Hatewatch

Religious Right Hurls False Accusations at SPLC

They just can’t stop lying. They claim to represent Christianity and the celestial love for mankind that Christ embodied, but when it comes to whomever they regard as their enemies here on planet Earth, the crudest of libels will do.

The latest example of the religious right’s endless series of falsifications, slanders and baseless demonizations came last Friday from Janet Porter, the former Janet Folger who heads the Faith2Action website, is an Obama-bashing “birther,” and really, really dislikes gay people. On a YouTube video, Porter claimed that the Southern Poverty Law Center had named the Concerned Women for America a hate group, published its president’s address, and “invited” people to “visit” her.

“Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America is concerned,” Porter says in a voice that telegraphs worry on her latest propaganda video. “The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled CWA as a hate group and they published her personal information and address and invited people to ‘visit’ her.”

A small problem for the big-mouthed spinner of tall tales: The SPLC has never listed the CWA as a hate group. The SPLC never published any personal information or address for Nance. And the SPLC never suggested that anyone visit her. Even Nance knows that. In the fundraising E-mail that was Porter’s source, Nance says another “liberal organization” labeled CWA a hate group, though she never says which one and only the SPLC publishes such a group list. And she attributed the publication of her address and the invitation to visit her merely to “the anti-CWA crusade.”

Porter’s bald-faced lie is one of a barrage aimed at SPLC that has come from the religious right in recent days and weeks. This morning, Rick Manning, the vice president of Americans for Limited Government, published his own scurrilous bit of yellow journalism on his group’s NetRightDaily website under the racy headline, “Southern Poverty Law Center tied to domestic terrorism.”

The centerpiece of Manning’s attack is a video published by the Family Research Council (FRC) last week that shows a man who wounded a security guard at its headquarters telling investigators that he got the FRC’s name from the SPLC list of hate groups as it appears on our website. That is apparently true, although it is false, as some on the religious right have claimed, that the shooter, Floyd Lee Corkins, found the street address of FRC on our website before carrying out the Aug. 15, 2012, attack. In fact, we never publish addresses of the groups we criticize.

But that was enough for Manning, who wrote that the SPLC is “now directly tied to a terrorist act” and has been “certified in federal court as being directly responsible for an act of domestic terrorism.” Certified? Directly responsible? Well, not really. But for people like Manning, any wild-eyed claim is apparently acceptable.

Manning was only the latest on the far right to try to get mileage out of the video taken from the court record and publicized by the FRC, which has blamed the SPLC’s hate group designation for the August attack on its guard. Last week, Tom Trento of an anti-Muslim group called United West published an exhaustive, five-part series soberly titled, “Southern Poverty Law Center Exposed!” Amid Trento’s overheated descriptions of the SPLC’s “pro-gay agenda,” “pro-Islamic jihad agenda” and “anti-American activities,” the series’ core is an interview with Tony Perkins, the head of the FRC and a man who has consistently lied about the reasons why SPLC listed the FRC as a hate group in the first place.

Perkins has claimed in repeated appearances on national television and in print that the SPLC lists the FRC because it opposes same-sex marriage and believes the Bible describes homosexual behavior as a sin. As he knows — in part, because I debated him on MSNBC over these very matters and, in part, because we have refuted his claim dozens of times in the national press — that is entirely false. But it serves his purposes to say so, because the real reason we list the FRC — that it regularly propagates known and defamatory falsehoods — is a little harder to criticize. Those falsehoods include the claim, repeated again and again over the years by Perkins and his fellow gay-bashing zealots, that gay men molest children at far higher rates than straight men do; that pedophilia, in Perkins’ 2010 words, is “a homosexual problem.” Or how about this, from an earlier FRC pamphlet: “One of the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the ‘prophets’ of a new sexual order.” Yeah, right.

Perkins, Manning, Porter and the rest of them — the attacks on the SPLC in the last week or so have been too numerous to count — seem to think it’s fine to concoct utter falsehoods in their efforts to defame LGBT people. But when the SPLC takes them to task for those lies, their response is to attack perfectly legitimate criticism by saying the critics are responsible for any mentally ill or otherwise unhinged person who decides that the matter needs to be settled at the point of a gun.

Perhaps it would be better — surely, it would be more Christ-like — for these groups to quit demonizing gay people and affirm the dignity of all people. But that might be too much to ask from those who are happy to lie in defense of their cause.