Tyler O’Neil — PJ Media June 19, 2018
No fewer than 60 organizations branded “hate groups” or otherwise attacked by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) are considering legal action against the left-wing smear factory, a Christian legal nonprofit leader confirmed to PJ Media on Tuesday. He suggested that the $3 million settlement and apology the SPLC gave to Maajid Nawaz and his Quilliam Foundation on Monday would encourage further legal action.
“We haven’t filed anything against the SPLC, but I think a number of organizations have been considering filing lawsuits against the SPLC, because they have been doing to a lot of organizations exactly what they did to Maajid Nawaz,” Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, told PJ Media on Tuesday.
Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit against the charity navigation organization GuideStar for defamation after GuideStar adopted the SPLC’s “hate group” list. That lawsuit is ongoing.
In 2016, the SPLC published its “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists,” listing Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz, a practicing Muslim, as one such extremist. The left-wing group listed various reasons for including him, changing the reasons every so often, and even at one point mentioning that he had gone to a strip club for his bachelor party.
On Monday, SPLC President Richard Cohen extended his group’s “sincerest apologies to Mr Nawaz, Quilliam, and our readers for the error, and we wish Mr Nawaz and Quilliam all the best.” In settling the suit, the SPLC paid Nawaz’s organization $3.375 million.
“This is a significant settlement,” Staver told PJ Media. “3.375 million dollars and it did not even go to litigation; it was a result of a demand letter.”
Importantly, “the allegations that were at issue here were very similar to the allegations against the other groups,” the Liberty Counsel chairman explained. “The SPLC promotes false propaganda, demonizes and labels groups they disagree with, and that labelling has economic as well as physical consequences.”
The SPLC started as a group to oppose racist terrorism, and its first legal action targeted the Ku Klux Klan. In recent decades, the organization has begun marking mainstream organizations as “hate groups” on par with the KKK. Last year, 47 nonprofit leaders denounced the SPLC’s “hate list” in an open letter to the media. The SPLC has admitted that its “hate group” list is based on “opinion.”
Staver insisted that the settlement with Nawaz “will encourage further legal action.” He suggested that the settlement “helps our lawsuit against GuideStar” and may encourage organizations that were considering suing the SPLC to actually file the paperwork.
“There are probably about 60 organizations that we’re talking to — there’s at least 60,” Staver told PJ Media. He mentioned the group of 47 nonprofit leaders who denounced the SPLC last year, and said: “that group has grown since then.”
Furthermore, many of the “hate groups” attacked by the SPLC do not encourage hate or violence but merely disagree with the left-wing organization’s political views. Many — like the Family Research Council (FRC), the Ruth Institute, and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) — merely stand for marriage as between one man and one woman. The SPLC has twisted 30-year-old arguments to smear these groups, and in one egregious case, the group actually quoted as hateful the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Other organizations attacked by the SPLC also told PJ Media they are “considering their options” regarding a lawsuit.
“Truthfully, I have not been following the activities of the SPLC too closely,” Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute, an organization that lost its credit card processor, Vanco Payments, over the SPLC’s “hate group” labeling last year, told PJ Media. “Pursuing our mission is more important than attempting to take on the behemoth of the SPLC.”
“I must say, though, this apology to Mr Nawaz has caused us to consider our options,” Morse added, cryptically.
“We are reviewing all our legal options,” J.P. Duffy, a spokesman for the Family Research Council, told PJ Media on Tuesday.
A spokesman for Prager University, another organization attacked by the SPLC, said that “at this point” the group had “no intention to sue,” but they “reserve the right to change their mind as the situation evolves.”
Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), echoed this trend, saying his organization is “evaluating all our options,” including a potential lawsuit.
“It’s appalling and offensive for the Southern Poverty Law Center to compare peaceful organizations which condemn violence and racism with violent and racist groups just because it disagrees with their views,” Tedesco told PJ Media. “That’s what SPLC did in the case of Quilliam and its founder Maajid Nawaz, and that’s what it has done with ADF and numerous other organizations and individuals.”
“This situation confirms once again what commentators across the political spectrum have been saying for decades: SPLC has become a far-left organization that brands its political opponents as ‘haters’ and ‘extremists’ and has lost all credibility as a civil rights watchdog,” the ADF senior counsel added.