A guest on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” on Dec. 21 made a number of inaccurate references to recent articles published by the Southern Poverty Law Center on the activities of organizations opposed to the equal-rights efforts of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender Americans. Unfortunately, those statements were allowed to stand unchallenged. I would like to set the record straight.
Matthew Franck, director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute, appeared as a guest on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” on Dec. 21 following his publication of an opinion piece in the Washington Post on Dec. 17. Mr. Franck made a number of inaccurate references to recent articles published by the Southern Poverty Law Center on the activities of organizations opposed to the equal-rights efforts of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender Americans. Unfortunately, those statements were allowed to stand unchallenged. I would like to set the record straight.
The program’s host, Neal Conan, noted Mr. Franck’s statement that the SPLC published a report “identifying a dozen or so anti-gay hate groups, some for no apparent reason other than their vocal opposition to same-sex marriage.” Anyone who read our report would have known that we identified exactly 13 organizations as hate groups – and not one of them was listed because of their position on same-sex marriage.
We detailed clearly the criteria we used for identifying an organization as an anti-gay hate group: “[T]heir propagation of known falsehoods – claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities – and repeated, groundless name-calling.” By “known falsehoods,” we mean such things as asserting that gays and lesbians are more disposed to molesting children than heterosexuals – which the overwhelming weight of credible scientific research has determined is patently untrue. Nowhere in our report do we equate taking a position against same-sex marriage with hate speech.
Mr. Franck said further that we engaged in a “failure to discriminate some groups from others” in compiling our anti-gay hate groups list. We analyzed in detail each of 18 organizations we cite as purveyors of anti-gay rhetoric, and determined that the activities of five of them – including the National Organization for Marriage – did not meet the above-stated hate-group criteria despite their opposition to same-sex marriage. We distinguished the 13 hate groups from the other five with a widely recognized notational symbol: an asterisk. Why this proved confusing to Mr. Franck is unclear. Nevertheless, it is irresponsible of Mr. Franck to state that the SPLC was “undiscriminating” in its analysis when our criteria and our conclusions were plainly stated.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is in no way opposed to the invigorating clash of ideas in the public forum. We do, however, feel it is important to point out when claims being made are demonstrably false, and when disparaging, emotion-provoking stereotypes are used in place of facts and logic. When we designate an organization as a hate group, it isn’t to suppress debate; it is to sound a warning alarm: “This debater isn’t being honest about the facts – and we can prove it.”