At the beginning of each year, the Southern Poverty Law Center publishes a list of hate groups. These are groups we determine to have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.
The Center for Security Policy (CSP), an anti-Muslim think tank is one of the groups listed for the first time in 2015. In the run-up to and after the release of our list, CSP officials have defended the organization by claiming that their mission is motivated by a “love of freedom, not hate.” Their record suggests otherwise.
The group has long equated Islam with terrorism. CSP vice president Claire Lopez, for example, said in 2013: “When Muslims follow their doctrine, they become jihadists.”
CSP dedicated much of 2015 to targeting Syrian refugees. Ann Corcoran, the head of the Refugee Resettlement Watch website wrote an anti-refugee booklet published by CSP in April titled, “Refugee Resettlement and the Hijra to America.” It calls for a ban on all Muslim immigration to the U.S. and encourages Americans to oppose the opening of mosques in their neighborhoods (not a very freedom-loving call to action). CSP is also actively working to draft model legislation attempting to bar the relocation of Syrian refugees to locales across the U.S.
In December, CSP received mainstream press attention when Republican front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits Biden: Those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas should be prosecuted Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Hackers are making big money MORE cited a widely debunked CSP poll in his call for a complete shutdown of Muslim immigration into the United States. The demonizing survey results claimed that American Muslims harbored “ominous levels” of support for “Islamic Supremacists” and that these citizens even supported the use of violence to install Sharia law in the U.S. When the poll was first released, a Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative characterized its “shoddy findings” and “unreliable methodology” concluding that it “should not be taken seriously.”
In September, CSP’s founder, Frank Gaffney, surprised even us when he provided a platform for Jared Taylor, one of the most recognizable white nationalists in America today, by inviting him on his radio show to discuss the Syrian refugee “threat” to Europe. On the show, Gaffney called Taylor’s openly racist American Renaissance website “wonderful” and said that he “appreciated tremendously” the work Taylor is doing, before scrubbing the interview from his website after we called him out.
In its Feb. 24 piece published in The Hill, CSP’s Jim Hanson claims the SPLC is “trying to suppress free speech” by calling it “Islamophobia.” Hanson defines phobia as “an irrational fear.” Earlier in 2015, Gaffney was asked at a speaking engagement about Somalis working meatpacking plants. His response: “I don’t know about you, but it kind of creeps me out that they are getting jobs in the food supply of the United States” – making Hanson’s point for him.
Hanson also wrote in his op-ed, “We believe homosexuals have the right to live without fear.” This is ironic when you consider the fact that some of CSP’s most vocal backers in recent weeks have been two anti-LGBT hate groups, the American Family Association (AFA) and the Family Research Council (FRC). In 2010, FRC president Tony Perkins wrote that pedophilia, “is a homosexual problem.” Gaffney has appeared multiple times on Perkins’ radio show.
2015 saw anti-Muslim sentiment and activity reach a fever pitch, with armed protests outside of mosques, elected officials bashing Muslims and the Islamic faith as well as heinous hate crimes committed against Muslims or those perceived to be. Throughout the year, the Center for Security Policy as well the David Horowitz Freedom Center and ACT! for America, two other groups listed by SPLC as hate groups for the first time, helped to drive this climate of fear and will certainly continue to do so in 2016.
Beirich heads the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center.