Using SPLC 'Hate' Research Makes One 'Complicit' in 'Harmful Defamation,' Says Open Letter by 47 Groups

The headquarters of the Montgomery, Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center.
The headquarters of the Montgomery, Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center. | (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Southern Poverty Law Center should not be used for research as it practices "harmful defamation" and using them as a source makes one "complicit" in said defamation, according to an open letter signed by 47 conservative groups.

Addressed to government agencies, news organizations, and other entities and released Wednesday, the open letter argues that the SPLC "has maligned, defamed and otherwise harmed" dozens of groups due to ideological differences.

"Editors, CEOs, shareholders and consumers alike are on notice: anyone relying upon and repeating its misrepresentations is complicit in the SPLC's harmful defamation of large numbers of American citizens who, like the undersigned, have been vilified simply for working to protect our country and freedoms.

"With this significant piece of evidence in mind, we call on government agencies, journalists, corporations, social media providers and web platforms (i.e., Google, Twitter, YouTube and Amazon) that have relied upon this discredited organization to dissociate themselves from the Southern Poverty Law Center and its ongoing effort to defame and vilify mainstream conservative organizations."

The letter was signed by several conservative leaders, including Wallbuilders Founder Dave Barton, American Family Association President Tim Wildmon, ACT for America Chairman Bridgette Gabriel, American Values President Gary Bauer, PragerU CEO Marissa Streit, and Family Research Council Executive Vice President Jerry Boykin, among others.

In recent years, the SPLC has garnered controversy for labeling several conservative organizations as "hate groups" and various activists as "extremists."

SPLC's rhetoric has been linked to violence. In 2012, a gay rights activist inspired by the SPLC's "hate map" attempted to commit a mass shooting at the FRC's Washington, D.C., headquarters.

In March 2017, protesters violently disrupted an event featuring conservative intellectual Charles Murray ay Middlebury College, again citing the SPLC as their source.

For its part, the SPLC has on multiple occasions denounced the usage of violence against groups they have labeled hateful.

"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," stated the liberal group in 2012 after the FRC shooting.

The open letter came in response to a settlement reached between the SPLC and Maaijd Nawaz of the Quilliam Foundation, in which the SPLC paid Nawaz approximately $3.3 million and officially apologized for labeling him hateful.

In 2016, the SPLC decided to label multiple atheist critics of Islam hateful, among them being Nawaz of the Quilliam Foundation and Somali-born human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who suffered female genital mutilation.

SPLC branded Nawaz as a former radical who used his experience to "savage Islam," accusing him of fabricating parts of his past in order to present Islam in a negative light.

In a statement released Monday, SPLC explained that they changed their position "after getting a deeper understanding of [Nawaz and Quilliam's] views and after hearing from others for whom we have great respect."

"Although we may have our differences with some of the positions that Mr. Nawaz and Quilliam have taken, we recognize that they have made important contributions to efforts to promote pluralism and that they are most certainly not anti-Muslim extremists," stated the SPLC.

"In addition to apologizing to Mr. Nawaz and Quilliam, we offer our sincerest apology to our supporters and all those who depend on our work. We pride ourselves on the accuracy of our reports and, although we know we are not perfect, it pains us greatly whenever we make a mistake."

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