Sessions announcing a religious task force in July | Photo: YouTube
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reassured conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) that they are ‘not a hate group.’
The ADF courted controversy by supporting a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of baker Jack Philips, voting 7-2 against the gay-couple.
Sessions hit out at legal advocacy organization the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for labelling the ADF as a hate group. ‘When I spoke to ADF last year, I learned that the Southern Poverty Law Center had classified ADF as a “hate group,”‘ CNN reported Sessions saying.
‘They have used this designation as a weapon and they have wielded it against conservative organizations that refuse to accept their orthodoxy. 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 responding to the Sessions’ remarks, in which SPLC President Richard Cohen insisted SPLC’s description of the ADF was appropriate.
‘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 wrote.
Cohen said the ADF had demonized the LGBTI community as they ‘promote the myth that there is a link between homosexuality and pedophilia.’
‘Linking the LGBT community to pedophilia as the ADF have done is not an expression of a religious belief,’ Cohen wrote. ‘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.’
White House championing religious freedoms
The Trump administration has caused concern among many LGBTI commentators over what the White House’s championing of religious freedoms might mean for LGBTI rights in the US, particularly after Philips’ victory in the Supreme Court.
Some have said that cases such as Philips’ could set a worrying precedent for LGBTI discrimination in the US. Concerns have been raised that religious liberty could potentially be used as a justification for LGBTI discrimination, among other civil rights violations.
Late last month, Sessions announced he was setting up a ‘religious task force’ to implement last year’s broad guidelines for the protections of religious liberty. Both the ADF and Jack Philips were present when the attorney general made the announcement.