LifeNews Note: This first appeared at the Daily Signal and is reprinted with permission.
One of the nation’s most respected champions of religious liberty draws a line at being called a hate group by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.
During a confirmation hearing for Amy Coney Barrett, a Notre Dame law professor nominated by President Donald Trump to a federal judgeship, Franken said Alliance Defending Freedom is a hate group and that Barrett “wasn’t truthful” in answering one of his questions about her association with the Christian legal aid organization.
Franken cited talking points of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a left-wing organization that says it fights discrimination but increasingly has attacked Alliance Defending Freedom and other mainstream conservative groups that embrace Judeo-Christian tradition.
Critics say it calls Alliance Defending Freedom, or ADF, an “anti-LGBT hate group” for disagreeing with the radical political agenda of some lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender activists.
The Minnesota Democrat, a former comic and comedy writer, also said Barrett was “irresponsible” and used “bad judgment” in accepting an opportunity to teach as part of a fellowship program offered by the 24-year-old organization without first “vetting” ADF.
“It is deeply regrettable that Sen. Franken is misinformed about our work on behalf of religious freedom,” Farris said, adding:
There is a real danger of conflating genuine hate groups, like the Ku Klux Klan, with mainstream religious beliefs that are shared by millions of Americans and people from all walks of life across the world.
As a member of Congress, Sen. Franken needs to fact-check before parroting discredited attacks by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a once-proud civil rights organization that is now a left-wing smear machine known to incite violence.
The gunman in a 2012 attack on the Family Research Council in Washington said he learned of the conservative pro-family organization from a “hate group” designation on Southern Poverty Law Center’s website. The shooter in the attempted massacre in June of Republican members of Congress just outside the city had “liked” SPLC on Facebook, according to press accounts.
Farris noted that the Supreme Court recently agreed 7-2 with the Arizona-based ADF in upholding a Lutheran church school’s right to compete for taxpayer money to improve a playground.
ADF lawyers or legal briefs have been before the high court in many other cases, including one Barrett cited in response to Franken at the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Sept. 6 hearing.
“It has a brief at the Supreme Court right now with WilmerHale, one of the most reputable and esteemed law firms in the country,” Barrett said, “and [WilmerHale] wouldn’t be co-counsel with ADF if it were a hate group.”
Barrett, a Catholic, taught constitutional law to students accepted for ADF’s summertime Blackstone Legal Fellowship, which she testified she had heard about from colleagues and law students she respects.
“I mean, this is a group that fights against equal treatment of LGBT people, this is a group which calls for the sterilization of transgender people abroad,” Franken told Barrett at one point, without elaborating.
But in these and other remarks criticizing Barrett, Franken appeared to crib from Southern Poverty Law Center’s oversimplified or false characterizations of the work of ADF’s international affiliate, which upholds local traditions, ADF spokeswoman Kerri Kupec told The Daily Signal in a phone interview Tuesday.
“We would never condone government-compelled sterilization, as he alleged,” Kupec said.
“The Blackstone Legal Fellowship draws top law students from across the country from all walks of life and prepares them for careers marked by integrity, excellence, and leadership,” she said. “It is one of the best things we do.”
But Franken tried to make Barrett’s association with the program sound unworthy of a presidential nominee for the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Yeah, they track hate groups,” Franken said of SPLC, addressing Barrett. “And you spoke at an event sponsored by one of those hate groups.”
“Senator–,” Barrett began.
“I question your judgment,” Franken said. “The root word of judgment is a judge.”
“I gather that the SPLC’s designation of ADF as a hate group is controversial,” Barrett said, after noting the organization’s stature before the Supreme Court. “I didn’t learn about that until more recently. But, again, that was not my experience with the Blackstone program.”
Franken went on to say an earlier answer “wasn’t truthful.”
Generally, in labeling Alliance Defending Freedom a hate group, Southern Poverty Law Center cites what it calls ADF’s support for discriminating against nonheterosexuals and the organization’s defense of Americans who say they don’t want government to force them to violate their religious beliefs about marriage and sexuality.
Franken’s Senate office did not reply to The Daily Signal’s request for comment on Alliance Defending Freedom’s response to his public statements.
In a tweet two days after the hearing, Southern Poverty Law Center said:
ADF develops “religious liberty” legislation & case law, and advocates for the recriminalization of homosexuality. https://t.co/V4BujQkAFq
— SPLC (@splcenter) September 8, 2017