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KNIGHT: Getting rich by selling hate

How the Southern Poverty Law Center runs a scam on well-meaning donors

- The Washington Times - Monday, April 15, 2013

While the media cheer the Obama administration and Senate Democrats as they exploit the Newtown, Conn., school massacre to push gun-control laws that would hamper law-abiding citizens, they won't connect some more obvious dots to another shooting.

On Aug. 15, 2012, Floyd Lee Corkins II, a volunteer with a homosexual activist group, entered the lobby of the Family Research Council (FRC) in Washington, D.C., with a self-confessed aim to commit mass murder and then smear Chick-fil-A sandwiches on his victims' faces.

He was stopped only because courageous building manager Leo Johnson, who took a bullet that shattered his arm, managed to subdue and disarm Corkins.

On Feb. 6, Corkins pleaded guilty to three felonies: committing an act of terrorism while armed, interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition (he bought the gun in Virginia), and assault with intent to kill while armed. At a sentencing hearing on April 29, he faces up to 70 years in prison.

What? You didn't hear about this? Maybe it's because a hate-filled activist trying to kill Christians doesn't fit the media narrative of Christians as bigots and their opponents as Care Bears.

A key aspect of the lightly reported story is the role of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an ultra-rich "civil rights" group. Corkins told investigators that he got the idea of attacking the Family Research Council from the center's website. He also had the address of the D.C.-based Traditional Values Coalition, another group listed on the organization's "hate map."

Since the shooting, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins has called on the Southern Poverty Law Center to remove legitimate Christian groups from the "hate map" and its list of "hate" organizations. Others listed include the American Family Association and Coral Ridge Ministries (now Truth In Action Ministries).

The common thread is biblically-based opposition to homosexual behavior and the defense of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. To the Southern Poverty Law Center, the First Amendment still protects pastors who quote the Bible, but not those in the public square who argue for morality. This would include anyone who questions ideologically driven "studies" that "prove" gender is merely a social construct.

It's bad enough that the center won't edit its "hate map" despite a correlation to actual violence, but it's scarier that the U.S. Justice Department since the Clinton era has been using the organization as its authority to determine what constitutes a "hate group."

In her article "King of Fearmongers" in the April 15 Weekly Standard, writer Charlotte Allen bells the cat, describing the Southern Poverty Law Center in the following manner: " a civil-rights behemoth bursting with donor cash the SPLC started out fighting legal battles against lingering segregation in the South."

"More recently and more lucratively, its critics say it has transformed itself into an all-purpose anti-hate crusader, labeling 1,007 different organizations across America at last count as 'anti-gay,' 'white nationalist,' 'anti-Muslim,' 'anti-immigrant,' or just plain hateful (one SPLC category is 'general hate').

"The SPLC put the FRC on its list of 'anti-gay' organizations in 2010, and the SPLC's 'Hate Map' page, whose banner displays men in Nazi-style helmets giving Sieg Heil salutes, lists the FRC among 14 hate groups headquartered in the District of Columbia."

Like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center threatens people and groups with litigation that they cannot afford to fight. A prime example is the center's "consumer fraud" lawsuit in New Jersey filed recently against a small group, Jews Offering New Alternatives of Healing, which helps people overcome same-sex temptations. The idea is to criminalize such counseling, as California legislators have done, pending a judge's injunction. This is the left's idea of tolerance and diversity.

Mark Potok, the Southern Poverty Law Center's oft-quoted spokesman and editor of its Intelligence Report and Hatewatch blog, maintains a prolific flow of fear-mongering, to apparent great effect. The center's false characterizations are finding their way into strategic places. On April 5, Fox News' Todd Starnes reported that, last year, "a U.S. Army training instructor listed Evangelical Christianity and Catholicism as examples of religious extremism along with al Qaeda and Hamas during a briefing with an Army Reserve unit based in Pennsylvania."

On April 9, Mr. Starnes reported that an officer at Fort Campbell, Ky., sent an email, drawing from the center's site, that slams Focus on the Family and includes the Family Research Council and the American Family Association alongside Fred Phelps' notorious Westboro Baptist Church in a list of "anti-gay hate groups."

The email, which the Army claims is an isolated incident, included this guilt-by-association characterization: "The religious right in America has employed a variety of strategies . One of those has been defamation. Many of its leaders have engaged in the crudest type of name-calling ..."

Talk about defamation. Anyone familiar with these groups (I have worked for two of them) knows this is a flat-out lie.

The good news is that the Southern Poverty Law Center's lucrative run could be grinding to a halt, according to Mrs. Allen:

"There may soon come a day when the SPLC's donation-generating machine, powered by [founder Morris] Dees' mastery of the use of 'hate' to coax dollars from the highly educated and the highly gullible, finally breaks down. That is why, according to [SPLC President Richard] Cohen, the SPLC has no intention of soon spending down much of that $256 million in stockpiled assets that has earned the center an 'F' rating from CharityWatch.

"'Those 1960s liberals they're getting older, and the post office is dying. We're likely to be out of the fundraising business within 10 years,' " Mr. Cohen told Mrs. Allen.

The Southern Poverty Law Center once did good work, keeping track of the remnants of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, skinheads and other real hate groups. By refusing to delist Christian organizations such as Family Research Council and the American Family Association, however, the organization is engaging in the very activity that it once effectively decried.

Why isn't Congress investigating federal agencies' reliance on the Southern Poverty Law Center?

Robert Knight is senior fellow of the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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