Monday, January 17, 2005

Southern Poverty Law Center

On this occasion of King's Birthday it is appropriate to mention one of the many organizations heir to his dream, the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Southern Poverty Law Center was founded in 1971 as a small civil rights law firm. Today, the Center is internationally known for its tolerance education programs, its legal victories against white supremacists and its tracking of hate groups.

Located in Montgomery, Alabama - the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement - the Center was founded by Morris Dees and Joe Levin, two local lawyers who shared a commitment to racial equality. Its first president was civil rights activist Julian Bond.

Throughout its history, the Center has worked to make the nation's Constitutional ideals a reality. The Center's legal department fights all forms of discrimination and works to protect society's most vulnerable members, handling innovative cases that few lawyers are willing to take. Over three decades, it has achieved significant legal victories, including landmark Supreme Court decisions and crushing jury verdicts against hate groups.

This is not a discussion group that sits around talking about what might be done. It is a group that keeps a finger on the pulses of hate groups, the legal system and toxic national trends that survive under cover. Anyone who thinks that there is not a dark underside to our society is not familiar with the facts. SPLC is keeping an eye on a great many groups. In an era of terrorism, as we want to point accusing fingers overseas, it is easy to forget that the same impulses that drive extremists in less coherent societies are alive and well in our own country.

For those in denial about the need for watch groups, no list of atrocities would be long enough. Nevertheless, they serve a very real need in the scheme of civilized behavior.

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