A tiny Iowa town can breathe a sigh of relief Wednesday after the Southern Poverty Law Center finally agreed to remove it from their infamous national "hate map" of SPLC-designated hate and white supremacist groups.
Amana Colonies is a designated national landmark and a historic city in central Iowa, best known for being a quaint tourist destination full of adorable 19th century buildings, cute shops and plenty of authentic German dining. But according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which claims to keep accurate track of these things, Amana is also the hometown of the Daily Stormer, an infamous neo-Nazi website that allows white supremacists from across the country to connect and organize.
There was one problem, though: Amana Colonies has no connection to the Daily Stormer or neo-Nazis in general, except for one incident last year when members of the Daily Stormer met for coffee and a "book club" at one of Amana's restaurants — definitely without the town's knowledge or consent. It's not even clear the event was sanctioned or held by the website; SPLC just found the name Amana in a single posting on the site dated September 26, 2016, and assumed they were part of the national network they catalog on their "hate map."
Amana didn't even find out about the designation until August, when the SPLC map started to pop up in mainstream news outlets. They immediately complained to SPLC, but SPLC stood by their claims and told Amana that "it had confirmation that a group of individuals met sometime in September 2016 at a restaurant in the Amanas."
Quite confident that was not nearly enough to label every single person in the town as a white supremacist and neo-Nazi supporter, Amana didn't give up, denouncing Daily Stormer and all associated hate groups, and consulting experts who were confident that no white supremacists existed in Amana's entire county, let alone the tiny historical hamlet.
Finally, on Tuesday, the SPLC removed Amana from its map, and instead now just blames the whole state of Iowa for the Daily Stormer (this is not an exaggeration).
Amana couldn't be happier: "We're thrilled for them changing the map and correcting it to what it should be, and not having the Amanas as a hate group," executive director of the town's historical convention, David Rettig, told local media.
Southern Poverty Law Center has long been criticized for its "hate map," which lists conservative organizations like the Family Research Council and Liberty Council among its "hate groups," alongside legitimate neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups. Organizations have regularly challenged their placement on the "hate map," and at least two groups, D. James Kennedy Ministries, and the Muslim reform group, Quillian Foundation, have both filed suit against SPLC, claiming that lumping them together with groups like Stormfront and the Daily Stormer is akin to defamation.
The danger is real, too. SPLC is frequently cited as a trusted source for tracking hate groups, and leftist mega-donors like Apple CEO Tim Cook have given millions to the group. Recently, Guidestar, a non-profit group that rates charities for giving, adopted SPLC's "hate group" designations, cutting off donor funding from a number of organizations that do little more than advocate for traditional or Christian family values in the public square.