International online shipping giant Amazon.com has banned the Family Research Council from its AmazonSmile program based on its classification as an anti-LGBTQ “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The move has enraged social conservatives who hold anti-LGBTQ views regarding sexuality, marriage, and gender, who argue that the SPLC’s label is erroneous and defamatory, and that the expulsion of FRC from the charitable giving program demonstrates a deep-seated bias against religious conservatives due to their particular beliefs.
According to SPLC, Family Research Council has a long history of fighting LGBTQ equality, including opposing marriage equality, LGBTQ-inclusive hate crime laws, anti-bullying programs, and the military’s repeal of its anti-gay “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
Its president, Tony Perkins, has close ties to President Donald Trump and a long history of anti-LGBTQ statements and sentiments, including last year arguing that decriminalizing homosexuality was a “mistake.”
He has also called for the impeachment of former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy for authoring the Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage, advocated for conversion therapy, and compared LGBTQ advocates to terrorists.
Perkins has also derided transgender-inclusive restroom policies adopted by businesses like Target, has compared the fate of Christians living in a society where LGBTQ rights are respected to the plight of Jews during the Holocaust, and insists that pedophilia is “a homosexual problem.”
In addition, he has used his position at FRC to promote laws restricting LGBTQ adoption, oppose the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and advocate for Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” law that doles out punishments for homosexuality.
Under the AmazonSmile program, started in 2013, customers can select a nonprofit charitable organization to receive a small percentage of their Amazon purchases.
In 2017, Amazon banned D. James Kennedy Ministries from participating in the AmazonSmile program, prompting the organization to file a defamation lawsuit against Amazon and the SPLC. That lawsuit was later dismissed.
In 2018, the program removed Alliance Defending Freedom, a right-wing legal organization that has challenged several LGBTQ-friendly laws and policies in various states, based on the SPLC’s classification of ADF as a “hate group.”
“The SPLC has labeled some of the mainstream conservative organizations it disagrees with as ‘hate groups’ and publishes their names in a directory alongside real hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis,” Kay James, the president of the Heritage Foundation, wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Times. “…The people at the SPLC certainly have a right to disagree with these groups’ policy positions; but it’s unconscionable that they would label decent people as hateful and consider them on equal footing with neo-Nazis and the Klan.
“It’s also unconscionable that Amazon would legitimize the SPLC’s list. In doing so, Amazon is telling millions of its customers who share the same traditional Christian or conservative beliefs that they are hateful, too,” James added.
Critics of the SPLC have noted that the Family Research Council was targeted in 2012 by Virginia resident Floyd Lee Corkins II, who attempted to carry out a mass shooting at FRC’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, based on the group’s appearance on the SPLC’s list of anti-gay organizations. Corkins said he intended to kill as many people as possible and smear Chick-fil-A sandwiches on their faces afterwards.
They claim that SPLC’s designations of various organizations as hate groups puts those groups at risk of similar attacks.
Conservatives have also accused Amazon of hypocrisy and favoritism, noting that left-leaning organizations like Planned Parenthood for America, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and the Center for American Progress are allowed to receive tens of millions of dollars each year.
In an op-ed for the Christian Post, Robert Netzly, the CEO of Inspire Investing, claimed that Amazon is engaging in viewpoint discrimination.
“Amazon has taken great pains to portray themselves as champions of diversity, and have made public statements about their supposed commitment to respecting diverse viewpoints,” Netzly wrote. “For example, their website proclaims that ‘diversity and inclusion are good for business — and more fundamentally — simply right.’ This begs the question, if Amazon is such a believer in diversity, why would its board recommend that shareholders vote against a resolution that would provide ‘a full evaluation of viewpoint bias and associated risks to ensure that Amazon is making balanced decisions and that it is acting consistent with its commitment to diversity?’
“To be clear, I believe Amazon.com has every right to use their corporate influence to promote whatever agendas they see fit, including progressive liberalism,” he added. “But don’t try to hide it. If Amazon’s leadership is committed to a progressive-liberal agenda, then shareholders have a right to know about it, as well as the potential risks that position could cause by alienating customers who hold a different view. This is basic corporate responsibility. Denying shareholders material information that can affect their investment is not just bad-form, it is unethical.”
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