SPLC is sloppy and inconsistent

To the Editor:

I was surprised and disappointed to see the Enterprise reference the Southern Poverty Law Center in the editorial piece of Nov. 2, 2017. The SPLC is an erratic group that casts a wide net in an attempt to expose some bad organizations.

They have certainly done some good in the past but, as their influence has grown, they seem to have strayed from their original course. They are quick to judge, but slow to update their database and concede or correct errors. They are also increasingly throwing their mass around in the political arena and picking winners and losers in the college campus free-speech movement.

It was a little over two years ago when The Enterprise had to punch above its weight class and attempt to get an explanation from the Southern Poverty Law Center as to why Altamont was listed as harboring the only active chapter of the KKK in New York State.

According to the story, it wasn’t just The Enterprise that took up the cause. The Altamont and Guilderland police departments, New York State police, Albany County Sheriff’s Office and even the FBI met to investigate the SPLC’s claim. That’s a lot of involvement to refute a dubious claim that had the potential to tarnish the reputation of an entire town.

The effort paid off, though, and Altamont is no longer on the map. Unfortunately, if you read up on them, this was not the only time the SPLC has been sloppy with a list or an accusation.

They have put the cross-hairs on plenty of bad people over the years, but there has also been collateral damage along the way. Now what would happen if someone could not stand up to a false accusation from such a powerful and well-funded organization?

According to their own annual report, last year the SPLC sat on a war chest of over $300 million dollars. That seems pretty hefty for a not-for-profit. By way of example, as far as I could tell, UNICEF USA only has around $118 million in the bank.

Their lame attempt at justifying this endowment fund appears in the same report. “The SPLC builds for the future by setting aside a certain amount of its income for an endowment, a practice begun in 1974 to plan for the day when nonprofits like the SPLC can no longer afford to solicit support through the mail because of rising postage and printing costs.”

In the age of forever stamps and the Internet, this is a ridiculous claim.

I’m not attacking or supporting the basic content of the letter to the editor or the editorial piece from Nov. 22. That’s not my point. My only concern was The Enterprise forgetting what it felt like to be on the other side of a sloppy, inconsistent, and increasingly powerful and well-funded machine like the SPLC. The Enterprise has proven itself to be resourceful and capable of good reporting in the past, and maybe it is just forgingin. However, if it w as looking to discredit an organization, I think it could have done better than making the SPLC the go-to source.

Chris Curvin


Editor’s note: In our Nov. 2, 2017 editorial, “Hate and intolerance are masquerading as traditional values,” we had one sentence on the designation: “The Liberty Counsel has been named as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which describes it as ‘a legal organization advocating for anti-LGBT discrimination under the guise of religious liberty.’”

The Liberty Counsel’s opposition to same-sex marriage and adoption by gay people — with statements on its website like “No civil institution, including any court, has authority to redefine marriage any more than it can redefine gravity” or “Children do best in a home with a mom and a dad” — confirms the description from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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