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Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Citizens for Transparency have launched campaigns to malign Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and impugn our work.
Citizens for Transparency is anything but transparent. It has no website, no tax filings, no record of any sort of previous work, and no identifiable leadership. The group touts “transparency” but hides in the shadows.
We do know that Eliza Byard, a board member of The Gill Foundation, is among the group’s “allies.”1. The Foundation’s founder, Tim Gill, is an LGBT mega-donor who infamously told Rolling Stone in 2017 that after the Supreme Court found a constitutional right to same-sex marriage he would “punish the wicked,”2. i.e., the millions of Americans who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman and that sex is male and female and biologically-determined.
We also know that Citizens for Transparency is a client of Smoot Tewes Group (STG), a Democratic Party-affiliated consultancy whose clients include the Democratic Party’s Senate Majority PAC, the pro-abortion EMILY’s list, the pro-gun control Giffords PAC, the liberal fundraising service ActBlue, and the Obama Foundation. The firm was founded by two alumni of President Obama’s campaign, Paul Tewes and Julianna Smoot, the latter of whom serves on the Planned Parenthood Action Fund board.
Unsurprisingly, then, Citizens for Transparency’s ADF-smear campaign – “No Gays Allowed” – simply copies and pastes false allegations from the widely discredited and hyper-partisan Southern Poverty Law Center. Below are responses to eight false allegations from SPLC and Citizens for Transparency about ADF.
Eight Allegations about Alliance Defending Freedom
This is a willful misrepresentation of our creative-professional cases. These clients serve everyone—including LGBT customers—but cannot create art that promotes all messages or events. Their decision to create is based on the message requested, not who is requesting it. That distinction is why ADF client Barronelle Stutzman faithfully served her gay client and his partner for more than nine years yet lovingly declined to create custom floral arrangements for the couple’s wedding celebration. The government should never force people to promote ideas that violate their deepest convictions. This principle protects all artists, not just those who are religious. It protects the lesbian graphic designer and the atheist painter just as much as the Christian filmmaker.
Challenging unjust laws is a hallmark of civil rights history. It is a legal strategy employed across the political spectrum, including groups like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. Americans have the right to challenge unjust laws, and they do not have to wait to be punished or thrown in jail to bring that challenge.
ADF and ADF International categorically condemn the forced sterilization of anyone, including transgender persons.
The claim is a willful misrepresentation of a brief that ADF International filed in A.P., Garçon and Nicot v. France. The cases involved claims that France required transgender persons to undergo procedures that would likely result in sterilization to change their sex on official documents. France disputed this claim, argued that sterilization was not required, and later clarified the law to state that proof of sterilization was not necessary for a legal change of sex. In one case, it was argued that it was wrong for France to require any medical diagnosis before amending official documents and that the authorities should make changes based solely on request. This argument was ultimately rejected by the court.
ADF International’s brief simply argued that the European Convention on Human Rights does not cover changes to identity documents, so the case was outside the European Court of Human Rights’ jurisdiction. The brief took no stance whatsoever on France’s law. In fact, the court specifically instructed ADF International to “not include any comments on the facts or merits of the case, but address only the general principles involved in the solution of the case,” which is precisely what ADF International did.
Neither ADF nor ADF International are litigating any cases or pursuing any legislation that supports the criminalization of homosexuality. SPLC’s mischaracterizations center on three past matters. Our limited engagement in these matters was based on our belief that marriage between one man and one woman is the best institution for human flourishing and, in the one U.S. case, Lawrence v. Texas, that the federal judiciary should not constitutionalize matters that our founders intended to be left to the states. Eminent scholars Gerard Bradley of Notre Dame Law School and Robert George of Princeton University as well as the states of Utah, South Carolina, and Alabama filed amicus briefs in Lawrence raising similar arguments. As important, the three matters SPLC complains of represent far less than 1% of our work over the last 25 years.
ADF believes that people should have the freedom to access the help they desire to make the changes they want in their lives. Unfortunately, governments are increasingly passing laws that threaten the freedom of individuals and families to obtain counseling and other services that help them achieve their own goals and objectives. Laws that outlaw certain counseling goals—such as seeking personal life changes related to one’s sexual attractions or gender identity—deny people the help they desire and interfere with the counselor-client relationship.
ADF also strongly supports freedom for professionals—including therapists and counselors—to practice their profession without the government dictating what they can and cannot say or interfering with the counselor’s ability to help the client achieve the client’s counseling goals. As the Supreme Court recently said, government regulation of the content of professionals’ speech “pose[s] the inherent risk that the Government seeks not to advance a legitimate regulatory goal, but to suppress unpopular ideas or information.”
ADF believes that marriage is between one man and one woman and that children flourish best when raised by a mom and a dad. The U.S. Supreme Court has acknowledged twice since 2015 that these beliefs are held by reasonable people, based on decent and honorable religious and philosophical premises, and constitutionally protected. Yet some advocacy groups are urging the government to kick out all faith-based adoption and foster care providers who hold these beliefs and place children consistent with them. ADF is working in this area to support laws and to seek court rulings that allow faith-based adoption agencies to continue their vital work serving children, families, and birth moms. Excluding faith-based providers from the system will not help a single child. To the contrary, doing so will almost certainly hurt scores of vulnerable children. Faith-based organizations and networks excel at recruiting foster parents, especially for populations that are traditionally difficult to place, such as large sibling groups, older children, and children with special needs. At a time when there is a national shortage of adoptive and foster families, everyone should be able to agree that more diverse provider networks recruiting more loving homes is in the best interest of all children.
ADF believes sex is binary and biologically determined, and that the government must account for the differences between the male and female sexes in intimate settings. The government violates this duty when it allows males who identify as females to use female locker rooms, restrooms, showers, and shelters. Importantly, the Supreme Court has held that “[p]hysical differences between men and women” relating to their biology are not “gender-based stereotype[s].”
ADF categorically rejects the argument that persons with identity struggles are dangerous. Society should treat them with dignity, respect, and love. But it must be acknowledged that policies that allow men and boys into spaces where girls are undressing, showering, and sleeping create dangerous opportunities for those with bad intentions. And in all instances, these policies violate the bodily privacy rights of men and women by making those rights contingent on what others believe about their own gender.
ADF believes no student should be bullied for any reason. We created a model policy that relies on U.S. Supreme Court precedent to protect every student against bullying while also ensuring that students’ rights to free speech and religion are protected.
Our work often brings us into direct conflict with another group—Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). Frankly, we disagree with ADF's positions on almost everything in law and policy. For years we’ve crossed swords and fought for our respective opposing views. But it is one thing to fight for ideals, and it’s another to marginalize and suppress others—even those you vehemently disagree with. And that is what’s happening when ADF is branded a “hate” group and thrown out of the Amazon Smile program.
… In my long years of fighting for what’s Constitutionally right, I’ve come to personally know several senior ADF lawyers extremely well. Their religiously-based legal positions, I and MRFF TOTALLY reject. However, their integrity, compassion, character, empathy, honor, and concern for their fellow humans I will steadfastly affirm. I have seen it and I have lived it. As seemingly incomprehensible as it may seem, sometimes hell actually DOES freeze over. I consider them dear friends and I assure you that I don’t use that term lightly.
- Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, Military Religious Freedom Foundation Founder and President
Nine Things You Should Know about the Southern Poverty Law Center
Understanding the SPLC’s hate list and its dangers requires understanding the SPLC, its history, and how it has changed from a civil rights organization into a politically partisan and fundraising driven organization. While the SPLC did good work decades ago fighting segregation in the South, it has become an unreliable, scandal-ridden, and far-left activist organization that attacks anyone who disagrees with its narrow political agenda. Here are nine things you should know about the SPLC:
Even left-of-center Politico has noted the longstanding criticism that SPLC is “becoming more of a partisan progressive hit operation than a civil rights watchdog.”1Commentators across the ideological spectrum agree. Cornell law professor William Jacobsen says that “[t]ime and again, I see the SPLC using the reputation it gained decades ago fighting the Klan as a tool to bludgeon mainstream politically conservative opponents.”2 Kimberly Strassel calls SPLC a “far-left activist group” that “exists to smear conservatives” and that “tags you as a hater” if it “doesn’t agree with your views.”3 Shikha Dalmia laments that “the SPLC is not up to the task” of monitoring actual hate groups because “[i]t is too busy enforcing liberal orthodoxy against its intellectual opponents.”4
SSPLC’s “Hatewatch” blog is a perfect example. SPLC says this blog “monitors and exposes the activities of the American radical right” and the “activities and events of anti-LGBT organizations.” The so-called “radical right” and “anti-LGBT organizations” SPLC has identified include many beloved, respected, and mainstream conservative and religious organizations and individuals, such as Ben Carson, Heritage Foundation, Dennis Prager, PragerU, The Federalist Society, Franklin Graham, Catholic Medical Association, Alliance Defending Freedom, Heritage Action, Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Liberty Counsel, Pacific Justice Institute, The Leadership Institute, First Liberty Institute, Ruth Institute, European Center for Law and Justice, Alaska Family Council, Florida Family Policy Council, Texas Values, and Homeschool Legal Defense Association, to name just a few.
Demonstrating the breadth and danger of SPLC’s conception of “hate,” SPLC labelled the Boston chapter of The Federalist Society “anti-LGBT” because it hosted United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions for a talk on “The Future of Religious Liberty.”5 It’s simple – if you promote a viewpoint SPLC disagrees with, they label you a hater or extremist. SPLC does not want dialogue or debate. They just want to cancel you.
In an article titled “The Southern Poverty Law Center Is Everything that’s Wrong with Liberalism,” Nathan J. Robinson, the editor-in-chief of Current Affairs, carefully scrutinized SPLC’s “Hate Map” and concluded that it is an “outright fraud” and “a willful deception designed to scare older liberals into writing checks to the SPLC.”6 And former SPLC employee Bob Moser wrote that “it was hard, for many of us, not to feel like we’d become pawns in what was, in many respects, a highly profitable scam.”7
In 2019, SPLC fired its co-founder and its long-time president resigned amid numerous employee reports that SPLC suffers from “a systemic culture of racism and sexism within its workplace,” as reported by CNN, the LA Times, the NY Times, NPR, and many other media outlets. 8
A federal judge recently found that the SPLC hate list does not “depend upon objective data or evidence” and its application of the “hate group” designation is “entirely subjective.” And another federal judge ruled that SPLC’s “representation or description” of a nonprofit organization as a hate group “is not one ‘of fact.”
SPLC’s Senior Fellow Mark Potok, former editor-in-chief of SPLC’s Intelligence Report, said: “Sometimes the press will describe us as monitoring hate crimes and so on…. I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups, to completely destroy them.” 9 SPLC has never renounced this statement.
SPLC included Maajid Nawaz, a former Islamic extremist who has since devoted his life to opposing violence, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a renowned human rights activist who suffered at the hands of Islamic extremists, in its “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists.” 10 Mr. Nawaz threatened to sue for defamation. In response, SPLC pulled the Guide. Ultimately, SPLC publicly apologized for labelling Mr. Nawaz an extremist and agreed to pay a $3.375 million settlement. 11 SPLC also publicly apologized to Dr. Ben Carson, who was included in its “Extremist File” in 2014 for his view that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.12
SMark Pulliam observes that SPLC’s hate label results in “dissent [being] de-legitimatized, and political foes [being] demonized.” 13 Megan McArdle criticizes SPLC for lumping “principled conservatives” with “bigots” and observes: “Given the increasing tendency of powerful tech companies to flex their muscle against hate groups, we may see more and more institutions unwittingly turned into critics or censors, not just of Nazi propaganda, but also of fairly mainstream ideas.”14 Karl Zinsmeister said, “Taking people and groups with political views different from your own and lumping them with villains and gangsters is the mark of a bullying organization that aims to intimidate and even criminalize philosophical opponents.”15 And Politico questions whether “[a]t a time when the line between ‘hate group’ and mainstream politics is getting thinner and the need for productive civil discourse is growing more serious, fanning liberal fears, while a great opportunity for the SPLC, might be a problem for the nation.”16
Floyd Corkins cited SPLC as motivation for his attempted mass murder at the Family Research Council (FRC) in 2012.17 He told investigators that he “had chosen the research council as his target after finding it listed as an anti-gay group on the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center” and that he “planned to stride into the building and open fire on the people inside in an effort to kill as many as possible.”18 In addition, students cited SPLC as a reason they rioted and assaulted a female professor at Middlebury College in 2017. 19
Let’s Talk about SPLC’s Hate Map
Published annually since 1990, SPLC lists what it deems “Hate Groups” on its “Hate Map.”22. It is filled with notorious hate groups. There are 72 entries under “Ku Klux Klan;” 121 under “Neo-Nazi;” 100 under “White Nationalist;” and 71 under “Racist Skinhead.”23.
Yet SPLC also lists mainstream conservative and religious organizations right alongside these abhorrent groups, making no distinction between them.
Whatever purpose it initially served, SPLC’s “Hate Map” is now a tool to silence the group’s ideological opponents. SPLC’s goal is obvious—marginalize and ultimately destroy conservative think tanks, policy groups, and legal advocates with whom it disagrees by equating them with violence-inciting and racist groups.
As Karl Zinsmeister observes, “[t]aking people and groups with political views different from your own and lumping them with villains and gangsters is the mark of a bullying organization that aims to intimidate and even criminalize philosophical opponents.”24.
In early 2017, SPLC sought to punish Alliance Defending Freedom by adding ADF to its “Hate Group” list. ADF is listed in SPLC’s “Anti-LGBT” category along with over 50 organizations, including numerous mainstream conservative and Christian organizations such as Family Research Council, Ruth Institute, Pacific Justice Institute, Liberty Counsel, and D. James Kennedy Ministries.
Within 18 months after SPLC added ADF to its list, ADF argued and won three victories at the U.S. Supreme Court—including two by 7-2 majorities—bringing ADF’s win total at the nation’s high court to nine over a seven-year span.
Despite ADF being one of the nation’s most respected and successful Supreme Court advocates, and our track record of protecting everyAmericans’ fundamental freedoms of speech, religion, and conscience, SPLC continues to attempt to unfairly smear ADF’s reputation.
- Julie Compton, Activists take aim at anti-LGBTQ 'hate group,' Alliance Defending Freedom,” NBC News (Nov. 14, 2018).
- Bradford Richardson, Gay megadonor on going after Christians: 'We're going to punish the wicked,’ The Washington Times (July 19, 2017).
- National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, 138 S. Ct 2361, 2374 (2018).
- Nguyen v. INS, 533 U.S. 53, 68 (2001).
- Ben Schreckinger, Has a Civil Rights Stalwart Lost Its Way?, Politico, July/August 2017.
- Schreckinger, supra.
- Kimberley A. Strassel, J.P. Morgan’s Hate List, The Wall Street Journal (Aug. 24, 2017).
- Shikha Dalmia, The Sad Hysteria of the Southern Poverty Law Center, The Week (March 20, 2018).
- See Link
- See Link. Emphasis ours.
- Jack Crowe, Southern Poverty Law Center Quietly Deleted List of ‘Anti-Muslim’ Extremists After Legal Threat, National Review (April 19, 2018).
- Press Release, Quilliam, Southern Poverty Law Center, Inc. Admits It Was Wrong, Apologizes to Quilliam and Maajid Nawaz for Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists, and Agrees to Pay $3.375 Million Settlement (June 18, 2018).
- Southern Poverty Law Center apologizes to Ben Carson, takes him off 'extremist’ list, Fox News (February 12, 2015).
- Carl M. Cannon, The Hate Group That Incited the Middlebury Melee, Real Clear Politics (March 19, 2017).
- Senator James Lankford Letter to ABC News (July 31, 2017).
- Mark Pulliam, A Demagogic Bully, City Journal (July 27, 2017).
- Megan McArdle, Southern Poverty Law Center Gets Creative to Label 'Hate Groups': Principled conservatives are lumped together with bigots, Bloomberg (Sept. 7, 2017).
- Schreckinger, supra.
- Carol Cratty and Michael Pearson, DC shooter wanted to kill as many as possible, prosecutors say, CNN (Feb. 6, 2013).
- Cratty, supra.
- Ronald Radosh, Liberal Intolerance Revives as Charles Murray Is Chased From Middlebury College, The Daily Beast(March 6, 2017).
- See Link
- See Link
- Karl Zinsmeister, Some People Love to Call Names: The Southern Poverty Law Center's extremist list isn't a Consumer Reports guide. It's a political tool, Philanthropy Roundtable(May 15, 2017).