After holding off on making any statement about the shooting attack on his group’s Washington headquarters by a critic of their positions on social issues, the Family Research Center’s Tony Perkins spoke out today and placed at least some of the blame for the incident on the Southern Poverty Law Center, a generally respected liberal watchdog group. This will come as a shock to many whose knowledge of the SPLC comes from the good press it gets for its work over the years monitoring extremist hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. But in recent years, they have expanded their definition of a hate group to include not just the likes of David Duke and neo-Nazis but non-violent conservative advocacy groups. While the SPLC says it condemns violence, their actions have placed a bull’s eye on groups it dislikes and rendered them vulnerable to intimidation.
According to the SPLC’s way of thinking groups like the Family Research Center that oppose abortion and gay marriage are pretty much the moral equivalent of the Klan. Shockingly, the SPLC also lists on their website’s roster of haters people like Washington think tanker Frank Gaffney because of his position on the threat from Islamist terror groups like the Muslim Brotherhood which they interpret as a form of Islamophobia. Indeed, Gaffney is listed on the SPLC’s website on a roster of profile of hatemongers such as Louis Farrakhan and a leader of a white nationalist militia. While one may disagree with the Family Research Council’s religious conservatism or Gaffney’s ideas about the threat from shariah law, the idea that they deserve to be placed in such a context is outrageous. In doing so, they are also responsible for creating an atmosphere in which those who take such positions are to be intimidated into silence. Yesterday’s events ought to cause the Law Center to rethink its irresponsible labeling of political opponents.
The Law Center gained a certain degree of fame and respectability as a more secular counterpart to the Anti-Defamation League, which also monitors hate groups from a Jewish perspective. But the SLC seems to have made a strategic decision in recent years that it might be easier to raise money if it increased its scope from activities monitoring genuine hate groups to advocates of causes that they dislike like such as the Family Research Center who are deeply unpopular among liberal donors.
Recently, the Law Center has also taken up the largely bogus charge that America is suffering from a wave of Islamophobia. In doing so, it put Gaffney in their cross hairs and has now taken to treating the former Reagan administration Defense Department official as being no different than Duke or Farrakhan. Just as outrageous is that, as Lori Lowenthal Marcus writes in the Jewish Press today, they have teamed up with the likes of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and the Center for American Progress (CAP) to support the branding of not just Gaffney but scholar Daniel Pipes and his Middle East Forum and investigative journalist Steven Emerson as part of a network of hate against Muslims. Again, one needn’t agree with Gaffney, Pipes or Emerson on every position they take, but the idea that they can be treated like KKK members is a frightening example of the way the left operates these days.
It is no small irony that a group dedicated to human rights such as the SPLC would make common cause with CAP, some of whose employees were caught using anti-Semitic terms of abuse on their blog posts smearing Israel and its supporters. But it is even more amazing that it would work with the Muslim Public Affairs Council, an organization that masquerades as a civil rights group but whose president Salam al-Marayati has rationalized anti-Israel terrorism and lauded Hamas and Hezbollah.
It’s clear that the SPLC has long since stopped being the heroic defender of civil rights and become just another left-wing advocacy group that engages in its own version of intolerant and extreme rhetoric. The Law Center may not be responsible for acts of domestic terrorism against its opponents but by using its past reputation as a respected monitor of extremism to brand mere political foes as hate groups, they have lost all credibility. Far from upholding democracy, the SPLC is undermining it. It deserves all the criticism it will get in the aftermath of the Washington shooting.