Metro Weekly

GuideStar retracts “hate group” labels after conservative backlash

Conservatives argue that they are being unfairly labeled as hate groups based upon genuine political disagreements

The scene at the Aug. 15, 2012 shooting at the FRC headquarters, Photo: JD Uy

GuideStar, the chief source of information that investigates and collects data about charitable nonprofits, will no longer have warning labels alerting donors as to whether a charitable organization has been designated as a hate group.

Earlier this month, GuideStar announced it would be adding warning labels to hate groups, as designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC tracks groups that engage in hate speech and participate in or condone violence against minority groups, including racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, as well as the LGBTQ community.

But GuideStar’s decision prompted a backlash from conservatives, specifically Christian-based groups who claim they were targeted and labeled as hate groups for opposing LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage, reports The Washington Post.

Conservatives also claimed that by embracing the SPLC labels, the organization was straying from its intended position of neutrality.

“The SPLC is merely another ‘progressive’ political organization. It gained credibility attacking Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and skinheads — many of whom were engaged in violence. The SPLC is now trying to export the same tactics into areas of mainstream discourse including debates about immigration and sexual-identity politics,” reads a complaint letter sent to GuideStar by 41 representatives of conservative organizations that was obtained by the Post.

Many of those organizations have been labeled by the SPLC as hate groups for their opposition to undocumented immigrants, radical Islam, or LGBTQ rights.

“The ‘hate group’ list is nothing more than a political weapon targeting people it deems to be political enemies,” the letter continues. “The list is ad hoc, partisan, and agenda-driven.”

Last week, GuideStar announced it would remove the labels “for the time being,” citing concerns about their objectivity and threats made against employees.

“Dismayingly, a significant amount of the feedback we’ve received in recent days has shifted from constructive criticism to harassment and threats directed at our staff and leadership,” GuideStar said in a statement. “With this development in mind — driven by both our commitment to objectivity and our concerns for our staff’s wellbeing — we have decided to remove the SPLC annotations from these 46 organizations for the time being.”

But the SPLC website claims that groups are not designated as “hate groups” solely by dint of their religious beliefs that homosexuality is wrong or their opposition to same-sex marriage. Rather, SPLC says, the 52 “anti-LGBT” organizations it tracks push for harmful policies that target LGBTQ people for persecution.

In one example, Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group behind many legal challenges to laws granting LGBTQ protections, was listed for its advocacy of criminalizing gay sex in the United States and working to enact “bathroom bills” that bar transgender people from using public restrooms that match their gender identities.

Other groups on the “hate group” list include the Family Research Council, the group Mass Resistance, and Americans for Truth Against Homosexuality.

In the meantime, GuideStar has said it will continue to make “hate group” designations available “on request,” though such designations will not be communicated to the wider public.

The #EliminateHate campaign, which initially cheered GuideStar’s decision to flag potential hate groups, issued a statement saying it was “disheartened” to hear that GuideStar employees were threatened and harassed for their decision.

“The campaign is disappointed by GuideStar’s decision to no longer publicly identify anti-LGBTQ hate groups on its website,” the statement reads. “The hate groups in question are dangerous, and the public needs to know who they are.”

“GuideStar’s mission of transparency in philanthropy and the non-profit world is an important and admirable one, and it is unacceptable that they would be bullied out of providing crucial context on hate groups —  context that not only GuideStar, but the media should provide when discussing these groups that do real damage to the rights, safety, and well-being of the LGBTQ community.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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