Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

SPLC’s McCarthyism Knifes Catholic Non-Profit

Ruth Institute, designated a hate group by the $outhern Poverty Law Center, is cut off from its donors

One more small but significant step in making it hard for orthodox Christians to buy and sell in America:

Vanco Payment Solutions has cut off services from a Louisiana-based Christian ministry, citing the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Hate Map,” which accuses the ministry of promoting “hate, violence, harassment and/or abuse.”

Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute, told The Christian Post on Friday that her organization received a message Thursday around 2 p.m. that the online payment processing company had opted to discontinue their relationship.

The Ruth Institute is a Catholic nonprofit based in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and was “flagged by Card Brands as being affiliated with a product/service that promotes hate, violence, harassment and/or abuse,” Morse explained to CP.

“Merchants that display such attributes are against Vanco and Wells Fargo processing policies,” Vanco’s correspondence read.

Morse commented, “The Ruth Institute’s primary focus is family breakdown and its impact on children: understanding it, healing it, ending it. If this makes us a ‘hate group,’ so be it.”

Here’s a link to the Ruth Institute’s “About” page. It’s basically about advocating for traditional marriage, family, and sexual standards. That’s now hate? Why, yes, according to the despicable Southern Poverty Law Center, which says, in part:

Roback Morse … has used Catholic doctrine to assert that LGBT people are “intrinsically disordered” and that they should remain celibate (or leave the “gay lifestyle”) and not act on their attractions.

The woman believes what her church, the Roman Catholic Church, teaches about homosexuality. That makes her a hater. That makes the Roman Catholic Church a hate organization, according to SPLC’s expansive definition.

The Washington Free Beacon has been looking at the public tax filings of the non-profit SPLC, and has found some interesting information. Excerpt:

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a liberal, Alabama-based 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization that has gained prominence on the left for its “hate group” designations, pushes millions of dollars to offshore entities as part of its business dealings, records show.

Additionally, the nonprofit pays lucrative six-figure salaries to its top directors and key employees while spending little on legal services despite its stated intent of “fighting hate and bigotry” using litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is perhaps best known for its “hate map,” a collection of organizations the nonprofit deems “domestic hate groups” that lists mainstream conservative organizations alongside racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and is often referenced in the media. A gunman opened fire at the Washington, D.C., offices of the conservative Family Research Council in 2012 after seeing it listed as an “anti-gay” group on SPLC’s website.

The SPLC has turned into a fundraising powerhouse, recording more than $50 million in contributions and $328 million in net assets on its 2015 Form 990, the most recently available tax form from the nonprofit. SPLC’s Form 990-T, its business income tax return, from the same year shows that they have “financial interests” in the Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, and Bermuda. No information is available beyond the acknowledgment of the interests at the bottom of the form.

However, the Washington Free Beacon discovered forms from 2014 that shed light on some of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s transfers to foreign entities.

Read the whole thing.

Politico — not a conservative publication — takes a very hard look at the SPLC in a recent piece. Excerpts:

And as Dees navigates the era of Trump, there are new questions arising around a charge that has dogged the group for years: that the SPLC is overplaying its hand, becoming more of a partisan progressive hit operation than a civil rights watchdog. Critics say the group abuses its position as an arbiter of hatred by labeling legitimate players “hate groups” and “extremists” to keep the attention of its liberal donors and grind a political ax. Which means that just as the SPLC is about to embark on its biggest fight in decades, taking on rising racism and prejudice across the country, its authority to police the boundaries of American political discourse is facing its greatest challenge yet.

“I do think there is a desperate need for more objective research on hate crimes and domestic extremism—especially now,” says J.M. Berger, a researcher on extremism and a fellow with the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism at The Hague. But like many observers, he worries that the SPLC has gone too far in some of its hate group characterizations. “The problem partly stems from the fact that the organization wears two hats, as both an activist group and a source of information,” he says.


You might imagine the Southern Poverty Law Center as a handful of scrappy lawyers in a dingy office suite somewhere. In fact, it boasts 250 staffers and offices in four states, and its headquarters is testament to the fact that, in America, even fighting racism can be very good business. The building—a six-story postmodern edifice that could be the outhouse for Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao—is the most architecturally striking structure in downtown Montgomery.


William Jacobson, a law professor at Cornell and critic of the SPLC, says the group has wrapped itself in the mantle of the civil rights struggle to engage in partisan political crusading. “Time and again, I see the SPLC using the reputation it gained decades ago fighting the Klan as a tool to bludgeon mainstream politically conservative opponents,” he says. “For groups that do not threaten violence, the use of SPLC ‘hate group’ or ‘extremist’ designations frequently are exploited as an excuse to silence speech and speakers,” Jacobson adds. “It taints not only the group or person, but others who associate with them.”

Ken Silverstein, a liberal journalist and another critic of the group who authored a scathing investigation of its marketing and financial practices for Harper’s in 2000, attributes the growing scope of the SPLC’s censures to a financial imperative to wade into hot-button issues that will rile donors. “The organization has always tried to find ways to milk money out of the public by finding whatever threat they can most credibly promote,” he says.

Here, in a short passage from the Politico piece, is why this matters:

The SPLC’s hate group and extremist labels are effective. Groups slapped with them have lost funding, been targeted by activists and generally been banished from mainstream legitimacy. This makes SPLC the de facto cop in this realm of American politics, with all the friction that kind of policing engenders.

So: the SPLC has enormous powers given to it by no publicly accountable agency or institution — powers that it uses to demonize mainstream conservative and Christian groups. It exercises these powers to stoke its liberal donor base. Meanwhile, a little non-profit Catholic ministry in Lake Charles finds itself suddenly unable to do business with its online fee processor because it takes SPLC’s McCarthyite charges seriously.

Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute responded to the shutdown of the donation page on its website:

  • The Ruth Institute’s primary focus is family breakdown, and its impact on children: understanding it, healing it, ending it. If this makes us a “hate group,” so be it.

  • Vanco, Card Brands, and Wells Fargo are private businesses. The Ruth Institute respects their right to conduct their businesses as they see fit. We just wish wedding photographers, bakers, and florists received the same respect.

  • No one from Vanco, Card Brands or Wells Fargo ever contacted the Ruth Institute to inquire about how we “promote hate, violence, harassment and/or abuse.”

  • The Ruth Institute is listed on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Hate Map,” which was recently in the news. We have been on this “Hate Map” since 2013. To the best of our knowledge, no one has ever been inspired to riot or shoot anyone by our activities.

  • We have compiled the items which some groups have found objectionable on a page called “Where’s the Hate?” Anyone interested can review that material and judge for themselves whether the Ruth Institute belongs on a list with the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis.

  • The Vanco company markets itself to religious organizations. Many churches use their services for processing donations. We surmise that Vanco dropped us because we hold views about marriage, family and human sexuality that are considered “Anti-LGBT.” Our beliefs are the common heritage of all Christian groups. Christian organizations that utilize Vanco’s services may wish to reconsider.

  • Donors to the Ruth Institute can rest assured that their private information has not been compromised. Supporters can send checks to our main office, 4845 Lake St.; #217; Lake Charles, LA 70605.

(PayPal seems to be working for the site, by the way.)

Note well the hypocrisy here: it is hateful for a Christian wedding photographer, florist, or baker to refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding out of moral conviction, but it is virtuous for a major financial corporation to refuse to do business with a Christian ministry out of moral conviction. Heads they win, tails we lose.

I would wager that the leadership of major American corporations are eager to marginalize and destroy socially and religiously conservative groups, and are more than happy to have SPLC’s “hate map” as an excuse to do so. That’s why unless there is a federal investigation of some sort (though on what grounds, I don’t know), or a huge wave of public pressure, we won’t see Apple, Amazon, J.P. Morgan Chase, or any of the other big banks and corporations that do SPLC’s bidding and fill its coffers being dissuaded by actual reporting of its charlatanry.

What if banks and lending institutions decide to cut off access to credit for organizations and institutions they deem to be purveyors of “hate”? You don’t think it could happen to your employer, your church, your favorite charities? You don’t think it could happen to you? Wake up. The Law of Merited Impossibility (“It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.”) is unrepealable in this environment.

UPDATE: A reader writes:

Only a matter of time before Credit Card companies won’t let you buy certain books that promote “hate.” We’re just so stupid. By being lured into convenience, we have given up our privacy. But now that information will be used to censor, punish, and shame.



Want to join the conversation?

Subscribe for as little as $5/mo to start commenting on Rod’s blog.

Join Now