SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (BP) — A nonprofit Christian legal defense organization cannot receive donations through an Amazon charity program because the law firm is erroneously labeled a “hate group.”
The faith-based Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is blocked as an Amazon Smile recipient because the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) lists ADF as a hate group with an anti-LGBT agenda. Another Christian organization, D. James Kennedy Ministries, currently is waging a federal lawsuit against Amazon and SPLC over its exclusion from Amazon Smile.
Amazon Smile, which allows Amazon shoppers to give 0.05 percent of certain purchases to nearly a million nonprofits, has raised about $80.13 million since its creation in 2013, according to smile.amazon.com, the program’s website.
Amazon Smile relies on data from the SPLC and the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control to determine recipient eligibility, according to smile.amazon.com. Amazon Smile recipients must be “in good standing with the IRS as a 501(c)(3)” and cannot “engage in, support, encourage, or promote intolerance, hate, terrorism, violence, money laundering or other illegal activities.”
ADF complained of its exclusion to Amazon May 3 and offered to help develop more equitable eligibility criteria, according to a letter posted at adflegal.org.
“We were surprised and disappointed to learn that you have terminated the participation of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and ADF Foundation in the AmazonSmile program,” ADF said in the letter signed by Michael Farris, ADF president, CEO, and general counsel. “We would appreciate the opportunity to meet with Amazon officials to discuss our organization and explain why we should not be excluded from the AmazonSmile program.
“Also, we would gladly help Amazon establish a policy for participation in AmazonSmile that does not ban legitimate, well-respected, faith-based organizations like ADF,” Farris wrote.
A full list of Amazon Smile recipients is not available, but a searchable database yields Christian churches, schools and ministries, as well as non-Christian groups and houses of worship serving Buddhists, Jews and Muslims.
The SPLC counts the ADF among 954 hate groups in America. D. James Kennedy Ministries filed its lawsuit against SPLC and Amazon Smile last August. Also labeled as hate groups by SPLC are the Family Research Council, American Family Association, Liberty Counsel and Mission:America.
Farris blasted Amazon Smile’s reliance upon the SPLC as an eligibility test, panning the SPLC as a “discredited, partisan organization.” He acknowledged the SPLC’s “good work many years ago” in promoting and protecting civil rights for all U.S. citizens, but said the center “has devolved into a far-left propaganda machine that slanders organizations with which it disagrees and destroys the possibility of civil discourse in the process.”
The SPLC promotes itself “as dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society.” The Federal Bureau of Investigations lists the SPLC as one of many groups with which the FBI has “forged partnerships … to establish rapport, share information, address concerns and cooperate in solving problems.”
The ADF “regularly defames LGBT people,” the SPLC said in categorizing the ADF as a hate group comparable to the “Ku Klux Klan, the neo-Nazi movement, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, antigovernment militias” and groups that use “Christian identity” to mask hatred.
In stark contrast, Farris describes the ADF as “the world’s largest legal organization advocating for the freedom to peacefully speak, live, and work according to one’s convictions without fear of government punishment.”
Farris proclaims seven U.S. Supreme Court successes in the past seven years protecting the religious liberty of people representing “diverse backgrounds and walks of life.” Among its active cases, the ADF is defending Colorado Christian baker Jack Phillips and his right to refuse to bake wedding cakes for same-sex ceremonies. The ADF presented Phillips’ case in December 2017 and expects to hear a decision in June or July.
See BP’s previous story on Phillips here.