Law center lists YAF as 'hate group'
The Southern Poverty Law Center's annual Hate Group list, which names more than 800 groups in the country and 25 in Michigan, is predominantly symbolic and does not imply any consequences or penalties.
The list is released to approximately 50,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide that uses the list as a tool for monitoring hate groups, said Heidi Beirich, deputy director of the Intelligence Project, which monitors hate and extremist activity through the law center.
Beirich said three of the main reasons MSU's YAF was placed on the list were its constant use of slur words the proposal that the governance for MSU to be white supremacist and its "constant immigrant bashing."
The Southern Poverty Law Center considers a group to be hateful if it espouses an ideology of hatred. The group does not have to be violent, but if it denigrates people for characteristics they cannot change, it is hateful.
Source: Heidi Beirich
In a letter, Young Americans for Freedom Chairman Kyle Bristow issued a media strategy to members of his organization to control press coverage.
1. All media questions regarding the hate group status go directly to Professor Allen at first until we establish that the media won't spin it.
2. Prevent all dissent in YAF from appearing in the media. If we are seen as being divided, then the media will argue that I am a whack job, even by YAF standards. This will hurt us more than anything.
3. I will mention how mainstream YAF is Ronald Reagan was the honorary chairman, Sen. John Tower was a member, Barry Goldwater's supporters started it and Dan Quayle was a member.
4. I will mention that we support the ideas of the great majority of America. Most of America believes in the sanctity of marriage, want to secure our borders, oppose affirmative action and believe that abortion is wrong. If these views make me a hateful person, then I am proud of it. People at LI (Leadership Institute) suggest that we make a mockery of the whole thing by pointing this out.
5. If The State News mentions that you saw the "evil of YAF's ways" or something, all I can do is have you talk to them (only with my permission.) You cannot apologize for anything YAF has done, cannot say bad things about me, cannot say that YAF is divided on any issues and cannot say that we need to do things in a better way. Any of these items can be twisted around to make us look bad. Regardless of whether or not The State News takes interest in the Between the Lines or City Pulse article, you must not speak to the media unless you have my permission (not even on your own behalf because it still represents the group). Don't even tell them the time or day of the week without my permission.
Source: Between the Lines magazine
The MSU College Republicans and YAF were in the spotlight for bringing Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo to MSU to speak about immigration last semester. The Tancredo event was protested, and students reported assaults and the vandalization of vehicles.
YAF also has been in the news for attempting to sponsor "Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day" on campus. After much controversy and debate, the event was canceled.
"It is evident to any fair observer that YAF does not deserve to be on this list," YAF adviser William Allen wrote in an e-mail. "Unfortunately, the standards (SPLC co-founder) Morris Dees adheres to clearly no longer apply in the work of what has been a highly valuable organization with exacting integrity."
YAF Chairman Kyle Bristow said the organization "might file a lawsuit for character defamation." He called the SPLC "disgusting" and extremely "left-wing" and said it was simply trying to discourage conservative activism.
"They don't have a right to compare us to Nazis or the KKK when we're not like that," Bristow said.
Other Michigan groups on the list include the National Socialist Movement in Grand Rapids and the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Kalamazoo.
"I really don't take the SPLC for very much," MSU College Republicans Chairman Jeff Wiggins said.
"I see them as more of a left-wing organization, anyway. They're prone to bias."
Beirich stressed that it was MSU's chapter of the organization being added to the list, not the nationwide group. A group does not have to be violent to be considered hateful, she said.
"In the case of national YAF, they don't have any of these principles or beliefs at all," Beirich said. "It's a totally legit conservative outfit. Nothing they believe has anything to do with what Kyle Bristow says. I don't even understand the relationship between the two groups."
Terry Denbow, MSU's spokesman, said the views of an external organization do not affect the action MSU takes pertaining to its anti-discrimination policy.
"The criteria established for registered student organizations are criteria that the institution must create and abide by, as must the student organizations," he said.
"I know of no violation of the criteria at this time. Once you start allowing external groups to establish criteria, that begins a slippery slope within the free marketplace of ideas."
MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said the university is trying to get more information about why the group was placed on the list.
"It seems unusual of all the YAF chapters that this one was selected," Simon said.
Both Bristow and Allen said YAF's future plans will not be hindered by the SPLC attention and YAF is not concerned.
"I would prefer that it had not happened; I believe that these students will one day find it necessary to explain this in forums where it will be unpleasant to do so," Allen said. "It is a slur upon their characters far more than it is any comment upon their operations."
Last year, Bristow was ousted from his position as ASMSU Student Assembly representative of James Madison College.
"During the course of his tenure with ASMSU, he made many controversial statements about what he stood for that his constituents didn't like," Mike Leahy, a representative of the College of Social Science, said. "He was legitimately elected and legitimately removed."
Beirich said the list of hate groups would be released in April and could be found in the SPLC Report and on its Web site, www.splcenter.org.