GuideStar, a nonprofit that shares financial and other information about the nation's nonprofit organizations, has announced that it has decided to temporarily discontinue a feature introduced a few months ago designed to warn would-be donors about nonprofits allegedly accused of spreading hate.
Earlier this year, GuideStar noted that forty-six of the more than 1.6 million active nonprofit groups it tracks had been flagged by the Southern Poverty Law Center as entities that work to restrict the civil rights of certain groups of people. Since the labels were implemented on the GuideStar site, the organization has received feedback from both supporters and critics of the decision. However, a statement posted on the organization's blog noted that "a significant amount of the feedback we’ve received in recent days has shifted from constructive criticism to harassment and threats directed at our staff and leadership."
According to the Washington Post, in addition to white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups, the SPLC list of so-called hate groups included fifty-two "anti-LGBT" organizations, including churches and nonprofit Christian ministries described by the center as being opposed to same-sex marriage or as advocating for their belief that homosexual activity is "sinful." Some conservative groups complained that SPLC was lumping the faith groups in with race-focused groups not as a result of objective research but because of its own political agenda.
In its statement, GuideStar indicated that while its earlier decision to adopt the SPLC labels was in line with its mission to provide as much information as possible about nonprofit organizations, the decision to remove them was driven by the organization's commitment to objectivity and concerns for the well-being of its staff. The changes to the profiles in question will be implemented during the week of June 26.
After further noting that it views the controversy as an opportunity "to refine how we present and curate this type of information,” the GuideStar statement thanked “the many users who have constructively expressed their opinions on this situation" and noted that the organization "hope[d] to engage in a constructive dialogue with experts from across the political spectrum to…determine the best way to fulfill this need” in the future.