Since the Clinton administration, the odious grifters of the Southern Poverty Law Center have managed to insinuate themselves into very nook and cranny of the nanny-state society. And they’ve weaponized their access. They advised YouTube on which videos are “hate speech.” They’ve advised the FBI on cracking down on the “sovereign citizens” groups. They’ve pointed out to Homeland Security the existential danger posed by “home grown” (read that as “white”) terrorists. If you run afoul of them, they will try to ruin you. They’ve degenerated from a group that actually did useful work fighting the Klan into a hate group themselves. They direct their hate at people of faith and instead of burning crosses on lawns, they slander people who happen to hold different beliefs and values than he SPLC. Along the way, they’ve created a fundraising apparatus that has raised over $300 million and socked some of it away in off shore tax havens. And their vicious rhetoric has inspired at least one attempted mass shooting.
While their relationship with major tech platforms is problematic, the way they’ve burrowed themselves into a privileged status with the federal bureaucracy is profoundly dangerous. And they use their position as an arbiter of what is and is not “hate’ related with reckless brutality. In fact, they act as though they are the government and once had the Obama administration publicly rebuke them for unprofessionalism.
Yesterday, Jeff Sessions was keynote speaker at Alliance Defending Freedom’s Summit on Religious Liberty. The ADF is a great group. They have been on the cutting edge of the fight to protect religious liberty and they’ve won some Supreme Court cases that have shifted the landscape. The won Hobby Lobby, which allowed privately held corporations to refused to pay for contraception, they won tenure for Professor Mike Adams when he was denied if based on his political beliefs, they won the Trinity Lutheran case that required state governments to treat parochial schools the same as public, they won Masterpiece Cakeshop, they thrashed California’s Obergruppen Fuhrer, Xavier Becerra, in his attempt to shut down faith based crisis pregnancy centers. They are counsel in the Arlene’s Flowers case. And Sessions has made defense of religious liberty one of his priorities. This is what he had to say:
The people of this nation are still the most religious nation in the developed world.
Yet people of faith are facing a new hostility. Really, a bigoted ideology which is founded on animus towards people of faith.
You’ll notice that they don’t rely on the facts. They don’t make better arguments. They don’t propose higher ideals.
No, they just call people names—like “hate group.”
Does that sound familiar?
You know I’m from Alabama—the home of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that did important work in the South, vital work at a pivotal time. As you know well, the law is only words on paper until there are people brave enough to stand up for their rights.
There were hate groups in the South I grew up in. They attacked the life, liberty, and the very worth of minority citizens. You may not know this, but I helped prosecute and secure the death penalty for a klansman who murdered a black teenager in my state. The resulting wrongful death suit led to a $7 million verdict and the bankruptcy of the Klu Klux Klan in the South. That case was brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
But when I spoke to ADF last year, I learned that the Southern Poverty Law Center had classified ADF as a “hate group.” Many in the media simply parroted it as fact. Amazon relied solely on the SPLC designation and removed ADF from its Smile program, which allows customers to donate to charities.
They have used this designation as a weapon and they have wielded it against conservative organizations that refuse to accept their orthodoxy and choose instead to speak their conscience. They use it to bully and intimidate groups like yours which fight for the religious freedom, the civil rights, and the constitutional rights of others.
You and I may not agree on everything—but I wanted to come back here tonight partly because I wanted to say this: you are not a hate group.
You have a 9-0 record at the Supreme Court over the past seven years—and that includes two of the most important cases of the last term. Two of those nine cases were 7-2, one was per curiam, and one was 9-0. In the lower courts, you’ve won hundreds of free speech cases.
That’s an impressive record. These are not fringe beliefs that you’re defending.
You endeavor to affirm the Constitution and American values.
As for me, I am not going to apologize for the United States of America or our First Amendment. I am not ashamed of this country or our people. This is the greatest, most generous country in the history of the world.
Let me say this loud and clear: at the Department of Justice, we will not partner with hate groups. Not on my watch.
I have ordered a review at the Department of Justice to make sure that we do not partner with any groups that discriminate. We will not partner with groups that unfairly defame Americans for standing up for the Constitution or their faith.
If Sessions carries through on this it would be a huge step forward away from the culture of federal decisions being made by smear and innuendo.
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