In 2022, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), based in Montgomery, Alabama, released its list of “hate groups” featuring some Christian organizations like Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), D. James Kenney Ministries, and Family Research Council and conservative organizations such as the American College of Pediatricians (https://dailycitizen.focusonthefamily.com/splc-continues-to-label-conservative-christian-organizations-as-hate-groups/, accessed 9/19/23). Is it true that these and other Christian organizations are to be considered hate groups?
The SPLC’s labeling of Christian groups as “hate groups” sparked considerable controversy, attracting attention from national media outlets. Several of the organizations on the list responded, with many opting for legal action. Being placed on a list of “hate groups” alongside the Ku Klux Klan exposes Christian organizations to potential resentment and even hostility.
According to the SPLC, a hate group is defined as “an organization or collection of individuals that—based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities—has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics. An organization does not need to have engaged in criminal conduct or have followed their speech with actual unlawful action to be labeled a hate group” (quoted in a Washington Post article, accessed 9/19/23).
The above definition sounds impartial until one probes into what “statements” or “principles” can be considered hateful. For instance, if an organization holds to the biblical view of marriage as being between one man and one woman, is that hateful? According to the criteria of many liberal groups today, this might be the case. Indeed, the SPLC routinely labels Christian groups as “anti-gay” and therefore “hateful.” The vagueness in defining hate has significant implications for Christians who adhere to biblical teachings.
The application of the “hate group” label should not be surprising. Jesus Himself stated in John 15:18–20,
If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.Additionally, Paul affirms that everyone who wants to live a godly lifestyle will face persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). The more modern culture deviates from biblical standards, the more those standards will be deemed hateful, bigoted, or oppressive. Consequently, any individual or organization that upholds the Scripture should expect opposition.
We must vocalize truth to counter the lies and to alleviate the burden borne by our brothers and sisters (Galatians 6:2). It should not be criminal to uphold traditional marriage values, biblical sexual ethics, or the gospel message. Ironically, those who portray Christian groups as hateful for upholding biblical values are themselves displaying hate and intolerance, seeking to impose their views on everyone else.
Unfortunately, there are some who sport the Christian label who are indeed hateful. The Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas is an example. Such groups have forsaken the gospel message and should be called out for dishonoring Christ. Hatred is not an option for the true Christian.
We must avoid harming, slandering, or mistreating others, even if they do not live God’s ways. Our best tool for engaging people is the gospel, offered in respect, gentleness, and grace (1 Peter 3:15; Colossians 4:6). “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity” (Colossians 4:5).