The Southern Poverty Law Center has a rich history of fighting for the civil rights of African-Americans and other marginalized groups. It identifies and lists hate groups according to certain standards. In the past, these hate groups were generally limited to white supremacist and other organizations that promoted violence against individuals, groups, and the government. Sadly, the SPLC has expanded their definition of hate group to include those that take political and social positions contrary to what they regard as the standards of civil rights. These have now included organizations that champion traditional Judeo-Christian and Muslim views of abortion, marriage, and the rights of individual business owners to refuse to participate in activities contrary to their religious morals. As such, organizations like Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council, which have never advocated violence against anyone, much less supremacy of any sort, are now caught up in the SPLC’s ever-widening net of “hate groups.”
This wouldn’t matter if no one paid attention to the SPLC. Because of it’s historical association with the civil rights movement of the 1960s, however, the SPLC is widely embraced by many as a credible source of information on what organizations represent a genuine threat to the lives and rights of the marginalized. Their new, expansive view of “hate,” then, can have serious consequences for institutions that no one, in the past, would have judged dangerous or discriminatory, organizations such as churches and religious ministries. By the SPLC’s standard, the Roman Catholic Church is a “hate group” and Pope Francis a provocateur of hate. As far as I know, the SPLC has not included either on their list. Yet.
This is part of the strategy of those, usually on the political and social left, of attempting to shut down opposition to their agenda by discrediting their opponents as extremist, racists, homophobic, misogynist, etc… Convince your friends and allies that a photographer who doesn’t want to work a same-sex wedding is just another embodiment of a KKK Grand Wizard and you can win a lot of arguments without actually making an argument. Unfortunately, these spurious connections and labels have sometimes cost people their reputations, their jobs, their careers and their businesses and, in some cases, have put lives at risk. The attacks on the Family Research Council and the shooting of Congressman Scalise and others were not random acts by deranged men, as was the shooting of Gabby Giffords and the murders of those attending her rally. They were calculated attacks by those who felt justified in their actions. Part of that justification is founded, I believe, in the rhetoric that identifies anyone who doesn’t tow the left’s social agenda as haters who are not worthy of being a part of the conversation because they’re extremists, racists, homophobes, misogynists, etc…
The SPLC needs to reconsider their standards when identifying and listing hate groups. No one regards with respect those organizations that promote and advocate violence. But, to list as haters those who simply take views different from your own, views that have been held by the vast majority of those in the West for multiple millennia, then one has every reason to ask: “Who is the extremist here?”
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.