AVE MARIA, Fla. (WBBH) — When people think of hate groups in America, the Ku Klux Klan — the white hoods and a burning cross — is often the first thing that comes to mind.
While the number of members in the KKK has greatly diminished over several decades, that doesn’t mean there aren’t hate groups left in the United States. Longtime advocacy group the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate across the U.S., identified 838 groups in 2020.
The NBC2 Investigators discovered one of the SPLC-accused hate groups is in the quiet, picturesque community of Ave Maria. It’s headquartered at a home not far from the center of the community.
The SPLC designated 68 hate groups in the state in 2020, but only the one in southwest Florida. It’s a non-profit named Cultures in Context Incorporated, which houses the Turning Point Project. The group is deemed ‘anti-muslim’ by the SPLC.
In an email, a spokesperson for the SPLC told NBC2 that the Turning Point Project “publishes blatant anti-Muslim rhetoric, conspiracy theories, and outrageous claims about Islam. The group’s output and materials are clearly intended to stoke fear of the religion and its adherents.”
The NBC2 Investigators discovered the ‘group’ is mostly the work of one man: William Kilpatrick, a noted writer. On its website, the mission of the Turning Point Project is described as “educating Catholics and other Americans about the threat from Islam by arming them with the information and analysis necessary to meet the challenge.”
The NBC2 Investigators spoke with Kilpatrick several times over the phone and even went to his house, but he declined to do an interview.
He did email a lengthy response, refuting the ‘hate group’ designation and saying the Southern Poverty Law Center has “become part of the cancel culture… the modern-day equivalent of a witch hunter” and that the SPLC is focused on “defunding and de-platforming Christian and conservative organizations.”
Response to Evan Dean-NBC-2 by Olivia Hyde on Scribd
Kilpatrick is not alone in his criticism of the SPLC, so NBC2 asked leaders of the Muslim community in southwest Florida to research the Turning Point Project and provide their opinion on the non-profit.
“From what I read, that’s my personal (opinion)… it’s borderline,” Mohamed Al-Darsani said when asked if the hate group designation is fair. “(Kilpatrick) is not out there, enticing people to take violent actions against muslims. He’s trying to do the intellectual approach to it.”
While the ‘hate group’ label may be up for debate, what else the NBC2 Investigators discovered is not.
During the pandemic, the non-profit received federal funding — taxpayer money — in the form of a PPP loan worth $10,540.
In fact, several accused hate groups received PPP loans. The SPLC called it ‘unconscionable’ by the federal government.
“(The SPLC) has a lot of weight in the civil rights community, but it doesn’t create a legal significance to any of the positions that they take with regards to the United States government,” independent attorney Scott Atwood explained to NBC2.
Kilpatrick told the NBC2 Investigators that he complied with the rules of the loan program, saying the loan was for ‘salary replacement’ and that it was forgiven.
Atwood didn’t want to comment on the non-profit itself — he doesn’t represent them — but he did talk with NBC2 about the Paycheck Protection Program.
“The original loan eligibility requirements wanted to make sure that you didn’t — you weren’t violating the law, criminal laws,” Atwood explained. “So there are some restrictions on the eligibility limits. But whether or not a group has been designated as a ‘hate group’ by a private advocacy group was not one of them.”
The bank that facilitated the loan said the Small Business Administration provides the final approval.
In an email, a spokesperson for the SBA explained the general loan process but did not answer any questions regarding the ‘hate group’ designation.
Muslim leaders like Al-Darsani say that, ultimately, the non-profit is misinformed about Islam. He said he’s working to build bridges between faith communities, and would welcome a dialogue with Kilpatrick.
“We have bad elements. We have extremist elements,” Al-Darsini said. “But those people are either misled or they have an agenda. And they do not represent Islam, and they are a minority — just like he is.”