02/23/2011 03:53 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Civil Rights Center: U.S. Hate Groups Top 1000 in 2010

Hate groups in the United States in 2010 numbered over 1000 for the first time according to the Montgomery, AL based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in a just released annual tally of extremism. The 1002 "hate groups" in 2010 represent the tenth consecutive annual increase and the highest number since the organization began such tallies in the 1980s. In 2000 there were 602 hate groups and 932 in 2009. According to SPLC Intelligence Project Director Mark Potok, last year's increase was due to "resentment over the changing racial demographics of the country, frustration over the government's handling of the economy, and the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories and other demonizing propaganda aimed at various minorities."

The reported rise in hate groups come at a time when albeit incomplete FBI hate crime data for 2009 showed a 15% decrease in reported hate crime in the nation. The 6,598 hate crimes in 2009 were the lowest number of hate crimes reported by the FBI since 1994, although participation in the voluntary program varies widely from state to state.

The SPLC states, "All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics." The organization says hate groups in their tally can involve those that engage in both criminal acts as well as activities protected by the First Amendment and that inclusion does not necessarily imply criminality.

Recently, the SPLC added the conservative Washington, DC based Family Research
Council to its hate group list owing to the FRC's use of "demonizing" false and disputed data in its advocacy against certain policy positions regarding gays. SPLC has also added Islamophobic groups to its list, but does not list American Muslim extremist organizations that promote conspiracy theories, theocracy, homophobia, anti-government rhetoric and anti-Semitism. The Nation of Islam, which the SPLC lists, along with other predominantly African-American extremists organizations, is not considered by many to be a Muslim entity owing to its alternate views on who is the final prophet.

California, the nation's most populous state with 37 million people, had 68 hate groups, last year, followed by Texas, with 59, and Florida with 48.

In addition, the SPLC's separate enumeration of "nativist extremist" groups last year totaled 319, a 3% increase from 2009. The SPLC defines these organizations as those groups that go beyond advocacy to confrontation or harassment on the basis of immigration status. Many of these organizations are private border watches and "minutemen" groups.

The greatest increase of groups tracked by the SPLC came in the area of "anti-government" Patriot and Militia groups which totaled 824, up from 512 in 2009, and 149 in 2008. Of the 824 Patriot groups, there were 330 militias.

Note: Author was Associate Director Legal Affairs for the Southern Poverty Law Center's
Klanwatch/Militia Task Force during the mid 1990s.