Months after paying $3.375 million to Maajid Nawaz’s Quilliam Foundation for admitted falsehood in labeling the advocacy organization as “extremist,” the Southern Poverty Law Center is the focus of a civil action again.
This time, the Center for Immigration Studies filed a federal civil lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) against SPLA President Richard Cohen himself.
According to CIS spokesperson Marguerite Telford, Cohen colleague Heidi Beirich is also named in the filing because she and Cohen conspired together in a scheme to destroy the Center over time. Beirich heads the SPLC so-called “hate group” project and blog.
The case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeks damages and a federal order prohibiting Cohen and Beirich from repeating false claims against CIS.
“They have been carrying out their scheme to destroy CIS through the SPLC enterprise for two years,” Telford said. “They will not stop without judicial intervention.”
CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian is quoted in a CIS written statement on the Jan. 16 filing as prioritizing a pro-immigrant policy of lower immigration for the sake of a better assimilation experience.
“CIS does not hate immigrants or anyone else,” Krikorian said. “Our purpose is to make the case . . . fewer immigrants but a warmer welcome for those admitted.”
According to Krikorian, the SPLC attacks are libelous on the order of intentional quashing of opposing views.
“SPLC attacks us simply because it disagrees with these policy views,” he said. “SPLC and its leaders have every right to oppose our work on immigration, but they do not have the right to label us a hate group and suggest we are racists.”
Telford said CIS wants to make it crystal clear that the attacks by the Cohen-Beirich conspiracy come amidst knowing and intentional disregard for SLPC’s own descriptions of a “hate group.”
Quoting the SPLC, Telford said, “The SPLC describes an organization as a hate group whose ‘official statements or principles attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.’”
The SPLC policy view can be seen here: (Complaint, ¶14, quoting from SPLC’s website)
(we’re) fighting back against the SPLC smear campaign and its attempt to stifle debate through intimidation.
“CIS has not attacked or maligned immigrants,” Telford added. “Moreover, the Supreme Court has held that being an immigrant is not an immutable characteristic because it is the result of a personal choice.”
According to Telford, CIS opposes higher levels of immigration on the grounds of reasonable public policy, not out of any ill feeling toward immigrants at all.
“CIS hopes this lawsuit will cause Mr. Cohen and Ms. Beirich to turn their attention to actual cases of racial animus,” Telford said.
According to Krikorian, a bottom line for this action in the courts is larger than just the Center for Immigration Studies. An open dialogue in society is at risk across the boards.
“The Center for Immigration Studies is fighting back against the SPLC smear campaign and its attempt to stifle debate through intimidation and name-calling,” Krikorian said.
Someday, after a deeper understanding of other views, and after learning to appreciate those of other opinions for the sake of common respect, The SPLC, Cohen and Beirich may realize they were simply wrong to have created a bigoted hate list in the first place.