AFTAH’s LaBarbera Challenges SPLC’s Potok to a ‘Debate on Hate,’ Asks to Reverse ‘Hate’ Designation

Questions whether SPLC has ever investigated gay activist “hate” and homosexual assaults on churches


Will Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, debate AFTAH about its politicized definition of "hate"? Will the SPLC begin monitoring homosexual activists' "hateful" assaults against people of faith?

Folks, I sent a version of the following letter to Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, who snidely wrote us to correct a mistake that appeared in Matt Barber’s column on the AFTAH website poking fun at the SPLC’s classification of AFTAH as a “hate” organization. In a subsequent response to my letter, Potok apologized for his initial snide missive, disagreed with AFTAH’s characterization of the SPLC action as “reckless,” and said that his organization has “written very critically” about (left-wing) eco-terrorists and black nationalist groups like the New Black Panther Party.

However, in his short reply, Potok offered no example of his group exposing extremist homosexual organizations like ACT UP. He wrote, “At the moment, I’m really swamped with work and won’t respond to all you’ve written, but I’m interested.” We look forward to a detailed, point-by-point response to our letter and will notify you if Potok takes up my proposal of a public “Debate on Hate” and the SPLC’s jaundiced “hate” classifications.

Links and photos have been added that were not in my original e-mail to Potok. — Peter LaBarbera,



Thanks for writing, snide jabs aside. Matt Barber caught the mistake yesterday and I neglected to enter it until today. (I apologize for the error; it is now fixed.) First of all, I must admire your chutzpah as I think you are not in a very good position to be lecturing anyone on accuracy under the current circumstances! What the SPLC has done in smearing AFTAH — and that’s exactly what you have done by erroneously classifying us as “haters” — is a grave disservice to truth and honest discourse. I urge you personally as SPLC’s director to reflect on this misguided action and reverse it. I would also ask for a public apology.

Am I and Americans For Truth opposed to homosexual behavior and any activism seeking to advance homosexuality/bisexuality/transsexuality as normative and acceptable? Absolutely. Do I “hate” people? Not at all. In fact, I am constantly responding to (often vicious) emails from pro-gay activists who write in to AFTAH via our website with my message that we can disagree without hating each other. That is the essence of civility and true tolerance, IMO [in my opinion] — i.e., tolerating opinions with which we disagree while continuing to aggressively debate our viewpoints.

As you know, we have clearly and repeatedly condemned Fred Phelps of “God Hates Fags” notoriety — whom I regard as a buffoon whose antics do much more to help the “gay” side than the conservative side. If you did your research, you would know that I have also noted the stark difference between evangelical Christians’ approach to homosexuality (opposition to homosexual practice and to “gay” advocacy/laws, yet called to lovingly reach out with the Gospel to homosexuals and care for their souls) — in contrast to radical “fundamentalist” Muslims (death penalty for practicing homosexuals, including pushing them off high buildings).

I am also deeply opposed to racism and anti-Semitism — and claims to the contrary are especially hurtful. For example, I work hand-in-hand with Jewish, conservative,, pro-family activists like Brian Camenker and Don Feder (both of whom I consider modern American heroes) and I regard anti-Semitism, like racism, as a sin. And as opposed as I am to Barack Obama’s pro-gay legislative agenda, I wrote on AFTAH’s site how it was a good thing that in this land of opportunity, an African American could be elected president. I reject the analogy of homosexuality to race, but with regard to the latter, I have written that it is a testimony to America’s greatness that our nation has progressed from its  tragic history of institutionalized slavery and racism to where we are today (and yes, more still needs to be done).

I don’t expect you to sympathize with AFTAH’s views, but from a practical standpoint, you must know that your credibility is waning among people whom the SPLC needs to reach to stay viable. America is a center-right country (perhaps many liberals would say centrist) — and while you may have success in fund-raising by reaching out predominantly to the Left, you cannot build credibility with unfair, politicized attacks on religious conservatives that appeal to base, uninformed stereotypes. Did you know the extreme background of the Gay Liberation Network, which reportedly lobbied the SPLC to label AFTAH as a “hate” site? Did you research their record — e.g., were you aware that in 2005 GLN leader Bob Schwartz made a veiled physical threat against me in Chicago of that sort that if I had said the same to him, I might have been arrested or questioned under the city’s “hate crimes” law?

What about the hateful rhetorical attacks against me and AFTAH and nasty shibboleths that come routinely from the Left? “Porno Pete”? Honestly, this is the type of malicious, hateful slander I experience on a daily basis (it is analogous in its ugliness to Phelps’ use of the term “Fag”). It appears the SPLC has a glaring double standard that you are now defiantly telegraphing to the world: principled, religious conservatives qualify as “haters,” while even the most vicious liberal activists get a free pass. On that point: has SPLC ever cited a homosexual activist group like ACT UP for “hateful” actions/assaults against religious groups? Have you investigated malicious websites like Joe Jervis’ “Joe.My.God” blog — which revels in grotesque smears against AFTAH and other Christian conservatives?

Will the SPLC investigate homosexual activist Wayne Besen (here shown screaming with a bullhorn into the window of a Boston church) and his organization "Truth Wins Out" as a potential "hate" group?

Energetic ideological debate is one thing — and pointed and colorful rhetoric flows in both directions (it’s not called a “Culture War” for nothing) — but I can’t even imagine screaming through a bullhorn into the window of a “gay” church. Yet this is precisely what homosexual activist Wayne Besen did in Boston last year — to protest an ex-gay seminar designed for pastors. Are you investigating his group, Truth Wins Out, as a potential “hate” group? If not, why not? What about “Bash Back,” the pro-gay direct action group that stormed a Michigan church service one Sunday in 2008? Are you investigating them or compiling a report on the slew of attacks against tradition-minded churches? How would you respond if a conservative group had stormed the service of a homosexual-oriented church like MCC (Metropolitan Community Church)?

In fact, over the years there have been numerous assaults by pro-homosexual militants against people of faith and churches  — do you recall the attack against Hamilton Square Baptist Church in San Francisco in 1993 in which pro-gay activists were literally pounding on the doors of the church? What about ACT UP’s invasion of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City in 1989, or more recent attempts by homosexual activists to intimidate supporters of  Prop 8 and traditional marriage? Has the SPLC ever investigated these intolerant incidents or officially condemned one of these attacks and labeled them as hateful? If you have, I’m glad to hear it, but if you were a fair organization you would meticulously expose every single incident on a timely basis just like you would the actions of the KKK.

By teaming up with radical leftist-activist groups like GLN who traffic in the worst sort of ad hominem smears and invective — GLN ridiculously labels the (largely nonpolitical) Moody Church in Chicago as a “House of Hate” (the pastor had written a book against “same-sex “marriage”) — the SPLC is only deepening its alienation from people of faith who reject liberal and secular ideologies. I am told that you do not qualify opposing homosexual behavior on moral grounds as “hate.” If so, then I urge you to remove Americans For Truth About Homosexuality from your list of “hate” groups.

Disagreement is not “hate.” I regularly engage in discussions written or spoken with people of opposing ideologies and have civil conversations with the most “radical” and committed gay activists — e.g., homosexual outing activist Mike Rogers. He strongly opposes my worldview and I his, yet we can talk with each other. I simply disagree morally with homosexual practice and the idea that “being gay” is a positive identity. I believe men and women can leave homosexuality behind, like former lesbian activist Charlene Cothran — who spoke at an AFTAH banquet  in 2007 — has done. She, as an African American, disputes the connection of homosexuality to race. If this qualifies as hatred, then your dubious list of “hate” groups must expand dramatically to include every pro-family group that takes a principled oppositional stance against homosexuality. Is that where the SPLC is headed?

There is a long history of homosexual attacks against religious institutions and people of faith. In 1989, the "gay" group ACT UP infamously disrupted a mass at NYC's Saint Patrick's Cathedral to protest the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to liberal sex-education programs.

Rest assured that SPLC’s reckless mischaracterization of AFTAH has touched off deep resentment within the pro-family, conservative community. I’m certainly willing to pursue the philosophical question of what constitutes “hate” — and bring forth the mountain of evidence that groups like GLN and Truth Wins Out regularly engage in truly “hateful’ actions and vicious smears against their foes that go far beyond the realm of civil discourse. I will even publicly debate you on this point in any (preferably impartial) forum or in the media, if you are up to the challenge of intellectually defending the SPLC’s tendentious “hate” classification. But it seems you could avoid all the negative attention that inevitably will come to SPLC and its questionable ethics by simply reevaluating your mischaracterization of our organization. At the very least, please answer my questions above and offer your defense of the SPLC’s “hate” label against AFTAH in the context of the issues I have raised here.

Thanks for you consideration.


Peter LaBarbera
Americans For Truth About Homosexuality


Mark Potok’s email to AFTAH:

From: Mark Potok [Southern Poverty Law Center]
Sent: Friday, March 26, 2010 6:59 AM
Subject: [AFT Web Site] Matt Barber\’s silly attack piece on the SPLC

The following message was sent from the Americans for Truth Web site:

I know you all value accuracy above all things — I can tell that from the fine and incisive quality of your writing and research. Therefore, I\’m sure you\’ll want to let Matt know that we\’re based in Montgomery, Ala., not Atlanta, Ga. I know these places all seem the same to you — kind of like the unspeakable horrors of homosexuality — but hey, they\’re not. Of course, Matt does appear incapable of doing any actual reporting — his little attack piece is a compendium of ancient quotes he dredges from a 10-year-old Harper\’s magazine article.

— Mark Potok Southern Poverty Law Center

This article was posted on Friday, March 26th, 2010 at 4:15 pm and is filed under News. You can follow any updates to this article through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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