Up to 60 organizations may sue Southern Poverty Law Center for Defamation
By Rick Moran
According to a report from Tyler O’Neill at PJ Media, up to 60 mostly conservative organizations may sue the Southern Poverty Law Center for being included in the organization’s list of “hate groups.” The SPLC just settled a defamation suit for more than $3 million with Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz, whom the SPLC branded an “anti-Muslim extremist.”
Dozens of Christian and conservative groups have been similarly unfairly tarred by the SPLC as “hate groups,” and it appears they will exact their own revenge on the organization.
The SPLC published its “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists” in 2016, listing Nawaz for an ever-changing list of reasons. The left-wing group first falsely claimed Nawaz had called for “an outright ban on the niqab,” or veil. This first charge disappeared from the website, and Quilliam accused the SPLC of “reverse engineering their justification to keep Maajid Nawaz on their list.” The SPLC later justified attacking him because he visited a strip club for his bachelor party.
Worse, the Islamist Muslim owner of the strip club who leaked the story to the press said he wanted to punish Nawaz for “being an atheist.” The SPLC, Quilliam argued, was “acting like religious police.”
“I’ve memorized half of the Quran, I am a Muslim, I am born and raised a Muslim, I learned classical Arabic, I’ve spent time in prison,” Nawaz declared last year, shortly after announcing his lawsuit. “You know who else lists heretics? The jihadists. We know what happens when you list heretics among Muslims in this way: They end up dead.”
The SPLC statement of apology was self-serving:
“The Southern Poverty Law Center was wrong to include Maajid Nawaz and the Quilliam Foundation in our Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists,” Cohen said. “Since we published the Field Guide, we have taken the time to do more research and have consulted with human rights advocates we respect.”
Coehn [sic] went on to even praise the man his organization had branded an “anti-Muslim extremist.” “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,” he said.
This has been the major complaint against the SPLC all along: that its agents are careless in applying the term “hate group.” Besides, their definition of “hate” is absurdly narrow and includes disagreements over political issues.
In fact, given the enormous power to damage the reputation of a group for being included on the “hate group” list, you would think they would have been more careful from the start:
In the past few decades, however, the SPLC has begun marking mainstream groups as “hate groups” on par with the Ku Klux Klan. It has marked mainstream conservative groups as “hate groups” because they oppose same-sex marriage [sic], and last year, 47 nonprofit leaders denounced the SPLC’s “hate list” in an open letter to the media. The SPLC has admitted that its “hate group” list is based on “opinion,” and that it intends to “destroy these groups completely.”
So it’s been about politics all along.
As for other organizations defamed by the SPLC, they are lining up to go to court:
Staver insisted that the settlement with Nawaz “will encourage further legal action.” He suggested that the settlement “helps our lawsuit against GuideStar” and may encourage organizations that were considering suing the SPLC to actually file the paperwork.
“There are probably about 60 organizations that we’re talking to – there’s at least 60,” Staver told PJ Media. He mentioned the group of 47 nonprofit leaders who denounced the SPLC last year, and said “that group has grown since then.”
Furthermore, many of the “hate groups” attacked by the SPLC do not encourage hate or violence, but merely disagree with the left-wing organization’s political views. Many – like the Family Research Council (FRC), the Ruth Institute, and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) – merely stand for marriage as between one man and one woman.
If you’re worried that the SPLC doesn’t have enough money to pay everyone for being defamed, don’t be:
If its balance sheet is any indication, Donald Trump’s presidency has been very good for the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC’s already impressive endowment grew a staggering 35 percent in fiscal year 2017 to more than $432 million. Including operating funds, total assets topped $477 million as of October 31, 2017. Total revenues and gains in fiscal 2017 exceeded $180 million, more than triple the organization’s expenses for the year, of just under $60 million.
The SPLC has long been considered a fundraising powerhouse, but 2017’s take was mind boggling by any standard. Donations were up 164 percent over 2016: The group took in $132 million between November 2016 and October 2017, compared with $50 million in the preceding 12 months.
While direct contributions produced the lion’s share of the 2017 increase, a booming stock market led to astounding growth in the SPLC’s investment portfolio. In fiscal 2016, unrealized gains came to less than $1 million; a year later they totaled nearly $45 million.
The SPLC arrogantly took it upon itself to define “hate speech” and didn’t care whose organization was being devastated by its accusations. It will now pay a large price for being sloppy and politically partisan. Will it make the SPLC’s operators more careful in the future? For many groups, the damage has been done and is permanent. Whatever steps they take to rectify the situation will be too little and too late.
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