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SPLC Blacklists Pro-Family Groups; Norton Anti-Virus Blocks Access to Conservative Websites

A popular anti-virus software program used by millions of Americans has blocked access to the website of Liberty Counsel, a religious liberty advocacy group. It is the latest development in a political war being waged against pro-family organizations.

Symantec, the owner of the popular Norton anti-virus software, began blocking access to Liberty Counsel’s website two weeks ago. Internet users attempting to access the website are greeted with a message from Symantec explaining that “this website is categorized as ‘Hate’ and is blocked as part of this networks [sic] web content filtering policy.”

Why would Symantec tag Liberty Counsel—an esteemed religious liberty organization with ties to Liberty University, the largest Evangelical university in the world—as promoting hate? Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel’s founder and chairman, blames Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and its ongoing assault against organizations with socially conservative values.

Southern Poverty Law Center, which calls itself a civil rights advocacy organization, was founded in 1973 to monitor and litigate cases against white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nations.

Although nearly all accounts of its founding acknowledge that SPLC started off doing good work in litigating cases against racist groups, their focus began to shift as the decades elapsed and white supremacist groups began disappearing. After involving themselves in an ACLU-led lawsuit to remove an Alabama Supreme Court monument celebrating the Judeo-Christian heritage of American law, SPLC turned its sights toward conservative Christian groups that advocate pro-family policies.

Because these family organizations support the rights of churches and small businesses to operate according to the dictates of their faith, and oppose same-sex marriage and legal prohibitions on conversion therapy, SPLC began adding them to its notorious “Hate Map” and pejoratively labeling them as “anti-LGBT hate groups.”

SPLC’s list of “currently operating anti-LGBT hate groups” reads like a ‘who’s who’ list of the conservative Christian movement: Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom, American Family Association, American College of Pediatricians, Ruth Institute, and D. James Kennedy Ministries are all included on the list. SPLC also compiles “Extremist Files” on supposedly dangerous “extremists” like historian David Barton (Wallbuilders), pro-family advocate Tony Perkins (Family Research Council), commentator Bryan Fischer (American Family Association), theologian Gary DeMar, and evangelist Lou Engle (The Call and International House of Prayer).

Even mainstream media organizations like the Washington Post have published articles admitting that SPLC’s cataloging of mainstream, conservative Christian organizations and public figures in lists of “hate groups” and “extremists” alongside neo-Nazis, black separatists, and white supremacists is bizarre and farcical. In an article for National Review, Alex Torres mused that SPLC uses its hate group designation to “vilify” organizations that promote policies and positions it finds offensive “in an attempt to curtail free debate.”

The labeling also proved to be dangerous four years ago when an LGBT activist shot a security guard at the Family Research Council headquarters in Washington, D.C., because SPLC had identified the organization as an “anti-LGBT hate group.” The shooter planned to “kill as [employees] many as possible and smear Chick-Fil-A sandwiches in their faces.”

Despite the ludicrous and dangerous nature of equating pro-family organizations with the Ku Klux Klan, the FBI still considers SPLC a “partner” in fighting hate crimes. Charity and nonprofit watchdog GuideStar briefly used SPLC hate group designations in its public reporting on nonprofits earlier this summer, prompting a backlash from critics of the SPLC’s methods and lists.

Mat Staver says SPLC uses its hate group designation “as a weapon to defame” and “harm” nonprofits with which it disagrees politically. He believes the SPLC’s “reckless” and “defamatory” labeling “inflicts reputational and financial harm” to pro-family nonprofits like Liberty Counsel.

Staver’s account of the damage caused by SPLC designations seems to comport with the ongoing Symantec attack on Liberty Counsel. By blocking access to Liberty Counsel’s website, Symantec makes it harder for the religious liberty organization to spread its message and fundraise money.

Southern Poverty Law Center’s efforts to blacklist conservative Christian organizations seem to be working, at least for the moment. But they fail to realize that the most effective way to defeat other political ideologies and worldviews isn’t through blacklisting opponents but instead through the power of persuasion in the public square.


Blaine Conzatti is a columnist and research fellow at the Family Policy Institute of Washington. He can be reached at Blaine@FPIW.org.


 

Satanists Look to Move into Washington Elementary Schools

 

Do Satanists have an absolute right to teach their anti-Christian message to elementary students in public schools?

Earlier this summer, the Satanic Temple released this incredibly creepy promotional video to promote its new After School Satan Clubs. Shortly thereafter, Centennial Elementary School, a public school in Mount Vernon, Washington, decided to open its doors to the Satanic Temple, and is permitting an After School Satan Club chapter to hold meetings and events for students on school grounds this school year.

The Seattle Satanic Temple is also considering starting chapters of the club in the Tacoma and Puyallup school districts.

This is not the first time the Satanic Temple, known for their elaborate stunts of political theater, has raised the ire of traditional, God-fearing Americans. They won a court challenge allowing them to place a Satanic holiday display on Florida Capitol grounds in 2014, placed another Satanic “nativity” scene on Michigan Capitol grounds the next year, and successfully goaded a Florida School District into prohibiting the distribution of Christian materials in schools by threatening to distribute Satanic coloring books to students.

The Satanic Temple’s leadership is hoping their entry into public schools will result in the termination of Christian after school clubs by spooking school administrators into preventing all religious groups from hosting voluntary after school clubs for students.

Every school approached by the atheist organization to start an After School Satan Club also hosts a Good News Club, an interdenominational Christian after school program that many principals credit with noticeably improving behavior among students.

The Satanic Temple – which assures parents it is atheistic despite its copious use of recognizable Satanic imagery and rhetorical appeals to Satan’s rebellion against God – is claiming the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom gives it the right to start after school clubs in public schools. This is especially ironic considering that the American founders who ratified the First Amendment believed that humans beings, created in the image of God, are given religious liberty by God – the same God that the Satanic Temple denies.

Federal courts have already decided that parody religions, which lack sincerely held religious beliefs and are used to advance political agendas, are not entitled to religious protections under the First Amendment. When a “Pastafarian” member of the Flying Spaghetti Monster religion (FSMism) sued the Nebraska State Penitentiary where he was a prisoner for refusing to accommodate his requests, the U.S. District Court of the District of Nebraska decided,

“The Court finds that FSMism is not a “religion” within the meaning of the relevant federal statutes and constitutional jurisprudence. It is, rather, a parody, intended to advance an argument about science, the evolution of life, and the place of religion in public education. Those are important issues, and FSMism contains a serious argument—but that does not mean that the trappings of the satire used to make that argument are entitled to protection as a ‘religion.’”

The District Court refused to give religious protections to Flying Spaghetti Monster religion, which was formed for political advocacy with the intention of promoting militant atheism and a radical reinterpretation of separation of church and state.

Similarly, the Satanic Temple is a secular advocacy group that seeks to intolerantly mock and parody traditional religions and supplant our Judeo-Christian national heritage.

The “whole purpose” of the After School Satan Clubs “seems to be driven by an animosity toward Christian clubs; hence the provocative name,” said Family Research Council’s Travis Weber.

It is evident, then, that in the words of the District Court, the Satanic Temple is “not entitled to protection as a ‘religion’” because its brand of Satanism is not a “sincerely held religious belief.”

Additionally, the framers of the Constitution would likely find it inconceivable that the First Amendment is being used to defend the inclusion of atheistic clubs, using the name of Satan, in public schools.

Joseph Story, an early Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, wrote in his Commentaries on the Constitution,

“The real object of the [First] amendment was, not to [encourage], much less advance [Islam], or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian [denominations], and to prevent national ecclesiastical establishment, which should give to an hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government.”

He later wrote that,

“Probably at the time of the adoption of the constitution, and of the amendment to it… the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state, so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience, and the freedom of religious worship.”

In fact, the Supreme Court formally declared the United States a Christian nation, legally and historically speaking, in Holy Trinity Church v. United States (1892). And nearly five decades earlier in Vidal v. Girard’s Executor’s (1844), it stated that public schools have a responsibility to teach the Bible and the Christian religion.

These court cases and the intentions of our founders suggest that the Satanic Temple cannot justify its anti-Christian after school Satan clubs by appealing to the First Amendment.

Liberty Counsel, a religious liberty law firm, says it will provide pro-bono legal counsel to public schools that refuse the Satanic Temple’s request to start After School Satan Clubs. “School administrators do not have to tolerate groups that disrupt the school and target other legitimate clubs,” said Mat Staver, president of Liberty Counsel.

Schools would be wise to recognize that they are under no legal obligation to allow After School Satanic Clubs, and concerned parents should demand no less of their schools.

Blaine Conzatti is a columnist and 2016 Research Fellow at the Family Policy Institute of Washington.  He can be reached at Blaine@FPIW.org.