DOD to Continue Using Liberal Southern Poverty Law Center as Training Resource

Penny Starr | February 24, 2014 | 10:17am EST
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(AP Photo)

– The Department of Defense (DoD) will continue to use the liberal Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a resource for its training materials despite numerous complaints about the SPLC's biases by a coalition of Christian and conservative groups.

The SPLC’s website features a “hate map” that lists the Christian and conservative Family Research Council (FRC) as a “hate group” because of its defense of traditional marriage. The “hate map” helped inspire convicted domestic terrorist Floyd Lee Corkins in his decision to attack the FRC in 2012 when he shot and wounded a security guard before being subdued.

The DOD’s decision comes even after a soldier at an Army training session told Todd Starnes of Fox News in October that groups like the Family Research Council and the American Family Association were "hate groups," based on information provided by SPLC.

The DoD said it was reviewing its training materials after news reports on the controversial training materials surfaced. asked the DoD by email to answer the “yes” or “no” question “as to whether it will or will not continue to use the Southern Poverty Law Center as a resource on its website and in training materials.”

The "Hate Map" on the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which lists the Family Research Council.

A DoD spokesman answered that while the agency will remove “hate groups” information provided by the SPLC from the training materials used at its Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI), the DoD will continue to use the SPLC’s data in its “non-federal reference material” for DEOMI.

On Feb. 11, Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christiansen, a DoD spokesman, responded by email, first stating that some SPLC information would be removed from DEOMI training materials.

“DEOMI does not have a formal relationship with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC); DEOMI has removed all SPLC references from its website; and DEOMI does not reference, identify or relate specific hate groups or lists of hate groups compiled by SPLC or any other source in its training materials or its execution of training,” Christiansen said.

But Christiansen then went on to say that DOD would continue to use the SPLC as a resource.

“Based on recent incidents, the Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness (USD (P&R)) directed a full review in December 2013, of all DEOMI training materials, including a full review of all non-Federal reference materials to evaluate its appropriateness and effectiveness in delivering world-class equal opportunity education,” Christiansen said. “From this review, it was determined there is benefit to continued use of non-federal reference material in order to preserve the quality, breadth of perspective, and applicability through real-world situations for DEOMI-directed diversity education.”

“Additionally, the use of non-federal reference material can help address inequalities or inconsistencies that can adversely affect the military workforce due to unlawful discriminatory practices,” Christiansen said.

Christensen then listed the sources of some of the “non-federal reference material” that DOD intended to use. These included the SPLC.

“Some of the non-Federal entities used to inform DEOMI's training,” said Christensen,  “include: Anti-Defamation League; Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism; Know Gangs, Political Research Associates, Southern Poverty Law Center, Teaching Tolerance, multiple textbooks, articles, and research studies.”

Floyd Corkins is taken into custody outside the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 15, 2012. He was later convicted of domestic terrorism and told investigators that he learned of the FRC through the web site of the Southern Poverty Law Center. (AP Photo)

One of the group’s regularly targeted by the SPLC is the Christian and family advocacy group, the Family Research Council (FRC). After Floyd Lee Corkins shot a security guard in the FRC’s Washington, D.C. headquarters in 2012 and went on to be convicted of domestic terrorism among other crimes, it was documented in federal court that Corkins was inspired by a “hate map” on the SPLC’s website that called the FRC a “hate group” because of its support for traditional marriage.

The FRC and a coalition of other conservative groups called on the DoD to stop using the SPLC as a resource and sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel demanding he take action.

"I find it disturbing that DoD, under the leadership of Obama appointees, has not answered the coalition letter that was sent last year requesting information on this very important subject,” Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin (Ret.), executive vice president of FRC, told

“It appears to me that what they are telling CNS News is that they intend to continue using data from an entity that was connected to domestic terrorism in federal court during the trial of Floyd Lee Corkins,” said Boykkin.

“So the question then becomes, what other similar groups which have been connected to terrorism are providing data for use by the DoD?” Boykin said. “This should result in an outrage by concerned Americans."

Sandy Rios, director of governmental affairs at the American Family Association, which also was targeted by the SPLC, called the DoD response a “spit in the eye to millions of Americans” and U.S. troops.

"The Department of Defense has just spit in the eye of the millions of Americans and thousands of soldiers who are the heartbeat of America,” Rios told “After being warned that the Southern Poverty Law Center lies, distorts and fabricates its findings, the decision by the Department of Defense to continue to use the materials of the SPLC, whose dangerous sport is to castigate Christian citizens, is beneath contempt.”

Retired Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, now executive vice president of the Family Research Council.

“The American Family Association, which represents millions of American families, has been identified as a hate group by the SPLC,” Rios said. “We are shocked and offended that those of us who probably support the American military the most and have offered our sons and daughters unselfishly in defense of this country would be singled out by our Defense Department as objects of hate.”

Christiansen also said in his response that when “non-federal reference material” is used, DOD would provide a “disclaimer.”

“When we use these and other outside sources to inform our discussion or course material, DEOMI applies the following disclaimers in all lesson plans and student study guides,” Christiansen said, citing the following paragraphs:

‘The references cited in this lesson are used for dissemination during DEOMI training only and support the training objective.  Referenced material from non-federal government sources may not be used for any purpose other than DEOMI training.

‘Unless specifically identified as a Department of Defense or other U.S. government source, DEOMI does not endorse the content of any specific reference material, or the organization that is the source of the material.

‘Reference materials from non-federal sources are included in this material solely to expose students to varying points of view and to generate discussion.

This lesson will provide the education needed to develop the occupational knowledge required to perform the duties of an Equal Opportunity Advisor. The content of this lesson is designed to increase student knowledge while generating academic discussions and debate. The content of this lesson should not be taken out of context.’

Holy Bible and cross. (AP)

Christiansen said DOD instructors are given “guidance” so they can “prepare (troops) to be the commander eyes and ears concerning issues of unlawful discrimination and sexual harassment.”

Christiansen then detailed four “actions” the DoD is taking in “addressing inappropriate training that has occurred across the force in the last several months.”

“Finally, the Department has taken four actions in addressing inappropriate training that has occurred across the force in the last several months,” Christiansen said. “First, the Acting USD (P&R) directed the Services to complete a review of their MEO training programs to ensure it comports with policy and guidance.

“This review will be completed and feedback will be given to the Military Services by February 28,” he said.

“Second, in December 2013, the Department began a review of all DEOMI education and training materials for Equal Opportunity Advisors (EOAs) to make certain that, when it applies to DoD policy, it is accurate and consistent,” Christiansen said. “The review was completed and resulting changes to the training materials were made by Jan. 6, 2014, which was the start date for the next DEOMI EOA training course.”

“In addition to this separate review, the Department conducts a biennial review of DEOMI training materials as required by DOD policy,” Christiansen said. “We expect to have a revised version of the training manual ready for review by the end of February.”

“Third, DEOMI (in coordination with OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense) and the Services) established the first of several standardized training templates on specific training topics to be used by trainers at the unit level,” Christensen said. “This initiative will preclude well-intentioned unit trainers from developing their own ad-hoc training materials that are neither approved nor endorsed by the Department or the Services.

“The first template is "Handling Dissident and Protest Activities" and is found on the DEOMI training website at: (,”  he said, “and the other six: Bystander Intervention, Communicating Across Differences, Cultural Awareness, Prejudice and Discrimination, Religious Accommodation, and Sexual Harassment are in the review process.”

“Fourth, a review of the DEOMI residential training curriculum for the full-time military equal opportunity and civilian equal employment opportunity personnel assigned as our specialists within the Military Departments is ongoing,” Christiansen said.  “This action is part of an overall DEOMI transformation which we began last summer and are working to complete this year.”

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