“Hate groups”

08.17.2012, 10:06 AM

At the WaPo today, Dana Milbank’s column:

The Family Research Council’s president, Tony Perkins, said Thursday that “Corkins was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center.” This goes too far. Nobody gave Corkins a license to kill. But at the same time, “hate,” a strong word, has been used too loosely — whether it’s Mitt Romney telling President Obama to take his “campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago,” or the Southern Poverty Law Center lumping a Christian policy group in with hooded bigots.

Late Thursday, the law center fired back at Perkins, defending its categorization of the FRC as a hate group because it “has knowingly spread false and denigrating propaganda about LGBT people.” The center said that Perkins should stop putting out “claims that are provably false” about gay people.

Yes, Perkins should stop doing that. But even if he doesn’t, the Southern Poverty Law Center should stop listing a mainstream Christian advocacy group alongside neo-Nazis and Klansmen.

In my view, Perkins is wrong.  And I also believe that there is much that needs to be seriously discussed, including by the leaders and supporters of FRC, on what constitutes, and contributes to, some of us “hating” others of us.  Simply saying “don’t call us haters” is not nearly enough.   But I also think that, on his basic point, Milbank is right.

30 Responses to ““Hate groups””

  1. Many of us on the pro-equality side refrain from calling people “haters” or “bigots” or any of that sort of thing. The problem? Groups like FRC and NOM refuse to hear it. Both of those groups (and others) have completely mischaracterized my heart/intent on numerous occasions. We all get lumped into one big monolith, all of us accused of being name callers.

    All we really want is for people like Tony Perkins to take responsibility for his words/work. Check this out. It’s indefensible (in my view), but virtually no mainstream journalist forces Tony to answer to any of it: http://www.glaad.org/cap/tony-perkins

  2. annajcook says:

    According to the SPLC’s website, they classify hate groups by the following definition: a group which promotes “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” On that same page, they go on to clarify that:

    Hate group activities can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing. Websites appearing to be merely the work of a single individual, rather than the publication of a group, are not included in this list. Listing here does not imply a group advocates or engages in violence or other criminal activity.

    If we’re going to have a conversation about whether or not it’s appropriate for the SPLC to list the Family Research Council as a hate-based organization, it seems important to have their working definition before us.

    The information about their “anti-gay group” classification, and the organizations they identify as such can be found here: http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/ideology/anti-gay

  3. JeffreyRO5 says:

    If the FRC is a “mainstream Christian advocacy group”, then I don’t have much hope left for Christianity. Since when do Christian advocacy groups target minorities for condemnation and fewer legal rights?

  4. Karen says:

    Calling Pro-Marriage Groups Hateful Must End
    Thursday, August 16, 2012, 10:32 PM
    Robert P. George

    In fact, Milbank goes so far as to say that “the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes gay marriage, is right to say that the attack is the clearest sign we’ve seen that labeling pro-marriage groups as ‘hateful’ must end.” The entire piece is worth reading. Milbank’s central claim is sound. But beyond that, his making it displays impressive integrity. He surely knows that it will earn him a hefty share of the abusive rhetoric he rightly deplores.

  5. Pat says:

    Maybe we should stop considering an organization listed alongside Neo-Nazis and Klansmen to be a “mainstream Christian advocacy group.”

    If you don’t want that to be said, stop telling people to lie–just stop making it true.

    How is that calling a hate group a hate group is an incitement to violence, but the hate they spread is not? Especially since that violence actually happens–when a single incident makes everybody go wild, you know that you’re dealing with something atypical that therefore can NOT be used like this is.

  6. Pat says:

    Oh, and remember: FRC doesn’t just say mean things, they LIE. Not “I disagree” but “that is contrary to fact.”

    And they certainly say worse things than “hate.”
    This is all so very dishonest.

    If FRC is going to say that things like this incite violence, I take that as confession of criminal activity.
    Please STOP equating them and their ilk with Christianity as though they defined it, and stop defending them. That, that lie that Christian group and hate group are the same thing, is some of the most terrible anti-Christian bigotry I can imagine.
    And it’s certainly not coming from the left or any kind of gay rights group.

  7. admin says:

    I have deleted two comments by users who violated our civility policy. We would ask that everyone respect our policy – if further incendiary comments continue we will close comments on this post. And, as always, note that complaining about our civility policy is a violation.

    Michael and Joe Jervis, this will be your only warning.

  8. JHW says:

    It seems worth posting here the SPLC’s page on the Family Research Council and GLAAD’s pages on Tony Perkins and Peter Sprigg. I don’t think labeling them “mainstream” or “Christian” sheds much light on this question.

  9. Roger says:

    FRC and its allies know well the SPLC criteria for being listed as a hate group. It is very easy to be removed from the list. All they have to do is stop defaming gay people.

  10. admin says:

    Apologies to Jeremy Hooper whose comment (first on this list) went automatically into spam. Also, apologies to anyone else who may be experiencing this problem.

  11. Glen says:


    Apparently Robert P. George (and maybe Dana Milbank if she didn’t call the following out) don’t get it.

    “Calling Pro-Marriage Groups Hateful Must End”

    Even their calling themselves a Pro-marriage group, Pro-marriage organizations, is a form of hate speech.

    Because of what they are advocating, which in NOM’s case is exclusively opposing same-gender marriage equality, then calling themselves Pro-Marriage *IS* essentially calling those who disagree with you Anti-Marriage. (It’s little different than calling those who are Pro-Choice, Pro-Abortion. I for one am Pro-Choice AND Anti-Abortion.)

    Those who advocate for same-gender marriage equality ARE in fact Pro-Marriage. Those who disagree with such equality falsely and maliciously impugn the Pro-equality side as being Anti-Marriage in the simple phrase of calling themselves ‘Pro-Marriage’ in the context of denying marriage rights to same-gender couples. This is a veiled form of hate speech, because most people are going to automatically react negatively to an opposition who is implied to be ‘Anti-Marriage’.

    Conversely it is not incorrect to call one group Pro-Equality, which implies that the other side is Anti-Equality, because THAT is actually true. The same with Pro-Choice. These progressive groups tend to use more accurate language to describe their agenda, and the opposite of which describes their opponents solution (if not agenda); anti-equality and anti-choice.

    But calling oneself Pro-marriage does NOT accurately define the opposition (either their solution nor their agenda), which would imply Anti-Marriage. Those who support same-gender marriage are not calling for a solution that eliminates marriage for straight couples, nor is their agenda Anti-marriage.

  12. Mario says:

    The SPLC is not arbitrarily labeling organizations as hate groups. They site SPECIFIC examples where organizations or individuals promote “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” These examples are well documented and can be found on their website.

    If you don’t want to be labeled as a hate group, don’t spread hate! Plain and simple. There is plenty of CREDIBLE peer-reviewed research that shows gay families are no different than straight families. There is also CREDIBLE PEER-REVIEWED research that shows homophobia and bigotry harm people especially gay kids who have high suicide rates. If one family is raising healthy, happy, productive kids and another disowns and drives their kids to kill themselves or promote legislation that makes them 2nd class citizens, who is causing the most harm?

    An organization cannot escape being labeled a hate group simply by saying they are a religious organization. I believe that undermines and degrades the peaceful message of love and acceptance the founders of every major world religion proclaimed.

  13. annajcook says:

    One further thought: I have yet to see a clear and persuasive argument from those who find non-straight sexuality icky and/or antisocial and/or sinful and/or otherwise distasteful or threatening to society why their prejudice (and more precisely their call for society and the law to enforce that prejudice through discriminatory policies) is NOT hateful.

    One does not have to feel hate in a visceral sense to support it in the legal or social sense. We think of hate as a strong, inflammatory emotion. We think of rage and anger, of something uncontained or uncontrolled. We think of something violent. But “hate” in the sense of a “hate group” means to systematically value one group or groups as lesser-than while upholding another group or groups as the best/ideal based on intrinsic characteristics. Anti-gay prejudice is hateful because it posits that one group of people, based on whom they love and explore sexual intimacy with, is lesser-than another group of people. You can be dispassionate about believing that, but just because you’re dispassionate doesn’t mean your beliefs aren’t a manifestation of prejudicial hate.

    Maybe I’m thinking about hate and hate groups very differently from the folks who are protesting the labeling of the Family Research Council as such, but if so … I’d really like to hear a clearer articulation of why such discriminatory beliefs are not hate in the sense I outline above.

  14. Roger says:

    Given the traditions of this country, we will never outlaw “hate speech” any more than we will adopt sensible gun regulations. But in places like Canada and the United Kingdom, where hate speech laws exist, there is a great deal less acrimony in the “culture wars” because both sides know that there are limits to what can be said about their opponents. I think there is a direct relationship between hate speech laws and the fact that incidents of violence are far fewer, especially violence directed at minority groups.

  15. Mont D. Law says:

    [But in places like Canada and the United Kingdom, where hate speech laws exist, there is a great deal less acrimony in the “culture wars” because both sides know that there are limits to what can be said about their opponents.]

    The big difference between Canada and the US is we have less tolerance for political violence then the Americans do. You are truth, justice and the American way. We are peace, order and good government.

    In Canada the quickest way to loose support for your political opinion is to hurt someone. This is true on both the left and the right. The leftist french separatists had tons of support until they killed a bunch of people, so did the leftist environmentalist Squamish Five, until they killed some poor security guard.

    Anti-abortion activists had some traction in Canada. It lasted until they killed a couple of doctors and like the others people abandoned them in droves.

    Our hate crimes laws are not the cause of this they are an example.

  16. David Blankenhorn says:

    In some writing that I am trying to do now, I am struggling over the word to use to describe a certain trait or quality that I think is bad. The most likely possible words in my mind are: animus, prejudice, and bigotry. I suppose one could also add, hatred. I haven’t figured out which word to use, but I have figured out my working definition, which is:

    “an unreasonable dislike of others that can cause harm”

    So, for me at least, rather than debating who is a hater and whether a certain group is or is not a hate group, what I want to do in my own work is ask: “Does this person or group display an unreasonable dislike of others that can cause harm?” To me, at least, this is an aid to clearer thinking. It notches down the rhetorical temperature a bit, and calls for a bit more nuance and precision.

  17. Dale S says:

    When we let others, others who wish to oppress, frame the conversation we all lose just a little. We are told that criticism is denying another man’s right to freedom of speech. We are told that allowing two loving people of the same sex to marry is taking away others’ religious freedom. And now we are being told that actions are not worthy of being classified as hate unless it’s one of kidnapping or murder. When is enough, enough?

    I’ve spent years studying the SPLC and have had many meaningful conversations with their staff members. It’s not easy for a group to make hate-group status with them, they really have to put an all-out effort to achieve that status. I happen to support the SPLC’s work, in fact their entire body of work is all about civility, our current vocabulary word of the day. The SPLC has been asking for civility longer than most of these groups have been around, yet these groups fail to comply. If Mr. Perkins is offended by being labeled a hate group, he can fix it by being honest and being civil. These are two traits I’m positive he is incapable of.

  18. annajcook says:

    I appreciate the point you make, David, although I would not want to shie away from using the word “hate” where appropriate (something I realize reasonable people will likely disagree on).

    I’m curious why you chose to specify “unreasonable dislike” … couldn’t “reasonable” dislike that causes harm also be a problem?

  19. David Lapp says:

    I’m a Catholic who believes that the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate threatens the institutional vitality of my Church. It coerces people — and possiblty me — to violate their consciences. All of this I believe deprives the Church of a fundamental right, the right to religious freedom.

    Given my views, I could accuse anyone who agrees with the contraceptive mandate of hate towards me and my church. I could create lists of the most egregious things that people have ever said about the Catholic Church and call them all haters.

    But I don’t do that because I don’t believe that the Obama administration officials, and people who support the contraceptive mandate, are haters — even though I think the mandate represents an existential threat to my church. I think most of pro-contraceptive mandate people are, well, motivated by good will to help more women gain access to what they believe is an important good. I disagree profoundly with them that contraception is even a good (I think it’s an evil) — but I believe that they are people of good will, albeit with different (and misguided, I think) priorities, guided in their own way by what they believe is right.

    I’m sure that, for all kinds of reasons, there are differences between this example and same-sex marriage. But people on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate would, I think, do well to take it to heart that reasonable people of good will can find themselves disagreeing about important things like what marriage is, and what religious freedom is.

  20. Mont D. Law says:

    (The SPLC is not arbitrarily labeling organizations as hate groups.)

    This is why George and Perkins have zero credibility with me. SPLC has a detailed process for making these designations. It is completely transparent. Yet neither man says, oh these standards you are using are incorrect because… Or this standard is correct but it doesn’t apply to our organization because …

    As long as these organizations do neither of these thinks they are reduced to pathetic protests. We are not as bad as the Klan and accusations of bad faith against the SPLC.

  21. Roger says:

    David, if you are a good Catholic who believes that God founded the Church, it is hard to reconcile that belief with your belief that the contraception mandate represents an existential threat to my church. A little melodramatic, don’t you think?

    Do you really want to believe in a church that is so fragile that it will be destroyed if some of their employees have insurance that pays for contraception?

    But of course, you are right that whether the mandate is a good idea or not, it is hardly motivated by hatred. Only Tony Perkins or Robert George would think so.

  22. JHW says:

    David Lapp: The designation of the Family Research Council as a hate group has nothing to do with its stance against same-sex marriage. If the Obama Administration said in its public advocacy the sorts of things about Catholics that the Family Research Council says about gays, it would be quite properly regarded as made up of anti-Catholic bigots.

  23. Mont D. Law says:

    (Given my views, I could accuse anyone who agrees with the contraceptive mandate of hate towards me and my church. I could create lists of the most egregious things that people have ever said about the Catholic Church and call them all haters.)

    Well you could do that, but it would be in no way the equivalent of what the SPLC is doing.

  24. La Lubu says:

    David, I don’t think your analogy about contraception holds. In the US, we have a long tradition of how to handle core differences of belief, often colloquially expressed as “your right to swing your arm ends at my nose.” Meaning, in USian sociopolitical culture, you have the right to choose and practice your own beliefs, but not to impose them upon others.

    There are profound religious differences in this nation. How we generally handle them is to allow all religions the freedom to operate, and persons and communities are free to choose among them (or not). There are profound political differences in this nation. Again, there are many political parties and ideologies, and persons and communities are free to choose among them (or not).

    What opponents of same-sex marriage are asking for is to go against this tradition of choices; to prohibit persons from being able to exercise a personal choice (that yes, can affect the larger community in much the same way a personal choice about religion or politics does) that other persons in the larger community are allowed.

    The only times in US history where this practice (shutting out specific classes of persons from specific community institutions) has occurred has been explicitly discriminatory; instances in which specific classes of persons have been denied basic humanity and/or had their full humanity called into question. (do I really need to elaborate?)

    Think on this for a moment. Opponents of same-sex marriage are asking for an exception to the rule in the means by which we govern ourselves. If the question is “which religion to follow” and the varied answers are “none, Catholic, Baptist, Sunni, Reform, Zen, Pagan, etc.” our solution is to permit all of the above. If the question is “which political party to join” and the varied answers are “Democratic, Republican, Green, Socialist, Libertarian, etc.” our solution is to permit all of the above. Following in this tradition, the answer to same-sex marriage is to permit all of the above: allow couples to marry (or choose not to marry) regardless of sex; those who disagree are free to conduct their personal lives the way they see fit. As the church and state are separate entities, churches are free to govern themselves in regard to which marriages they choose to recognize or not recognize.

    You and I disagree strongly on the contraceptive mandate; where you believe contraception is an evil, I believe withholding contraception from those who desire it is an evil. Catholic entities performing religious services are exempt from the mandate. Catholic entities performing secular services are not exempt from the mandate. That is fair. If Catholic entities performing secular services wish to impose Catholic teachings on those receiving those services, or upon those employees who administer those services, then those entities merely need to withdraw from the public coffers. That is also fair (and has precedence in our educational system; schools that believe in barring students based on race or sex must do so without the help of public funds).

    Saying that this is an issue of conscience is highly disingenuous (and hypocritical) of the Catholic Church. There has been/is no movement to deny health insurance coverage for the spouses and children of second, third, etc. marriages, for example. For all the talk of “cafeteria Catholics”, the Church itself is fond of cherry-picking where and when it wants to extend its power. (as in Illinois, where Catholic Charities elected to end its adoption services rather than be required to use the public monies it receives to assist same-sex couples with adoption. That same Catholic Charities had a longstanding practice of assisting single adults adopt children; many of those single adults were/are gay or lesbian.)

    Further, saying that the contraceptive mandate threatens the existence of the Catholic Church is hyperbole. The main threat the Catholic Church faces is alienating its own membership. The overwhelming majority of US Catholics support the mandate.

    Bottom line: if freedom is to have any meaning whatsoever, it cannot be an abstract idea, but a practice. Freedom means you don’t get to impose your own beliefs upon others that do not share them. That includes the ability to impose how people spend their earnings (which is what insurance benefits are—part of one’s earnings for services rendered). Even if you strongly disagree as a matter of conscience. It also means you don’t get to determine who should and should not have access to what we all agree are basic human rights (such as the right to marry). Again, even if you strongly disagree as a matter of conscience. You have the freedom to advocate for your beliefs, not to impose them.

  25. JeffreyRO5 says:


    Not to pile on but your response is so troublesome that I can’t resist replying to it. No church is required to provide contraceptives in a health care plan. Businesses are, whether they are affiliated with a church or not. No one is required to use contraceptives. It’s hard to see how your religious freedoms are imperiled when something is included in a health care plan, and frankly, that something is used by the vast majority of Catholic women. I’m wondering, if a business offers a legal plan for employees, and it includes assistance with divorce, would you find that objectionable? How is it different if an employee of a business associated with the Catholic faith uses money from her salary to buy birth control? If such an employee admitted to the catholic-affiliated business that she regularly used money from her salary to buy birth control, would the business be obligated to fire her, to stop their enabling?

    “But people on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate would, I think, do well to take it to heart that reasonable people of good will can find themselves disagreeing about important things like what marriage is, and what religious freedom is.”

    Ah, the “people of good will” argument surfaces again. No, it is not a place of “good will” in opposing legal rights for minorities. You are free to oppose same-sex marriage, just as you oppose pre-marital sex, adultery and divorce. You are not free to outlaw, for specific groups, any or all of these practices. That crosses a line. Just as Catholics happily live with legal pre-marital sex, legal adultery and legal divorce, they must also learn to live with legal same-sex marriage. No one is stopping you from believing that marriage can only occur between a man and a woman. The pushback is coming at you because you want the government to enshrine your personal beliefs into law. Worse, you want to retain the right to marry for yourself, but deny it for others. That’s ugly.

    I’m not saying you’re a bad person because you want the government to outlaw marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples. I’m saying the argument that the government must do so is not in any way virtuous or benevolent. Unless you believe that it’s in the interest of gay couples not to marry. Lacking that, we know it is against the interests of gay couples, which makes the argument malevolent.

  26. JeffreyRO5 says:

    David, help me understand something. From what I can tell, American Catholics, and Christians generally, support legal divorce (forbidden in the Bible), legal adultery (forbidden in the Bible) and legal pre-marital sex (forbidden in the Bible), yet oppose legal same-sex marriage (unmentioned in the Bible). I’m not Catholic so I don’t know what, if any, theological principles make sense of what otherwise seems hypocritical and contradictory. Can you explain? Thanks.

  27. La Lubu says:

    JeffreyRO5: from CNN:

    But a recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) suggests 59% of American Catholics support rights allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry.

    That number has been growing over the years.

  28. David Blankenhorn says:

    Hi, annajcook:

    I want my bad thing to be “unreasonable” because I can think of some cases in which the most reasonable thing to do is strongly to dislike some group, or movement, or person. Obvious examples would include criminal gangs, neo-Nazi groups, and (yes) people who say and advocate violent things about gays and lesbians. I think it would be fair to say that I have, that many people have good reasons for having, a strong dislike for such groups or persons, and that that dislike (if, for example, it results in them being stigmatized in the public debate, or not being hired for a job, etc) may cause them to experience (in their view anyway) something that can be called harm. So I don’t want to say that no one can dislike anyone and that no one can do anything to cause another person to feel that they are being harmed. That’s why the emphasis on “reasonable.”

  29. David B, your comment about what word to use reminded me of this post from a gay-rights blogger I read: If We Don’t Call it ‘Hate,’ What Shall We Call It?

  30. [...] and this blog post: If We Don’t Call it ‘Hate,’ What Shall We Call It? A hat tip as well to David Blankenhorn’s post, for the link to Milbank’s [...]