Southern Poverty Law Center pulls 'extremist file' on Ben Carson

by Karen L. Willoughby, |
Dr. Ben Carson wows conservative voters at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, January 24, 2015. | REUTERS/Jim Young

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Christian Examiner) – After experiencing strong public pushback, the Southern Poverty Law Center, has retracted its "extremist file" on famed neurosurgeon Ben Carson, a highly popular Christian speaker and a potential 2016 presidential candidate.

The uber-wealthy nonprofit, which bills itself as a legal advocacy organization specializing in civil rights and public interest litigation, announced Feb. 11 it had "this week ... come under intense criticism" for its negative profile of Carson, which grouped the black conservative with Ku Klux Klan leaders, white supremacists and neo-Nazis. See this Feb. 10 Christian Examiner report.

In a statement on its website, the SPLC said its portrayal of Carson "did not meet our standards."

"We have taken it down and apologize to Dr. Carson," the statement reads.

However, the three and one-half page unsigned letter spends the majority of its "apology" defending its prior offense.

The SPLC labeled him "anti-LGBT" for his biblical beliefs about marriage—that the social and spiritual institution is limited to one man and one woman—and especially for a 2013 comment he made to Fox News commentator Sean Hannity that marriage between a man and a woman is a "well-established pillar of society."

He insisted that "no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA [North American Man/Boy Association, a group advocating pedophilia], be they people who believe in bestiality," has a right to change the definition to fit their specific circumstances.

The SPLC began as a civil rights advocate with a primary aim on eliminating the Ku Klux Klan. With the Klan's fading influence, the SPLC expanded its efforts beyond a focus on "hate groups that attack or malign entire class of people" because of "immutable characteristics" to include "separation of church and state" issues, "immigrant justice" and "LGBT rights."

Critics accuse the organization of simply "fund-raising" with its promotion of left-wing causes.

"The Southern Poverty Law Center ceased long ago to be a neutral source of information," William A. Jacobson of Legal Insurrection wrote. "As we have documented over the past years, SPLC has used the credibility it earned decades ago fighting the Klan to turn itself not only into a huge money-raising machine, but also to poison the political process."

Although a nonprofit, the Southern Poverty Law Center has built a strong financial position. It lists endowment funds of about $303 million, which include nearly $21 million in investment returns and $1.35 million in contributions for 2014.

Although the left-leaning organization withdrew its dossier on Carson, it has not said whether it will reevaluate its "extremist files" for other notable evangelicals it has targeted. Others it has profiled as "anti-LGBT" include Lieutenant General Jerry Boykin, USA, Retired, and Tony Perkins, both of the Family Research Council; Paul Cameron of the Family Research Institute; Don Wildmon of the American Family Asssociation; and, David Barton of WallBuilders.