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LANSING, Michigan, March 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Michigan’s lesbian attorney general and the state’s Department of Civil Rights director are investigating organizations the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has deemed “hate groups.” One such group in their state is Catholic news service Church Militant, which reports on clerical sexual misdeeds and advocates adherence to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

The SPLC has labeled Church Militant “anti-LGBT.” The law center lumps pro-life, pro-marriage, and Christian organizations in with neo-Nazis and the KKK as “hate groups.” Its “hate map” inspired a man to attempt a shooting rampage at the Family Research Council’s headquarters in 2012, the first incident of armed domestic terrorism in Washington, D.C.

Attorney General Dana Nessel and Department of Civil Rights Director Agustin V. Arbulu say they are responding to the SPLC’s annual “hate map” report. They claim that the SPLC has documented an increase of “active extremist and hate organizations in Michigan.”  

According to Arbulu, his department is “creating a process to document hate and bias incidents that don’t rise to the level of a crime or civil infraction.” This may mean documenting the groups’ activities and members. Critics fear that the database amounts to a political enemies list.

“Hate cannot continue to flourish in our state,” Nessel said in a February 22 statement. She added that she is creating a hate-crimes unit to “fight against hate crimes and the many hate groups which have been allowed to proliferate in our state.”

In an opinion piece for the Detroit News, Nolan Finley warned that this new effort “has the real potential to morph into thought policing.”

“If what Nessel and Arbulu are targeting are words, thoughts and opinions, this could easily become a weapon to shut down groups they find abhorrent, but are operating within the law,” he wrote.

“The First Amendment guarantees Church Militant the right to express itself on gay marriage and other social issues, and to do so vigorously,” continued Finley. “There's no accusation that the Catholic group has ever broken the law, or committed an act of violence against those whose lifestyles it rejects. Subjecting it to a state interrogation would amount to harassing its members for their religious beliefs.”

The SPLC’s founder was just fired this week. The group’s statement on his termination suggested workplace misconduct.

“Investigating actual acts of hate is one thing. Investigating religious views as ‘hate’ is quite another,” Terence Pell, President of the Center for Individual Rights, told LifeSiteNews via email.

“The First Amendment does not permit public officials to conduct surveillance of Catholic or other religiously affiliated groups,” Pell wrote, adding that their “only crime is to promote church teaching on gay marriage and abortion. The Attorney General’s plan risks costly legal challenge and does nothing to address actual hate-related violence.”

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco told LifeSiteNews that while Michigan has the authority to probe “hate crimes,” the state “has made a terrible mistake in taking its cues from the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

It’s “bad enough that the media, social media companies, and other corporations rely on the SPLC,” he said. It’s worse “when the government threatens legal action against groups that dissent from the SPLC’s far-left agenda. That will result in speech censorship, thought control, and mainstream ideas with which the SPLC disagrees being driven from the marketplace.”