Meese: Southern Poverty Law Center 'Despicable' for Naming Conservative Organizations ‘Hate Groups’

By Pete Winn | December 7, 2010 | 5:53 PM EST

Former Attorney Gen. Ed Meese, the Ronald Reagan distinguished fellow in public policy at the Heritage Foundation. (Photo courtesy of The Heritage Foundation)

( - Former Attorney General Edwin Meese says it is “despicable” for the Southern Poverty Law Center to classify the Family Research Council and a dozen other top conservative organizations as “hate groups” similar to the Ku Klux Klan.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Meese told about the list published by the SPLC. “I know about seven or eight of those groups. I know the people very well. I know the groups very well, I’ve worked with them over the years, and I think it actually undermines the credibility of the Southern Poverty Law Center to make such a statement.”

Last week, the Southern Policy Law Center announced that it was going to classify the Family Research Council and 12 other organizations as “hate groups” because of their positions on homosexuality.

Among the groups being designated by the SPLC are the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, Coral Ridge Ministries, Family Research Institute, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, Illinois Family Institute, Liberty Counsel, MassResistance, National Organization for Marriage and the Traditional Values Coalition.

The SPLC said these organizations will be named to its "hate group" watch list.

But Meese said the Southern Poverty Law Center had cited no evidence whatsoever to show that the FRC or the other major pro-family conservative organizations were hate groups.

“I think it is attacking them for exercising their freedom of speech and their freedom of religion,” said Meese, who served as U.S. attorney general during the Reagan administration, and is currently the Ronald Reagan distinguished fellow in public policy and chairman of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation.

“I know that none of these groups, in anyone’s wildest imagination, could be thought of as hate groups,” Meese told

“All of the groups that I know of--and that’s about half of them--take the traditional biblical views of homosexuality, which is not at all unusual," he said. "And I think it is despicable of an organization that purports to be a civil liberties organization to make those kinds of attacks.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which was founded in 1971 by civil rights attorney Morris Dees, is a well-funded left-wing public interest law firm in Birmingham, Ala., which was formed to oppose racism and white supremacist groups.

“In recent years, they’ve [SPLC] become highly politicized and I think that’s affected their credibility,” Meese added.

No Evidence Cited

The Southern Poverty Law Center has not presented any evidence to back up its claim that the groups it named were "hate" groups, according to Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage.

In a blog posting on its Web site, the SPLC said only that the FRC and the other groups “have continued to pump out demonizing propaganda aimed at homosexuals and other sexual minorities.”

“The SPLC’s listings of these groups is based on their propagation of known falsehoods--claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities--and repeated, groundless name-calling,” the Web site said. “Viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups.”

Gallagher said the announcement contains nothing that even hints at why the groups are being compared to the KKK.

“The only thing they say is, well, it’s not just saying that homosexuality is unbiblical, it’s making statements that have been ‘scientifically discredited,’" said Gallagher. "And then they provide a link to another blog post, which doesn’t have anything specific about what these groups have done or said. It says, these are 10 myths about gay people that have supposedly been exploded.”

Gallagher said the list of myths is odd.

“They say that if you say that gay men have a lower life expectancy, that that’s hate, even though it might be true," she told “There’s actually a pretty good study from 2001 that suggests that gay men live 8 to 21 years less. I don’t know for sure that it’s true, but it’s striking. And it is certainly true that gay people have higher rates of depression and anxiety and substance abuse. But apparently, if you say that, you’re a hate group now.”

Gallagher said mainstream social conservative organizations are being dubbed hate groups because they disagree with the Southern Poverty Law Center on ideas about sex and marriage, because they espouse a traditional view of sex and marriage.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with what I think most Americans would consider hateful speech intended to incite violence against people, which used t be the standard of behavior for groups like the Ku Klux Klan,” she said.

“I mean, it used to be that if you were going around trying to lynch black people, like the Ku Klux Klan, you were a hate group," said Gallagher.  "But now if you are just the Family Research Council, a group of mainstream evangelical and Catholic Christians, you can be dubbed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the mainstream media seem ready to go along with it.”

The liberal law firm informs the media and law enforcement of its “surveillance,” and has close ties to both the media and the Justice Department.

“The question is, can they get away with it? Is it going to become the case that a politician can’t have anything to do with the Family Research Council or they’ll be associating with a ‘hate’ group. Will the media now say ‘We can’t talk to the Family Research Council because they are an extremist hate group?’” Gallagher asked.

Homosexual activist groups--and Gallagher said that now includes the Southern Poverty Law Center--want to do more than redefine marriage, they want to redefine civilized discourse in America, she said.

“People who think that gay sex is wrong, or that marriage is between a man and a woman, are on the wrong side. If you think that, you’re a hate group, according to the SPLC, that’s what this is about,” Gallagher told “It’s about whether liberals can shut down debate.”

Meese, meanwhile, called on the Southern Poverty Law Center to apologize and remove the FRC and the other groups from the list. He also said no one in law enforcement should take these latest deisgnations seriously.

“What should happen is, they should rescind their statement and apologize,” Meese said. “If in fact, in any way, they are in collusion with the Justice Department or any other department of the federal government on this, I think it is a serious problem for the government."

Despite repeated assertions that it would provide a spokesman for to interview, the SPLC's media relations department did not do so.

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