An academic study has accused the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) of having an anti-Christian bias in its reporting on hate groups in America.
Once considered the “gold standard” in reporting on violent anti-government or racist groups in America, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s reputation has begun to wither as it has started targeting conservative Christian groups including the Family Research Council (FRC) for what SPLC claims is anti-gay animus.
SPLC says FRC gins up hatred and possible violence against gays because it has reported certain ideas that are taboo to SPLC: that hate-crimes laws will be used to stifle preachers; that because of HIV-AIDS and other diseases gays may not live as long as others; that gay parenting is not as good for children as more traditional parenting; that same-sex attraction is not inborn; and that gays can stop being homosexual. Believing or espousing any of these ideas makes you eligible for the SPLC hate list. [Full disclosure: the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, of which I am president, was just placed on SPLC’s hate list for espousing some of these ideas.]
Professor George Yancey of the University of North Texas says he is not arguing one way or the other about FRC’s inclusion on the list but merely demonstrating SPLC’s outrage is subjective, selective, and never reckons progressive groups guilty of the same things of which it accuses conservative ones.
Yancey looks at the work of a left-wing group called the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), started by Michael Weinstein after he said he experienced discrimination at the hands of Christians in the military.
Weinstein published a story in the Huffington Post titled “Fundamentalist Christian Monsters: Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” in which he accused Christians of wanting to start “a blood-drenched, draconian era of persecutions, naturalistic militarism and superstitious theocracy.” This is not the only place where Weinstein said Christians want to foment mass murder. He said it also in his book No Snowflake in an Avalanche. He also blamed the Fort Hood shootings on how Christians mistreated the shooter and “linked the actions of Christians to Hitler and Stalin.”
Yancey says in these few places Weinstein and his group have violated the criteria established by SPLC to identify hate groups, “promoting a myth of Christian violence not substantiated by previous research and [attributing] motives to conservative Christians that he cannot document.”
Yet Weinstein and his group are not on the “Hatewatch” list. Yancey points to the Hatewatch tag line for the reason – “Keeping an Eye on the Radical Right.” To SPLC, there can be no hate on the left, only on the right.
Yancey, an African-American, specialized for years in the subject of race but began looking at anti-Christian bias in academia some years ago. He says, “The subject of political scientific bias is not yet settled, but evidence of the existence of this bias continues to emerge” and that “the overrepresentation of political and religious progressives can alter the type of scientific research produced.”
Yancey points out that after 40 years of its existence, hardly any academic papers have been done on SPLC, yet in only a few shorts years many books and papers have emerged from the academy looking at the Tea Party. He says his is one of the first scholarly examinations ever done of SPLC and its methods.
“The listing of possible hate group activities is quite broad, and how activities are interpreted as hateful can be subjective,” he writes. “Whether certain beliefs malign an entire class of people can be a matter of interpretation. Such subjective criteria make it easy for an evaluator of potential hate groups to be lenient when evaluating groups that arouse his or her sympathy but stricter when evaluating groups toward which he or she is hostile.”
For instance, SPLC dinged Family Research Council for supporting the notion that the best parenting situation for a child is with his own biological mother and father and that anything less, including same-sex parenting, can be detrimental to the child. To SPLC this is a hateful idea and one they say science demonstrates is false. Yancey points to recent research by Professor Mark Regnerus from the University of Texas which shows that “same-sex parenting may be connected to social dysfunctions in children,” all to show that the social science question is hardly as closed as SPLC says.
SPLC also accused FRC of peddling deliberately false information about the higher incidence of child molestation by gay men. FRC cites two peer-reviewed studies to back up the claim. SPLC prefers a counter statement by the American Psychological Association and a meta-analysis by Gregory Herek, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, both of which say there is no higher incidence of child abuse among gays.
When pressed by journalist Charlotte Allen of the Weekly Standard that the science on molestation was clearly not as settled as SPLC insists, Mark Potok of SPLC didn’t even try to argue the science. He sent an email doubling down: “The FRC and some of the other anti-LGBT groups portray gay people as sick, evil, perverted, incestuous and a danger to the nation.”
However, that is one thing you discover when you read SPLC’s dossiers on Christian groups it doesn’t like. The reports read very much like direct mail pieces, the kind that get liberals to dig deep into their pockets to fill groups’ like SPLC already bulging coffers.
In fact, Yancey concludes the reason SPLC cannot or will not change its criteria or at least begin including left-wing groups on its hate lists is that it cannot go against its progressive donors who are sending in such sizable sums – $38.5 million a year, with $256 million in assets feeding $300,000+ salaries.