FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL—Law-abiding Americans increasingly are convinced that their government views them as an enemy, perhaps even a “domestic terrorism threat.”
A newly unearthed video may confirm those fears.
Bureaucrats in numerous federal agencies apparently tag-teamed with the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that demonizes conservatives and Christians, including groups such as Alliance Defending Freedom and Moms for Liberty, in order to raise money and silence political opponents.
The federal bureaucrats reached out to the SPLC, which conservatives criticize as a far-left smear factory, as they planned to combat “the domestic terrorism threat.”
I’ve long raised the alarm about the SPLC, which gained its reputation by suing the Ku Klux Klan into bankruptcy and then weaponized that program against conservatives. Today, the center maintains a “hate map” plotting mainstream conservative and Christian groups alongside KKK chapters. It pressures the government to crack down on these groups and urges the charity and tech sectors to blacklist them.
In the fall of 2021 after President Joe Biden took office, SPLC President Margaret Huang bragged in a donor meeting that many agencies in Biden’s administration had approached the center to craft a domestic terrorism strategy.
“I think there’s no question that we are unparalleled in our abilities to track and monitor the hate and extremist groups in the country, and I can tell you that we’ve had many agencies in the new Biden administration reaching out to solicit our expertise and our knowledge and information to help shape the policies that the new administration is adopting to counter the domestic terrorism threat,” Huang said in a fundraising event video exclusively provided to The Daily Signal by an attendee who wishes to remain anonymous.
This video should send shivers down Americans’ spines.
If what Huang told donors is true, it proves what so many conservatives have suspected—their own government views them as a domestic terror threat.
Branding Conservatism ‘Hate’
As I wrote in my book “Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center,” critics long have noted that the SPLC exaggerates the prevalence of hate with its “hate map,” scaring donors into ponying up cash and smearing ideological opponents.
In addition to truly vile groups such as the KKK, the SPLC puts nonprofit law firms that protect religious liberty, such as Alliance Defending Freedom, on the “hate map.” ADF has won numerous cases before the Supreme Court, most notably Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission and 303 Creative v. Elenis, both cases involving Christians who faced government sanction for refusing to use their art to celebrate same-sex weddings.
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s map also includes conservative Christian groups such as the Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, and D. James Kennedy Ministries; Roman Catholic organizations such as the Ruth Institute and Remnant TV; and parental rights groups such as Moms for Liberty and Parents Defending Education.
The SPLC brands conservative Christians “hateful” for opposing its LGBTQ agenda, and it brands parental rights groups “hateful” because they oppose its education agenda.
The SPLC also puts immigration reform groups such as the Center for Immigration Studies, the Foundation on American Immigration Reform, and the Immigration Reform Law Institute on its “hate map.” The map also includes organizations that warn against the threat of radical Islam, such as the Center for Security Policy and the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
These moves align with the Biden administration’s priorities on LGBTQ activism, racial lessons in schools, lax enforcement of immigration law, and overlooking the threat of radical Islam. They also align with Biden’s rhetoric about “MAGA extremism” that “threatens the very republic.”
Indeed, the Biden administration has worked with the SPLC in the past few years.
Biden’s History With the SPLC
Last year, the FBI’s Richmond office used the SPLC’s “hate group” list to target “radical-traditional Catholics” in a rightly infamous memo. According to the SPLC’s logic, the entire Roman Catholic Church arguably should be listed as a “hate group” because the SPLC cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church in branding the Ruth Institute a “hate group.”
Just this week, the White House touted Vice President Kamala Harris’ meeting “with voting rights leaders.” Among the leaders the White House highlighted was Seth Levi, the SPLC’s chief strategy officer.
The SPLC decided to add parental rights groups to its “hate map” last June, two years after the Biden administration already had begun to target concerned parents.
In 2021, the National School Boards Association sent Biden a letter comparing parents who protest school district policies to domestic terrorists and urging Biden to use the Patriot Act against these parents. Documents later revealed that the White House had worked with the school board group to draft the letter.
The Justice Department issued a memo based on the letter, urging an investigation of parents. The school board association later apologized for the letter and the DOJ rescinded its memo, but the incident revealed Biden’s approach to concerned parents.
Biden’s administration released a domestic terrorism strategy in June 2021, after consulting “extensively with a wide array of experts across the U.S. government as well as with leaders in Congress, state and local governments, academia, civil society, religious communities, and foreign governments.”
According to Huang, the SPLC’s president, that consultation involved her organization.
The Irony of Using the SPLC to Combat Terrorism
The Biden administration’s use of the Southern Poverty Law Center to combat domestic terrorism is ironic, because the SPLC “hate map” inspired a terrorist attack in 2012, an SPLC lawyer faces domestic terrorism charges, and the SPLC long has covered for Antifa rioters who caused the most destructive riots in history in the summer of 2020.
In the 2012 incident, a terrorist gunman used the SPLC’s “hate map” to target a conservative Christian nonprofit, Family Research Council, in Washington, D.C. The man aimed to shoot everyone in the building, and he would have succeeded were it not for a brave unarmed building manager who received permanent injuries in foiling the attempt. The SPLC condemned the attack, but has kept Family Research Council on its map ever since.
Last March, an SPLC attorney was arrested at a riot in Atlanta involving Molotov cocktails, and he now faces domestic terrorism charges.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has taken other key hits to its credibility.
In 2018, the SPLC formally apologized to a Muslim reformer, Maajid Nawaz, who dared to criticize radical Islamist terrorism. The SPLC had branded him an “anti-Muslim extremist,” and it shelled out $3.38 million to settle his defamation lawsuit.
In 2019, the SPLC fired its cofounder and its president resigned amid a racial discrimination and sexual harassment scandal. During that scandal, a former employee came forward, saying the organization’s “hate” accusations are a “highly profitable scam.”
After the Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel on Oct. 7, the labor union that represents SPLC staff described Israel’s military response in Gaza as “the violent imperialist desecreation of a people—the beginnings of a genocide.”
Other SPLC staff appeared to help organize a massive anti-Israel protest in Washington, D.C., and two senior staff members signed a statement condemning Israel as an “apartheid state” and Israel’s war in Hamas-ruled Gaza as an attempted genocide.
Despite these and other scandals, many on the Left have continued to praise the SPLC and to use it as a weapon to silence conservative opponents. When Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., became speaker of the House, leftist groups cited the SPLC to attack Johnson over his history at Alliance Defending Freedom. Companies such as Amazon, Eventbrite, and Vimeo have used the SPLC to exclude conservative groups.
Congressional Republicans and organizations such as The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project have demanded answers from the Biden administration about how closely it worked with the SPLC on targeting parents and “radical traditional Catholics.” Now, Huang’s comments likely will embolden those efforts. (The Daily Signal is The Heritage Foundation’s news outlet.)
The FBI, which appears in the Biden strategy document on domestic terrorism, told The Daily Signal, “We don’t have any comment on specific remarks, and as this was a White House product we refer you to the White House for who they may have engaged in the process.” The bureau neither confirmed nor denied Huang’s suggestion that it reached out to the SPLC for advice.
The Defense Department, the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department—all mentioned in the Biden administration’s strategy document on domestic terrorism—did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment for this article. Neither the White House nor the SPLC responded to a request for comment.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect that Leo Johnson was not a security guard but a building manager at the time of the 2012 terrorist attack.
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