Accuracy in Media

An analyst on MSNBC who tried to torpedo someone President Trump is considering for the Supreme Court by suggesting she has ties to hate groups seems to have engaged in some religious discrimination herself.

“Amy Barrett went to Notre Dame. She is very Catholic,” said Zerlina Maxwell on MSNBC’s ‘Hardball.” “She had a famous moment with former Sen. Al Franken during her hearings about how she spoke, essentially, to a hate group without really understanding the full context there.”

With “voting rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights, affirmative action” on the line, Maxwell urged Democrats to do all they can to prevent Republicans from confirming “a very extreme or conservative person like Barrett to the Court.”

Maxwell said she is a victim of sexual assault and styles herself as a survivor activist. She writes frequently about rape culture, sexual assault, gender inequity, racism and what constitutes sexual consent. Maxwell worked as a field organizer for the 2008 Barack Obama campaign and as director of progressive media for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016.

The “hate group” to which she refers is the Alliance Defending Freedom, founded in 1993 as a Christian and conservative response to the legal work of the frequently anti-religion legal work of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Alliance Defending Freedom focuses on religious liberty, pro-life and traditional marriage issues. It provided the attorneys who defended Hobby Lobby in the case in which the Supreme Court ruled employers could not be forced to provide birth control in their benefits packages against their religious beliefs. It also recently got the Supreme Court to throw out a California law that required crisis counseling centers to promote abortion on their signs and literature.

Its first case, in 1995, was Rosenberger v. Virginia, in which a Christian newspaper on the campus of the University of Virginia was denied funding that was available to other groups that did not have Christian messages. It also runs the Christmas Project, in which as many as 700 lawyers work through the courts and elsewhere to resist the censorship of Christmas celebrations.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which maintains a list of hate groups in the United States and beyond, designated Alliance Defending Freedom “an anti-LGBT hate group” because of its “work abroad, which has recently included defending – albeit unsuccessfully – European laws requiring the sterilization of transgender citizens seeking administrative recognition of their preferred gender.”

The case involved three people who wanted to change the gender listed on their driver’s licenses but had not gone through the required sex change and sterilization procedures beforehand as required by law in France and two dozen other European countries.

Alliance Defending Freedom wrote an intervention – similar to a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. – that argued to the European Court of Human Rights that states should be allowed to determine their own requirements for granting a change of gender. For this, the Southern Poverty Law Center branded the organization “virulently anti-gay” and added it to the list.

Franken asked Amy Coney Barrett about speaking to the “hate group” during her confirmation hearings to join the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked if she could fairly interpret the law given her Catholic “dogma lives loudly within you.”

Whoever Trump appoints will replace Anthony Kennedy, who was conservative but seen for decades as the Court’s swing vote. Maxwell said the appointment should be another swing vote and not a pro-life, pro-marriage Catholic with seven children. 

Trump said he will announce his appointment July 9.

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