Accuracy in Media

Months from now, you’ll be reading a story about Jeff Sessions, and there will be a remark to the effect of “when he’s not off speaking to hate groups.”

And the phrase “speaking to hate groups” will have a hotlink on it. And that hotlink will take you to any number of stories that have appeared in the last day or so since Sessions gave a speech to a group known as the Alliance Defending Freedom.

The group was in the news recently because of its work in the case of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, in which the Court held the church did not lose its right to apply for a state grant to pay for an updated playground simply because it was a church.

Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Jack Phillips, the cake baker who declined to create a cake for a gay wedding and whose case the Supreme Court recently agreed to hear.

It pushed the case that forced public schools to provide equal access to after-school Bible clubs as to other organizations. And it convinced the Supreme Court to affirm an Arizona tuition tax credit program could be used for any schools parents choose, including those run by churches.

It got the court to affirm the rights of communities to restrict where sexually oriented businesses could locate. And it was the group behind the Supreme Court ruling upholding the ban on partial-birth abortions.

One can take issue with any or all these positions. But they are the positions of a Christian group, founded by preachers, that makes grants or provides pro bono attorneys to groups and individuals whose religious rights and rights to free association are threatened. They are not the positions of a hate group.

So how did this group end up in a thousand headlines proclaiming it a “hate group?” Because the Southern Poverty Law Center said so. And for the left and its handmaidens in the media, that’s all it takes.

A day before Sessions was to speak to an Alliance Defending Freedom meeting in California, the Southern Poverty Law Center put out a release that said “Attorney General Jeff Sessions reportedly will be delivering a speech to the anti-LGBT hate group Alliance Defending Freedom at 5:30 p.m. PDT today, July 11, at ADF’s Summit on Religious Liberty in California.”

Reported NBC: “Attorney General Sessions Criticized for Speaking to ‘Hate Group.’” At ABC, it read: “Jeff Sessions Addresses ‘Anti-LGBT Hate Group.’”

This is followed on the search engine listing by more than 20 radio station websites running stories they picked up from ABC, all headlined “Jeff Sessions Addresses ‘Anti-LGBT Hate Group.’”

It’s out there, and no amount of single quotes or taking it back or softening remarks will change it – Alliance Defending Freedom will always be thought of as a hate group by a fair percentage of the population that thinks about such matters at all.

But what about the hate of the group that made the list? How did it get the right to designate whose arguments are worthwhile and whose should be shunned?

The Southern Poverty Law Center was founded in part by Morris Dees, an Alabama lawyer who successfully prosecuted a variety of key civil rights cases.

Dees came up with the idea to use civil lawsuits to secure court judgments, then seize the assets of these organizations – money, land, buildings and other property – to satisfy the debts. He won a $7 million judgment for a woman in Alabama whose son was lynched, which forced the United Klans of America to sell its national headquarters and go bankrupt to pay the claim.

This whetted appetites for trying to drive political opponents out of business by tying them up in court defending frivolous lawsuits and led to laws in the District of Columbia and elsewhere to discourage such actions.

Dees went on to serve as national finance director for the presidential campaigns of George McGovern in 1972, Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Ted Kennedy, against Carter, in the 1980 Democratic primaries.

And it turns out he learned at the knee of some people who weren’t all that interested in tolerance themselves. Dees named Julian Bond to the SPLC board as one of his first acts after forming the organization. Bond was an associate of Herbert Marcuse, a German communist scholar who argued the left had to shut down the opposition’s First Amendment rights or its views would never be heard.

“Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left,” Marcuse wrote. “Not ‘equal’ but more representation of the Left would be equalization of the prevailing inequality.”

That explains the ever-more-comprehensive net the organization casts for members of its hate lists. It’s far beyond the Klan and pronounced white supremacist groups to any groups it deems to “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”

As of 2015, the Southern Poverty Law Center had identified 892 active hate groups in the U.S., up from 784 the previous year. Of those, 190 were KKK groups, 94 were neo-Nazi groups, 85 were what it calls white nationalist groups, 95 were racist skinhead groups, 19 were “Christian-identity” groups, 35 were Confederate groups, 180 were black separatist groups and 184 were classified as “general hate groups.”

Alliance Defending Freedom falls into the final category, as do Campus Ministry USA, The Center for Family and Human Rights, Conservative Republicans of Texas and the Family Research Council.

“Founded by some 30 leaders of the Christian Right, the Alliance Defending Freedom is a legal advocacy and training group that specializes in supporting the recriminalization of homosexuality abroad, ending same-sex marriage, and generally making life as difficult as possible for LGBT communities in the U.S. and internationally,” the Southern Poverty Law Center website states.

If these are the rules, then both sides should play by them. If organizations that protect American values such as the Alliance Defending Freedom are hate groups, what about, say, Planned Parenthood? Does it not “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics?”

What about Emily’s List? It definitely attacks and maligns entire classes of people based on immutable characteristics. Or the Southern Poverty Law Center itself? It seems to malign people for the immutable characteristic of being a Christian every day.

Welcome to the “General Hate Groups” category, SPLC. You earned it.

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  • Mark Landsbaum

    It’s long overdue to turn the left’s favorite weapon back on them. The SPLC is a hate group – by its own definition. It assaults Christian organizations, individuals and even churches precisely because of their religious beliefs. Until the hate mongers get a dose of their own medicine, they will continue doing their evil deeds.

    Conservatives and Christians miss the point. They let the godless left dictate the terms and language of the debate. “Hate” isn’t the issue. Like “love,” hate is given meaning by its object. If you hate something evil, you do right. If you love something perverse, you sin. Psalm 97:10 “You who love the LORD, hate evil.”

    The left has taken off the table any discussion of the merits of what is loves and hated. The emotions alone now suffice. When conservatives and Christians allow the debate to be shaped that way, they lose the moral high ground. It’s not hate or love that is the issue. It’s sin and good.

  • Tom W

    A minor point, but in title of this article, you have the name of this disreputable organization wrong. It’s “Southern Poverty Law Center,” not “Southern Policy Law Center.”

  • mioahu


  • Jonathan Vere

    It’s tempting to play the TU QUOQUE game, but I’d prefer to see the right resist the temptation to get into the same low-life rhetorical game as the left. The SPLC is a SMEAR GROUP, plain and simple, transforming political differences into something called “hate” (as if they are qualified to determine what’s in the hearts of their political opponents). It seems like this word “hate” became common in political dialogue about 30 years ago, and the left, historically expert at this game, ran with it and made it their own. Of course, given that this is the left, it’s nothing if not intellectually dishonest, but that’s what you get from a movement that coined terms like “running dog of imperialism,” “capitalist swine,” “filthy rich,” police as “pigs,” etc. We must consistently call them out for what they are.

  • Mark Landsbaum

    Not sure of the distinction you’re making. Responding in kind in this case is warranted. SPLC is a hate group. It targets Christians because of what they believe, and it hates those Christian principles. It’s not ad hominem name calling to recognize SPLC as a hate group. It’s accurate. On the broader issue of “hate,” I will say it has gotten a bad rap. The Bible tells us to hate evil. It is the object of the hate that determines whether the hate is a good thing or bad thing. SPLC hates a good thing. Therefore, its hate is evil. Christians hate sin. Therefore their hate is a good thing.

  • Maggietish

    It’s common knowledge, and also proven by their actions, that the Southern Poverty Law Center is nothing but a racist/hate group that has declared war specifically on white people. There’s no difference between them and Black Lives Matter. They fight, demean and attack anything that’s Christian and those who believe in God. They attack and literally try to stop any person of faith from practicing their faith the way they choose. The liberal/progressive politicians, mostly Democrats, support these hate groups and breed anarchy and division, not the American people, simply because they want to get reelected and they don’t care how detrimental all of this hate-mongering, which the Democrats encourage, has become destructive and detrimental to the Nation and the American people. Many of these hate groups are calling for segregation. Martin Luther King is turning over in his grave. But in reality that’s a good idea. It will work out better if the minorities live in their own communities and groups, get jobs and earn their own living, pay their own bills, pay their own housing and educational and medical expenses, pay for their own food and pay their rent and taxes. The stipulation of course would be all current Government giveaway/entitlement programs, all on the backs of working class white American taxpayers, would end. Each ethnic group must use their own money and would not get one thin dime from any other ethnic group ever.

  • Mesa Mike

    Just another one of the many Marxist front groups whose assets the government should seize while arresting the organizations’ officials for hate crimes against Americans, treason, libel, slander and legal malpractice to name just a few charges. Then concoct a Stalin show trial, hang some of the bums and ship the rest of them off to work camps in the far northern reaches of Alaska with only sandals on their feet and T-shirts on their backs. That would only be giving them what they deserve, karmic Siberia.

  • Jonathan Vere

    I’d agree with most of what you’ve written, but my point is that it has been the left who, about 30 years ago, got into the business of psychologizing political disagreement with the epithet “hate.” We don’t need to legitimize this form of rhetoric by parroting it and retorting “no, you’re the haters.” The SPLC is a smear organization, taking tidbits of truth and adding dubious links, connections, facts, etc., to create monsters out of their political opponents. I don’t need to call them a hate group. They are simply a disgusting organization who should be attacked relentlessly until they clean up their act or, preferably, close up shop.

  • Mark Landsbaum

    To refrain from calling SPLC a hate group is to surrender the playing field. If the left can preempt any criticism of itself for being bigoted, hateful, sinful and evil simply by calling its opposition those names, then we’ve surrendered the language to them. What shall we use to describe their bigotry, hate, sin and evil? Shall we call them cubumbers? This is the reason I will always resist calling homosexuals “gay.” I refuse to surrender the language to the left simply because it insists I must. SPLC is a hate group. It means the dictionary definition. So that’s what I call them.