Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke to the Alliance Defending Freedom, designated an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, in an address that was streamed live on Facebook (above).
Sessions told the group that it is not a hate group.
“They just call people names like hate group, does that sound familiar? I'm from Alabama the home of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a group that has done vital work…There were hate groups in the South and I suppose in the nation today there are some…certainly there are. They attack, in my region, the life liberty and the very worth of minority citizens…”
He added: “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…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.”
Continued Sessions, in a line that received a large round of applause: “You and I may not agree on everything — but I wanted to come back here tonight partially because I wanted to say this: You are not a hate group.”
The SPLC released a statement in response to Sessions' assertion.
SPLC President Richard Cohen explained the designation in a letter to Sessions:
“In a manner analogous to how the Department of Justice defines 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,” Cohen wrote.
“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 pointed to groups such as the Family Research Council and the Alliance Defending Freedom – groups that regularly use their public platforms to demonize the LGBT community. Both, for example, “promote the myth that there is a link between homosexuality and pedophilia.”
“Linking the LGBT community to pedophilia as the FRC and the ADF have done is not an expression of a religious belief,” the letter says. “It is simply a dangerous and ugly falsehood. As you know, FBI hate crime data show that the LGBT community is the minority group most likely targeted for violent hate crimes.”
Cohen added: “The Alliance Defending Freedom spreads demonizing lies about the LGBT community in this country and seeks to criminalize it abroad. If the ADF had its way, gay people would be back in the closet for fear of going to jail. It's inappropriate for the nation's top law enforcement officer to lend the prestige of his office to this group. And it's ironic to suggest that the rights of ADF sympathizers are under attack when the ADF is doing everything in its power to deny the equal protection of the laws to the LGBT community.”