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J. Richard Cohen
J. Richard Cohen is president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization that combats hate, intolerance and discrimination. A graduate of Columbia University and the University of Virginia School of Law, Cohen came to the SPLC in 1986 as its legal director. Under his guidance, the SPLC won a series of landmark lawsuits against some of the nation’s most violent white supremacist organizations. He also successfully litigated a wide variety of important civil rights actions – defending the rights of prisoners to be treated humanely, working for equal educational opportunities for all children, and bringing down the Confederate battle flag from the top of the Alabama State Capitol.

In 1997, The American Lawyer selected Cohen as one of 45 public sector lawyers “whose vision and commitment are changing lives.” In 1999, he was a finalist for the national Trial Lawyer of the Year Award for his work on Macedonia Baptist Church v. Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a lawsuit that ended with a record $37.8 million judgment against a Klan group for its role in the burning of a South Carolina church.

Cohen also has been a creative force behind some of the SPLC's most successful education projects. He has served as executive producer for six documentary films created for the SPLC's Teaching Tolerance program. Four of those films were nominated for Academy Awards, and two - "Mighty Times: The Children's March" in 2005 and "A Time for Justice" in 1994 - won Oscars for Best Documentary Short Subject.

Entries by J. Richard Cohen

Stop the Abuse of Children in School: Expel the Police

(12) Comments | Posted November 3, 2015 | 4:41 PM

Far more common than incidents of police brutality in schools are the everyday encounters with police that result in suspensions, expulsions and arrests that criminalize ordinary children.

Here's an idea for the adults who oversee our public schools: Let's stop beating up schoolchildren, pepper-spraying them, tossing them out of the...

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Dylann Roof, the Charleston Murders and Hate in the Mainstream

(0) Comments | Posted June 23, 2015 | 12:08 AM

Much has been made of news reports showing that the head of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) - the racist group whose website helped radicalize the suspect in the Charleston church massacre - has donated $65,0000 to Republican candidates, including presidential aspirants Ted Cruz, Rand...

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The Criminalization of Black Children in McKinney, Texas, and Schools Across America

(86) Comments | Posted June 16, 2015 | 7:30 PM

It's hard to watch the video of the 15-year-old, swimsuit-clad African-American girl at a pool party in McKinney, Texas, being shoved into the ground by a white police officer and not be shocked.

There was nothing that could have justified the use of force in that situation.

But the reality...

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Senate: Don't Mess With Birthright Citizenship

(132) Comments | Posted March 16, 2015 | 1:30 AM

We've recently urged members of the U.S. Senate to reject an amendment, proposed by Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, which has scheduled for floor action on Monday.

Here's why:

The ostensible purpose of the Vitter amendment is to address the phenomenon...

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Alabama Judge's Grandstanding Over Same-Sex Marriage Is Pure Demagoguery

(0) Comments | Posted January 28, 2015 | 6:22 PM

Earlier this week, we filed an ethics complaint against Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore over his public statements urging the governor and state judges to defy federal law and continue to enforce Alabama's ban on same-sex marriages.

We've been down this road with Moore before. Many around the...

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Conference in Berlin Focuses on Rising Anti-Semitism

(0) Comments | Posted November 17, 2014 | 4:50 PM

Last week, I participated in a conference in Berlin on European anti-Semitism, held by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). I was a member of a "rainbow" delegation of U.S.-advocacy organizations that came to the conference to emphasize, by our example and our words, that...

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A Tent Too Large: the Republican Party and Anti-LGBT Bigotry

(38) Comments | Posted October 8, 2014 | 7:11 PM

RNC Chair Reince Priebus yesterday said something predictable and something startling in response to the Supreme Court's refusal to overturn court decisions clearing the way for same-sex marriage.

The predictable was his continued defense of the Republican Party's position that marriage should be limited to a man and a woman.

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Why Do Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal and Other GOP Politicians Continue Bowing to Anti-LGBT Extremists?

(28) Comments | Posted September 26, 2014 | 4:09 PM

Fifteen years ago, then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott found himself in hot water when it was revealed that he had addressed the racist Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) on at least five occasions.

U.S. Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia was also engulfed in the controversy, because he had...

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Where Does the GOP Stand on Gay Bashing?

(34) Comments | Posted September 18, 2012 | 12:01 PM

In 1999, Republican National Committee Chair Jim Nicholson called for party members to shun the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group that described African Americans as "a retrograde species of humanity."

"A member of the party of Lincoln should not belong to such an organization," Nicholson said at...

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Ryan, Cantor Should be Embarrassed

(18) Comments | Posted September 12, 2012 | 1:12 PM

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor should be embarrassed.


Because they're lending the prestige of their offices to hate groups that spread incendiary lies about the LGBT community and others.

Ryan and Cantor are among a number of high-ranking public officials slated to speak this...

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Note to Alabama AG 'Big Luther': Stop Acting So Small

(10) Comments | Posted November 14, 2011 | 9:45 AM

At 6-foot-9, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange would have towered over the diminutive George Wallace, the state's segregationist governor during the violent days of the civil rights movement.

But lately, the attorney general has been looking equally small.

When Wallace stood in the "schoolhouse door" to stop African-American students from...

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Campaign to Rewrite 14th Amendment Based on Fearmongering Politics, Not Facts

(23) Comments | Posted March 28, 2011 | 2:01 PM

The young man was born in San Francisco to parents of Chinese descent. After returning from a visit to his ancestral home via the steamship Coptic, he was detained by customs agents and refused entry to the United States. Federal prosecutors claimed he should be sent back to China because...

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Opponents of Repealing DADT Echo Old Fears About Black Soldiers

(18) Comments | Posted December 20, 2010 | 7:40 PM

Congressional repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has set off waves of condemnation among anti-gay opponents who predict all measure of doom and disaster for the military and America. Yet it serves us well to recall a decision that put an end to another unjust policy steeped in fear and...

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The Injustice on Our Plates

(2) Comments | Posted November 24, 2010 | 10:06 AM

This week, as we celebrate our nation's bounty and give thanks for the blessings in our lives, most of us probably won't think very much about the people who do the backbreaking labor that puts food on our plates. We should.

It's easy to take for granted the cornucopia of...

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Will We Once Again Reject the Politics of Hate?

(26) Comments | Posted March 25, 2010 | 6:27 PM

Earlier this month, my colleagues and I at the Southern Poverty Law Center were privileged to stand with U.S. Rep. John Lewis at the Civil Rights Memorial as he led a bipartisan congressional delegation in laying a wreath in honor of those who lost their lives in our country's epic...

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Mr. President, Protect the Rights of Children

(1) Comments | Posted January 28, 2010 | 6:39 PM

After a drastic decline in civil rights enforcement by the U.S. Justice Department over much of the past decade, President Obama's declaration during the State of the Union Address that his administration is "once again prosecuting civil rights violations" is a promising sign.

I'd like to remind the president of...

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To Bill O'Reilly: You Lose Dobbs Bet

(16) Comments | Posted November 18, 2009 | 12:39 PM

To: Bill O'Reilly
The O'Reilly Factor
Fox News Network

Dear Bill,

You lost the bet. Time to pay up!

When I appeared on your show in July, you were so certain that the Southern Poverty Law Center's call for CNN to fire Lou Dobbs was a waste...

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Why I Urged CNN to Take Dobbs Off the Air

(77) Comments | Posted July 28, 2009 | 6:50 PM

On Monday, I went on the O'Reilly Factor to discuss our call for CNN to take Lou Dobbs off the air for Dobbs' latest conspiracy-mongering. Bill O'Reilly said we shouldn't take Dobbs too seriously. After all, Bill said, it's all just for ratings. But in our view, the matter...

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Probing the Pentagon: Are Gays Really More Dangerous than Neo-Nazis?

(3) Comments | Posted July 15, 2009 | 2:50 PM

Here's a question to ponder: Who poses more of a threat to the good order of the military, not to mention our national security?

A) Gay soldiers.

B) Racist, neo-Nazi soldiers who profess hatred for their commander-in-chief.

The vast majority of Americans, I suspect, would pick B. Not the...

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Privatized Hell

(4) Comments | Posted April 22, 2009 | 5:41 PM

"D.W." had been confined to the juvenile detention center for only a week when he tried to hang himself with a bed sheet.

His mental health had deteriorated rapidly during his confinement at the Harrison County Juvenile Detention Center in Biloxi, Miss. But rather than provide him with counseling, guards...

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