The Southern Poverty Law Center has announced that it will add the Michigan State University chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) to its list of “hate groups” in Michigan. The list, which includes racist groups such as the National Socialist Movement, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Council of Conservative Citizens, will include the MSU-based Young Americans for Freedom because of their “white supremacist” actions according to the Lansing State Journal when it is updated in April. In the Lansing State Journal, Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center states that it was the Young Americans for Freedom’s proposals to defund minority student organizations and to create a white student council that got the group added to the list. Beirich is quoted stating that YAF fits the characterization of a “hate group” because it has “…an ideology that denigrates an entire class of people for their inherent traits.”
The MSU chapter of Young Americans for Freedom has a history of organizing a variety of protests against “liberals,” Democratic Party politicians, radicals, and against abortion. Last year, they gained national attention for staging a “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” day on MSU’s campus as well as for bringing the anti-immigrant politician Tom Tancredo to MSU’s campus. In addition, the group has made a variety of anti-gay statements and protestied Lansing’s human rights ordinance while holding signs that read “Straight Power” and “End Faggotry” according to the Lansing State Journal. In an interview, the group’s leader Kyle Bristow asserts “the average life-span of a homosexual male is 45 years old” and that “homosexuality kills people almost to a degree worse than cigarettes.” Similar extremist rhetoric has been used when the group has opposed abortion, with Bristow arguing that abortion increases the chance of women getting breast cancer.
Young Americans for Freedom was formed in 1960 and was most active in the 1960s, both countering radical protests and in supporting presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964. However, in the decades since the 1960s, the organization has retained a presence on many college campuses and has advocated a form of conservativism further to the right of the Republican Party while its influence has declined. Chapters around the country have advocated for strict laws targeting undocumented immigration, campaigned against affirmative action, protested leftwing speakers, and campaigned against equal rights laws protecting LGBT people. The organization has worked with the Leadership Institute and the Young America’s Foundation in recent years to build up chapters around the country.