It was a brave step, back in 2010, that the Southern Poverty Law Center took when it decided to designate a number of viciously anti-LGBT organizations who liked to pose as mainstream "pro-family" groups as "hate groups" -- most notably the Family Research Council and the American Family Association -- because they knew full well that there would be a backlash from conservatives and Beltway types who see these suit-and-tied operators as just ordinary-seeming folks, even if they are a little bigoted.
"How it infuriates a bigot, when he is forced to drag out his dark convictions!"
Logan Pearsall Smith, 1931
The designation was fully deserved, though, because as the SPLC then went on to demonstrate fully, these organizations indulge in hate-mongering that is not significantly different than the kind of vicious garbage that is regularly spread by outfits like the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nations. The only difference is in that the target is based on sexual orientation and not race (and to be frank, the Klan and the AN target the LGBT community just as viciously too).
It's true that, unlike those latter groups, the suit-and-tied FRC and AFA and their anti-LGBT cohorts (all of them from the religious right) do not engage in systematic acts of violence against their targets. But then again, the SPLC monitors the Klan not just because of the violence that it actively commits, but also because of the violence that it engenders independent of its own activities through its hate speech.
Employing hate speech that encourages acts of discrimination and ultimately violence is the leading reason any organization winds up being designated by the SPLC as a "hate group." That's spelled out very clearly in their criteria:
All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics. ... Hate group activities can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing. ... Listing here does not imply a group advocates or engages in violence or other criminal activity.And there's no other way to describe what the FRC and AFA do, on a regular basis, than engaging in anti-LGBT hate speech: claiming that pedophiles are more likely to be gay, or promoting quarantines of AIDS victims, or the criminalization of homosexuality. And that's really just a sampling of the fetid spew of bile that these outfits flood our discourse with on an ongoing basis.
So now, if there's anything these outfits hate as much as gays and lesbians these days, it's the SPLC and their hate designation. They constantly rail against the organization as "ultra liberal" (um, only if opposing bigotry is no longer the purview of conservatives, ya know what I'm sayin?) and essentially Satanic itself. My favorite recent example of this was when far-right pastor E.W. Jackson attacked the SPLC as being no different than slave-holding plantation owners. No really.
And the SPLC had to have known, back in 2010 when it made this choice, that these hate groups would claim that the only reason they had been given that designation was that they "favored traditional Christian values/marriage" -- rather than the truth, which was that they earned the title by viciously demonizing the LGBT community with false and dehumanizing smears. And yep, sure enough, that has been the entirety of their response.
Well, not the entirety. They have also seized upon the unfortunate and saddening attack on the FRC's Washington offices in August 2012 by a crazed man named Floyd Corkins who had read the SPLC's "hate map" and decided to retaliate violently against the people who had been stirring up hatred against gays. As we noted at the time, it was a betrayal of everything groups like the SPLC are about -- that is, defusing the kind of hate talk that encourages acts of violence and terrorism -- but that of course did not stop the FRC and AFA and all their conservative cohorts at places like Fox News from laying all the blame at the doorsteps of the SPLC. (The incident also was truly an outlier, one that has not been repeated to form any kind of trend.)
So now, whenever anyone brings up their hate-group designation, these outfits just yell "Floyd Corkins!!!" sort of the same way Tea Partiers yell "Benghazi!!!" whenever they want to slag President Obama.
And as if to emphasize just HOW much they hate the SPLC, and HOW much they hate hate hate hate their designation as a "hate group," the AFA recently decided to publish its own "hate map," a kind of cheesy ripoff of the SPLC's own long-recognized and respected hate-group map.
There are four categories of "anti-Christian bigotry groups", according to the AFA: "Homosexual Agenda" groups, "Atheists", "Anti-Christians," and "Humanists." (The SPLC, in case you're wondering, is designated "Anti-Christian." The site explains:
These groups are deeply intolerant towards the Christian religion. Their objectives are to silence Christians and to remove all public displays of Christian heritage and faith in America.As Right Wing Watch observes:
A common practice of these groups is threatening our nation’s schools, cities and states. By threat of lawsuit, they demand prayer removed from schools and city council meetings, Ten Commandments monuments stricken from courthouses and memorial crosses purged from cemeteries and parks.
Because of anti-Christian bigotry, private business owners have been sued and forced to close their business. Families and businesses that express a Christian worldview on social issues often face vicious retaliation from bigoted anti-Christian zealots.
Some members or supporters of these groups have committed violent crimes against Christians and faith-based groups. Physical and profane verbal assaults against Christians are methods frequently exercised in their angry methods of intimidation.
At first glance, the map appears to be pretty heavily populated, but a quick search of the actual groups listed reveals that the AFA basically just listed every atheist, humanist, or freethinker organization it could find, as well as the state chapters of national organizations such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, SPLC, the Human Rights Campaign, and GLSEN ...A closer examination reveals a stunning bit of hypocrisy as well. If you go to the AFA's map, you will find that you can actually locate the street addresses of the organizations listed -- including the SPLC and People for the American Way -- not just in the towns but can drill down to see where they are located and obtain their actual street addresses. Here's what happens, for example, if you take a close look at their entry for the SPLC:
You'll get a similar map if you look at every other organization listed. Each of these organizations -- many of which are just run out of people's homes -- can now be targeted by kooks who might want to harm them in the same manner as Floyd Corkins, but that's apparently OK with the AFA, as long as it only affects the people they perceive as their enemies.
Ironically, this is exactly what the AFA and the FRC accused the SPLC of having done in the Floyd Corkins case. The FRC's Tony Perkins, on the day after the attack, claimed the SPLC had given Corkins a "license to shoot" by identifying their D.C. offices on their hate map. And indeed, Perkins continues to claim to this day that "the source of Corkins' hit list was, in fact, the SPLC's "hate map," that listed FRC's address."
But if you look at the SPLC's map for D.C., and its listing for the FRC, this is all you will actually see:
If you try to zoom in closer, you can't. There are in fact no addresses listed.
Most likely, this is because the SPLC has always recognized that giving specific addresses for groups it is criticizing is a bad idea, for a large number of reasons. One of those is that it might in fact become the grounds for someone's act -- or it might even be construed as a deliberate attempt to target the organization.
Obviously, that's not what the SPLC wants, as it has made clear in the wake of the Corkins affair. It is identifying these groups as hate groups as a matter of accountability for the violence-engendering rhetoric and ideas that they peddle.
It's not so clear, however, that the AFA's intent is so innocent.