Attorney General Falsely Claims the 'Hate Group' Label Is Being Used to 'Bully and Intimidate Groups That Fight for Religious Freedom'
Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the Alliance Defending Freedom Wednesday night that they are not hate group. The ADF has been designated as a anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a organization that actively tracks approximately 1000 hate groups nationwide.
"I wanted to come back here tonight partially because I wanted to say this: You are not a hate group," Sessions told attendees (video below) at the ADF's Summit on Religious Liberty, as Towleroad reports.
"When I spoke to ADF last year, I learned that the Southern Poverty Law Center had classified ADF as a ‘hate group.’ Many in the media simply parroted that as a fact," Sessions charged. "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. They use it to bully and intimidate groups that fight for religious freedom, these constitutional rights of the American people."
Sessions raised eyebrows last week when he announced the creation of a secretive "religious liberty" task force at DOJ.
"We have gotten to the point," Sessions said as he announced the new task force, "where one group can actively target religious groups by labeling them a 'hate group' on the basis of their sincerely held religious beliefs."
The religious right and far right wing extremists for years have been outraged that the Southern Poverty Law Center has branded anti-gay groups that promulgate lies about LGBTQ people with the same label given to the KKK. And anti-gay hate groups like the Family Research Council, and the ADF have responded by falsifying the SPLC's very clear definition of what hate groups are.
Sessions is responding to that outrage, apparently by targeting those who work to identify and monitor hate groups. And he's made clear he will turn the concept of First Amendment freedom of religion on its head to do so.
Southern Poverty Law Center president Richard Cohen sent a letter to Sessions earlier this week explaining what a hate group is, and reminding him that the Dept. of Justice uses a similar definition. Sessions clearly ignored it as he addressed the ADF.
"In a manner analogous to how the Department of Justice defines hate crimes," the SPLC president wrote, linking to the DOJ's own website on hate crimes, "we identify hate groups as those that vilify others because of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability – prejudices that strike at the heart of our democratic values and fracture society along its most fragile fault lines."
“Just as sincerely held religious beliefs would not be a defense to a hate crime prosecution, vilifying others in the name of religion should not immunize a group from being designated as a hate group, in our view,” Cohen added.
Watch Sessions address the anti-gay hate group's Summit on Religious Liberty.
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