JERSEY CITY, N.J. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A discredited hate-watch organization has developed a multi-pronged campaign to silence the voices of organizations with which it disagrees.
For example, the Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) recent lawsuit is forcing the closure of the Jewish Institute for Global Awareness (JIFGA) and is shutting down Funding Morality, the crowdfunding site JIFGA operates to provide support for Judeo-Christian values.
Funding Morality was one of only a handful of crowdfunding platforms competing against GoFundMe. Most other platforms, such as Kickstarter, Patreon and Indiegogo, were started to provide start-up money, venture capital or business loans.
Funding Morality was unique in that it provided a platform for people that have been persecuted for standing up for biblical values.
In July, the Hudson County Superior Court in New Jersey ruled against JIFGA based on the erroneous claim that they were providing referrals for counseling to force homosexuals to undergo so-called "gay to straight conversion therapy."
The SPLC targeted JIFGA and petitioned the court to obtain the emails of JIFGA's co-directors, Arthur Goldberg and Elaine Berk. After searching through 70,000 emails, they found a small number of them they used as "evidence" to convince the judge they were allegedly providing referrals.
As described in an earlier article, Hudson County Superior Court Judge Peter Bariso Jr. slapped JIFGA with $3 million in fines and the legal fees of SPLC lawyers. Bariso also presided over all three actions the SPLC initiated.
To deter and punish Goldberg, the judge also barred him from heading any non-profit company in the state of New Jersey — a condition that may violate his right of assembly.
While this seems like an isolated case, those who hold opposing views to the leftist agenda often encounter censorship. Google has been accused of censoring search results, and Facebook is becoming notorious for censoring conservatives. For the most vocal conservative organizations, they find themselves branded as "extremist" or "alt-right" and land on the SPLC hate map.
Some of the ideologies the SPLC equates with the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi hate are nationalists, anti-immigration, anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT but they also equate "Christian Identity" and "Radical Traditional Catholicism" with hate.
According to SPLC's interactive hate map, "All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics."
The problem is that SPLC's "extremist" label is also applied to legitimate conservative Christian groups like the Ruth Institute and Alliance Defending Freedom, a group that has successfully argued several Supreme Court cases on constitutional freedoms.
Church Militant spoke with Sarah Perry, the director of partnerships for Family Research Council (FRC), who said SPLC is a corrupt organization that continues to amass hundreds of millions in funds.
"It should lose its tax-exempt status," Perry said. "It should be dissolved."
FRC was added to the hate map in 2012 because of their advocacy for traditional marriage and several other policies with which SPLC disagrees.
As a result of their inclusion, Floyd Corkins entered FRC's building in Washington, D.C. with the intent of killing as many people as possible. He reportedly said, "I don't like your politics."
He brought with him a number of Chick-fil-A sandwiches so that he could rub them in his victims' faces. Chick-fil-A has been a target of pro-LGBT groups for their stance against same-sex marriage. A security guard was shot in the arm but was able to tackle Corkins and prevent further casualties.
Perry said news reports critical of the SPLC receive very little air time. Moreover, SPLC is "still cited, without consideration, with unilateral authority as to what is hate."
In February, CBS News ran a piece promoting SPLC's narrative that hate is always increasing. According to the SPLC, the number of hate groups is at an all-time high, up 30% since 2014. CBS wrote:
The recent increase "dovetails with (Donald) Trump's campaign and then his presidency, a period that has seen a 30 percent increase in the number of these groups," said Heidi Beirich, director of SPLC's Intelligence Project. "In the three years prior to that, during the waning years of (Barack Obama's) presidency, hate groups were actually on the decline."
The SPLC has often been criticized for using hate to scare up donations. In a scathing condemnation in The New Yorker, Bob Moser, a former writer for SPLC, blasted the organization for focusing more on fundraising than justice.
"But it was hard, for many of us," Moser wrote, "not to feel like we'd become pawns in what was, in many respects, a highly profitable scam."
Moser recalled SPLC co-founder Morris Dees' history in Alabama with his former business partner, Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity.
Fuller said, "Morris and I, from the first day of our partnership, shared the overriding purpose of making a pile of money." He added, "We were not particular about how we did it."
In April, Republican Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton urged the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) commissioner, Charles Rettig, to conduct a "serious and thorough investigation" of the SPLC and its tax-exempt status.
"While IRS guidance lists several examples of tax-exempt purposes, engaging in defamation as a business model is of course not one of them," he wrote in a letter to Rettig.
Cotton shared his concerns that the SPLC has amassed over $500 million in assets and is holding $121 million in offshore accounts.
"The SPLC uses those assets to pay its executives lavish salaries far higher than the comparable household average," Cotton explained.
The SPLC's hate map is often waved like a banner by activists and media looking to apply pressure to technology groups and financial organizations hoping to silence opposing viewpoints.
Since at least 2017, alternate crowdfunding sites have been on the SPLC's radar and under investigation by the SPLC through their Intelligence Project. These include sites such as such as Hatreon, GoyFundMe and Counter.Fund, associated with so-called alt-right groups.
In an article defining the problem of funding the so-called alt-right, Heidi Beirich, project director for SPLC's Intelligence Project and Hatewatch blog, told CNET the rise of these alternate crowdfunding sites is "the reflection of a larger crackdown on hate."
"They're scrambling to create an alternative ecosystem to do the same things they used to do with PayPal and Facebook and Google Ads and whatnot," she added.
Freestartr and GoyFundMe were added to the list of hate groups in 2018 and 2017, respectively.
Beirich also said, "[M]ainstream companies like banks and credit card companies don't want to do business with these people."
It's no surprise why. In June, Mastercard's shareholder meeting was disrupted by activists from SumOfUs demanding the organization blacklist those dealing in "blood money." The mission of SumOfUs is to curb the power of corporate America.
They delivered a petition signed by 127,000 people calling on Mastercard to stop processing payments for "far-right hate groups." They also demanded Mastercard form a "human rights committee" and refuse to do business with those listed on the SPLC's "hate list."
While Mastercard rejected the SumOfUs proposal, Mastercard Chairman Rick Haythornthwaite claimed he believed they were already blacklisting hate groups.
Church Militant spoke with Robert Spencer, the director of the news aggregate Jihad Watch, who said he feels the SPLC is behind the efforts to demonetize him.
He explained, "They have included me on their list of 'hate group leaders,' which defames legitimate conservatives by lumping them in with the likes of the KKK and neo-Nazis."
Spencer noted the establishment media still continues to take the SPLC's hate list seriously despite the SPLC's leftist bias being known.
"The media among which they've been successful shares their worldview and presuppositions, so they had neither the wit nor the interest to explore the SPLC's own biases," Spencer said. "There was no one watching the watchman, and largely still isn't."
Spencer also feels there is a coordinated effort to silence conservatives.
"Oh yes, no doubt about it," he said. "The Left was stunned by 2016 and wants to silence us all so as to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Spencer's participation has been affected on several sites like Amazon, Google, YouTube, PayPal, Patreon and others.
"Patreon recently reversed their ban on me under legal pressure," he said. He is considering legal action against the SPLC.
In other actions taken by SPLC to hurt conservatives, in October 2018, SPLC led a coalition of over 40 companies to pressure social media companies to "reduce hateful activities on their platforms."
Called "Change the Terms," they recommended policies that "are based on online tools and information available today."
"The SPLC and other organizations in this campaign will track the progress of major tech companies — especially social media platforms — to adopt and implement these model corporate policies," they explained.
Big tech companies like Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook continue to partner with SPLC.
In January, SPLC partnered with PayPal to blacklist conservative businesses. SPLC also worked with Amazon to get Catholics and other religious organizations removed from their Amazon Smile platform.
Perry said, "Like other high profile conservative advocacy organizations, FRC has been denied participation in the Amazon smile program."
In 2018, charity navigator GuideStar added SPLC's hate group designation to 46 non-profit organizations. GuideStar President Jacob Harold cited demand from users as the motivation for adding SPLC's designation.
In a blog post, Harold acknowledged there were "legitimate critiques of SPLC's analyses," but he ultimately left the decision to their users, saying, "If a user does not consider the SPLC's analysis to be legitimate, we invite him or her to ignore it."
A couple of weeks after GuideStar's announcement, they removed the SPLC information, citing "concerns for our staff's wellbeing" and claiming complaints turned to threats.
There is plenty of evidence of the pressure corporations are under to shut down opponents of the Left as identified on the SPLC hate list. In November 2017, Visa suspended service to Hatreon and shuttered the site. Hatreon is a free speech counterpoint to Patreon that started after Patreon removed campaigns.
Stripe also shut down Freestartr, a free-speech alternative to Patreon, and BitChute, a YouTube alternative that started up after conservative channels were demonetized. All three platforms allowed all speech on their platform while they held a neutral stance on content.
In the cancellation letter to BitChute, Stripe claimed their "financial partners" objected to Bitchute's business model.
It read in part: "Unfortunately, we won't be able to overturn our decision regarding your account. Our financial partners have some fairly strict limitations on the type of businesses we can work with, and sadly your business type falls into a category which our financial partners consider to be high-risk."
Stripe refused to identify those "financial partners," but it does have ties to GoFundMe, another big corporation that has been dropping campaigns for opponents of the Left.
In June 2017, Maajid Nawaz sued the SPLC for defamation after they falsely labeled his Quilliam Foundation as "extremist." Nawaz has spoken against the use of the Koran to incite violence. The SPLC claimed Nawaz wanted to have mosques put under surveillance and that it was "his opinion that all Muslims are potential terrorists."
After a year of being falsely characterized as an anti-Muslim extremist, the SPLC admitted they were "simply wrong" and settled Nawaz's lawsuit against them for $3.375 million.
In the past, the SPLC was able to avoid defamation claims by claiming their "hate group" designations were only opinions protected under the First Amendment.
Liberty Counsel, a Christian law firm that SPLC designated as a hate group, is in talks with around 60 organizations that are falsely accused of being hate groups.
"It's obviously concerning that they want to censor free speech, and of course their definition of 'hate speech' is not what most people think of as hate speech," Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel founder and chairman, told PJ Media.
"Most people think of hate speech as somebody encouraging physical violence," he said. SPLC and other groups like them "extend it to anybody who doesn't accept their view on LGBT issues, same-sex marriage, abortion, immigration, or Islam."
Gavin McInnes, the founder of the Proud Boys, a group of "Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world," filed a defamation suit against the SPLC in February.
The lawsuit claims the SPLC's designation has resulted in McInnes being suspended from social media, blacklisted by PayPal and being "unable to retain or be considered for gainful employment in his line of work."
He claims the SPLC is responsible for "tortious interference" with his ability to earn a living.
The American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) is also considering a suit against the SPLC.
Speaking to PJ Media, David Yerushalmi, the founder of AFLC, said they don't usually take defamation cases but when Michigan's attorney general, Dana Nessel, announced her "hate crimes unit," that would be increasing prosecutions of hate crimes.
Yerushalmi said if there is evidence of cooperation with the state, they would pursue a lawsuit against the SPLC directly.
"If there is in fact coordination and it rises to the level of conspiracy, you bet we'll go after the Southern Poverty Law Center," he told PJ Media. "If an organization conspires with the government, it becomes a state actor and is subject to suit just like the government is."