02/25/2004

Conference to Develop Hate Studies Program

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Scholars are gathering here March 18-20 for a conference designed to establish the nation's first academic program of hate studies.

Hosted by the Gonzaga Institute for Action Against Hate, the innovative conference will take place at Gonzaga University's campus.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is one of the sponsors for the upcoming International Conference to Establish the Field of Hate Studies, and its co-founder and chief legal counsel, Morris Dees, will be the keynote speaker at the conference's closing banquet. Other sponsors are the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Kootenai County (Idaho) Task Force on Race Relations, and the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Center in Canada.

The conference will include specialists from a variety of disciplines, including sociology, journalism and education. They will provide their expertise in developing curricula for colleges and universities that adopt hate studies programs.

"An academic program is desperately needed to study why hatred has been a common human experience," said Ken Stern, a member of the Institute's board and a specialist on anti-Semitism and extremism with the AJC. Stern will be the keynote speaker on March 19.

Dees has used the judicial system to effectively bankrupt organized hate groups, and he led the Center in developing pioneering tolerance education programs to stem the growth of hate in future generations.

Dees and the Center are appropriate partners for the venture, having used legal tactics to fight hate in Gonzaga University's backyard. In 2000, the Center successfully sued the notorious neo-Nazi Aryan Nations, shutting down its compound in northern Idaho (see Keenan v. Aryan Nations). The compound had turned the northwest region into a gathering place for some of the most dangerous white supremacists in the country.

The Gonzaga Institute for Action Against Hate was founded in 1997 with the goal of combating hate through research, education and advocacy. Laurie Wood, senior intelligence analyst and law enforcement training coordinator for the Center's Intelligence Project, serves on the Institute's board and is a member of the conference steering committee.