The left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center has hundreds of millions of dollars banked, but the $3.4 million it paid for labeling a Muslim and his group "extremist" has motivated dozens of other groups targeted by SPLC to consider legal action.
The leaders of 47 organizations that have been designated as "hate groups" by SPLC, mostly for their stances on marriage and Islamic jihad, issued a warning to media and companies that use SPLC's assessments to judge them.
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"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," they wrote.
The statement was posted by the Family Research Council, which was the target five years ago of a domestic terrorist who relied on SPLC's assessment.
SPLC this week issued an apology and paid $3.375 million to Maajid Nawaz and his Quilliam Foundation for listing them on in its "Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists."
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Get the Whistleblower magazine's revelations about SPLC in "The Hate Racket," the story of how one group fools government into equating Christians and conservatives with Klansmen and Nazis – and rakes in millions doing it.
Mat Staver, chairman of one of the 47 groups, Liberty Counsel, said "a number of organizations have been considering filing lawsuits against the SPLC because they have been doing to a lot of organizations exactly what they did to Maajid Nawaz."
The letter posted by FRC said the undersigned "are among the organizations, groups and individuals that the Southern Poverty Law Center has maligned, defamed and otherwise harmed by falsely describing as 'haters,' 'bigots,' 'Islamophobes' and/or other groundless epithets."
"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," the statement said.
"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."
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Signers included Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin of the FRC, Tom DeWeese of the American Policy Center, William Becker of Freedom X Law, Peter Friedman, a California author, Jennifer Morse of The Ruth Institute, Elaine Willman of Resources Services, Brian Camenker of MassResistance, Christopher Doyle of the National Task Force for Therapy Equality, Bill Warner of the Center for the Study of Political Islam, Philip Haney, Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, Tom Trento of The United West, Christopher Hull of the Center for Security Policy, Pamela Geller of AFDI, Clare Lopez of the Center for Security Policy, David Smith of Illinois Family Institute and Cathy Hinners of Dailyrollcoll.com.
Others were George Rasley of ConservativeHQ.com, David Barton of WallBuilders, Tim Barton of WallBuilders, Jim Simpson, Louie Johnston Jr. of American Constitution Center, filmmaker Trevor Loudon, Shahram Hadian of the TIL Project, Michal Cook of MercatorNet, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, Eunie Smith of Eagle Forum, Austin Ruse of C-FAM, Trayce Bradford of Texas Eagle Forum, Tim Wildmon of American Family Association, Marissa Streit of PragerU, Michael Farris of Alliance Defending Freedom, Karen Siegemund of American Ffreedom Alliance, Jessie Duff of the Center for Policy Research, Ken Cuccinelli, former Virginia attorney general, Tom Barton, Brigitte Gabriel, Act for America, Peggy Dau, J. Christian Adams of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, C. Preston Noell III of Tradition, Family, Property, Martin Mawyer of Christian Action Network, Janet Porter of Faith2Action, Rick Manning of Americans for Limited Government, Sandy Rios of AFR Talk Radio, Gary Bauer of American Values, Frank Wright of D. James Kennedy Ministries and Dale Wilcox of Immigration Reform Law Institute.
Representatives of FRC, the Ruth Institute and Alliance Defending Freedom already have confirmed to PJ Media they were considering "legal options."
Some legal work already is under way, although it doesn't name SPLC directly. Liberty Counsel sued GuideStar, a charity reporting site, for using SPLC's "hate" labels on its pages.
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As WND reported, SPLC President Richard Cohen in the apology required by the settlement that SPLC "was wrong to include Maajid Nawaz and the Quilliam Foundation in our Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists."
"Since we published the Field Guide, we have taken the time to do more research and have consulted with human rights advocates we respect," he said. "We've found that Mr. Nawaz and Quilliam have made valuable and important contributions to public discourse, including by promoting pluralism and condemning both anti-Muslim bigotry and Islamist extremism.
"Although we may have our differences with some of the positions that Mr. Nawaz and Quilliam have taken, they are most certainly not anti-Muslim extremists. We would like to extend our sincerest apologies to Mr. Nawaz, Quilliam, and our readers for the error, and we wish Mr. Nawaz and Quilliam all the best."
SPLC's agenda also has been criticized as "incredible" by Rev. Franklin Graham, CEO and president of both Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
"A hate group? Can you believe this – the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., has labeled a number of Christian groups such as D. James Kennedy Ministries, and the Family Research Council run by my good friend Tony Perkins as 'hate' groups. Why?" he wrote on a Facebook post.
WND has reported in recent weeks the reliance of Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and others web giants on SPLC for its assessment of conservative groups.
Several organizations, the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Religious Freedom Coalition, have been ejected from the AmazonSmile promotional campaign because SPLC doesn't accept their right to hold beliefs different from the leftist group.
Another recent failure for SPLC was an agreement by the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission to pay a $100,000 penalty to lawyers for state Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker, who was investigated at the insistence of SPLC for his criticism of same-sex marriage.
SPLC targeted remarks Parker made several years ago in a radio interview that made no mention of any current cases. Parker is seeking the office of chief justice for the court.
The JIC, instead of tossing the complaint as frivolous, conducted a year-long investigation.
But according to a settlement agreement approved in federal court, the state organization will pay $100,000 in legal fees for Parker's lawyers at Liberty Counsel, and it will stop enforcing the speech-restricting judicial rules.
"The SPLC's sinister plan has backfired spectacularly," said Horatio Mihet, chief litigation counsel for Liberty Counsel. "The SPLC's effort to muzzle Justice Parker has instead brought freedom of expression on critical public issues to all judges in Alabama. We are glad that the JIC has finally seen the proverbial writing on the wall and has abandoned its defense and enforcement of these unconstitutional laws."
The state rules, once common around the country, but abandoned as unconstitutional in virtually every other jurisdiction, gave the JIC the power to prevent any judge from commenting on any case or issue pending anywhere in the nation.
SPLC's complaint against Parker eventually was dropped, but Parker filed a separate federal legal action against the state, and a judge refused to submit to state pressure to drop the case.
"The Southern Poverty Law Center wanted to silence Justice Parker and remove him from the Alabama Supreme Court. Their ill intent backfired, and now Justice Parker has won the right for all judges to speak on important legal issues," said Staver.
Many organizations already consider SPLC discredited. The federal government cut off cooperation with the organization.
Judicial Watch said a letter to Michael M. Hethmon, senior counsel for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, and others, said the DOJ, under the leftist Barack Obama, even reprimanded SPLC in 2016 but it was "kept quiet at the agency's request."
"[It] involves the SPLC's atrocious behavior during immigration court proceedings. Two groups that oppose illegal immigration, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), were the target of personal, baseless and below-the-belt attacks from SPLC attorneys during official immigration court proceedings. The SPLC filed a motion attacking and defaming the two respected nonprofits by describing them as 'white supremacist,' 'eugenicist,' 'anti-Semitic,' and 'anti-Catholic.' In its reprimand the DOJ says it is troubled by the conduct of SPLC lawyer Christopher Strawn and that his conduct 'overstepped the bounds of zealous advocacy and was unprofessional,'" the report said.
Commentator John Stossel, in a WND column, joined the effort to expose SPLC.
"SPLC once fought useful fights. They took on the Ku Klux Klan. But now they go after people on the right with whom they disagree," he wrote. "They call the Family Research Council a hate group because it says gay men are more likely to sexually abuse children. That's their belief. There is some evidence that supports it. Do they belong on a 'hate map,' like the Ku Klux Klan, because they believe that evidence and worry about it?
"I often disagree with the council, but calling them a hate group is unfair. In my YouTube video this week, the group's vice president, Jerry Boykin, tells me, 'I don't hate gay people. And I know gay people, and I have worked with gay people.'"
Stossel noted that lambasting someone with a "hate group" label makes them a target, referring to the attack on the Family Research Council by Corkins.
Stossel also noted SPLC smeared the Ruth Institute, "a Christian group that believes gays should no have an equal right to adopt children."
The institute's president, Jennifer Roback Morse, says they're not "haters."
"I like gay people. I have no problem with gay people. That's not the issue. The issue is, what are we doing with kids and the definition of who counts as a parent," she said.
For that, Stossel said, SPLC put the Ruth Institute on its "hate map."
'That led the institute's credit card processor to stop working with them. In a letter to the institute, the processor company said that it had learned that the 'Ruth Institute ... promotes hate, violence, harassment and/or abuse,'" he reported.
Stossel said: "SPLC is now a hate group itself. It's a money-grabbing slander machine."
See Stossel's video report on SPLC: