America’s leading anti-LGBTQ organization found an unlikely ally this week: The New York Post.
The United States’ fourth-largest newspaper released an editorial on Saturday vindicating the Alliance Defending Freedom against claims by the Southern Poverty Law Center that the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based non-profit constitutes a “hate group.”
“Groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal foundation that specializes in religious liberty — and quite effectively: It has prevailed in the U.S. Supreme Court nine times in the last seven years,” the Post notes in an op-ed from its editorial board. “Yet the SPLC has defamed ADF as a ‘hate group,’ a label Sessions rejected by appearing before the group.”
Last week Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a speech in which he claimed ADF cannot be a hate group because the White House does not “partner with any groups that discriminate.”
He claimed the SPLC has labeled ADF as a hate group solely due to political bias.
“They have used this designation as a weapon and they have wielded it against conservative organizations that refuse to accept their orthodoxy and choose instead to speak for their conscience and their beliefs,” Sessions alleged. “They use it to bully and intimidate groups that fight for religious freedom, these constitutional rights of the American people.”
The former Alabama Senator further alleged the SPLC makes false accusations that “unfairly defame Americans.”
Whereas the organization defines hate groups as organizations holding “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people,” Sessions claimed the ADF endeavors “to affirm the Constitution and American values.”
The New York Post — which is owned by conservative billionaire Rupert Murdoch — declined to fact check Sessions. Based on the Attorney General’s assertion that the White House would cease all future partnerships with SPLC, the newspaper argued others should do the same.
“It’s time for those who still merely parrot its smears to start taking a closer look,” the Post concluded.
The SPLC, which was founded in 1971 to fight white supremacy and discrimination in the U.S., has weathered its share of controversies in recent years. The Montgomery, Ala.-based group was court ordered to pay $3.4 million in damages after labeling the London think tank Quilliam Foundation as an “extremist” group.
SPLC President Richard Cohen also issued an apology, saying it was “simply wrong” to include the organization — which claims to fight “anti-Muslim bigotry and Islamist extremism” — “in the first place.”
But the lion’s share of criticism aimed at the SPLC has come not from those falsely accused of bigotry but those who embody it. If the Post wants to determine the validity of whether what anti-LGBTQ groups preach does indeed constitute “hate,” all they have to do is look at the record of the label’s biggest critics.
Liberty Counsel, for instance, has claimed the SPLC “grossly misrepresents and maligns” its work in calling the right-wing organization a “hate group.” But Mat and Anita Staver, its co-founder and president, fit the very definition of holding “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people.”
Over their nearly three decades in public life, the Stavers have indeed devoted their careers to attacking and maligning the queer and trans community.
According to media tracking from GLAAD, the couple has claimed LGBTQ advocates are “homofascists” and terrorists who are doing the “bidding of the devil.” They believe same-sex relationships are “destructive to individuals” and that children raised in LGBTQ households will inevitably end up “behind bars for committing violent crimes.”
In urging a boycott against Target over the big-box chain’s trans-affirming bathroom policy, Anita Staver once appeared to advocate that women shoot a transgender person if they see them enter the restroom.
“I’m taking a Glock .45 to the ladies room,” she said in an April 2016 tweet. “It identifies as my bodyguard.”
Family Research Council
Calling the SPLC “discredited,” the Family Research Council has claimed that its rhetoric is “false and defamatory” — while urging journalists to stop sourcing the group’s data in news reporting.
But the Washington, D.C. organization is among the nation’s most influential and vocal anti-LGBTQ groups.
FRC President Tony Perkins was a key cheerleader for Trump’s policy banning transgender military service as an advisor to the White House. In comments which have since been scrubbed from the organization’s website, he claimed that Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill — which would have advocated the death penalty for homosexuality — simply “upholds moral conduct.”
Perkins has further called LGBTQ people “intolerant,” “hateful,” “vile,” “spiteful,” and “held captive by the enemy.” He also compared homosexuality to alcoholism, drug addiction, adultery, and bestiality.
Alliance Defending Freedom
Lastly, the ADF itself has blasted SPLC as a “radically left-wing, violence-inciting organization” over its designating of the organization as a “hate group” for its decades of anti-LGBTQ advocacy.
But as the Human Rights Campaign notes, the label is hardly libelous.
The far-right non-profit has opposed LGBTQ equality throughout its 25-year history — authoring same-sex marriage bans in Colorado, Idaho, and South Carolina. More recently, it has introduced anti-trans bathroom bills in dozens of U.S. states, fought against local laws prohibiting conversion therapy, and opposed LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances.
While Sessions touts the ADF’s perfect record at the Supreme Court, that batting average has been less than ideal for LGBTQ people. The firm has been tied to nearly every single major court case in the U.S. opposing queer and trans rights.
The most famous of these cases is Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a 7-2 verdict in which the Supreme Court narrowly ruled that the state commissioner had not given neutral consideration to the religious beliefs of Jack Phillips in a case over refusing service to a gay couple.
Others include Barber v. Bryant, a legal challenge to Mississippi’s sweeping “religious freedom” law and Lawrence v. Texas, in which the Supreme Court struck down statewide sodomy bans.
In the latter case, ADF filed a friend of the court brief describing homosexuality as a “distinct public health problem.”
If that weren’t enough, the organization has claimed the goal of the LGBTQ movement is to “dilute moral values so that homosexual behavior is thought to be normal, natural and good” and alleged claims that Matthew Shepard was murdered in a hate crime are a myth used to further the “homosexual legal agenda.”
Given that homosexuality would still be illegal in many states if ADF’s advocacy proved successful, SPLC has hit back at defenses of the organization by saying it “richly deserves the hate group label.”
“[The ADF] supports the criminalization of sexual relations between consenting adults abroad,” it said in a statement. “It opposes anti-bullying policies that provide protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. … It promotes the myth that there is a link between homosexuality and pedophilia despite the fact that the weight of scientific authority has debunked the claim.”
“Linking the LGBTQ community to pedophilia as the ADF has done is not an expression of a religious belief,” the organization continued. “It is simply a dangerous and ugly falsehood.”
Prior to this weekend’s op-ed, the New York Post has been split in its coverage of ADF’s platform.
Earlier this year Post reporter Bob Fredericks described the organization as an “anti-LGBTQ law firm” in an analysis of the Supreme Court’s Masterpiece ruling. On the flip side, editorial contributor Andrea Peyser called the ADF an “organization that seeks justice for people of faith” in a 2014 op-ed defending a Christian couple who refused to host a same-sex wedding on their farm.