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This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.
Posted on: Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Here's another letter of support for Ruth sent to Vanco:
Dear Sir or Madam,
Posted on: Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Please consider writing one of your own using Vanco's contact page.
I was surprised to read today online that Vanco had canceled its arrangement with the Ruth Institute, calling it a group that promotes hate and violence.
I have heard many hours of podcasts with their founder, Jennifer Roback Morse, and read several of her books and have never heard anything that I thought would be considered hateful or violent.
In fact, I've never heard anything from her or her organization that our own or many other churches could agree with.
If Vanco is suspending its business relationship with "hateful" groups, what would keep them from suspending its arrangement with many of the churches I know that use their services?
What is the definition of "hate groups" that Vanco uses to deny its services?
Posted on: Tuesday, September 12, 2017
The Southern Poverty Law Center keeps millions of dollars in offshore accounts and pays lavish salaries - in the name of defending the poor
The Washington Free Beacon exposed the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a self-appointed hate group monitor infamous for lumping mainstream conservative nonprofits alongside legitimate hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, keeps millions of dollars in multiple offshore accounts.
SPLC tax forms from 2014 reveal that in one year, the 501(c)3 nonprofit transferred nearly $5.5 million to multiple bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, and Bermuda. The bulk of these financial transfers occurred on March 1, 2015, in which two separate transfers were made to two accounts at the same address in Canana Bay, Cayman Islands.
Amy Sterling Casil, CEO of Pacific Human Capital, a California-based nonprofit consulting firm told the Free Beacon that she had never heard of a US-based nonprofit that deals with human rights or social services having foreign bank accounts. “It is unethical for any US-based charity to invest large sums of money overseas,” she said, adding “I know of no legitimate reason for any US-based nonprofit to put money in overseas, unregulated bank accounts.”
Charles Ortel, a former Wall Street analyst and financial adviser known for uncovering a 2009 financial scandal at General Electric also expressed surprise, noting: “It seems extremely unusual for a 501(c)(3) concentrating upon reducing poverty in the American South to have multiple bank accounts in tax haven nations.”
The SPLC pays its staff surprisingly well. In 2015, the organization spent $20 million on salaries, but only spent $61,000 on legal services. This, despite boasting of a staff of 75 lawyers for the purpose of litigating on behalf of “children’s rights, economic justice, immigrant justice, LGBT rights, and criminal justice reform.” The minimum it paid officers, directors, trustees, or key employees, in base salary in 2015 was $140,000—this in Alabama, a state where the mean salary for religious and education directors (which includes private school principals) was $40,820 in 2015. SPLC president and CEO Richard Cohen was paid $346,218 in base compensation, while SPLC founder and chief trial counsel Morris Dees earned $329,560 in compensation, and $42,000 in additional reportable non-taxable benefits.
While the SPLC began with a legitimate mission to tackle hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, it proved so successful that it effectively ran out of hate groups. Seeking a new mission (and source of funding), the group evolved into a far-left outfit intent on smearing any group which disagrees with them as a “hate group.” Because of its history, the SPLC enjoys a reputation with the mainstream media as self-styled hate group experts that it no longer deserves. After the riots in Charlottesville on August 12, CNN ran a wire story entitled: “Here are all the active hate groups where you live.” The story included a map with 917 organizations that the SPLC considers hate groups, including mainstream, conservative, pro-family organizations like Family Research Council (FRC) and the Ruth Institute.
On August 31, the Ruth Institute, a nonprofit that focuses on the impact of family breakdown on children, received an email from the payment processing company, Vanco, announcing that the institute would no longer be able to use the company’s services because it had been “flagged” for promoting “hate, violence, harassment, and or/or abuse.” Dr. Jennifer Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute immediately checked her organization’s website and found the donation feature already disabled. Morse said,
The corporate left is out there doing what they do and I can’t stop them—they’re going to do what they do with their power.
I think it’s convenient strategically and rhetorically for groups like the SPLC to stand me up next to a guy with a swastika and white hood, because then nobody has to listen to what I have to say. Rather than argue with me—or, you know, try to say ‘gee you’re wrong’—rather than have that conversation about why kids need their parents, they just dismiss the whole thing by putting me and Tony Perkins (president of the Family Research Council) in a lineup with guys in white hoods and then they don’t have to deal with it.
Forty-seven individuals and groups, including CRC president Scott Walter, have recently signed an open letter to media outlets, asking them to stop using data from the “discredited Southern Poverty Law Center.”
The attempt by SPLC to silence conservative critics on issues such as gay marriage by lumping them in with legitimate hate groups can have potentially fatal consequences. Floyd Lee Corkins II, who shot an unarmed security guard at the FRC in 2012, claimed to be on a mission to kill “as many people as possible.” He claims to have identified the FRC as “anti-gay” based on information from the SPLC’s website.
Since the Charlottesville riots, millions of left-leaning American citizens and companies have sought to express their displeasure toward racial intolerance by donating to anti-racist organizations. Unfortunately, because the SPLC masquerades as a legitimate anti-hate group, the riots have proven to be a donation boon for the organization. For example, Apple CEO Tim Cook told employees that the company would be donating $1 million to the SPLC and would match employee contributions two to one. JP Morgan Chase promised to pay $500,000 to the SPLC’s “work in tracking, exposing, and fighting hate groups and other extremist organizations.”
With millions in donations covering its generous pay scale and plush off-shore accounts, the SPLC is set to continue its war against charities that disagree with its radical ideology.
Posted on: Tuesday, September 12, 2017
This article was first published September 11, 2017, at Christian.org.uk.
A group helping children suffering from the effects of family breakdown has been axed by its online payments provider after political activists accused it of being a “hate group”.
The Ruth Institute is on a ‘hate map’ alongside 900 other US organisations such as the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis and holocaust denial groups.
Last week, online donation processing company Vanco cancelled its services to the group without notice, stating it believed the Ruth Institute was affiliated “with a product/service that promotes hate, violence, harassment and/or abuse”.
The hate map, compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Centre, also includes groups such as Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council.
In response to Vanco’s move, the Ruth Institute said it “categorically condemns white supremacy, racism, Nazism, and all violent totalitarian political movements”.
“The Ruth Institute’s primary focus is family breakdown, and its impact on children… If this makes us a ‘hate group’, so be it”, it said.
“People who cannot defend their positions using reason and evidence resort to name-calling to change the subject away from their anemic arguments”, the pro-family organisation noted.
“The ‘hate group’ label is a club such people invented to bludgeon their political opponents.”
The Ruth Institute assured supporters that their financial details had not been compromised. It said the move was probably due to its traditional stance on LGBT issues.
While the family group noted that it respected the financial company’s right as a private business to make its own decision, it added: “We just wish wedding photographers, bakers, and florists received the same respect.”
The Ruth Institute has been on the hate map since 2013, but recently CNN published the nationwide list on its website, initially under the headline “Here are all the active hate groups where you live”.
“No one outside the SPLC knows how organizations come to be included on the list. No one knows how to get off the list. The SPLC sets itself up as judge, jury and enforcer of the charge of ‘hate’”, the Ruth Institute said.
Vanco declined to comment.
Last week, during a US Senate committee hearing considering a new judicial appointment, Senator Al Franken tore into the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), repeatedly noting its inclusion on the hate list.
ADF’s President responded: “There is a real danger of conflating genuine hate groups, like the Ku Klux Klan, with mainstream religious beliefs that are shared by millions of Americans and people from all walks of life across the world.”
Posted on: Tuesday, September 12, 2017
by Rachel del Guidice
This article was first published September 1, 2017, at Daily Signal.
Caption: Morris Dees is a co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which labels socially conservative organizations such as Ruth Institute as “hate groups.” (Photo: Robert King/Polaris/Newscom)
The founder of a nonprofit dedicated to repairing families says she thinks being incorrectly labeled a “hate group” prompted the company that processed donations to drop her organization.
Ruth Institute’s biblical stance on issues such as gender identity and same-sex marriage led to its being labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has done the same to other mainstream conservative organizations.
Vanco Payment Solutions, her nonprofit’s online donation processor for several years, abruptly emailed to say “we are severing our relationship with you,” Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of Ruth Institute, told The Daily Signal.
“The most logical conclusion is the fact that we were in the news with this hate map that SPLC [Southern Poverty Law Center] puts out, but no one has said that directly,” Morse, who is Catholic, said.
“I don’t know that for a fact,” she added. “We’re just surmising that must be the case.”
Vanco has elected to discontinue our processing relationship with the Ruth Institute. The organization has been flagged by Card Brands as being affiliated with a product/service that promotes hate, violence, harassment and/or abuse. Merchants that display such attributes are against Vanco and Wells Fargo processing policies.
Vanco Payment Solutions is a registered independent sales organization, or ISO, of Concord, California-based Wells Fargo Bank. It is not clear what Card Brands is.
After receiving the email, Morse said, she discovered that the donation function of Ruth Institute’s website was disabled, “so obviously they had done it before they even sent us the notice.” For now, she has opted to use PayPal in place of Vanco.
Morse noted that the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center lists other socially conservative organizations as “hate groups” and “anti-LGBT hate groups,” among them the American Family Association and Alliance Defending Freedom.
In doing so, critics say, the Southern Poverty Law Center equates respected conservative organizations with actual hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the National Vanguard, a neo-Nazi organization.
SPLC flagged Ruth Institute as a “hate group” in 2013, the institute said in its press release.
One of Ruth Institute’s board members, Walter Hoye told The Washington Times that listing Ruth Institute alongside racist groups such as the KKK is “reprehensible.” In Georgia, he said, the Klan lynched his great-grandfather and set his house on fire while his 14 children were inside.
“I understand what the Klan is, and with that understanding, there is just no way that the Ruth Institute should be on that list,” Hoye told the newspaper. “The Ruth Institute is about healing the black family.”
Morse said CNN’s Aug. 17 publication of a map locating “hate groups” listed by SPLC attracted attention to her organization. Afterward, she said, a reporter wrote a story after seeing Ruth Institute on that map.
“I think people need to understand that the left takes the sexual revolution very seriously,” Morse said in an email to The Daily Signal. “This is a core issue for them. They think that being against gay marriage is the equivalent of being a skinhead or a member of the Klan. That’s how they are treating things.”
The Daily Signal requested comment from both Vanco and the Southern Poverty Law Center, but did not receive a response by publication deadline.
Sara Hassell, a Wells Fargo spokesperson, told The Daily Signal in an email that “we don’t have anything to share on the matter at this time.”
In June, GuideStar, an organization that calls itself a neutral aggregator of tax data on charities and other nonprofits, incorporated SPLC’s “hate group” labels, a move protested by dozens of conservative leaders. GuideStar then removed the labels.
The “hate group” labeling misrepresents Ruth Institute, Morse said.
“They can’t argue against us, so what they do is they prop us up next to … the Klan, guys in white hoods and guys with swastikas,” she said.
The issue should be of grave concern to conservatives, Morse said.
“The social issues are absolutely core to a free society,” she said. “You cannot have a free society if children don’t have their own parents. If a child
doesn’t have a right to their own parents, nobody has got a right to anything.”
Posted on: Tuesday, September 12, 2017
by Dale Hurd
This article was first published September 12, 2017, at CBN.com.
Posted on: Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Posted on: Saturday, September 09, 2017
By Charlotte Allen
This article was first published September 09, 2017, at the Weekly Standard.
The “hate list” generating Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) already has the media firmly in its pocket. If the SPLC calls, say, Bell Curve and Coming Apart author Charles Murray a “white supremacist,” why, so will the Washington Post. And now corporate America seems to be jumping onto the SPLC’s “hate group” and “hate map” bandwagon, trying to cut off the financial livelihoods of organizations that the SPLC has branded as haters because their policy positions don’t accord with whatever the SPLC deems politically correct.
On Aug. 31 Vanco Payment Solutions, an online credit-card processing firm affiliated with Wells Fargo, abruptly canceled its services to the nonprofit Ruth Institute on the ground that it promotes hate, violence, harassment and/or abuse.”
The Ruth Institute? Make a visit to its website and you will be scratching your head as you search for the hate and the violence. “Inspiring the Survivors of the Sexual Revolution” is the organization’s motto. “Whether you are a Child of Divorce, a Donor Conceived Person or a Refugee from the Hookup Culture, the Ruth Institute is here for you,” declares Ruth’s founder and president Jennifer Morse Roback, holder of a Ph.D. in economics. The institute sponsors conferences and “spiritual healing” workshops for people who believe themselves harmed by freely available sex and family breakdowns, and it’s fair to say that it has a distinct traditional-values orientation. (Roback, a mother of two and foster mother of eight over the years, is a practicing Catholic who was named one of the “Catholic Stars of 2013” along with popes Francis and Benedict XIV.) So—where’s the “harassment and/or abuse” that the Ruth Institute is supposed to be promoting?
Well! It seems that the Ruth Institute was affiliated until 2013 with the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which opposes same-sex marriage. Furthermore, Ruth devotes one of its web pages to a “circle of experts”—doctors, lawyers, academics, and clergymen who share its traditional views on sex and family life. And that is what caught the attention of the SPLC’s Eye of Sauron.
The SPLC really doesn’t like the NOM, which has been on its “hate group” list for years, and it really doesn’t like the Ruth Institute’s circle of experts. One of them, for example, is Pat Fagan, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, another SPLC “hate group” long-timer because it, too, opposes same-sex marriage (it’s the organization whose office manager was shot in 2012 by a pro-gay-rights terrorist who had consulted an SPLC “hate map” to find the council’s Washington D.C. address). Another is Patrick Henry College professor Stephen Baskerville, reportedly a vehement opponent of what he calls “the homosexual agenda.”
Guilt by association, anyone? But that’s the stock in trade of the SPLC, which slammed a “hate group” designation onto the Ruth Institute in December 2013, pointing out that Ruth’s “focus on heterosexual marriage” could well be “a cover for its campaign against marriage equality and LGBT people in general.” And, although Vanco won’t elaborate on why it suddenly decided that Ruth was promoting hate and abuse, it’s pretty easy to connect the dots.
The Ruth Institute isn’t the first victim of a corporation’s refusal to do business with an organization because the SPLC deemed it a “hate group” on the basis of its promotion of traditional Christian attitudes toward sexuality and marriage. The traditional values-oriented legal aid group Liberty Counsel and the D. James Kennedy Ministries, a media-oriented offshoot of a traditional branch of the Presbyterian Church, have sued the SPLC for defamation. All three, along with the Family Research Council, were essentially blacklisted by the charity rating website GuideStar, which has adopted the SPLC’s hate list as its own. Amazon Smile, a donation setup for Amazon customers, dropped the Kennedy Ministries from its list of acceptable charities.
Corporate America seems to be feeling the love for the SPLC these days. Apple, for example, donated a cool $1 million to the organization in the wake of the Aug. 14-15 melee in Charlottesville, Va. after the SPLC went on a fundraising binge over the 500 or so white supremacists involved. PJ Media’s Tyler O’Neil lists other major companies that have recently become SPLC donors or partners: J.P. Morgan, Bank of America, Pfizer, Lyft, Newman’s Own.
The irony is that the SPLC, a perpetual-motion money machine famous for its hysteria-generating mailings to befuddled liberals after incidents of right-wing extremism real or imagined, scarcely needs the donations. Here at THE WEEKLY STANDARD, Jeryl Bier has pointed out the SPLC has parked some $69 million out of its stockpiled (that is, not spent on, say, fighting white supremacists) $319 million in donor contribution in offshore hedge funds, a common tax dodge by wealthy nonprofits seeking to mask otherwise taxable unrelated business income.
It’s one thing for corporations to waste their shareholders’ money helping the SPLC be a high-risk, high-return hedge-fund partner in the Cayman Islands.
It’s another for them to try to suck the life out of small nonprofits solely because the SPLC blacklists them as hate groups because it doesn’t like
the religiously traditional views they promote.
Posted on: Saturday, September 09, 2017
by Justin McClain
This article was first published at the NCRegister on September 7, 2017.
The word “hate,” one of the strongest in the English language, risks losing its actual potency when it is misapplied. To be clear from the outset, there are legitimately hateful acts. As a Black Catholic whose father was born in 1936 and raised in segregated Durham, North Carolina, I have heard his multiple firsthand accounts of truly hate-imbued actions by other human beings. Catholics, along with other Christians, within the broader framework of morality, readily categorize these as evil. Physical intimidation, outright violence, emotional-psychological abuse, and any other action that does not recognize every single human being’s de facto dignity can be tantamount to hatred. Hence my surprise when, while speaking with some friends recently about the hatred-ridden events in Charlottesville, coupled with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of “Active Hate Groups 2016”, I learned that some of the most upstanding Catholic people whom I am privileged to know (or at least their affiliated organizations) had unexpectedly found themselves on this ever-expanding “Hate List” at various points over the years.
This piece is not a direct diatribe against the SPLC, but it does constitute (no pun intended) a mention of the reality that, to make recourse to the classic Sesame Street song, “one of these things is not like the other.” Now, there are plenty of groups that most people of goodwill would agree deserve to be deemed “hate groups,” e.g., any of the number of groups founded on racist ideologies, those bent on demeaning and belittling others, and those whose intentions are to disrupt and destroy the framework of others’ basic human rights and worth as individuals. When I think of my friend Fran Griffin of the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation (which made the list), or Arina Grossu of the Family Research Council (which made the list), I am baffled as to how their striving to live according to accurate Christian standards could be designated as anything other than beneficent. Even in light of varying approaches to societal matters, those do not comprise abhorrence for the other.
Then there is Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute (which made the list). Never mind that Dr. Morse is an internationally recognized leader in Catholic media initiatives, so much so that Our Sunday Visitor named her one of only eight “Catholic Stars of 2013.” I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Morse speak a number of years ago at the Archdiocese of Washington’s Pastoral Center, and her message promoting chastity, marriage, and the family is easily one of the most loving that I have heard. These figures, whose words I have received and considered, are the antithesis of someone who could justifiably be regarded as “hateful.” And likewise, there is the fascinating situation of Alan Sears of Alliance Defending Freedom (which, you guessed it, made the list). As you will see, Mr. Sears’ circumstances are the most puzzling of all.
Yes, this is the same Alan Sears who, along with his wife Paula, received the Catholic Church’s highest honor for a layperson when Pope Francis inducted them into the Order of Saint Gregory the Great this June. As reported by the Catholic News Agency, according to Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona, this award “is a well-deserved recognition of their many years of defending religious freedom, standing up for the true meaning of marriage and family life, defending the dignity and right to life of every human person, and faithfully living their lay vocation in their home, their parish and the public square.” According to The Catholic Sun (the official publication of the Diocese of Phoenix), “A Scottsdale couple’s heroic efforts on behalf of religious liberty, the Church, the sanctity of life, and rights of conscience have captured the attention of Pope Francis.” Pope Francis, easily recognized by not only Catholics but by other Christians and those of various faiths around the globe, is one of the few veritably unitive purveyors of love in modern times. As such, the discerning mind is correctly led to surmise that the Holy Father is a worthy assessor of what constitutes authentic love. So, where is the disconnect? It comes down to language.
One of the simplest – really, most facile – methods of discrediting a person or a group is to label them derogatively. Admittedly, it is human nature. Sports fans rarely employ warm, inviting terminology when referring to an opposing athletic team. Politicians readily call each other names. Yet, when an organization is unjustly deemed a practitioner of bigotry without the benefit of the doubt, we need to recall a time when the word had more accuracy, not to mention even more of a sting, than it has in modern times: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). So, who owns the word “hate”? Seemingly, in modern times, disagreement is too often confused with hate, and the word becomes cheapened in the process.
Nearly 30 years ago, Saint John Paul II (who embraced essentially the same views on chastity, on marriage as between one man and one woman, on the importance of the family, on the right to life for the unborn, and other comparable positions that the modern culture finds repugnant to popular sensibilities) wrote his apostolic exhortation Christifideles Laici: On the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World. This man, who is now in heaven, included an especially astute passage within Christifideles Laici that could be applied to the situation in which many Catholics and other Christians of goodwill find themselves today, increasingly marginalized and relegated to the category of “hateful” because they strive to live according to the Gospel: “A charity that loves and serves the person is never able to be separated from justice. Each in its own way demands the full, effective acknowledgment of the rights of the individual, to which society is ordered in all its structures and institutions” (paragraph 42). The Catholic trying to live his or her faith while serving the broader public will be at odds with society’s standards. Manipulative societal standards of morality are mercilessly ratcheted back and forth, and we need but go back only a few years to recall that two prominent leaders of their political party publicly supported the view of marriage as between one man and one woman, to then-popular acclaim. They were speaking no more “hatefully” then than the Christians around the world who continue to abide by the unchanging words of Christ regarding marriage as we read them in Matthew 19:1-12, teachings which are unyielding to secular definitions.
A little over a year ago, I wrote an article for Catholic Exchange with the frank title of “How to Respond when ‘Christian’ Has Become a Bad Word – A Few Reminders from the Early Church to Today.” As an aside, it is curious how frequently Christians are deemed – whether individually or institutionally – as “hateful” for holding fast to the Gospel when other faiths are spared such a designation, even when their own faith structures [fortunately] have the same social regard for the significance of marriage, the family and children. During these challenging times, replete with pluralism, the faithful need to be more prudent than ever: “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves” (Matthew 10:16). There will be more “lists” and millions of dollars more poured into endeavors to discredit those who try to live their faith openly.
So, where do we go from here? With the nation in turmoil, it is more important than ever for American Catholics to heed the bishops. As one example of various of how the Church and secular society are speaking two different languages, note the plausible title of this Catholic World Report piece from back in January: “NYTimes: Trump Creating Christian Theocracy; Bishops: Trump Against Christian Faith.” Some inopportunely see the United States as tantamount to a theocracy akin to the setting of The Handmaid’s Tale, while the world is increasingly looking like that which is presented in Lord of the World (which both Pope [Emeritus] Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have recommended). Two different languages. According to Pew findings from 2015, American Catholics notoriously dissent from the Church’s teachings on marriage, human sexuality and ideal family structures. This dilemma has been a downward spiral ever since the mid-1960s in the United States. When Catholic politicians feel that they can histrionically legislate in direct opposition to what their faith professes (read: on an unfortunate variety of issues), and when events like the “Catholic Spring” revelations of October 2016 indicate political forces attempting to surreptitiously undermine the Church’s influence in society, one wonders little why entities external to the Catholic Church end up confused when Catholics actually try to live pursuant to their faith, lumping them in with actually hateful organizations in the process.
What are some ways that American Catholics can come to deepen their faith by heeding the bishops before other prominent, and frequently errant, voices within society? Foremost, actually read the USCCB’s news releases. The social doctrine of the Church does not, and should not, follow neat political lines. In my recent book Our Bishops, Heroes for the New Evangelization: Faithful Shepherds and the Promotion of Lay Doctrinal Literacy, I encourage the laity to better fathom the Church’s teachings, via the writings of the bishops, who are there to help us know our faith better. Of course, as is the emphasis in this article, this will frequently put people of faith at odds with what society says is acceptable, occasionally earning the opprobrium of the well-funded powers-that-be along the way.
Ultimately, who determines what is hateful, and who determines what is loving? Independent of theology, we are speaking two different languages. Who knows how Catholics who bring their faith into the public square will be regarded in future years and centuries. Despite the name-calling that may come, we find solace in the Lord’s reminder: “In the world, you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).
Posted on: Saturday, September 09, 2017
by Joan Frawley Desmond
This article was first published at NCRegister on August 31, 2017.
WASHINGTON — When Jennifer Roback Morse, the Catholic founder and president of the Ruth Institute, tried to register her nonprofit for the “Amazon Smile” program, which allots a percentage of a customer’s purchase to a designated charity, she witnessed firsthand the outsized power of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“You have been excluded from the Amazon Smile program because the Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Ruth Institute in an ineligible category,” stated a December 2016 email from Amazon in a reference to the center’s designation of the Ruth Institute as an “anti-LGBT” extremist group in its widely publicized “hate map.”
Yet the Ruth Institute has never been implicated in any political violence, nor does it have any ties to recognized extremist organizations. The nonprofit’s mission, Morse told the Register, is “to create a mass movement to end family breakdown by energizing the survivors of the sexual revolution.
“I got involved in the gay-marriage debates because I could see that redefining marriage would end up redefining parenthood and creating new inequalities among children,” Morse added. “Some children would have a legally recognized right to know both of their parents, and other children would not.”
She emphasized, however, that most of her work focuses on the behavior and choices of heterosexual couples.
“How this has to do with ‘hate,’ I cannot say,” she said.
Morse is not alone. A growing number of Christian organizations and ministries, including Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, two leading conservative advocacy groups, are also on the “hate map” created by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). And during a time of political polarization, many will assume the “hate” label is an accurate definition of a group’s mission.
Indeed, even as several SPLC targets have filed lawsuits against the group , alleging defamation, the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, have prompted technology giant Apple and J.P. Morgan, the nation’s largest bank, to announce plans for large gifts to the center.
Founded in 1971 and based in Montgomery, Alabama, the SPLC made its name as a determined legal opponent of the Ku Klux Klan and of Jim Crow-era segregationist policies. Along the way, it developed a large database of extremist organizations and became an authority on white supremacist groups, like the neo-Nazis that participated in the Charlottesville protests.
More recently, however, the center expanded its definition of “extremist” groups to include Christian organizations that uphold free-exercise rights for religious believers and biblical teachings on marriage and gender.
According to the center’s website, hate groups are organizations with “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” Further, the SPLC contends that it only lists Christian nonprofits that denigrate members of the “LGBT community,” and not groups that only oppose the redefinition of marriage.
But its many critics argue that this working definition of “hate groups” is too vague and allows the SPLC to smear mainstream organizations and individuals with whom it disagrees, whether the issue is marriage, immigration reform or Islamic extremism.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a respected Christian legal organization, is the latest faith-based nonprofit to appear on the hate map.
Alan Sears, ADF’s founder, told the Register that key supporters of his organization had urged him to push back against the center.
Sears, for his part, is worried that “potential supporters,” Christians who would otherwise embrace the ADF’s mission, will dismiss it without taking the time to research the SPLC’s claims.
Likewise, the “extremist” designation could damage ADF’s ability to recruit lawyers to take on important cases, a reminder that the “anti-LGBT” label is anathema in the predominantly liberal legal establishment.
“The ADF has been at the Supreme Court more times than any other religious-liberty group in the country. None of those cases dealt with marriage issues, and they say we are a ‘hater,’” Sears said.
“Pope Francis talks at length about ideological colonization, the attempt by powerful Western forces to impose gender-identity issues and marriage redefinition on other cultures,” he added. “Is the Pope’s call to uphold the teaching of the Bible and the Catechism a form of hate?”
The SPLC’s controversial tactics have also prompted charges that it has fueled violence against mainstream organizations listed on its hate map.
Back in 2012, when a gunman stormed into the Family Research Council’s Washington, D.C., offices and shot a building manager before he was wrestled to the ground, court documents noted that the assailant was inspired to take action after he saw the organization listed on the SPLC’s hate map.
The Family Research Council (FRC) accused the center of “inciting violence,” but the SPLC rejected that charge.
“Spreading demonizing lies [against the LGBT community] is what is dangerous, not exposing them,” read a statement issued by the center after the shooting.
Chris Gacek, an FRC spokesman who was in the organization’s offices at the time of the shooting, expressed frustration with the media’s selective coverage of an attack on a conservative group and also predicted the steady expansion of the center’s rolls of right-wing “extremists.”
“If we were left liberals and this was an abortion clinic, you would never have stopped hearing about the attack,” Gacek told the Register.
Looking ahead, Gacek expects the center will press ahead with its tactic of “systematic defamation” of Christian and conservative groups that take policy positions rejected by the center.
“If you oppose anything the left wants, you are a hater. This is where the dialogue in the country has gone,” he said.
The center did not respond to a request for comment from the Register. But it’s worth noting that conservative leaders are not the only critics to challenge the center’s tactics.
“Time and again, I see the SPLC using the reputation it gained decades ago fighting the Klan as a tool to bludgeon mainstream politically conservative opponents,” William Jacobson, a law professor at Cornell University, told Politico this summer.
“For groups that do not threaten violence, the use of SPLC ‘hate group’ or ‘extremist’ designations frequently are exploited as an excuse to silence speech and speakers.”
Earlier this year, the SPLC’s controversial methods were again in the spotlight, after Allison Stanger, a Middlebury College professor, was attacked by an angry mob after she appeared at a public forum with Charles Murray, an influential social scientist.
In a column on the opinion page for The New York Times, Stanger said that the center’s description of Murray as a “white nationalist” played a role in the heated reaction to his presence on campus.
“Intelligent members of the Middlebury community ... concluded that Charles Murray was an anti-gay white nationalist from what they were hearing from one another and what they read on the Southern Poverty Law Center website,” said Stanger, who was physically attacked and suffered a concussion.
“Never mind that Dr. Murray supports same-sex marriage and is a member of the courageous ‘never Trump’ wing of the Republican Party.”
The SPLC’s critics and targets charge that the hate map is integral to its fundraising strategy, which is designed to stir up a vast donor base that has helped fund an endowment of more than $200 million.
A recent article in Politico notes that Morris Dees, the center’s co-founder and a civil-rights crusader in the 1970s, has effectively mined his expertise in the “direct-mail marketing of consumer goods, a pursuit that earned him a small fortune in the 1960s and a spot in the Direct Marketing Association’s hall of fame.”
Later, after helping “George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign — in exchange for McGovern’s mailing list,” Dees gained access to more than a half-million liberal donors.
In an assessment of the SPLC’s policies and governance for the Philanthropy Roundtable, Karl Zinsmeister concluded that the center’s “two largest expenses are propaganda operations: creating its annual list of ‘haters’ and ‘extremists’ and running a big effort that pushes ‘tolerance education’ through more than 400,000 public-school teachers. And the single biggest effort undertaken by the SPLC? Fundraising. On the organization’s 2015 IRS 990 form it declared $10 million of direct fundraising expenses, far more than it has ever spent on legal services,” said Zinsmeister.
On Aug. 31, The Washington Free Beacon published an article titled “Southern Poverty Law Center Transfers Millions in Cash to Offshore Entities.” It reported that, according to its 2015 Form 990 nonprofit tax filing, the center holds “financial interests” in the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda.
No specifics of those “financial interests” were provided on the 2015 Form 990, but the Free Beacon reported that a different 2014 tax form disclosed that the SPLC transferred $960,000 to a pooled investment fund in the Cayman Islands in one November 2014 transaction. The newspaper also reported that, according to Securities and Exchange Commission records, the center transferred a total of $4.4 million to two other funds located in the Cayman Islands on March 1, 2015.
“I've never known a U.S.-based nonprofit dealing in human rights or social services to have any foreign bank accounts," Amy Sterling Casil, CEO of Pacific Human Capital, a California-based nonprofit consulting firm, told the Free Beacon. "… I am stunned to learn of transfers of millions to offshore bank accounts. It is a huge red flag and would have been completely unacceptable to any wealthy, responsible, experienced board member who was committed to a charitable mission who I ever worked with."
Some SPLC targets have begun to push back, filing lawsuits that charge the organization with defamation.
D. James Kennedy Ministries, based at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, filed a lawsuit in an Alabama federal court that accuses the center of libel and “subjects the ministry to disgrace, ridicule, odium and contempt in the estimation of the public,” according to an Aug. 23 statement.
A second lawsuit filed by Maajid Nawaz, a British politician and founder of the anti-Islamist organization Quilliam International, this summer highlights the center’s practice of designating critics of Islam as “anti-Muslim extremists.” That charge is especially striking, as the SPLC does not include Islamic extremist groups in its hate map.
“The SPLC, who made their money suing the KKK, were set up to defend people like me, but now they’ve become the monster that they claimed they wanted to defeat,” Nawaz charged in a video that introduced his lawsuit against the SPLC for defamation.
Thus far, the lawsuits and scathing public criticism have not shaken the support of the group’s major donors.
When Kimberley Strassel, a Wall Street Journal columnist, contacted J.P. Morgan to probe its decision to make a $500,000 donation to the SPLC, an email from the bank did not address accusations leveled against the group. It merely cited J.P. Morgan’s “long history of supporting a range of organizations that are committed to addressing inequality.”
Nevertheless, Strassel and other critics of the SPLC have warned that its exaggerated rhetoric and personal attacks are counterproductive and could erode support for the important fight against extremist groups.
“Sadly, the SPLC has become an ideological institution that uses its noble past to give authority to its smear campaigns against any who dissent from progressive orthodoxies,” said R.R. “Rusty” Reno, the author of Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society, which examines the campaign by progressive groups to politically isolate faith-based speech and activism on marriage and abortion.
“Crying wolf too many times will make it impossible for the SPLC to have credibility when the real threats of hate and bigotry emerge.”