‘Un-American’: SPLC uses terrorist tactics’ to silence dissent, religious freedom lawyer says

(The Daily Signal) – Mike Farris, general counsel with the National Religious Broadcasters and the founder of Patrick Henry College, says the far-left smear factory the Southern Poverty Law Center…

(The Daily Signal) – Mike Farris, general counsel with the National Religious Broadcasters and the founder of Patrick Henry College, says the far-left smear factory the Southern Poverty Law Center needs to be “buried down deep.”

“It’s not that they’re left-wing,” Farris told “The Daily Signal Podcast” in an interview at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in February. “They hate the principle that you’re allowed to differ, and that is un-American.”

Farris, a lawyer who has been representing clients in religious freedom and free speech cases for more than 40 years, served as president of the nonprofit Christian law firm Alliance Defending Freedom for five years. In 1993, he won the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor of Virginia, though he lost the general election.

Farris recalls that when he started handling religious freedom cases, “I was probably among the first three full-time Christian lawyers doing this kind of work.” Now, there are four major firms and hundreds of lawyers representing clients.

He calls that a “source of encouragement” for him, but the opposition has also gotten fierce.

The SPLC, which began as a civil rights law firm representing poor people in the South and established a name for itself by suing Ku Klux Klan groups into bankruptcy, publishes a “hate map” that plots mainstream conservative and Christian organizations like ADF alongside Klan chapters, insinuating that they are driven by a similar form of hate. Amid a sexual harassment and racial discrimination scandal in 2019, a former employee said the SPLC’s “hate” accusations are a “highly profitable scam” to scare donors into ponying up cash. The SPLC has an endowment of more than $740 million.

“They don’t care about rights. They don’t care about America,” Farris says of the SPLC. “They care about using the progressive ideology to raise a ton of money and spend it on themselves. But they’re using it by terrorist tactics. You know, terrorist tactics wrapped in a little bit of velvet.”

In 2012, a terrorist used the SPLC’s “hate map” to target the Family Research Council, a Christian nonprofit in Washington, D.C. The council’s building manager foiled the attack by the terrorist, who later told the FBI he had planned to massacre everyone in the building.

The Family Research Council remains on the “hate map” to this day.

The SPLC claims that ADF is an “anti-LGBTQ hate group,” accusing it of having supported “forced sterilization” in France. Farris says that’s a “flat lie.”

“We wrote a brief in the European Court of Human Rights supporting the law of France,” the former ADF president explains. ADF supported France’s right “to make laws on the subject” of gender ideology, arguing “that there are areas that states get some freedom to rule, and there shouldn’t be one international standard for that.”

“The word ‘sterilization’ does not appear in our brief, ever,” Farris notes. “We never talked about it, and so somebody claims that the French law could be interpreted to force sterilization if [French people who claim to be transgender] wanted certain rights.

“We were not talking about the details of the French law, nor were we advocating that French law should be written in a particular way,” he adds. “We were just saying this is France’s choice, not the international community’s choice.”

“So, it’s a lie. It’s a flat lie,” Farris said.

He also noted that many defamation lawsuits against the SPLC end up dismissed.

“Most of the defamation cases that have gone awry against the Southern Poverty Law Center have been on the basis that what they were saying was opinion, rather than fact,” the former ADF president explained.

However, last year a federal judge rejected the SPLC’s motion to dismiss a defamation lawsuit. D.A. King, founder of the pro-enforcement immigration reform group the Dustin Inman Society, claimed the SPLC had reason to doubt the veracity of its claim that his organization was a “hate group”—because the SPLC had previously stated that King’s group was not a “hate group.”

“If we get the right case for defamation, I’m going to be the first one to sue them—where it’s so clear it’s a statement of fact and it’s false,” Farris pledged.

Of the SPLC, he says, “They deserve to go down, and they do hurt people.”

“I think that if [judges and juries] apply the defamation law correctly, they’re going to get buried someday,” Farris predicts. “When they get buried, they need to be buried deep.”

He also shared an anecdote that he found revealing.

At a religious freedom event, Farris said that if the State Department wants to support religious freedom, “the first thing we need to do is take down the rainbow flags we were flying at embassies all over the world, because the Christians in that country see that, and they go, ‘They can’t be for religious liberty if they’re flying the rainbow flag. Because the point of the rainbow flag is to crush Christianity.’”

He recalls a “lesbian Episcopal priest from Philadelphia” who told him, “All we want is to be celebrated by everybody.”

“They want to be celebrated by everybody. Why? Because in their soul, they know it’s, they feel the pangs of sin,” Farris says.

He emphasizes that conservative Christians should defend everyone’s religious freedom.

“It’s our conservatism that makes us stand up for the rights of everybody,” the lawyer says. “You know, I believe in the rights of Buddhists because I am a Christian, not in spite of the fact that I am a Christian, but because I am a Christian.”