The Southern Poverty Law Center is wrongly targeting social conservative organizations as “hate groups,” and George Clooney, a major financial supporter of the law center, should demand better, one commentator said this week.
Chuck Donovan is an author, policy researcher and president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research and education arm of the pro-life political advocacy group the Susan B. Anthony List.
However, he wrote to Clooney in a personal capacity, encouraging the star to use his influence to help persuade the SPLC to avoid its “embittering and unproductive campaigns to label any political or social issue opponent as a hate group.”
“This tactic is injurious both to the reputations of some outstanding people and to the flourishing of the common good,” Donovan charged in an open letter published May 20 at the Public Discourse website. It is a betrayal of “the honorable history of the SPLC’s founding in opposition to the denial of civil rights to African Americans, he said.
Last year, the Clooney Foundation for Justice announced a $1 million gift for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
Based in Montgomery, Ala., the SPLC was founded in 1971 with the original stated aim of monitoring persons and groups fighting the civil rights movement. It began to track racist and white supremacist groups like neo-Nazis and affiliates of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1980s. It monitors other groups it considers extremist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim.
More recently, however, it has labeled as “hate groups” Christian organizations that believe in marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
In recent months, several groups were removed from the charitable donation program Amazon Smile based on the SPLC’s designation of them as “hate groups.”
Amazon told the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian religious liberty legal organization, that the “hate group” designation made it ineligible for the program.
The SPLC has also listed as “hate groups” other mainstream Christian-backed advocacy groups like the Family Research Council and the Ruth Institute, a non-profit group that studies and explains the effects of the sexual revolution. The SPLC said they have an “anti-LGBT” stance.
Donovan suggested that George Clooney can lead the way to help civilize public life.
“There is great ugliness on the national scene. God has given you the ability to speak to millions of people around the world and to capture their attention,” he said in his letter, encouraging the star to “take a closer look at a good number of the SPLC’s scattershot targets, including Alliance Defending Freedom, the Ruth Institute, Coral Ridge Ministries, and many more.
“The vituperation the SPLC levels at some public policy groups it disagrees with is part of the problem, not the solution,” said Donovan.
He focused on the “hate group” label placed on the Family Research Council. After finding this designation on the SPLC website, a man named Floyd Corkins decided to attack the Christian organization in 2012. Corkins entered the Family Research Council building with a gun and shot building manager Leo Johnson in the arm before Johnson wrestled him to the ground. Corkins later told authorities that he wanted to kill as many employees as possible because of the group’s opposition to gay marriage.
Donovan said Johnson “recognized the humanity of the attacker in front of him, and he refrained from violence.”
“This is the accurate picture I know of Leo and the other people at FRC. They have deep convictions. They hate no one,” he said in his letter to Clooney.
“It should be to our credit that we can debate deep differences and emerge from these debates with mutual respect and a willingness to continue discussions in the interest of building a better nation.”
In Donovan’s view, Clooney roots his views in his Midwestern upbringing and hard work throughout his life. He asked Clooney, “please keep in mind that there are people just like you in all these respects who, because of different views on some questions, are being unfairly and even dangerously vilified.”
Donovan said he is sure he and Clooney do not differ about “truly odious groups” that the SPLC opposes, like the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
However, he encouraged Clooney to reject efforts to depict Christian views on life and marriage as akin to bigotry and hatred.
“Certainly, each of these issues generates argument and disagreement, but for the life of me I cannot fathom, and completely reject, the idea that these values have anything to do with abhorrent racism and hatred.”