The Corner

Politics & Policy

Senator Franken Smears Alliance Defending Freedom with ‘Hate Group’ Label

During Wednesday’s judicial confirmation hearing for 7th Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Amy Barrett, the Notre Dame law professor came under fire from several Democratic senators. While anti-Catholic comments and questions from California senator Dianne Feinstein and Illinois senator Dick Durbin have received plenty of attention this week, Al Franken’s (D., Minn.) similarly antagonistic remarks have flown under the radar.

Franken repeatedly said he questions Barrett’s judgment because she has spoken in the past at events hosted by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a group that provides legal counsel to protect First Amendment rights. Franken alleged, however, that ADF is, in fact, a ‘hate group,’ because it was classified as such by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). But the SPLC itself has come under fire recently for lumping legitimate, conservative organizations such as ADF into a list of hate groups with violent, offensive groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.

David French wrote a particularly cogent piece for NRO in July, explaining why ludicrous it is to characterize ADF – a legitimate legal group that defends the constitutional rights of Americans – as a hateful entity simply because it, for example, defends in court individuals who believe that marriage is, by definition, a union between one man and one woman. Such a view might not fall in line with today’s left-wing dogma, but it isn’t legitimately dangerous, and it certainly doesn’t deserve to be classified among real hate groups that intentionally target Americans based on race or religion.

“It is deeply regrettable that Senator Franken is misinformed about our work on behalf of religious freedom, something so ‘extreme’ that even seven justices of the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with our position three months ago in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer,” said ADF president and CEO Michael Farris. “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.”

For her part, Barrett was quick to refute Franken’s charges during the hearing. If ADF truly were a hate group, it wouldn’t be co-counsel right now . . . right now it has a brief on the Supreme Court with WilmerHale, which is one of the most reputable and esteemed law firms in the country, and they wouldn’t be co-counsel with ADF if it were a hate group. I assure you they wouldn’t be co-counsel with the KKK. I gather that the Southern Poverty Law Center’s designation of ADF as a hate group is controversial. I didn’t learn about that until more recently. But again, that was not my experience with the Blackstone program [a legal fellowship program run by ADF].”

“As a member of Congress, Senator 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,” Farris added.

David expressed a similar sentiment in his July NRO piece: “The Southern Poverty Law Center, the ‘civil rights watchdog group’ that ABC and NBC so prominently cite, has become a dangerous joke. It’s a joke because the very idea that Christians are members of a ‘hate group’ merely because they advocate for orthodox Christian principles and the liberty to live those principles is so intellectually and ideologically bankrupt that it’s barely worth addressing.”

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