Earlier this week, we saw the fall of one of the great icons of the American civil rights movement, Morris Dees. Mr. Dees was the co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a group that raised money to kill off hate groups in the U.S. Mr. Dees deserves our great respect and must be honored for helping to kill off the Ku Klux Klan. However, Mr. Dees became the poster child for the adage that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
As a practicing attorney, Dees once represented a KKK member named Claude Henley in a defamation suit in 1962. However Mr. Dees had an “epiphany” and decided at that moment to dedicate his life to eradicating racism and intolerance in American society. So Mr. Dees turned around and sued the YMCA of Montgomery Alabama, for refusing to allow black male youths to join. Normally, a private entity such as the YMCA is not required to follow rules set for government agencies. However, Mr. Dees found that the city of Montgomery had been advising the local YMCA and set up an arrangement with the YMCA to act on behalf of the city. Mr. Dees won this landmark lawsuit, and the U.S. 5th District Appeals Court found that the YMCA was bound by the 14th Amendment. Shortly afterward, Mr. Dees co-founded the SPLC, with the intent of eradicating racism in the USA forever. Mr. Dees put in his own funds to create the SPLC, using the money he had made from the sale of his publishing firm.
The SPLC came up with an innovative way of taking on the KKK and other hate groups. They would sue them into submission. In 1981, the SPLC sued the United Klans of America and won a multi-million dollar judgment for the mother of a black youth who had been lynched by the Klan (Michael Donald). This judgment bankrupted the UKA. Dees and the SPLC then went after the White Aryan Resistance, and obtained a 6.5 million dollar judgment against the Aryans, also bankrupting them. Dees and the SPLC then went after Neo Nazi groups, causing them to go into bankruptcy.
These tactics, while controversial, did a great service to our country. They caused the destruction of the KKK and many white terrorist groups. Good riddance to the KKK and Aryans. However Dees and the SPLC then forgot the initial reason for the existence of the SPLC, which was to eradicate racism and hatred. Dees then started going after Christian groups whose only crime was following God’s word. If you were a supporter of traditional marriage, or were against racial quotas – the SPLC would put you on their list of hate groups. This made it hard for any person or group put on their watch list to find a job or get a government or private sector contract.
The man who once worked for George Wallace during the dark days of segregation (yes Dees) became a great worker for civil rights. But Dees then went after groups that wanted to do nothing other than to protect America’s borders. Dees and the SPLC went after American patriots such as Brigitte Gabriel, who wanted to go after Islamic extremists who supported terrorism. Dees went after the American Family Association, because the AFA supports traditional marriage (a political viewpoint once shared by President Barack Obama). Supporting Judeo Christian values is not hate speech, supporting Judeo Christian values is 100 percent the opposite of hate speech. However, Dees and the SPLC could not see this, and decided to make money from donors by going after Christian-based groups. Sorry SPLC, but the Center for Immigration Studies, an anti-illegal immigrant think tank, is not a hate group. None of these groups were advocating violence; each was expressing a political belief.
We do not know why Dees was fired from the SPLC. However, that will come out soon enough. What we do know is this: Dees did great things for the cause of civil rights. But he ended up being little more than a charlatan (Dees was denounced by famed civil rights lawyer Stephen Bright as being a fraud) and the modern day example of the little boy who cried “wolf” one too many times.
John Massoud is a member of the Strasburg Town Council, the vice chair of the Shenandoah County Republican Party, and the vce chair of the 6th District GOP Congressional Committee.