The SPLC gained prominence back in 2004 when it raised legal challenges that eventually forced Chief Justice Roy Moore to remove a Ten Commandments monument from his Alabama court-house. (How’s that for some guts civil rights-in'. Who in America doesn't feel a whole lot safer now that that crucial blow for freedom has been struck.) In fact the SPLC is conducting its witch hunt against Judge Moore to this very day, only now it's his position on traditional marriage they hate.
So in 2006 the SPLC came knocking on our door. Evidently, the increasingly irrelevant (and bat-poop nuts!) Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi boogeymen the SPLC had been chasing around the woods in years past were proving insufficiently scary to the big donors, and so the SPLC needed a new set of bad guys.
So there I was, father to seven children, running my little Christian newspaper, suddenly sucked into a SPLC’s marketing scheme designed to frighten old people out of their Social Security checks. It was surreal.
But I wasn’t alone. Dangerous “haters” (READ: Conservatives with which the SPLC disagrees) are here there and everywhere, and only the SPLC can save the country from the growing menace. Focus on the Family, Glenn Beck, Ron Paul, Judge Andrew Napolitano, the American Family Association, Tony Perkins, the John Birch Society, World Net Daily, you name the conservative pro-family group and the SPLC has got them targeted and most often listed on its trusty little “hate map”.
The Remnant’s primary transgression was listed as anti-Semitism, since we still accept the Catholic Church’s age-old teaching that all men, even Jews, can only be saved through the grace of Jesus Christ. But the charges also included rejecting the “teachings of the modern papacy”, opposing Zionism, and “consistently attacking Nostra Aetate”.
Apparently, nobody at the SPLC ever took the time to actually read Nostra Aetate (Vatican II’s constitution on Catholic relations with non-Christians), else I imagine they’d have had to condemn that as anti-Semitic too, since the document includes plenty of "hateful" little gems such as: “True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ…” If The Remnant has been “consistently attacking Nostra Aetate” one would think we'd be nominated for a Morris Dees Award or two.
The real game here, of course, is to claim that the Catholic Church, anti-semitic for 1,965 years, is responsible for the rise of Hitler, Stalin and pretty much all the evil in the whole wide world. It was only after Vatican II that the Church finally stopped with the hate mongering. Ergo, anyone who fights for the old Latin Mass must, of course, be fighting for the return of the glorious days of good ol' hateful Christendom, which accomplished nothing more for humanity than one pogrom after another. Less than sophisticated stuff, to be sure, but not altogether unconvincing where undereducated folks are concerned.
Over the years our reaction to the SPLC harangue has been mixed. These days we use it as a STOP CHRISTOPHOBIA fundraiser on our website. Early on, however, the first thing my wife and I did was to telephone our local sheriff for advice on how to keep potential vigilantes from going all Rambo on The Matt Family Haters. An expensive security system was suggested, which the sheriff assured us would suffice since the SPLC had not actually accused us of advocating violence but only preaching hate (as if there’s a difference these days).
We installed the security system, which struck us as a fairly good call a few years later when one Floyd Lee Corkins II, a self-appointed executor of the SPLC’s implicit will, entered the lobby of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., and started spraying bullets all over the place. Building manager Leo Johnson stopped him but only after taking a bullet in the process.
Mr. Corkins pleaded guilty to three felonies, including terrorism while armed and assault with the intent to kill. He informed investigators that he’d gotten the bright idea to go on the murderous rampage from the SPLC website. Inside his backpack police also found the address of the D.C.-based Traditional Values Coalition—another group listed on the SPLC “hate map.”
So I guess we’re asking a lot of our little security system, especially since earlier this summer local news outlets here in St. Paul/Minneapolis began running stories based on a 2015 SPLC update which warned of eight hate groups active in our area, including The Remnant. When those reports aired all over town and with the recent Charlie Hebdo shootings fresh in her mind, my long-suffering wife made an appointment to have our security system upgraded. I guess maybe that gave her some peace of mind. . .
Why the SPLC is allowed to run around in effect shouting “fire” in crowded theaters everywhere is beyond me. But that’s their stock-in-trade and, since they’re in bed with the Obama Administration, they have plenty of cover for the continuance of the “important work”.
But I digress. A few days after this nearly 10-year-old story was regurgitated by local TV stations, a reporter from the far-Left magazine, City Pages, rang me up, asking if I’d meet him for lunch to talk about the SPLC report.
Owned by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, City Pages is an alternative weekly with a circulation of 50,000 that, how shall I say this, isn’t exactly known for a pro-Christian, pro-life editorial policy (and that’s the wildest understatement you’ll read in 2015). Nevertheless and to his credit, the City Pages reporter, Cory Zurowski, wanted to fire a few questions at the accused hater before filing a story on Minnesota hate groups.
I don’t think it would have been possible to find two journalists in one restaurant more diametrically opposed in terms of worldview and overall philosophy than were Cory Zurowski and Michael Matt that day. It was an interesting lunch. No, really, it was. In fact, I enjoyed every minute of it. Too many of us have become so polarized by media and isolated by technology that we have precious few opportunities to sit across tables from one another and see what makes the other guy tick.
Did you know, for example, that even our harshest critics are sometimes human? Yep, true story. It’s just that that’s not too terribly relevant to those who take their lead from Sean Hannity on the right or Rachel Maddow on the left—which means whoever shouts the loudest wins, the pursuit of truth having little to do with any of it.
Cory and I talked and disagreed. And then we disagreed and talked some more. And as we talked we began to see that maybe—just maybe!—we had enough in common to at least engage in civil discourse, as big kids used to do before becoming sufficiently “enlightened” to blow up half the world and stifle any and all meaningful discourse along the way. For one thing, we discovered that neither of us appreciates the sky-is-falling bully tactics of fanatical ideologues on the right or the left. Despite the obvious philosophic chasm between us, I saw in Cory a guy with whom I could at least attempt to reason without being shouted down.
“I want you to let me tell my side of this to your readers, Cory. Don’t take me out of your story.” I insisted on this at the outset because when local and national newspapers had approached me in the past about the SPLC slander, I would tell them my side of it, they would listen attentively and then, recognizing the telltale signs of the classic witch hunt, promptly drop The Remnant from their story.
Cory said he would leave us in, and he was true to his word. In the end, he not only let me speak but also inadvertently exposed the entire SPLC attack on The Remnant for the witch hunt it is, despite some rather heavy-handed and editor-appeasing rhetoric of his own.
Some of my friends took umbrage with Cory’s condescending tone where The Remnant and its editor are concerned. I didn’t, because I know where he’s coming from—the other side of the world, and there's a toll to be paid by anyone willing to cross back over (no matter how brief his stay). At the end of the day, City Pages succeeded in discrediting the SPLC’s charges of hate against us, leaving the objective reader to conclude that the SPLC is either recklessly inept or straight up malicious.
Here’s a snippet from Cory’s story, entitled rather sardonically “Minnesota’s Eight Hate Groups Are Struggling”:
But if Forest Lake harbors villainy in its midst, Police Captain Greg Weiss is unaware. “This is the first I’ve heard of it,” he says. His computer delivers a less menacing portrait of Matt.
“He sped once,” says Weiss. “There’s a complaint about his wallet being stolen in 2007. He called in when — it looks like his kid — was involved in a traffic accident in 2009. Oh, in 2007, he put gas in his truck and inadvertently fled. I guess he must have forgot to pay.”
Inside Old Log Cabin Restaurant, the scariest thing about Matt is the mayo running down his chin. “I’m just an old-school guy who [believes in] what the church always taught, that God created us,” he says. The problem, he asserts: His brand of pious simplicity is no longer fashionable. “Boom! Nutball! The guy believes in creation!,” Matt says.
When he first discovered that the Remnant had been labeled a hate group, Matt was “terrified.” How could a mild-mannered dad from Forest Lake be clumped with the likes of the White Aryan Resistance and the Sadistic Souls Motorcycle Club?
“If you can find what it is, let me know,” he says in a somewhat defeated voice.
Matt insists he has no beef with Jews. They “number among my dearest friends, and not a few rabbis subscribe to the Remnant,” he says. “For many thousands of years the Jews were God’s chosen people, and from out of their midst Jesus Christ came unto us and changed the whole world. I love them, even as I love all men.”
Over the years, his lawyers have reached out to the SPLC, asking that the Remnant be removed from the list — or if they could at least start a dialogue. The overtures proved fruitless.
Still, Matt can’t earn much respect as a hater either. He notes that a few years back, reporters from City Pages and the Star Tribune contacted him for stories about the hate list. He didn’t make the cut with either paper. Apparently both found him insufficiently vile. “I just want to be a good guy,” he says. “The whole point and purpose that we’re here is to save our souls. It’s all very spiritual, very personal. That’s what it’s about.”
In other words, according to City Pages there is no hate group here in Forest Lake, Minnesota. An honest liberal, Cory Zurowski declined to sacrifice journalistic integrity in support of a cheap and transparent SPLC fundraiser which bases its success on whipping up fear of imaginary bad guys.
In effect, City Pages called foul on the SPLC, exonerating Minnesota of the sensationalist claim that a whopping eight dangerous hate groups are alive and well here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Cory’s take on those eight “dangerous hate groups” can be summed up in one word: Puh-leeze!
Predictably, there is at least one liberal critic over at the City Pages commbox who didn’t appreciate the effort: “What a stupid article. Are you also vying for a job at Fox News, Cory?” Shame on the liberal journalist who didn’t stick to a pointless, polarizing and ideologically-driven narrative. Right?
No, not exactly. Well played, Cory.
Label, ostracize, marginalize, polarize, treat those with whom you disagree as less than human—that’s how it works and that’s how the SPLC does business. But sitting in a little restaurant here in Flyover Land, USA, two guys from polar opposite ends of the spectrum proved to themselves at least that this isn’t how it should be, that this doesn’t make the world a better place, and that we can disagree with one another—even adamantly—without hate ever entering into it.
Adults living in the real world know this to be true, which is why the SPLC—paragons of toleration—have never once allowed The Remnant to defend itself in their pages. They don’t have a case, and they know it. It’s much easier to vilify, terrorize and then take up a collection.
Thankfully, honest people on both sides of the aisle have finally had a bellyful of the sanctimonious fear mongering of the SPLC. Their credibility in the real world -- outside of the bailiwicks of extremist ideologues on the far-Left for whom truth matters little -- is, if you'll forgive the expression, in the toilet. And City Pages and The Remnant, strange bedfellows indeed, will drink to that any day of the week. ■
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