The movement for diversity, equity, and inclusion may have lost a prominent advocate in Harvard president Claudine Gay, but it continues to dominate America’s institutions. Worse, the Biden administration has apparently enlisted the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), one of DEI’s most notorious ideological enforcers, in its crusade against “domestic terrorism.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center gained its reputation by suing Ku Klux Klan groups into bankruptcy in the 1980s but in recent years has turned its fire on critics of DEI, demonizing parental rights groups like Moms for Liberty and Parents Defending Education. Through its education arm, the SPLC runs a critical race theory program called “Learning for Justice” (formerly “Teaching Tolerance”) that encourages students to categorize people as privileged or oppressed based on their race. Learning for Justice publishes and distributes a magazine to schools across the country.

But the SPLC’s preeminent weapon of cancel culture is a “hate map” that plots mainstream conservative and Christian groups alongside chapters of the Klan. In June, the SPLC added Moms for Liberty and other CRT critics to the map, looking to intimidate its ideological opponents and get donors to pony up cash to fight the “hate.” Companies such as Amazon, Eventbrite, and Vimeo have used the SPLC’s reports to exclude conservative groups.

This organization feels right at home in the Biden administration, and proudly admits as much. In the fall of 2021, about nine months after Biden took office, SPLC president Margaret Huang enthused in a donor meeting that many federal agencies had approached the center for help in crafting a domestic terrorism strategy.

“I think there’s no question that we are unparalleled in our abilities to track and monitor the hate and extremist groups in the country, and I can tell you that we’ve had many agencies in the new Biden administration reaching out to solicit our expertise and our knowledge and information to help shape the policies that the new administration is adopting to counter the domestic terrorism threat,” Huang said at a fundraising event, captured on video and published by The Daily Signal.

Though it may seem a stretch to say that the federal government is relying on a DEI enforcer like the SPLC to sic the feds on conservatives, doing so aligns with Biden’s rhetoric that “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.” SPLC’s ties to the Biden administration are also a matter of public record. Biden and his team have hosted SPLC leaders and staff at the White House at least 11 times since January 20, 2021, and Biden nominated an SPLC attorney, Nancy Abudu, to a federal judgeship. Last year, the FBI’s Richmond office used the SPLC’s hate group list to target “radical-traditional Catholics” in an infamous memo.

The SPLC decided to add parental rights groups to its hate map last June, two years after the administration began targeting concerned parents. In 2021, the National School Boards Association sent Biden a letter comparing parents protesting school district policies with domestic terrorists and urging the president to use the Patriot Act against them. Documents later revealed that the White House had worked with the school board group to draft the letter. 

When the SPLC added Moms for Liberty to the hate map, it slammed the parental rights group as part of an “anti-student inclusion movement” because Moms for Liberty opposes CRT and sexualized lessons in schools—lessons that the SPLC advocates through Learning for Justice. The administration has also echoed SPLC rhetoric in condemning “book bans,” a false characterization of efforts to remove books with age-inappropriate or pornographic material from school libraries.

In allying itself with the SPLC, the Biden administration overlooks the center’s many scandals. Critics have long noted that the organization exaggerates terror threats to drive donations to its endowment—now worth more than $730 million—and uses offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands. Amid a sexual harassment and racial discrimination controversy in 2019 that saw the SPLC fire its own co-founder, a former employee came forward calling the accusations of hate a “highly profitable scam.”

Worse, the SPLC itself could plausibly be charged with having ties to domestic terrorism. After all, police arrested an SPLC lawyer last March at a Molotov cocktail riot in Atlanta, and he now domestic terrorism charges. The SPLC also defended Antifa after its members’ destructive riots in the summer of 2020.

The SPLC has no business advising any organization, much less the federal government, on domestic terrorism. Yet President Biden seems willing to ignore the SPLC’s troubling recent history to silence critics of his DEI agenda.

Photo: Jacqueline Nix/iStock


City Journal is a publication of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research (MI), a leading free-market think tank. Are you interested in supporting the magazine? As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, donations in support of MI and City Journal are fully tax-deductible as provided by law (EIN #13-2912529).

Further Reading

Up Next