By Charlie Johnston
I have added a new category with this post which I call “Signposts.” Things are happening so fast and furious right now that I can either have massive “Musings” columns, pass over some important items altogether, or give you some links to a specific item of note that I can’t devote a full column to as it comes up.
I am delighted to see that the American Family Association has started noting and keeping track of the many bigoted anti-Christian advocacy groups that are targeting Christians. It has put together an interactive “Bigotry Map,” which shows where the most aggressively anti-Christian groups are located and what they do. I am particularly glad that AFA is calling out the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for the ugly center of bigotry that it is. You may remember that in 2012, a disturbed man, Floyd Lee Corkins, sought to kill as many people as he could at the Family Research Council’s offices. Thankfully, he was thwarted because of a heroic security guard who stopped him. But it developed that he had been inspired to attempt the murder’s by SPLC’s website calling the Family Research Council a hate group because of its opposition to gay “marriage.
Matt Barber has a concise piece on what AFA is doing to fight back on behalf of Christians.
I had my own brush with the ugly bigotry of the SPLC. Back in the fall of 1995 I was running a U.S. Senate Campaign. There were so many events to attend that I often spoke in place of the candidate – and I always did when we did not have a full vetting of the host group. I went to speak to a group that called itself the Domestic Policy Council, I think. Though there were only 25 people there, they were seriously ultra-conservative. Before we started, several complained to me about how often conservative candidates had betrayed them and that they had become a hard-sell on actually supporting anyone. When I began to speak, we hit a big snag when I was asked about NAFTA, then a hot topic. I told them my candidate supported it. The room exploded. People were berating me and, literally, talking about physically throwing me out of the building. One big black guy was just itching to toss me out.
I got mad. I told them, “You want to know why you are always ‘betrayed?’ Because you can’t be civil about anything except absolute agreement. I will be glad to tell you what the candidate supports. But I won’t BS you – and that means you’re not going to agree on some things. If you can’t handle that, I’ll leave and you can get somebody else here who will tell you what you want to hear and then ‘betray’ you. If you can handle it, you’re going to get a new experience: you won’t agree with everything, but what you hear is actually what you will get.” I started to storm out, but several argued that they at least ought to hear me out. The argument raged for a few minutes and then they decided to listen.
Well, it was interesting…as much a participatory argument as a speech. One guy kept insulting me and trying to get others to join him in tossing me out. Finally, his own people told him to shut the heck up and listen to the man (me). When we finally finished, the head of the group came up from the back. He reached out and shook my hand. Sotto voce, he told me, “I don’t agree with you on a lot of things, but you got one big brass pair – and I always respect that.” So much for a lively, but not particularly productive, evening.
A bit less than a year later we were barreling towards the general election. It was early fall when I got a call from a Chicago Sun-Times reporter. He told me he had heard that my guy had spoken to a group called the Domestic Policy Council and he wanted me to have him call. I told him it was me who had spoken to that group almost a year earlier, so what was the problem? He said the SPLC had listed the group on its KlanWatch list as a racist white supremacy group. I was taken aback, then laughed. I told the reporter the group was much more conservative than me or my candidate, and our meeting was awfully raucous, but they sure weren’t racist. Five people in the group I spoke to were black – and one of the most obnoxious about tossing me out was one of the black guys. They just were some intense people who took a particular point of view – and seemed perfectly glad to have anyone who shared that point of view join them.
The reporter noted that the SPLC was a venerable, old civil rights group. I told him that in recent years I had been wondering if they weren’t prostituting their old reputation to act as a left-wing smear group willing to call anyone racist who did not support the left. He asked if that was the answer I wanted to stand on.
“If they publicly apologize to this group, I will have a different take,” I said, “but if not, I will know the SPLC is just a left-wing smear machine and will never take them seriously again.”
When the story appeared the next day, the reporter pretty accurately quoted me. (The words weren’t exact, but he captured my contempt for the attempted smear). Then I got a call from a number I did not recognize. It was the head of the group I had spoken to a year earlier. “I knew you had a big brass pair,” he chuckled. Then he told me the SPLC had done this to them before. They had had some of the black members of their group call SPLC to protest but it made no difference – the SPLC continued to smear them as a white supremacist group. I told him I was sorry for that, that he and I certainly had our disagreements, but that it was obvious there was nothing racist about them. That was why he was calling, he said. Whenever it had happened before, the politician had run like a scalded dog. He was grateful I had not thrown them under the bus, particularly since they had never endorsed my guy anyway. So he said they did not want to embarrass us, but if we needed any holes covered, a precinct worked, calls made, whatever…just call and they would go out as individuals to cover those holes – because we were obviously stand-up guys…and the only ones he had ever met in higher level politics.
The SPLC, which had its roots in the Civil Rights movement and Christian ideals, has become perhaps the single most malignant anti-Christian smear machine in the country. Thank God the AFA is pushing back and standing for the basic rights of Christians and Jews in this country.