Last week, the FBI received a lot of attention and praise from conservative sources for finally eliminating the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) from its website’s list of “hate crimes” resources. However, while a headline at Breitbart says the FBI “dumps [SPLC] as hate crimes resource,” and an article at The Daily Caller said the FBI was “breaking ties” with the SPLC, a public statement from the FBI and the agency’s own website indicate the removal may mean just that — removal from the site, not a diminishing of the relationship between the two organizations. From my article on the subject last Thursday:

Apparently bowing to pressure from pro-family organizations, the FBI and the U.S. Army have removed the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a “hate crimes” resource on their websites. However, comments from the FBI indicate they may continue using SPLC as a resource.

An FBI spokesperson told LifeSiteNews that their Civil Rights program now “only provides links to resources within the federal government.”

“While we appreciate the tremendous support we receive from a variety of organizations, we have elected not to identify those groups on the civil rights page,” the spokesperson added.

Justin Higgins of JHPolitics.com sees the same problem I do — the spokesperson’s statement indicates the change may just be a public relations move, not a substantive shift in FBI policy:

We should not be so quick to assume that the Obama Department of Justice isn’t continuing to work with radical left-wing outlets like SPLC. Removing a few links from a website is a good start, but this battle is not over until our government stops the blatant assault on conservative and Christian groups. That means a formal end to the SPLC having input on what constitutes “hate” in the United States. There is no evidence that their input has been mitigated.

Media Matters came to the same conclusion, noting that the FBI probably isn’t breaking off its partnership since it still lists the SPLC and other outside groups — including other far-left organizations such as the National Organization for Women and the Human Rights Campaign — on its overview page:

Public Outreach: The FBI has forged partnerships nationally and locally with many civil rights organizations to establish rapport, share information, address concerns, and cooperate in solving problems. These groups include such organizations as the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, the National Organization for Women, the Human Rights Campaign, and the National Disability Rights Network.

The FBI’s close ties with the SPLC actually go back further than the Obama administration, to at least 2007, when the federal government partnered with the group to examine unsolved Civil Rights-era racial crimes. That relationship has expanded under President Obama, to the point where the SPLC was involved in anti-Christian information being given out to soldiers. That policy was sharply opposed by Army Secretary John McHugh last year, and the Army rightly ignored the SPLC’s call to put the American Family Association on its list of organizations soldiers cannot join while in service.

Of course, the FBI shouldn’t be working with the SPLC at all. In addition to the SPLC’s influence on the gunman who attacked the Family Research Council’s headquarters in 2012, their definition of “hate groups” is far more expansive than the FBI’s definition of a “hate crime”:

Under federal law, according to the FBI, “[a] hate crime is a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. … Hate itself is not a crime—and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties.”

However, according to the SPLC, “Hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” It also says that “hate group activities can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing. … Listing here does not imply a group advocates or engages in violence or other criminal activity.”

Ignoring the question of whether “hate crime” laws should exist in the first place, this definitional difference is problematic. However, as one critic notes, the SPLC is all but the only organization of its kind in the country, and therefore it has enormous influence in the media and elsewhere.

While some might take the FBI’s move as good news, the agency seems more likely it is simply keeping the relationship off the Internet. Not only does the spokesperson’s statement indicates the FBI will continue to work with the SPLC (and the Anti-Defamation League, which was also removed from the FBI’s resource page), but now it will be done away from the public’s eye. So rather than a break-up, it looks like the relationship has simply become more clandestine. This is not good for transparency, especially given the other far-left groups the FBI has partnerships with.

Note: Be sure to check out Higgins’ website. Not only does he have a name almost as cool as mine, the blog he founded and runs has solid commentary on national politics and the Virginia Senate race.

Dustin Siggins is the Washington, D.C. Correspondent for Lifesitenews.com and formerly the primary blogger with Tea Party Patriots. He is a co-author of the forthcoming book, Bankrupt Legacy: The Future of the Debt-Paying Generation. His work has been published by numerous online and print publications, including USA Today, Roll Call, Hot Air, Huffington Post, Mediaite, and First Things.