July 13, 2017
What’s so controversial about a conservative speaking to conservatives? A lot, if you’re Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In a non-story that’s getting far too much attention in the press, the former Alabama senator is being criticized by the intolerant Left for speaking at an Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) event in California. ADF, our good friends and fellow defenders of religious liberty, hosted a gathering to “bring together prominent legal advocates, scholars, cultural commentators, business executives, and church leaders to develop legal strategies to allow freedom to flourish in the United States and around the world.” What better person to address those issues than the chief law enforcer of the county?
But, with predictable outrage, liberals like Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) slammed the Justice official’s involvement, insisting that it sends a “very troubling message that our Attorney General… is not committed to standing up to anti-LGBT hate.” Now where would she get the idea that ADF was spreading hate? From the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the organization whose thin veneer of credibility took another hit last month when GuideStar was forced to drop SPLC’s labeling from its charity index, the Wall Street Journal published “The Insidious Influence of the SPLC,” and Politico spent 11 pages of its latest magazine criticizing the group for losing its way.
But despite the growing chorus of detractors, even the Democratic National Committee released a statement blasting Sessions’s decision to address a crowd of people -- who, like him, believing in upholding the law. “You can judge a person by the company they keep, and tonight Attorney General Jeff Sessions is choosing to spend his time speaking in front of one of the country’s leading anti-LGBTQ hate groups. ADF has been designated a hate group, and Sessions’s appearance… brings into question whether the attorney general intends to protect all Americans.”
The Left’s attack on Sessions is even more ridiculous when you consider that SPLC’s labeling is so controversial that even the Obama Justice Department backed away from the group -- along with the FBI and U.S. Army. If Tammy Baldwin and others want to defend a group linked to domestic terrorism in federal court, fine. But they won’t have much company.
In a lengthy exposé that tackles everything from Dees’s shady financial dealings to the group’s controversial methods, Politico’s Ben Schreckinger signals the days of SPLC’s free pass are over. “As Dees navigates the era of Trump, there are new questions arising around a charge that has dogged the group for years: that SPLC is overplaying its hand, becoming more of a partisan progressive hit operation than a civil rights watchdog. Critics say the group abuses its position as an arbiter of hatred by labeling legitimate players ‘hate groups’ and ‘extremists’ to keep the attention of its liberal donors and grind a political ax.” In that same interview, SPLC didn’t hide how it feels about the new attorney general. Richard Cohen calls the former senator “simply mad” and then begs Schreckinger not to quote him (which he does anyway).
After eight years of an all-out war against men and women of faith -- led in part by Obama’s Justice Department -- the attorney general’s willingness to talk openly about issues like religious freedom is refreshing. As ADF and Trump’s DOJ have made clear: “We all condemn manifestations of true hate.” But believing what the Bible says about marriage, sexuality, and gender isn’t hate -- no matter what SPLC’s apologists say.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.