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In Breaking News, Make Them Hear You

Make Them Hear You! is a weekly feature on KGNU, produced by Chris Mohr, letting listeners know how they can have their voices heard on issues up before Congress. You can hear it Wednesday mornings at 8.20am during the Morning Magazine.

It’s been a busy time at the Southern Poverty Law Center since Trump’s election. For example, from November 9 through March 31, they have documented 1,863 bias incidents. One of the most pervasive manifestations of this is the display of nooses. The First Amendment does not extend to expressions that incite violence, intend to intimidate, or threaten another individual. Due to the 3000 non legal hangings of blacks a century ago, the imagery is undeniable. Nooses evoke feelings of subjugation, discrimination and fear targeting mainly Black members of society. Some white people actually suggest that the noose can mean other things.

Now the right has gone beyond defending nooses and is attempting to shoot the messenger. Religious Right groups and right-wing media are waging war against the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based organization that challenges extremist groups and hateful rhetoric. In an open letter to the media from the Family Research Council and Media Research Center signed by 47 right-wing leaders and organizations, the SPLC is called “an attack dog of the political left” and urges media outlets to stop using SPLC data, lists and maps.

The SPLC decided several years ago to begin listing anti-LGBTQ hate groups. Religious Right leaders complain that they are designated as hate groups simply for upholding “traditional” Christian teaching about marriage and sexuality, which the SPLC has repeatedly explained is not true. “Viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups,” the SPLC has explained, saying groups receive the designation for spreading “demonstrably false information” and “disparaging, emotion-provoking stereotypes.” For example, the Liberty Counsel was listed as a hate group, because, “A group that regularly portrays gay people as perverse diseased pedophiles putting Western civilization at risk are way, way over the line.”

GuideStar, an online resource that compiles financial and other information about nonprofit organizations, began flagging organizations categorized by the SPLC as hate groups. More than 40 right-wing leaders asked GuideStar to stop using SPLC information. GuideStar staff members had received death threats over the designations. After a torrent of right-wing complaints, GuideStar removed the banners, but in June Liberty Counsel sued them anyway.

D. James Kennedy Ministries produced an anti-SPLC video called “Profit$ of Hate” because the SPLC poses “significant existential threats to religious freedom and to Christian ministries like ours.” Then D. they filed a lawsuit against the SPLC, GuideStar and Amazon, which has not included the ministry in its Amazon Smile fundraising program. The lawsuit charges defamation, trafficking in false or misleading information, and religious discrimination. The campaign also targets corporations that have donated to the SPLC. Anti-immigration organizations have been waging their own campaign against the SPLC since last November. And fair-minded people on the right are accusing the SPLC of creating moral equivalency between some religious groups and violent extremists.

Bloomberg View columnist Megan McArdle accused the SPLC of lumping together “principled conservatives … with bigots” and muddying the waters when it comes to combatting legitimate extremists. Now the Colorado Republican Party has joined the fray, launching an attack against SPLC on Twitter, telling people not to trust any media story that uses SPLC data. Defenders of the SPLC say the solution for the Republican Party is not to attack the SPLC, but to take whatever action is needed to ensure hate does not dictate the Republican Party’s agenda.
If you’re concerned about attacks on the Southern Poverty Law Center by the right, you can share your thoughts with your Republican Senators and Congressperson and see where they stand.