPLC on Facebook. SPLC was forced to admit that fact and renounced his actions in a statement last week but explained that he was also a member of a number of anti-Republican groups like "Terminate the Republican Party."
"The SPLC continues to list on its website people such as House Majority Whip Steve Scalise who was recently shot by James T. Hodgkinson who 'liked' SPLC's Facebook page," the letter states. "Does it not concern you that within the past five years, the SPLC has been linked to gunmen who carried out two terrorist shootings in the DC area?"
The letter asserts that a biased political activist organization like SPLC should not be allowed to be "judge and jury of its opponents' character." The letter requests that GuideStar reply to their letter within one week with a reply letter sent to Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver.
A GuideStar spokesperson told the Daily Signal that it plans to change some of the language and the changes will be made in the coming days.
"GuideStar draws information from thousands of distinct sources, each of them imperfect. In aggregate, those sources help us offer a multidimensional view of nonprofits," the GuideStar spokesperson said. "However, we recognize that the SPLC data is especially controversial. We are changing the text description of this data and reconsidering where and how we present it on our website."
Leaders who signed the letter have questioned GuideStar's motivation for using SPLC "hate group" designations.
"The intent there obviously is to harm, I think, these organizations," Staver told the Daily Signal.
FRC executive vice president Jerry Boykin told the Daily Signal that he thinks GuideStar's listing of "hate group" designations is "another attack on conservative Christian organizations and individuals."
"GuideStar says that they are neutral, but they are anything but neutral," Boykins was quoted as saying. "In fact, they are, I would say at this point, they are becoming an arm of the ultra-left."