The sins of Southern Poverty law


To the editor:

(re: “Hate groups are on our doorstep,” Aug. 16)

I’m curious as to why Ms. Jennifer Scarlott has so much faith in the Southern Poverty Law Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

I cannot imagine leftists and progressives deferring to other 501(c)(3) nonprofits such as the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights in deciding who is and who isn’t anti-Catholic, or to the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Anti-Defamation League in deciding which critics of the Israeli government’s foreign and domestic policies have crossed the line into anti-Semitism.

Having run short on neo-Nazis and KKK members, the SPLC expanded the definition of “hate group” to include socially conservative organizations, and then issue hysterical warnings (coupled with requests for donations) that the number of “hate groups” in the United States has increased.

The SPLC’s previous website, however, included a revealing disclaimer: “Listing (as a hate group) does not imply a group advocates or engages in violence or other criminal activity.”

In 2010, the SPLC settled a defamation suit filed by Professor Guenter Lewy, whom the group falsely accused of being paid annually by the Turkish government to deny the Armenian genocide. Two months ago, the SPLC agreed to pay about $3.4 million to Maajid Nawaz, a Muslim and anti-extremist activist, and apologized for including him in a list of “anti-Muslim extremists.”

Dozens of non-violent conservative and religious groups who have been smeared by the SPLC in recent years are also expected to file defamation suits against it.

Readers who wish to lean more about the SPLC’s tactics and fundraising practices should read “The Watchdogs” by Laird Wilcox, who has studied extremists on the right and the left, and Ken Silverstein’s November 2000 article in Harper’s Magazine, “The Church of Morris Dees.”

Having amassed $477 million in assets, according to its most recent IRS filing, can anyone say with a straight face that the tax-exempt and oddly named Southern Poverty Law Center has made us a more tolerant society in 2018, and made a real contribution to reducing bigotry and extremism in the United States today?

Dimitri Cavalli

Dimitri Cavalli