Since the 1960s, the Southern Poverty Law Center has served as a self-appointed watchdog to track hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nation. Though its efforts have doubtless been helpful in certain areas, the SPLC’s recent (November 24, 2010) list now includes as “hate groups” thirteen upstanding Christian organizations, accused of propagating “known falsehoods” about gays and lesbians. I find it difficult to believe that groups such as the American Family Association or the Family Research Council are guilty of “repeated or groundless name-calling.” In theory, the SPLC does not put a Christian organization on the list simply for believing that homosexuality is unbiblical. However, other Christian groups may soon graduate to the “hate” list, since they are now rated as emitting “anti-gay rhetoric.” Indeed, “anti-gay” defines the category that qualifies such groups for listing.
Is this political posturing, personal animus from a lunatic fringe, or an escalation of the conflict between two irreconcilable worldviews, both of which claim the right to be heard in the public square?
Since the 2010 mid-term elections, the Left has had to temper its optimism. Perhaps a sense of disempowerment is causing a reaction from “progressive” groups who, for a time, thought they had it all. The Tea Party grandmas were seen as violence-prone racists. The public discourse of highly-visible SPLC Board Member, Julian Bond, exemplifies this inconsistency. He once famously stated that conservative appointees were drawn from “the Taliban wing of American politics,…appeasing the wretched appetites of the extreme right wing.” He accuses “anti-gays” as “raving homophobes” filled with “self-loathing and self-hate.” Robert Knight, Washington correspondent for Coral Ridge Ministries ironically suggests that: “No organization better defines what a hate group is all about than the Southern Poverty Law Center.”
But, you will say, there are extremists on both sides of the political spectrum, so are statements like these simply political hyperbole, which we might do well to ignore?
Something is different here. The SPLC has been granted a certain status by the Federal Government. In April, 2010 the Department of Homeland Security sent the SPLC’s list of “potential domestic terrorists” to police departments all over the United States. The list, which is also used by the FBI, included such “anti-Americans” as Joseph Farah, CEO of World Net Daily; Cliff Kincaid, a Christian syndicated columnist; US Representatives Michele Bachman and Ron Paul, and TV personality Glenn Beck (who was doubtless unfazed!). To be branded a “hate group” by an organism closely associated with the administration in a climate of public intimidation, gives such slander a great deal more cultural weight. The proof?
The effect of the SPLC announcement was immediate. The Manhattan Declaration, opposing gay marriage, signed by hundreds of Christian leaders, was no longer available on iTunes as an Apple app as of November 26, 2010. It had been removed! The news report noted that “Supporters of the Declaration include Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, a group recently (two days earlier!) labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”
Such action not only defames the good name of Christian ministries, but leads to a more pernicious effect—a short-circuited debate. The Manhattan Declaration simply disappears. Mark Potok, director of SLPC’s Intelligence Project, openly recognizes that being labeled as: “a ‘hate group’ has nothing to do with criminality… [or] potential for violence…” Rather “It’s all about ideology.” What an admission! No crime, no violence, just “wrong thinking.” In the conflict of worldviews, some worldviews must be silenced.
Ideological bullying about the gay issue is building. My good friend, the Rev. Dr. Augustus Nicodemus Gomes Lopes is Chancellor of Mackenzie (Presbyterian) University in Sao Paolo, Brazil—one of the oldest institutions of higher education in Brazil. The photo of this godly man, with whom I have worked closely for a number of years, is now ominously posted on various gay sites, accompanied by words of hate and personal insults. His “crime”? Defending his institution’s academic freedom to oppose a law defining as a crime “any intimidating or vexing action, of moral, ethical, philosophical or psychological nature” that involves homosexuality. Closer to home, the head of one of the groups designated by the SPLC last week is speaking at our think tank in January, 2011.
The noose is tightening. The first step is identifying “hate groups” by those in power. The next is passing “hate speech” laws. The next step is enforcing them. But Jesus has a good word for us:
“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven…” (Luke 6:22-23)