Group Identifies "Hate Groups" in Oklahoma

Every year, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) updates a "Hate Map" showing how many identified hate groups exist in each state.  The organization claims to be "dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry" and teaching tolerance. Some of the groups the SPLC lists as hate groups, however, take issue with their placement and say the SPLC is far from practicing what it preaches. This year's SPLC Hate Map identifies 15 Patriot groups and 17 hate groups. According to the organization, Patriot groups are anti-government groups and armed militia "which in the 1990s led to a string of domestic terrorist plots, including the Oklahoma City bombing." Hate groups include "neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, border vigilantes" as well as anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant groups and groups creating anti-Semitic propaganda. One Oklahoma City church, Windsor Hills Baptist Church, was  placed on the list after its pastor made unfounded anti-gay statements at a city council meeting, including the claim that "Homosexuals commit more than 33 percent of all the reported child molestations in the US. Many homosexuals openly admit they are pedophiles because they cannot naturally reproduce. They resort to recruiting children.” The SPLC says that the group was not labeled a hate group for its anti-gay stance, but rather because pastor Tom Vineyard made statements that were patently untrue with the intent to demonize a group. Two other groups, Oklahomans for Sovereignty and Free Enterprise, Inc. (OK-SAFE) and the National Socialist Freedom Movement both say that their organizations being listed as a patriot group and a hate group, respectively, is unwarranted, and that the SPLC unfairly labels any group that does not agree with its own agenda. Regardless of the SPLC's stated mission in labeling hate groups, the real task of identifying and monitoring hate groups is assigned to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI). Oklahoma's hate crime law is found in 21 O.S. § 850. It imposes additional penalties on those who commit acts of assault and battery or vandalism on the basis of a victim's "race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin or disability." Federal law also includes gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity in hate crime legislation. The statute also requires the OSBI to create a system of reporting hate crimes, identify hate groups, and monitor the activity of those groups: "The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation shall develop a standard system for state and local law enforcement agencies to report incidents of crime which are apparently directed against members of racial, ethnic, religious groups or other groups specified by this section. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation shall promulgate rules, regulations and procedures necessary to develop, implement and maintain a standard system for the collection and reporting of hate crime data. All state, county, city and town law enforcement agencies shall submit a monthly report to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation on forms prescribed by the Bureau. The report shall contain the number and nature of the offenses committed within their respective jurisdictions, the disposition of such matters and any other information the Bureau may require, respecting information relating to the cause and prevention of crime, recidivism, the rehabilitation of criminals and the proper administration of criminal justice." (21 O.S. § 850F) While the SPLC lists 17 hate groups in the state, it would be far more interesting to see how many groups are being monitored by the OSBI.

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