Early in June, GuideStar, a website that maintains a database of information about U.S. charities, flagged 46 nonprofits for being labeled as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Those 46 nonprofits included a nonprofit run by white nationalist Richard Spencer, who coined the term “alt-right” to describe the anti-immigration, white supremacist movement. But it also includes bigger nonprofits like the Family Research Council and the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
GuideStar President and CEO Jacob Harold said the feature reflects a “broader shift in how we imagine our role in the [nonprofit] field,” and added that that the warning labels were a response to the increase in what he referred to as “hateful rhetoric” in the U.S.
Leaders of the Family Research Council, the Heritage Foundation, and other conservative groups, criticized GuideStar for using the labels and accused the Southern Poverty Law Center of using its list of hate groups as a “political weapon targeting the people it deems to be its political enemies.”
Harold said that he considers the SPLC credible enough to rely on its judgment.
“In the weeks and months since [we instituted the labels], we have heard from both supporters and critics of the decision, many of whom have presented reasonable disagreements with the way in which this information was presented,” GuideStar said in a statement. “Dismayingly, a significant amount of the feedback we’ve received in recent days has shifted from constructive criticism to harassment and threats directed at our staff and leadership.”
On the week of June 26, GuideStar removed those labels.
“Driven by both our commitment to objectivity and our concerns for our staff’s wellbeing, we have decided to remove SPLC annotations from these 46 organizations for the time being,” the statement read. “In the meantime, we will make this information available to any user on request.”
GuideStar did say in its statement that it views this event as an opportunity to refine how it presents and curates information about nonprofits. “We do believe that it is in line with our mission to provide as much information about nonprofit organizations as possible. We hope to engage in constructive dialogue with experts from across the political spectrum to help us determine the best way to fulfill this need.”
What do you think? Was GuideStar out of line to flag nonprofits as hate groups? Please share your thoughts in the comments.