Southern Poverty Law Center


Introduction

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a non-profit civil rights group. The SPLC is best known for cataloging hate groups in the United States. According to the SPLC, almost any organization that disagrees with its far-left worldview is a hate group. The SPLC goes to great lengths to scare people into thinking American conservatives are rife with hate, and that citizens should fear their neighbors.

The SPLC is one of the wealthiest American non-profits. At the end of 2008, the Southern Poverty Law Center held more than $220 million in assets.[1]


History / Mission

Morris Dees and Joe Levin founded the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1971.[2] The SPLC’s first president was Julian Bond, who still sits on its Board of Directors.[3] Bond was a long-time chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).[4] Dees and Levin were both Alabama attorneys when they founded the SPLC.[5]

The Southern Poverty Law Center states that it “is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education and other forms of advocacy, we work toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality.”[6]

According to Ken Silverstein of Harper’s Magazine, “the SPLC spends most of its time -- and money -- on a relentless fund-raising campaign, peddling memberships in the church of tolerance with all the zeal of a circuit rider passing the collection plate. ‘He’s the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of the civil rights movement,’ renowned anti-death-penalty lawyer Millard Farmer says of Dees, his former associate, ‘though I don’t mean to malign Jim and Tammy Faye.’”[7]

Matthew Vadum of the Capital Research Center offers this assessment of the Southern Poverty Law Center: "Obsessed with fundraising, the fabulously wealthy Southern Poverty Law Center exaggerates the scope of racism in the United States to frighten donors into opening their wallets. SPLC is nominally a public interest law firm, but it spends little on actual litigation. Instead, it uses politically skewed definitions of racism to indoctrinate children while smearing conservatives who question racial preference programs."[8]

The Southern Poverty Law Center does work in four areas: Children at Risk, Hate and Extremism, Immigrant Justice and Teaching Tolerance.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is based in Montgomery, Alabama.[9] It also has offices in Atlanta, New Orleans, Miami, and Jackson, Mississippi.[10]


Attacks on Conservatives

In 2010, the SPLC put out a series of attacks that aimed to link the Tea Party with extreme violence. According to the SPLC, America is suffering from a “Patriot” movement, which is linked to white militias and hate groups.[11] In the SPLC’s view, a string of random incidents – some violent, some innocuous – are considered a movement. According to SPLC Intelligence Report Director Mark Potok, “[t]he ‘tea parties’ and similar groups … are shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories and racism."[12]

The list of events that define the “Patriot” movement include the Oklahoma City bombing and a 2010 speech in which Sarah Palin simply stated, “America is ready for another revolution.”[13] Palin was speaking about a revolution back to smaller government and respect for states’ rights. The SPLC, however, has its followers convinced that Palin’s words are connected to a bloody revolution and violence against her political adversaries.

The SPLC has also attacked Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and commentator Glenn Beck for agitating the “Patriot” movement.[14] SPLC specifically said that Bachmann gives “even the most paranoid militiaman a run for his money.”[15] Bachman defended herself against this accusation by saying, "Clearly the Tea Party is a threat to the radical left. It has become clear that anybody who opposes the Obama agenda is part of the Tea Party … The Tea Party goes after the ideology of out-of-touch liberals like President Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, yet when it comes to liberals going after Tea Party activists, they focus on personal politics of destruction. Liberals are desperate, they are up against the wall and will stop at nothing to discredit this great grassroots movement that represents Americans who are fed up with this administration."[16]

The Southern Poverty Law Center has also attacked socially conservative groups that do not support gay marriage.[17] In a 2010 report,[18] the SPLC labeled the Family Research Council a hate group “on par with the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nations, for their views about homosexuality.”[19] The Family Research Council responded to the attack by publishing a full-page newspaper advertisement[20] asking the SPLC for a civil debate on the issue. More than 100 people, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee signed the open letter.[21]

The letter stated, in part: “The surest sign one is losing a debate is to resort to character assassination. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a liberal fundraising machine whose tactics have been condemned by observers across the political spectrum, is doing just that.”[22]

The Southern Poverty Law Center has also taken issue with the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank, and the Castle Rock Foundation. According to the SPLC, these groups spread hatred and bigotry, and “[t]heir messages are spread using the standard tools: prejudice, fear, disdain, misinformation, trivialization, patronizing stereotypes, demonization and even scare-mongering conspiracy theories. While many of the groups within these networks describe themselves as mainstream — and many disagree with one another — they all have helped spread bigoted ideas into American life.”[23]


Abandoned Mission

While it worked towards integration in the 1970s, today it tries to keep bogeymen of the past alive. Unfortunately for the SPLC, “[m]ore than 95 percent of all ‘hate crimes,’ including most of the incidents SPLC letters cite (bombings, church burnings, school shootings), are perpetrated by ‘lone wolves.’”[24]

In its heyday, the SPLC took on tough legal cases (like death penalty cases) that other firms would decline. Now, the SPLC reportedly takes very few cases, preferring those that will help add to its assets. Author Ken Silverstein explains in Harper’s Magazine, "[i]n 1987, Dees won a $7 million judgment against the United Klans of America on behalf of Beulah Mae Donald, whose son was lynched by two Klansmen. The UKA’s total assets amounted to a warehouse whose sale netted Mrs. Donald $51,875. According to a groundbreaking series of newspaper stories in the Montgomery Advertiser, the SPLC, meanwhile, made $9 million from fund-raising solicitations featuring the case, including one containing a photo of Michael Donald’s corpse."[25]

In the mid 1990s, the Montgomery Adviser published a series of investigative articles about the SPLC and its founder, Morris Dees. The article series was nominated for a 1995 Pulitzer Prize.[26] The articles uncovered financial improprieties and institutional racism.

Matthew Vadum of the Capital Research Center explains, “Black former employees of the Center complained that white supervisors ran it ‘like a plantation.’”[27] Vadum continues: "Reporters also uncovered that what is arguably the nation’s wealthiest civil rights group – which argues that racism pervades all of American society — had no blacks in top management positions. ‘Twelve out of the 13 black current and former employees we contacted cited racism at the Center, which was a shocker to me. As of 1995, the Center had hired only two black attorneys in its entire history.’"[28]


Hate and Extremism

The Southern Poverty Law Center is perhaps best known for its tracking of hate groups.[29] According to the SPLC, as of 2010, over 1,000 hate groups operated in the United States.[30] The SPLC’s approach to defining hate groups can be seen on its “Hate and Extremism” webpage. The SPLC explains, “[s]ince 2000, the number of hate groups has increased by 54 percent. This surge has been fueled by fears of Latino immigration and, more recently, by the election of the country’s first African-American president and the economic crisis.”[31]

The Southern Poverty Law Center publishes hate group information in a quarterly journal, the Intelligence Report. The Intelligence Report does not monitor all hate groups, however. SPLC states that it “is the nation’s preeminent periodical monitoring the radical rightin the U.S.”[32]


Teaching “Tolerance” Program

Through its “Teaching Tolerance” program, the SPLC teaches school children and teachers its positions.[33] The program advocates social justice. The program offers a magazine, toolkits, curriculum and films to schools at no cost.[34]

Teaching Tolerance magazine is distributed twice a year to 400,000 teachers nationwide.[35] The Spring 2011 issue was dedicated to showing educators how to teach “social justice.”[36] In this issue, the SPLC claims that illegal immigration is not a crime and attacks an Arizona immigration law.[37]

The SPLC states that its Teaching Tolerance program “is working to foster school environments that are inclusive and nurturing – classrooms where equality and justice are not just taught, but lived.”[38] According to Jacob Laksin of Discover the Networks, however, “the program, far from a good-faith effort to instruct schoolchildren in the merits of tolerance, is designed to spread the virtues of political correctness among pupils while promoting liberal pieties among their teachers.”[39]

Laksin also explains how in the SPLC’s opinion too many American schoolteachers are white: "Noting that nearly 90 percent of K-12 teachers in the United States are white, while 36 percent of students ‘are students of color,’ one recent article suggested that this fact was evidence of racism in the teacher-hiring process. The article’s author ruminated about ‘how white teachers can help dismantle a legacy of racial domination and injustice,’ offering proposals to ‘white teachers in challenging racial bias in curriculum and in school culture.’"[40]

In 2009, the SPLC launched the “Teaching Diverse Students Initiative,”[41] which aims to help white teachers discover that they are holding back students of color.


Other Work

Children at Risk
According to the SPLC, “[a]cross the country, thousands of children are languishing in abusive prisons and jails. These youths are disproportionately African-American and Latino. Most live in poverty … Children and teens of color are imprisoned at almost three times the rate of their white counterparts – suggesting that they are often unfairly targeted for arrest and confinement.”[42]

Immigrant Justice
The SPLC claims that immigrants “are routinely cheated out of their wages and denied basic protections in the workplace. In their communities, they are subjected to racial profiling and harassment by law enforcement – and frequently forced to prove themselves innocent of immigration violations, regardless of their legal status. And they are, increasingly, targeted for violent hate crimes.”[43]


Leadership (as of March 2011)

Richard Cohen, President and CEO (2008 Compensation: $344,490)
Joseph Levin, Director and General Counsel (2008 Compensation: $189,166)
Morris Dees, Chief Trial Counsel (2008 Compensation: $348,420)
Rhonda Brownstein, Legal Director (2008 Compensation: $179,806)


Contact Information

Southern Poverty Law Center
400 Washington Ave.
Montgomery, AL 36104

Telephone: 334.956.8200
Website: http://www.splcenter.org/


The National Center For Public Policy Research publishes GroupSnoop. The National Center is a non-profit communications and research foundation that supports free-market and pro-Constitution approaches to today’s policy problems. The National Center is supported by the voluntary gifts of over 100,000 individual recent supporters, receiving less than one percent of its revenue from corporate sources. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated!

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  1. ^
    Form 990 retrieved from guidestar on March 15, 2011.
  2. ^
    “Who We Are – SPLC History,” Southern Poverty Law Center, available at http://www.splcenter.org/who-we-are/splc-history/1970s as of March 15, 2011.
  3. ^ “Who We Are – SPLC History,” Southern Poverty Law Center, available at http://www.splcenter.org/who-we-are/splc-history/1970s as of March 15, 2011.
  4. ^ “NAACP Chooses Successor to Chairman Julian Bond,” CNN, February 20, 2010, available at http://articles.cnn.com/2010-02-20/us/naacp.leadership_1_chairman-julian-bond-naacp-national-board-naacp-web-site?_s=PM:US as of March 15, 2011.
  5. ^ “Who We Are – SPLC History,” Southern Poverty Law Center, available at http://www.splcenter.org/who-we-are/splc-history/1970s as of March 15, 2011.
  6. ^
    “What We Do,” Southern Poverty Law Center, available at http://www.splcenter.org/what-we-do as of August 18, 2011.
  7. ^
    Ken Silverstein, “The Church of Morris Dees: How the Southern Poverty Law Center Profits from Intolerance,” Harper’s Magazine, November 2000, available at http://www.americanpatrol.com/SPLC/ChurchofMorrisDees001100.html as of March 16, 2011.
  8. ^
    Matthew Vadum, “The Southern Poverty Law Center: A Twisted Definition of Hate,” Capital Research Center, November 2006, available at http://www.capitalresearch.org/pubs/pdf/v1185995987.pdf (pdf) as of March 18, 2011.
  9. ^
    “Who We Are,” Southern Poverty Law Center, available at http://www.splcenter.org/who-we-are as of March 16, 2011.
  10. ^ “Who We Are,” Southern Poverty Law Center, available at http://www.splcenter.org/who-we-are as of March 16, 2011.
  11. ^
    “The ‘Patriot’ Movement Timeline,” Southern Poverty Law Center, Intelligence Report – Issue Number 138, Summer 2010, available at http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2010/summer/meet-the-patriots/the-patriot-movemen as of March 15, 2011.
  12. ^ John Rossomando, “Liberals Desperate to Connect Tea Party with Domestic Terrorism,” The Daily Caller, September 9, 2011, available at http://dailycaller.com/2010/09/10/liberals-desperate-to-connect-tea-party-with-domestic-terrorism/ as of March 15, 2011.
  13. ^
    “The ‘Patriot’ Movement Timeline,” Southern Poverty Law Center, Intelligence Report – Issue Number 138, Summer 2010, available at http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2010/summer/meet-the-patriots/the-patriot-movemen as of March 15, 2011.
  14. ^
    Mark Potok, “Rage on the Right: The Year in Hate and Extremism,” Southern Poverty Law Center, Intelligence Report – Issue Number 137, Spring 2010, available at http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2010/spring/rage-on-the-right as of March 15, 2011.
  15. ^ “The Enablers,” Southern Poverty Law Center, Intelligence Report – Issue # 138, Summer 2010, available at http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2010/summer/meet-the-patriots/the-enablers as of March 16, 2011.
  16. ^ John Rossomando, “Liberals Desperate to Connect Tea Party with Domestic Terrorism,” The Daily Caller, September 9, 2011, available at http://dailycaller.com/2010/09/10/liberals-desperate-to-connect-tea-party-with-domestic-terrorism/ as of March 15, 2011.
  17. ^
    See “18 Anti-Gay Groups and Their Propaganda,” Southern Poverty Law Center, Intelligence Report – Issue # 140, Winter 2010, available at http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2010/winter/the-hard-liners as of March 16, 2011.
  18. ^ See “18 Anti-Gay Groups and Their Propaganda,” Southern Poverty Law Center, Intelligence Report – Issue # 140, Winter 2010, available at http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2010/winter/the-hard-liners as of March 16, 2011.
  19. ^ John Rossomando, “Southern Poverty Law Center: Social Conservative Organizations are Hate Groups,” The Daily Caller, December 10, 2010, available at http://dailycaller.com/2010/12/06/southern-poverty-law-center-social-conservative-organizations-are-hate-groups/ as of March 16, 2011.
  20. ^ To view the advertisement and the signatories, see http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF10L12.pdf as of March 16, 2011.
  21. ^ To view the advertisement and the signatories, see http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF10L12.pdf as of March 16, 2011.
  22. ^
    To view the advertisement and the signatories, see http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF10L12.pdf as of March 16, 2011.
  23. ^
    Chip Berlet, “Into the Mainstream,” Intelligence Report, Issue Number 110, Summer 2003, available at http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2003/summer/into-the-mainstream as of March 18, 2011.
  24. ^
    Ken Silverstein, “The Church of Morris Dees: How the Southern Poverty Law Center Profits from Intolerance,” Harper’s Magazine, November 2000, available at http://www.americanpatrol.com/SPLC/ChurchofMorrisDees001100.html as of March 16, 2011.
  25. ^
    Ken Silverstein, “The Church of Morris Dees: How the Southern Poverty Law Center Profits from Intolerance,” Harper’s Magazine, November 2000, available at http://www.americanpatrol.com/SPLC/ChurchofMorrisDees001100.html as of March 16, 2011.
  26. ^
    Matthew Vadum, “The Southern Poverty Law Center: A Twisted Definition of Hate,” Capital Research Center, November 2006, available at http://www.capitalresearch.org/pubs/pdf/v1185995987.pdf (pdf) as of March 18, 2011.
  27. ^
    Matthew Vadum, “The Southern Poverty Law Center: A Twisted Definition of Hate,” Capital Research Center, November 2006, available at http://www.capitalresearch.org/pubs/pdf/v1185995987.pdf (pdf) as of March 18, 2011.
  28. ^ Matthew Vadum, “The Southern Poverty Law Center: A Twisted Definition of Hate,” Capital Research Center, November 2006, available at http://www.capitalresearch.org/pubs/pdf/v1185995987.pdf (pdf) as of March 18, 2011.
  29. ^
    “What We Do – Hate and Extremism,” Southern Poverty Law Center, available at http://www.splcenter.org/what-we-do/hate-and-extremism as of March 17, 2011.
  30. ^ See a map of these hate groups at “Active U.S. Hate Groups,” Southern Poverty Law Center, available at http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/hate-map as of March 17, 2011.
  31. ^ “What We Do – Hate and Extremism,” Southern Poverty Law Center, available at http://www.splcenter.org/what-we-do/hate-and-extremism as of March 17, 2011.
  32. ^
    “Get Informed – The Intelligence Report,” Southern Poverty Law Center, available at http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report as of March 17, 2011. (Emphasis added).
  33. ^
    “What We Do – Teaching Tolerance,” Southern Poverty Law Center, available at http://www.splcenter.org/what-we-do/teaching-tolerance as of March 17, 2011.
  34. ^ “What We Do – Teaching Tolerance,” Southern Poverty Law Center, available at http://www.splcenter.org/what-we-do/teaching-tolerance as of March 17, 2011
  35. ^
    Teaching Tolerance Magazine Examines Classroom Use of Social Media to Teach About Social Justice; Offers Timely Lessons on Immigration Issues,” Southern Poverty Law Center – News, January 14, 2011, available at http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/news/teaching-tolerance-magazine-examines-classroom-use-of-social-media as of March 17, 2011.
  36. ^Teaching Tolerance Magazine Examines Classroom Use of Social Media to Teach About Social Justice; Offers Timely Lessons on Immigration Issues,” Southern Poverty Law Center – News, January 14, 2011, available at http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/news/teaching-tolerance-magazine-examines-classroom-use-of-social-media as of March 17, 2011.
  37. ^ “10 Myths About Immigration,” Teaching Tolerance Magazine, Number 39, Spring 2011, available at http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-39-spring-2011/10-myths-about-immigration as of March 17, 2011.
  38. ^
    “What We Do – Teaching Tolerance,” Southern Poverty Law Center, available at http://www.splcenter.org/what-we-do/teaching-tolerance as of March 17, 2011.
  39. ^ Jacob Laksin, “Southern Poverty Law Center: Activities, Agendas, and Worldview,” Discover the Networks, 2005, available at http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/Articles/splcworldview.html as of March 17, 2011.
  40. ^
    Jacob Laksin, “Southern Poverty Law Center: Activities, Agendas, and Worldview,” Discover the Networks, 2005, available at http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/Articles/splcworldview.html as of March 17, 2011.
  41. ^
    See “The Teaching Diverse Students Initiative,” available at http://www.tolerance.org/tdsi/ as of March 17, 2011.
  42. ^
    “What We Do – Children at Risk,” Southern Poverty Law Center, available at http://www.splcenter.org/what-we-do/children-at-risk as of March 17, 2011.
  43. ^
    “What We Do – Immigrant Justice,” Southern Poverty Law Center, available at http://www.splcenter.org/what-we-do/immigrant-justice as of March 17, 2011.