It isn’t OK for the U.S. government to use the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) contentious hate group list “as a weapon to attack citizens and their speech,” attorney Harmeet Dhillon said Thursday night on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle.”
“The government has been using and partnering with Southern Poverty Law Center’s list to suppress speech and target groups. So it’s only recently that the attorney general called it out,” said Dhillon, founder of the Dhillon Law Group Inc. and Republican National Committeewoman for California.
“But the FBI is continuing to partner with National Organization [for] Women [NOW], Southern Poverty Law Center, NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People], and other groups,” Dhillon continued. “And SPLC is about as objective as Antifa. They are a far-Left organization, and it’s a disgrace that the government is using their imprimatur to silence speech.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who established a religious liberty task force in July, did not mince words when he addressed the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) organization’s Religious Liberty Summit on Wednesday and defended it against the SPLC’s hate group label.
“[SPLC has] used this designation as a weapon, and they have wielded it against conservative organizations that refuse to accept their orthodoxy and choose instead to speak their conscience,” Sessions said. “They use it to bully and intimidate groups like yours, which fight for the religious freedom, the civil rights, and the constitutional rights of others.”
SPLC responded to Sessions’ words Thursday, insisting on its website that “the ADF richly deserves the hate group label” because of its “discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation” in defending traditional Christian values.
The ADF has a 9-0 record for wins in cases the evangelical legal action nonprofit argued before the Supreme Court.
But Dhillon warned that the hate group list reaps a myriad of consequences, including when companies such as Amazon refuse to include charities on SPLC’s list as part of its AmazonSmile matching program.
“So it’s fine for them … to have their viewpoint, but it’s also fine for us Americans to fight back,” Dhillon said. “And it is not fine for the government to use [SPLC’s] false list as a weapon to attack citizens and their speech.”
Fox News host Laura Ingraham warned that the SPLC wields its large budget to silence conservative organizations.
“My point is they would rather label people haters than have a debate about the underlying subject,” Ingraham said. “That’s not American.”
But civil rights attorney Joe Alioto Veronese insisted that “labeling people haters is part of” the SPLC’s First Amendment rights.
“The problem here is that the attorney general is using the office of the attorney general to suppress First Amendment rights of these organizations in the name of religious freedom, which is yet another constitutional right,” Veronese told Ingraham.
“So, I mean, that’s a real problem because people look at the attorney general as an office that should instill confidence in the government, allowing you to enjoy your constitutional rights. And here he’s using one constitutional right against the other and basically starting political wildfires,” Veronese added.
But Ingraham argued the “opposite,” insisting that Sessions is saying “religious freedom, which is defended by the Alliance Defending Freedom, is a sacrosanct right.”
“And just for defending religious freedom, labeling someone as a hater and a hate group … that probably hurts their fundraising. It probably hurts any corporate associations they have,” Ingraham said. “The label is meant to demonetize.”