Charity watchdog's good move

  • Wednesday June 14, 2017
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Millions of people donate to nonprofit agencies, many which do good work and provide vital services to their communities. National organizations also serve to unite supporters around a common cause. Smart donors regularly check sites like GuideStar, which compile data on finances and other metrics of nonprofits – including the public IRS Form 990 – to ensure that their dollars are funding reputable charities. That's why GuideStar's announcement this week that it is now identifying anti-LGBTQ hate groups is so important – and so welcome in this Pride Month. According to GuideStar, it will now place a warning label on tax-exempt nonprofits accused of spreading hate. ABC News reported that the site recently flagged 46 nonprofits as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is the leading authority on the subject and for years has tracked anti-LGBTQ groups.

GuideStar's president and CEO, Jacob Harold, said the new feature reflects a "broader shift in how we imagine our role in the [nonprofit] field," ABC reported. Adding new data sources is part of that shift, but Harold also framed the warning labels as a response to the recent rise in "hateful rhetoric" in the U.S.

We've seen hateful rhetoric increase since Donald Trump became president, and it's not just LGBTs who are the targets. There have been reports that young students, feeling increasingly emboldened by the low level of discourse, now openly taunt and intimidate fellow students, especially minorities. In the first comprehensive review of post-election bullying, BuzzFeed News reported that it "has confirmed more than 50 incidents, across 26 states, in which a K-12 student invoked Trump's name or message in an apparent effort to harass a classmate during the past school year." From BuzzFeed's report: On a school bus in San Antonio, Texas, a white eighth-grader said to a Filipino classmate, "You are going to be deported." In a classroom in Brea, California, a white eighth-grader told a black classmate, "Now that Trump won, you're going to have to go back to Africa, where you belong."

Given these examples and more, in which adults are doing the bullying, it's important that organizations like GuideStar respond by exposing hate rhetoric and ideology, calling out hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Richard Spencer's Virginia-based National Policy Institute.

The Eliminate Hate Campaign, a nationwide coalition of faith leaders and others who work to increase media accountability and public awareness of the growing influence and extremism of anti-LGBTQ hate groups, praised GuideStar's decision.

"We are thrilled GuideStar decided to properly identify anti-LGBT hate groups for what they truly are – organizations that traffic in the slander and discrimination of the LGBTQ community," the coalition said in a statement. "The hate groups in question are dangerous, and all the entities that continue to normalize their vitriol are complicit enablers of their extremism. It's time for those in the media and other institutions to follow the lead of GuideStar and start consistently identifying hate."

The SPLC identifies groups as anti-LGBTQ when they knowingly spread "demonizing lies about the LGBT community, engage in baseless, incendiary name-calling, or actively work to criminalize LGBTQ people."

A prime example is the Family Research Council, which, SPLC states, "... often makes false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science. The intention is to denigrate LGBT people as the organization battles against same-sex marriage, hate crime laws, anti-bullying programs, and the repeal of the military's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy." Just last year on its website, FRC stated, "Family Research Council believes that homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed. It is by definition unnatural, and as such is associated with negative physical and psychological health effects."

As the Eliminate Hate Campaign rightly pointed out, a common denominator with these hate groups is that many have high levels of access to the Trump administration and state legislatures. They are positioned to escalate their attacks on LGBTQ equality by "toxifying civil discourse, peddling misinformation (fake news), and leveraging policy-making power at local, state, and national levels," the campaign noted.

As you celebrate Pride, be mindful of groups that are opposed to us and feel a newfound sense of power now that Trump is in the Oval Office. Empower yourself with information when donating to nonprofit organizations, and use sites like GuideStar that have a system that lets you know if the group you support is also supportive of you.