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Beyond the “Hate Map”: How the Southern Poverty Law Center is hurting Christian groups

A screenshot of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Hate Map.” (

After her pro-family group was targeted by the SPLC, Jennifer Roback Morse says, “I felt the time was right to speak out.”

An online donation processing company’s recent decision to sever ties with family-advocacy organization The Ruth Institute has come under fire from religious liberty and traditional marriage advocates, who argue that it is proof of the corroding of civil discourse and increasing attempts to harass religious groups out of existence.

Vanco Payment Solutions, which processes online donations for more than 20,000 churches and non-profit religious groups across the country, cancelled the Ruth Institute’s service August 31. The group had been flagged by Card Services as “a product/service that promotes hate, violence, harassment and/or abuse,” and “[m]erchants that display such attributes are against Vanco and Wells Fargo processing policies,” according to a portion of Vanco’s letter posted on the Ruth Institute blog.

The Ruth Institute (an organization the author has occasionally worked for as an independent contractor) says it has been listed on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Hate Map” since 2013, and believes that designation is what led to Vanco’s move. The SPLC, located in Montgomery, Alabama, is a source widely used by the media and other organizations to identify hate groups. According to the SPLC’s website, Ruth Institute founder Jennifer Roback Morse has “used Catholic doctrine to assert LGBT people are ‘intrinsically disordered’ and that they should remain celibate (or leave ‘the gay lifestyle’) and not act on their attractions.”

After the Ruth Institute’s publicizing Vanco’s decision, the company’s CFO, Jennifer Dorris, contacted the Ruth Institute and told Morse the company was willing to re-establish a business relationship with the non-profit. Morse stated she emailed Dorris and told her that in order for the Ruth Institute to consider using Vanco’s services again, she would need an explanation of why they were terminated, what Wells Fargo’s role was in them being terminated, and a private and public apology, among other requests. Dorris did not respond to any of those demands, so Morse said the Ruth Institute will not be doing business with Vanco any time soon.

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