Months from now, you’ll be reading a story about Jeff Sessions, and there will be a remark to the effect of “when he’s not off speaking to hate groups.”
And the phrase “speaking to hate groups” will have a hotlink on it. And that hotlink will take you to any number of stories that have appeared in the last day or so since Sessions gave a speech to a group known as the Alliance Defending Freedom.
The group was in the news recently because of its work in the case of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, in which the Court held the church did not lose its right to apply for a state grant to pay for an updated playground simply because it was a church.
Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Jack Phillips, the cake baker who declined to create a cake for a gay wedding and whose case the Supreme Court recently agreed to hear.
It pushed the case that forced public schools to provide equal access to after-school Bible clubs as to other organizations. And it convinced the Supreme Court to affirm an Arizona tuition tax credit program could be used for any schools parents choose, including those run by churches.
It got the court to affirm the rights of communities to restrict where sexually oriented businesses could locate. And it was the group behind the Supreme Court ruling upholding the ban on partial-birth abortions.
One can take issue with any or all these positions. But they are the positions of a Christian group, founded by preachers, that makes grants or provides pro bono attorneys to groups and individuals whose religious rights and rights to free association are threatened. They are not the positions of a hate group.
So how did this group end up in a thousand headlines proclaiming it a “hate group?” Because the Southern Poverty Law Center said so. And for the left and its handmaidens in the media, that’s all it takes.
A day before Sessions was to speak to an Alliance Defending Freedom meeting in California, the Southern Poverty Law Center put out a release that said “Attorney General Jeff Sessions reportedly will be delivering a speech to the anti-LGBT hate group Alliance Defending Freedom at 5:30 p.m. PDT today, July 11, at ADF’s Summit on Religious Liberty in California.”
This is followed on the search engine listing by more than 20 radio station websites running stories they picked up from ABC, all headlined “Jeff Sessions Addresses ‘Anti-LGBT Hate Group.’”
It’s out there, and no amount of single quotes or taking it back or softening remarks will change it – Alliance Defending Freedom will always be thought of as a hate group by a fair percentage of the population that thinks about such matters at all.
But what about the hate of the group that made the list? How did it get the right to designate whose arguments are worthwhile and whose should be shunned?
Dees came up with the idea to use civil lawsuits to secure court judgments, then seize the assets of these organizations – money, land, buildings and other property – to satisfy the debts. He won a $7 million judgment for a woman in Alabama whose son was lynched, which forced the United Klans of America to sell its national headquarters and go bankrupt to pay the claim.
This whetted appetites for trying to drive political opponents out of business by tying them up in court defending frivolous lawsuits and led to laws in the District of Columbia and elsewhere to discourage such actions.
Dees went on to serve as national finance director for the presidential campaigns of George McGovern in 1972, Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Ted Kennedy, against Carter, in the 1980 Democratic primaries.
And it turns out he learned at the knee of some people who weren’t all that interested in tolerance themselves. Dees named Julian Bond to the SPLC board as one of his first acts after forming the organization. Bond was an associate of Herbert Marcuse, a German communist scholar who argued the left had to shut down the opposition’s First Amendment rights or its views would never be heard.
“Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left,” Marcuse wrote. “Not ‘equal’ but more representation of the Left would be equalization of the prevailing inequality.”
That explains the ever-more-comprehensive net the organization casts for members of its hate lists. It’s far beyond the Klan and pronounced white supremacist groups to any groups it deems to “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”
As of 2015, the Southern Poverty Law Center had identified 892 active hate groups in the U.S., up from 784 the previous year. Of those, 190 were KKK groups, 94 were neo-Nazi groups, 85 were what it calls white nationalist groups, 95 were racist skinhead groups, 19 were “Christian-identity” groups, 35 were Confederate groups, 180 were black separatist groups and 184 were classified as “general hate groups.”
Alliance Defending Freedom falls into the final category, as do Campus Ministry USA, The Center for Family and Human Rights, Conservative Republicans of Texas and the Family Research Council.
“Founded by some 30 leaders of the Christian Right, the Alliance Defending Freedom is a legal advocacy and training group that specializes in supporting the recriminalization of homosexuality abroad, ending same-sex marriage, and generally making life as difficult as possible for LGBT communities in the U.S. and internationally,” the Southern Poverty Law Center website states.
If these are the rules, then both sides should play by them. If organizations that protect American values such as the Alliance Defending Freedom are hate groups, what about, say, Planned Parenthood? Does it not “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics?”
What about Emily’s List? It definitely attacks and maligns entire classes of people based on immutable characteristics. Or the Southern Poverty Law Center itself? It seems to malign people for the immutable characteristic of being a Christian every day.
Welcome to the “General Hate Groups” category, SPLC. You earned it.