Guidestar Joins the Targeting of Christian Groups

You may never have heard of the website Guidestar. It is an invaluable tool for those seeking information on nonprofits, everything from the Ford Foundation to your local pro-life group, provided they have nonprofit status with the federal government.

All nonprofits are listed at Guidestar. Potential donors can peruse the tax returns of these nonprofits to find out how much they bring in each year, who is on the board, how much they spend on programs and fundraising, even how much the chief executive makes each year.

Prior to Guidestar, if someone wanted to see an organization’s tax returns, they had to reach out to the group itself to request one and, even though the group was required by law to provide tax returns to anyone who asked, the process could take weeks or months for them to respond, and perhaps never.

In short, the United States requires a great deal of transparency of organizations allowed to act as nonprofits, that is, groups that are not taxed by the federal government. Guidestar makes the whole thing easier.

Guidestar has never tipped its hand about its politics until now. Starting a few weeks ago, Guidestar has started targeting Christian groups who oppose same-sex “marriage” and has started labeling them as “hate groups.” In fact, if you go to any of these 46 organizations pages on Guidestar, emblazoned across the top is a statement that each group has been “flagged as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center” and Guidestar provides a link back to the SPLC homepage.

Some of the groups so-targeted by Guidestar have been working behind the scenes with Guidestar CEO Jacob Harold to explain various truths about SPLC and why he should not partner with them.

No less than Karl Zinsmeister of the Philanthropy Roundtable wrote a piece criticizing Guidestar for this dangerous move. In fact, the widely respected Zinsmeister was outraged by the smear perpetrated by Guidestar on good groups.

Guidestar now lists Alliance Defending Freedom as a hate-group. As Zinsmeister points out,

The ADF has a network of 3,100 ­American attorneys all around the country who’ve donated more than a million pro bono hours to its work in recent years. The group has had a role in 49 legal victories (plus some losses) at the U.S. Supreme Court. Putting the Alliance ­Defending Freedom on a list with skinheads and the 130 Ku Klux Klan chapters that the SPLC insists are rampaging across America is like confusing Joe Lieberman with Joseph Stalin.

He points out that SPLC and now presumably Guidestar consider social scientist Charles Murray as a “White Nationalist.” This label invoked a near riot at Middlebury College and the physical assault of Murray and his faculty host by rampaging students. Quite famously now, an SPLC acolyte used SPLC’s list to invade the offices of Family Research Council with the intent of mass murder. And more recently, the Scalise-shooter on the ball field of Alexandria, Virginia a few weeks ago, was a fan of SPLC.

Zinsmeister points out that SPLC and now presumably Guidetar have an “utter lack of any reasonable criteria for who goes on its list of crazies” that is combined with “careless reporting” that “spreads stigma by innuendo.”

Zinsmeister pulls away the mask of SPLC and the editor-in-chief of its quarterly “hate report” Mark Potok who said in a 2008 speech, “Sometimes the press will describe us as monitoring hate crimes and so on…. I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups, to completely destroy them.” (Start at minute 1:35 of this video.)

The media has long ago allowed SPLC free reign to call any group they disagree with a “hate group.” Any time Family Research Council or any of the others are mentioned in the media, they are tagged as an SPLC hate-group. The media does this even though Mark Potok mocks them for it. Potok makes clear SPLC is not a neutral monitoring group but a group with a deeply partisan mission to utterly destroy Christian nonprofits.

And now, it seems Guidestar has joined in.

Guidestar might consider a few things. The Christian groups targeted for destruction by SPLC are not inclined to sue SPLC because SPLC sits on a mountain of cash—$351 million and growing at a $40 million clip each year—and has access to dozens of lawyers to defend themselves. Guidestar, according to its tax returns on Guidestar, has nowhere near that amount of cash reserves. In fact, according to their most recent tax returns, they began the most recent reporting year with a cash balance of only $2.2 million and revenues of $13 million, $4 million from contributions. In the previous year, however, they began in the hole, with a negative balance. In short, Guidestar is not even remotely in the same financially protected situation as SPLC.

Moreover, Guidestar has a reputation to protect, unlike SPLC, which is even viewed by the left as little more than money-grubbing liars. (Foreign Policy magazine pointed out that its hate list is made up of hundreds of duplicates and is therefore largely phony.)

What’s more, Guidestar likely relies on a special relationship with the Internal Revenue Service, which is how they get all those 990 tax returns so fast. Do they want to risk that? After all, many of the groups they now target, have friends in the Republican Congress who may look askance at Guidestar seemingly targeting well-respected Christian groups.

Will Guidestar’s board of directors and donors believe helping a group like SPLC destroy Christian groups is time and treasure well spent, particularly if Guidestar must defend itself in court, before Congress and the federal government?

There was hope that Jacob Harold, Guidestar’s CEO would come to his senses. He has not. In a blog post of a few days ago, he did not even have the courage to mention Christian groups in his blog post but rather made it seem the groups he is targeting are simply a range from “Black Separatists” to “Holocaust Deniers.”

He did agree to begin showing the hate-moniker in a different way, rather than dominating the page of each group. So far, he has not done so. It is still emblazoned across the top of each group’s Guidestar page.

Harold defends the use of SPLC’s because it is also used by “major donor-advise funds, giving platforms, media outlets, and law enforcement agencies.” I would challenge Harold to name even a single “law enforcement agency” that actually uses SPLC’s data. I bet he can’t. He is likely merely relying on SPLC’s PR machine for this and other assertions. Of all the solid criticisms of SPLC from both right and left, Harold merely says, “No data source is perfect.” He washes his hands. We shall see if the grime is actually removed.

By seeming to join SPLC’s mission “to utterly destroy” Christian groups, has Guidestar stepped into a mess it will one day deeply regret?

Austin Ruse

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Austin Ruse is president of C-FAM (Center for Family & Human Rights), a New York and Washington DC-based research institute in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations. His forthcoming book Fake Science: Exposing the Left’s Skewed Statistics, Fuzzy Facts, and Dodgy Data—out this summer from Regnery Publishing—contains a chapter on marriage and family. He is also the author of the new book Little Suffering Souls: Children Whose Short Lives Point Us to Christ just published by Tan Books.

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