Alliance Defending Freedom

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  • Hate groups hide years of extremism behind baseless "fake news" accusations

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A news site run by anti-LGBTQ hate group American Family Association defended the Alliance Defending Freedom, also a hate group, from being labeled by ABC News and called the outlet “fake news.”

    One News Now (ONN) ran a July 17 article titled “'Fake news' fraternity welcomes a new member” that reported on Alliance Defending Freedom’s (ADF) response to an ABC report that labels the organization as a hate group. The outlet -- like NBC -- was using the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) “hate group” designation in its coverage of the controversy surrounding Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent speech at an ADF event. Both reports drew a right-wing media outcry. SPLC designated ADF a hate group in February for “regularly demoniz[ing] LGBT people” and supporting “the criminalization of homosexuality in several countries.”

    In her interview with ONN about SPLC’s designation and recent news reports using the “hate group” designation, ADF director of communications Kerri Kupec described SPLC’s claim that ADF supports “recriminalization of homosexuality abroad” as “fake news.” She said: “I have no idea where that came from.” Despite trying to hide behind accusations of “fake news,” ADF has a longstanding history of supporting the criminalization of LGBTQ people and a body of work that is well-documented in the media. That work has included filing amicus briefs in the landmark 2003 Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas, one of which argued that “sodomy is criminally punishable conduct and not a constitutionally protected activity.” ADF’s international efforts are far-reaching and include previously supporting anti-sodomy laws in Jamaica and India, as well as offering legal assistance to a group working to keep criminalization laws on the books in Belize.

    ONN is an affiliate of American Family News Networks (AFN), a media conglomerate run by the hate group American Family Association (AFA). AFA operates a large network of media outlets, action arms, and engagement campaigns aimed at individuals who “are alarmed by the increasing ungodliness and depravity assaulting our nation, tired of cursing the darkness, and ready to light a bonfire.” AFN describes itself as a “Christian news service - with more than 1,200 broadcast, print, and online affiliates in 45 states and 11 foreign countries - that exists to present the day's stories from a biblical perspective.” The SPLC designated AFA a hate group in 2010 for spreading “demonizing propaganda” and “known falsehoods” about LGBTQ people.

    Update: The language of this post has been updated for clarity. 

  • Trump champion Hugh Hewitt gets his own show on MSNBC

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Conservative talk radio host and Trump supporter Hugh Hewitt will host his own show on MSNBC. Hewitt, who has called himself a “‘reluctant Trump’ voter," has a history of flip-flopping on Trump and his policies. He's been critical of Trump, even calling on him to be removed as the nominee twice during the presidential campaign, but has also defended him during his campaign, transition, and presidency. Hewitt's record suggests he will simply serve as a Republican shill on MSNBC and will continue spreading his right-wing punditry and misinformation.

  • Four facts reporters should include in stories about Texas’ pending attack on the transgender community

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    The Texas legislature is currently debating bathroom ban legislation which could potentially target transgender youth in public schools or the entire transgender community in Texas. Reporters covering the bathroom bill-type legislation should avoid parroting anti-transgender misinformation peddled by anti-LGBTQ hate groups, and instead report the facts about transgender people, particularly the safety and necessity of protecting transgender youth.

    On May 22, the Texas House passed a bathroom bill amendment to Senate Bill 2078, a bill focusing on emergency operation plans for public school districts. While some school groups have said that the exact implications of the amendment are open to interpretation, the crux of the amendment would prohibit transgender students in public schools from using restrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity. But that amendment did not go far enough for the more conservative Texas Senate, which rejected the amendment on May 23. In response, the Senate then tacked on a more expansive bathroom bill provision to an unrelated proposal on county governments -- but a Democrat in the House has promised to reject the changes. The legislature is expected to continue to push for some form of bathroom ban before the session ends May 29.

    In the past, journalists have often stumbled when reporting on transgender people’s access to bathrooms and locker rooms, sometimes parroting unfounded claims peddled by anti-LGBTQ hate groups. Here are four facts journalists should include in articles about pending public accomodation restrictions to ensure accurate, responsible reporting:

    1. Empirical data debunks the “bathroom predator” myth.

    Law enforcement and government officials in 16 states and the District of Columbia -- including experts in Austin, Dallas, and El Paso -- have all debunked the “bathroom predator” myth that sexual predators will exploit nondiscrimination protections for transgender people in public accommodations. Last year a national coalition of over 300 sexual assault and domestic violence prevention organizations also came out in opposition to anti-transgender bathroom bills and in favor of laws and policies that “protect transgender people from discrimination, including in accessing facilities that match the gender they live every day.”

    Additionally, school administrators from 23 school districts and four universities across the country with trans-inclusive nondiscrimination policies have debunked the notion that allowing transgender students to use school facilities that correspond with their gender identity is a safety risk, as claimed by Republican lawmakers in Texas. In total, these schools serve an estimated 1.5 million students each year without any incidents of sexual harassment, assault, or inappropriate behavior as a result of allowing trans students to access bathrooms that align with their gender identity (per reporting to Media Matters in 2014, 2015, and 2016).


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    2. National leading child welfare organizations oppose bathroom bills targeting transgender youth.

    Leading national child welfare and advocacy organizations oppose bathroom bills that single out transgender students for discrimination. Noting that empirical evidence already shows that transgender kids are “at heightened risk for violence, bullying and harassment,” last year leading national child welfare organizations signed a letter standing in opposition to “shameful” bathroom bans and called on “legislators across the country to reject these harmful measures.” Signees included the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Counseling Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Social Workers, and the National Education Association.

    Reporters should also be wary of the anti-LGBTQ hate group the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds), a deceptively named extremist group with an estimated 200 to 500 members whose name is meant to be confused with the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). ACPeds has been designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for spreading malicious lies about LGBTQ people and deliberately misrepresenting legitimate research to attack LGBTQ equality.

    3. Several federal courts have ruled that discrimination against transgender people is illegal sex discrimination.

    Earlier this year, the Supreme Court punted on ruling on whether a transgender Virginia high school student had the right to access restrooms and locker rooms appropriate for his gender identity. However, several lower courts have found that discrimination on the basis of gender identity is prohibited sex discrimination. From a 2016 New York Times analysis:

    The Supreme Court has not addressed whether the same language protects transgender rights, but several lower courts have. In 2004, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found that it does, and some other courts have since agreed. But in 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit made the opposite finding.

    In 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that discriminating against a transgender person was sex discrimination — not based on the civil rights statute, but based on the 14th Amendment. And last month, relying on a 1972 law, Title IX, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that a high school must allow a transgender student who was born anatomically female to use the boys’ bathroom.

    In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled, as the Sixth Circuit did, that discrimination against transgender people violated the Civil Rights Act’s ban on sex discrimination, a decision hailed by advocates as the executive branch’s first unequivocal statement to that effect.

    4. Anti-LGBTQ hate groups and extremists with high-level Texas government connections are behind the push for bathroom bills.

    For over two years, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) -- the nation’s largest anti-LGBTQ hate group -- has been leading the fight against transgender student rights. By drafting model legislation and policies, testifying at hearings, and suing school districts, ADF has used its mammoth network of over 4,000 affiliated lawyers to convince local school boards, and last year North Carolina (via the infamous House Bill 2), to pass anti-transgender policies. ADF has high-level government connections throughout the country, including three former staff members in Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office.

    In addition to ADF representatives, a number of anti-LGBTQ extremists with high-level government connections have been pushing for a bathroom bill since before the 2017 legislative session began. Those extremists include:

    • Steven Hotze and Jared Woodfill of the anti-LGBTQ hate group the Conservative Republicans of Texas, which has called the word transgender a “euphemism, a weaker alternative, for the term pervert”;
    • Dave Welch, executive director of the Texas Pastor Council, who once compared repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to letting loose a “poisonous cloud of chemical weapons” that would “release GLBTQIA activists onto our soldiers like hound dogs of hell”; and
    • Jonathan Saenz of Texas Values, who has said that gay sex is a “dangerous and risky sexual activity that can fiercely jeopardize a person's well-being.”
  • Alumni of this anti-LGBTQ hate group are serving in federal, state, and local governments

    Media Matters has identified at least 55 Alliance Defending Freedom affiliated lawyers serving in influential government positions

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) publicly boasts a nearly $50 million annual budget and a network of over 3,100 “allied attorneys” who provide hundreds of pro-bono hours of anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice legal services. But new Media Matters research has identified a quieter, more powerful network of former ADF employees, allied attorneys, and fellowship alumni who occupy over 50 influential government posts at the federal, state, and local level.

    ADF was founded in 1994 by several of the country's largest national evangelical Christian ministries to "press the case for religious liberty issues in the nation's courts" and "fend-off growing efforts by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which seek to immobilize Christians." Today, it has become the country's best-funded and most powerful right-wing Christian group working against what the organization has called the "myth of the so-called 'separation of church and state.'"

    In practice, this work has consisted of ADF’s leaders and affiliated lawyers attempting to criminalize and demonize LGBTQ people by “falsely linking them to pedophilia, calling them ‘evil’ and a threat to children and society, and blaming them for the ‘persecution of devout Christians.’” This has lead the Southern Poverty Law Center to designate ADF as a hate group. ADF has also defended the constitutionality of criminalizing gay sex in the U.S., and has actively worked to promote and defend anti-sodomy laws that criminalize gay sex in Jamaica, Belize, and India. The group -- whose founder believes that the “homosexual agenda” is dedicated to destroying Christianity -- is behind the national push for anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” laws. It is also the architect of the campaign for “bathroom bills” that aim to ban transgender students from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity. 

    ADF has several training programs by which it has amassed a network of thousands of lawyers to aid the organization both domestically and internationally. It’s two major programs include:

    • Allied Attorneys: On its website, ADF boasts a network of “more than 3,100 allied attorneys.” According to a brochure, “ADF has developed a broad network of high-caliber, accomplished Christian attorneys who use their God-given legal skills to protect the right of people to freely and peacefully live out their faith.” The brochure also notes that the “breadth of the network also enables ADF to facilitate premium-quality pro bono legal services for companies, churches, nonprofits, and individuals whose religious freedom is being threatened.” Lawyers must formally apply and be accepted to the attorney network, and also must affirm ADF’s statement of faith. More than 1,900 allied attorneys have completed the ADF Academy program, after which ADF suggests attendees complete 450 hours of pro bono service for ADF within three years. 
    • Blackstone Fellowship: According to its website, the “Blackstone Legal Fellowship” begins with “a nine-week summer (June-August) leadership training program ... as well as a six-week legal internship.” As ADF sees it, the fellowship lasts much longer than the summer. Interns who “complete the summer program are invited to apply to be commissioned as Blackstone Fellows.” For those chosen to become lifelong Blackstone Fellows, ADF says the summer “represents a beginning, not a culmination. Fellows receive ongoing training, resources, and support through an international community.” In 2014, Rewire investigated the presence of the Blackstone fellows in federal and state government. According to its findings, public records alone revealed that the offices of attorneys and solicitors general in at least eight states hosted interns who also belonged to the Blackstone fellowship alumni group. To date, at least 1,800 law students have completed the summer fellowship. While it has since been removed, an earlier version of the website explaining the Blackstone curriculum noted that the fellowship and ADF seeks to “recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries.”

    Allied attorneys, Blackstone Fellows, and graduates of other ADF training programs all have access to the same networking resources through a password protected community website, which boasts a “robust alumni community.” While it’s impossible to know how the ADF alumni network behind closed doors, investigative reports like Rewire’s Blackstone investigation are a start. Through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and court filings, journalists and advocacy organizations have begun to understand the scope of ADF’s government connections, and how those networks are used to further regressive anti-LGBTQ laws and policies. For example, Rewire’s investigation found that numerous Blackstone Fellows interned at state attorneys general offices -- then later went on to work full-time in those same offices.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In some states, offices with a high concentration of ADF alumni have been actively working against LGBTQ equality. In Texas, there are three former ADF employees -- two of whom are also Blackstone Fellows -- in the attorney general’s office (see below). Attorney General Ken Paxton has been one of the biggest proponents of anti-LGBTQ legislation, and has pushed a Texas version of the anti-transgender bathroom bills that ADF has been working to pass in states across the country. In Arizona, where ADF is headquartered, there are four ADF alums serving as assistant attorneys general, including two in the civil rights division (see below). Before he was assistant attorney general, ADF legal counsel Joseph La Rue played a “major role” in pushing for a 2014 anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” bill in the Arizona state legislature. The “turn away the gays” bill -- which ADF freely admitted to drafting -- was ultimately vetoed by then-Republican Gov. Jan Brewer.

    Below is a non-exhaustive list of over 50 ADF alumni currently working in government positions. This list does not include a number of alumni Media Matters identified who have since left government posts, like ADF allied attorney and former Ohio Assistant Secretary of State Monty Lobb, or ADF alumni currently campaigning for political office, like ADF legal counsel Douglas Wardlow, who is running for attorney general in Minnesota. This list also does not name judicial clerks, though Media Matters did identify a number of ADF alumni clerking at high levels of the judiciary, including one Blackstone Fellow (who also graduated from the small but influential Christian college founded by current ADF CEO Michael Farris) clerking for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

    Much of this research made use of Rewire’s database of ADF Blackstone alumni. See the Rewire database here and read Sofia Resnick and Sharona Coutts’ 2014 investigation into the Blackstone Fellowship here.

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  • How The Media Covered Hate Groups Last Week, 5/1/17- 5/7/17

    ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    In reporting on President Donald Trump's "religious liberty" executive order last week, some outlets highlighted important anti-LGBTQ details while others failed to acknowledge activists' extremism. The Washington Post fact-checked a Trump speech, exposing that it included a lie peddled by the hate group Family Research Council. Local papers The Orange County Register and Portland Business Journal exposed anti-LGBTQ hate groups Alliance Defending Freedom and Traditional Values Coalition in their coverage. National outlets -- including CNN, CBS, and USA Today -- spoke with anti-LGBTQ hate groups about the order but failed to identify the groups’ extremism, merely describing them as “conservative,” “evangelical,” and “faith” groups. Separately, NPR continued its streak of hosting hate group leaders without context.

  • Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups Have Clamored For Trump's "Religious Freedom" Order

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    President Donald Trump just signed an executive order purporting to protect so-called religious freedom, in part by weakening tax code restrictions on churches and religious groups, allowing them to actively engage in political activity without losing their nonprofit status. While the order falls short of directly targeting LGBTQ people -- as many expected it would do -- it’s still a victory for anti-LGBTQ hate groups, which have been lobbying for such a shift for years.

    On May 4, Trump signed an executive order allegedly protecting religious freedom. The order directs the IRS to use “maximum enforcement discretion” to “alleviate the burden of the Johnson Amendment.” The Johnson Amendment is a 1954 law stating that churches and other tax-exempt organizations are "are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office." Despite the claims by anti-LGBTQ hate groups that the amendment stifles “free speech” by pastors and churches, it is rarely enforced. As NPR noted earlier this year, opposition to the amendment isn’t really about “free speech” -- it’s about “money and politics.” Last August, The Atlantic explained the effects of overturning the Johnson Amendment:

    Pastors would be able to endorse candidates from the pulpit, which they’re currently not allowed to do by law. But it’s also true that a lot more money could possibly flow into politics via donations to churches and other religious organizations. That could mean religious groups would become much more powerful political forces in American politics—and it would almost certainly tee up future court battles.

    The group leading the national push for repealing the Johnson Amendment -- the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) -- has been designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for working to criminalize LGBTQ people, both domestically and abroad, as well as disseminating “disparaging propaganda and falsehoods” to advance its extremist agenda.

    ADF, which has previously explained that it “seeks to recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries,” has led an annual “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” in opposition to the Johnson Amendment since 2008. The Washington Post reported that ADF’s “Pulpit Freedom” initiative has encouraged over 2,000 clergy members -- mainly evangelical Christians -- to “deliberately” violate the law since 2008 -- and none of the 2,000 were punished by the IRS. Yet the hate group’s efforts are sweepingly out of step with public opinion, as 90 percent of evangelical leaders do not think pastors should endorse politicians, and nearly 80 percent of Americans think it is inappropriate for pastors to endorse a candidate in church.

    Despite little public support to repeal the Johnson Amendment, ADF and other anti-LGBTQ hate groups have redoubled their efforts against it since Trump won the election. Some of those actions included:

    • ADF senior counsel Erik Stanley wrote an op-ed in The Hill outlining “three reasons to support changing the Johnson Amendment”;
    • the anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Reseach Council openly boasted in a March action alert that it worked with Republican House representatives to introduce the “Free Speech Fairness Act” to repeal the Johnson Amendment;
    • ADF’s Erik Stanley and FRC President Tony Perkins lauded Trump’s vow to “totally destroy” the amendment in statements to The New York Times; and
    • Liberty Counsel, another anti-LGBTQ hate group, listed repealing the Johnson Amendment as one of its goals for 2017 in a fundraising alert.

    Today, ADF senior counsel Gregory Baylor released a statement saying that Trump’s order does not go far enough to "protect" religious freedom. Baylor advocated for a full repeal of the Johnson Amendment through legislative action, as did FRC general counsel for government affairs Mandi Ancalle and ADF legal counsel Christiana Holcomb at a congressional hearing today titled “Examining A Church’s Right To Free Speech.” Baylor also lamented that the order didn’t include “specific relief” for business owners who hold “a religious point of view on marriage that differed from that of the federal government,” i.e. no license to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

    Anti-LGBTQ hate groups have so far been successful in furthering their desired policies under Trump, thanks to having representatives and alumni deeply embedded in his administration. FRC senior fellow Ken Blackwell served as the domestic policy chair on the Trump transition team, along with former FRC staffer Ken Klukowski, who was the team’s “constitutional rights” leader and claimed to have helped draft today’s order. FRC's Perkins -- who was at the Rose Garden signing today -- came to embrace Trump as a “teachable” candidate whom Perkins could “shape.”

    Recently, Trump appointed Charmaine Yoest -- former vice president of FRC -- as assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In January, Trump appointed former ADF senior counsel Matt Bowman as an HHS special assistant.

    Anti-LGBTQ hate groups will, in all likelihood, continue to use their high-level connections to push for a broad legislative repeal of the Johnson Amendment, as well as another “religious freedom” executive order that would allow for government employees and contractors to discriminate against LGBTQ people and their families.

    Image by Dayanita Ramesh.

  • Top Media Outlets Have Failed To Accurately Label Designated Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups

    Six Years of Various Media Matters Studies Show Ongoing Problem With Reporting On Hate Groups

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD & RACHEL PERCELAY

    For more than half a decade, Media Matters has monitored broadcast, cable, print, and local media coverage of anti-LGBTQ hate groups, designated as such by Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Reporters frequently fail to disclose this designation and provide no context about anti-LGBTQ hate groups and their extremism, instead simply labeling them as “Christian” or “conservative” organizations. Those same outlets, however, often refer to SPLC as an expert in tracking hate and extremism, and often use SPLC’s “hate group” designation when reporting on other extremist ideologies, like white nationalist groups.

    SPLC has long been regarded as an expert in monitoring domestic hate and extremism. Since 1990, SPLC has been releasing an “annual census” of U.S. hate groups. SPLC defines hate groups as organizations that “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” But inaccurate or incomplete media coverage has allowed anti-LGBTQ hate groups to peddle the myth that they’re labeled as hate groups only for their conservative or religious beliefs about sexuality and marriage. Yet SPLC has clearly stated multiple times that it designates organizations as “hate groups” when they knowingly spread “demonizing lies,” engage in “baseless, incendiary name-calling,” or actively work to criminalize LGBTQ people -- not because of biblical or conservative beliefs.

    Media Matters' research shows that while major publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post often rely on SPLC’s “hate group” designation to provide meaningful context about white nationalist groups, those same outlets often label designated anti-LGBTQ hate groups only as “Christian” or “conservative.” Similarly, cable news networks have frequently invited anti-LGBTQ hate group representatives to comment on LGBTQ equality without providing context about their respective group’s extremism. Since being designated as a hate group in February 2017, the mammoth anti-LGBTQ legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom has been featured prominently in the media with no reference to its extremism or efforts to criminalize LGBTQ people.

    While some reporters -- like CBS’s Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation -- have provided audiences with meaningful context by accurately identifying anti-LGBTQ hate group leaders as such during interviews, over half a decade of research by Media Matters shows that journalists more often than not fail to identify anti-LGBTQ hate groups as such. Failing to properly contextualize extremism often allows hate group representative to peddle debunked anti-LGBTQ lies, which has led outlets like NPR to acknowledge that “we have to do a better job” in identifying extremists.

    Below are some of Media Matters’ largest studies documenting how journalists report on hate groups.

    NY Times and Wash. Post Failed To Properly Identify Or Contextualize SPLC’s Major Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups

    A July 2016 Media Matters analysis revealed that between June 1, 2014, and June 30, 2016, The New York Times mentioned four anti-LGBTQ hate groups -- the Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, the American Family Association, and Westboro Baptist Church --a total of 60 times and never clearly defined any of them as a current hate group. The paper most frequently labeled these hate groups as “conservative” (18 times or 30 percent of the total) or gave them no descriptor at all (14 times or 23 percent of the total). In Times coverage, anti-LGBTQ hate groups were most likely to be called “conservative” or given no designation at all.

    One New York Times article in our analysis used the hate group designation for anti-LGBTQ group the World Congress of Families, but it also included a quote from the group denouncing the label. The article also included criticism of SPLC’s authority and questioned its methodology. Finally, in a passing mention of the Family Research Council, the article falsely reported that SPLC designates hate groups based “on their stances on gay issues,” rather than on their propagation of known falsehoods about LGBTQ people. No other article in our analysis attempted to question the authority of SPLC’s classification or gave a platform to a hate group to defend itself. In fact, when reporting on white nationalist groups in the same period, the Times cited SPLC as an expert on tracking hate groups and frequently used the organization’s hate group designation. Note: Not all percentages add up to 100 due to rounding. 

    The Washington Post mentioned anti-LGBTQ hate groups 74 times during the study period. But it labeled them as hate groups only six times and failed to provide any context about their ideology 27 times. When it did label such groups, the paper was most likely (eight times) to call them “conservative” or contextualize them by mentioning their legal work such as with Liberty Counsel -- which represented the Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court released its marriage equality ruling.

    In 2015, Major News Outlets Failed To Identify The Hate Group Representing Kim Davis

    A September 2015 Media Matters report found that major news outlets almost entirely failed to identify Liberty Counsel -- the group defending Rowan County clerk Kim Davis -- as an anti-LGBTQ "hate group," often referring to the group only as a "Christian" or "conservative" legal organization. The Washington Post was the only paper to identify Liberty Counsel as a hate group. An analysis of coverage from August 8 through September 11, 2015, revealed the following:

    • The Associated Press called Liberty Counsel a “Christian law firm” in four different articles.
    • Reuters characterized Liberty Counsel as a “religious” or “legal” “advocacy” group in five different articles.
    • The Washington Post identified Liberty Counsel as a “hate group” in one article -- but in three other articles, it described the group only as “Christian.”
    • The New York Times twice referred to Liberty Counsel as a “conservative” group -- once mentioning that Liberty “has been on the front lines of the same-sex marriage fight for roughly two decades,” and once calling it a nonprofit that works in “religious exemptions cases.”

    In October 2015, The Associated Press did note that Liberty Counsel has been labeled an anti-gay hate group. In response, Liberty Counsel President Mat Staver delivered a letter to the AP's assistant general counsel, Brian Barrett, that accused the AP of putting Davis and Liberty Counsel at risk of "death threats" and demanded that the article be permanently deleted.

    One Hate Group Leader's Appearances Plummeted On CNN And MSNBC In 2013, But Held Steady On Fox News

    A July 2014 Media Matters study found that Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins appeared significantly less frequently on CNN and MSNBC in the wake of petitions calling on the networks to stop hosting him. Perkins, whose organization has been labeled an anti-LGBTQ hate group, continued to appear frequently on Fox News. Media Matters examined coverage between August 1, 2012, and July 28, 2014. Graph includes data from a prior 2012 study on Perkin’s appearances.

    Cable News Networks Relied On Hate Group Leader For 2012 Primary Election Coverage

    A November 2012 Media Matters analysis of cable news networks’ coverage of the 2012 GOP primary between May 5, 2011, and August 28, 2012, found that the media outlets regularly called upon Perkins to provide commentary on behalf of social conservatives. Perkins made 56 appearances on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC over the course of the primary, but never once was identified as the leader of an anti-LGBTQ hate group.

    More Hate Group Coverage From Media Matters:

    March 2017: Reporting On Trans Rights Supreme Court Case, Major Outlets Failed To Call Alliance Defending Freedom A Hate Group

    February 2017: Major Publications Fail To Identify Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups In Transgender Policy Coverage

    December 2016: 19 Times Breitbart Cited A Discredited Hate Group To Spread Harmful Lies About Pediatric Medical Care

    September 2016: Trump Just Finished Speaking At A Hate Group Conference; Why Didn’t Top Papers Take Heed?

    August 2016: FL Newspapers Largely Give Rubio A Pass On Scheduled Appearance With Anti-LGBT Extremists

    April 2016: Major News Outlets Largely Fail To Identify The Hate Group Boycotting Target

    December 2015: This Hate Group Leader Has Hosted Most Of The Republican Presidential Candidates On His Radio Show

    August 2014: Megyn Kelly's Cozy Relationship With An Anti-Gay Hate Group Leader

    December 2013: Only 10 Percent Of Louisiana Newspaper Articles About This Hate Group Leader Exposed His Extremism

    April 2012: Meet Todd Starnes, Fox's Mouthpiece For Anti-Gay Hate Groups

    December 2011: Cable News Networks Regularly Promote Anti-Gay Family Research Council On Air

    Graphics by Sarah Wasko.

  • New Reporting Exposes Anti-LGBTQ Hate Group Suing This Pennsylvania School District

    ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is the anti-LGBTQ hate group leading the national fight against transgender student equality. ADF recently filed a lawsuit against the Boyertown School District in Pennsylvania claiming that the district’s transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination policy “intentionally” violated a student’s “right to bodily privacy.” In reports, op-eds, and columns about the lawsuit, local print outlets in Pennsylvania are accurately labeling ADF as a hate group and exposing the group’s history of anti-LGBTQ extremism -- important context that national outlets often fail to provide when reporting on ADF.

  • How The Hate Group Alliance Defending Freedom Is Infiltrating Public Schools

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Media Matters first identified the anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) as the powerful legal group leading the national campaign against transgender student equality in November 2015. Since then, ADF has continued to email school districts, show up at school board meetings, and file lawsuits to oppose basic protections for transgender students -- and candidates who appear to be affiliated with ADF are even running in local school board races.

    In 2015, Media Matters published a piece about ADF’s campaign to influence local school district policies and pass state-level legislation that would ban transgender students from accessing bathroom and locker room facilities consistent with their gender identity. In December 2014, ADF started emailing public school districts across the country to "advise" them of its recommended "Student Physical Privacy" policy. In February 2015, ADF released a model state-level bill to prohibit all public school transgender students from using any facilities that correspond with their gender identity. Later that year, legislators in Nevada, Kentucky, Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin all proposed versions of ADF's bill. Similarly, North Carolina’s disastrous anti-transgender House Bill 2 (HB 2), which passed in spring 2016, closely mirrors ADF’s model state-level bill regarding student bathroom access.

    In the 2017 legislative session, over 20 anti-transgender “bathroom bills” have been proposed in state legislatures across the nation. While none of these bills have passed yet, ADF continues to use its nearly $50 million annual budget and employ its mammoth network of over 3,000 allied attorneys to try to convince public school districts to adopt discriminatory, anti-transgender policies. The organization also appears to be trying to install friendly candidates on local school boards to further its causes.

    It’s impossible to know the extent of ADF’s anti-transgender activism, especially because many of its 3,000-plus “allied attorneys” never publicly identify themselves as such. Below is a nonexhaustive list of situations in which ADF representatives or affiliated individuals testified at local school events and ran in local school board races, sued school districts with transgender-inclusive policies, and sent letters to schools urging them to institute anti-transgender policies.

    ADF Representatives Testified At Local School Events

    March 20, 2017: ADF legal counsel Douglas Wardlow testified against a transgender-inclusive policy at an Anoka-Hennepin School Board meeting in Minnesota. Prior to his testimony, Wardlow sent a letter to the school board in which he cited discredited anti-LGBTQ junk science researchers Mark Regnerus and Paul McHugh to support his claim that protecting transgender students from discrimination isn’t supported by medical experts (it is). This “research” included a widely denounced report by McHugh attacking transgender people that was published in a journal -- The New Atlantis -- that is not “subject to rigorous peer review” as scientific research usually is. The New Atlantis is published by the Ethics and Public Policy Center, which is dedicated to “applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy.”

    September 7, 2016: ADF legal counsel Caleb Dalton testified at a public hearing in Prince William County, VA, on a proposed LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination policy for the district. As reported by the Washington Blade, Dalton told the school board that the district could face legal liability if it approved the proposal.     

    May 12, 2016: Ken Fletcher, ADF’s senior director of strategic relations, testified at a Board of Education meeting in Fannin County, GA, regarding rumors that the county was going to institute a transgender-inclusive restroom policy (those rumors were false). In his testimony, Fletcher cited the anti-LGBTQ hate group the American College of Pediatricians (a deceptively named extremist group with an estimated 200 to 500 members whose name is meant to be confused with the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics) to claim that schools should lead transgender girls away from being transgender and “cure” their so-called “gender confusion” so that they do not “lead a life of heartbreak.”

    May 9, 2016: ADF senior counsel Matt Sharp advised the Horry County Board of Education in South Carolina during a specially called board meeting to give the school board “legal advice” regarding Title IX. After speaking with Sharp and two other lawyers employed by the district, the board agreed not to change its existing policy of allowing transgender students to use facilities that align with their gender identity.

    ADF Sued School Districts For Implementing Transgender-Inclusive Policies

    March 2017: ADF sued the school district of Boyertown, PA, for allegedly violating the “privacy” of a cisgender boy because the school had a trans-inclusive locker room policy.

    September 2016: ADF sued the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and the Virginia Public School District in Minnesota on behalf of a group of 10 parents calling themselves “Privacy Matters,” who said that their children’s privacy was violated by a transgender student “twerking” in the locker room.

    June 2016: ADF sued the DOE on behalf of the Highland Local School District in Ohio because it said it was set to lose federal funding if it didn’t let a transgender girl use the girl’s restroom.

    May 2016: ADF sued the DOE and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on behalf of a group called “North Carolinians for Privacy” in response to the DOJ’s lawsuit regarding North Carolina’s anti-LGBTQ HB 2 law.

    May 2016: ADF sued the Palatine, IL, Township High School District 211 and the DOE on behalf of an anonymous group called “Students and Parents for Privacy,” saying a transgender-inclusive policy created an "intimidating and hostile" environment for students who share the locker room with the transgender student.

    ADF Affiliates Running For School Boards

    March 2017: In Palatine, IL, an ADF-affiliated group called “D211 Parents for Privacy” is advocating for ADF’s model policy and has endorsed three candidates for the board of education in that district. It’s also targeting current school board members who voted in favor of the transgender-inclusive policy.

    September 2016: ADF-affiliated attorney Derrick Good was tapped as an “emergency replacement” for a school board in Jefferson County, MO, after a controversy arose in 2015 when a Hillsboro High School student asked to use locker rooms and bathrooms that corresponded to her gender identity. Good, who said that people make "decisions" about being transgender, helped the district install an anti-transgender policy that prohibits transgender youth from using restrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity.

    ADF Sent Letters To Local Schools

    January 2017: ADF sent a letter to the school district of Egg Harbor Township, NJ, saying that it was ready to “litigate if necessary” regarding a proposed transgender-inclusive policy.

    May 2016: ADF convinced Grayson County, VA, to institute its “Student Physical Privacy Policy.” The superintendent told ThinkProgress that ADF claimed that “if we adopt their policy and it is contested,” ADF would come to the school district’s defense for free. During the debate over the policy, Virginia State Sen. Bill Carrico, who reported a $5,000 gift from ADF in 2014 for a trip with his wife to a conference in Naples, FL, also assured the district that ADF would defend the policy “all the way up to the Supreme Court, if necessary.” Prior to the debate, Carrico said that he had spoken with “legal organizations about the possibility of bringing suit against the Obama administration” regarding its guidance on transgender students. 

    May 3, 2016: ADF sent a letter to the Berkeley County School Board in South Carolina arguing that a transgender-inclusive restroom policy would “endanger students’ privacy and safety, undermine parental authority, violate religious students’ free exercise rights and severely impair an environment conducive to learning.”

    May 2, 2016: ADF sent a letter to the school board in Candia, NH, urging it to adopt ADF’s model anti-transgender policy. At a school board meeting on May 5, 2016, multiple speakers urged the board to adopt ADF’s model policy. But the meeting ended with the school district instituting a transgender-inclusive policy.

    April 28, 2016: ADF sent a letter to the Durham, NC, school board of directors and superintendent saying the school district had no obligation to protect transgender students and could be held legally liable for instituting a transgender-inclusive policy. ADF later sued the district after it instituted a transgender-inclusive policy.

    March 2016: ADF sent a letter to the Westwood Regional High School District in northern New Jersey opposing its transgender-inclusive policy. The policy passed with “little opposition” from school board members or the general public.

    February 29, 2016: In an article about a proposed bathroom bill in South Dakota that was drafted using ADF’s language, The Washington Post reported that ADF had sent its model school policy to “thousands” of school districts nationwide, which it described as an effort to protect the “bodily privacy” of children.

    January 2016: ADF sent letters to “every Tennessee school district” saying that districts could be at risk of “legal liability” for instituting transgender-inclusive policies.

    ADF Otherwise Influenced Schools To Pass Its Model Policy

    December 18, 2015: Political Research Associates reported that ADF’s model policy is also being disseminated through a project of the anti-LGBTQ group Focus on the Family (FOTF). The project website provides a “Tell a School” tool that allows visitors to share ADF’s Student Physical Privacy Policy with their local school boards, allowing ADF’s model policy to be sent through FOTF’s website without the sender even reading it.

    December 2, 2015: At least seven different people who have children in Township High School District 211 in Palatine, IL, cited ADF’s privacy policy while testifying in a special school board meeting after the board instituted a transgender-inclusive policy.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko.

  • The Conservative Dark-Money Groups Infiltrating Campus Politics

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    College campuses have long served as unique places for the free exchange of ideas -- but increasingly they’ve also become playgrounds for ideologically driven, right-wing billionaires and the dark-money groups they fund. Media Matters has mapped out some of the biggest actors behind astroturf conservative campus activism, creating an echo chamber of seemingly grass-roots right-wing student media and campus groups that are actually propped up by a handful of the same conservative funders and, sometimes, even prominent hate groups.

  • Reuters Foundation Exposes An Anti-LGBTQ Hate Group Representing America At UN Women’s Rights Event

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    The Thomas Reuters Foundation spotlighted the State Department’s decision to send a representative of an anti-LGBTQ hate group as one of the U.S.’s public delegates to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

    The State Department announced on March 13 that one of the U.S.’s two public delegates to the 61st session of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women would be Lisa Correnti, executive vice president for the Center for Family & Human Rights (C-FAM). The commission -- described on its website as “the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women” -- is being held at the U.N. headquarters in New York, NY, from March 13 through 24.

    Founded in 1997 to “monitor and affect the social policy debate at the United Nations,” C-FAM -- formerly known as the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute -- has been designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for five years due to its extreme rhetoric and spread of demonizing lies about LGBTQ people. C-FAM president Austin Ruse has proven himself so extreme that another anti-gay hate group cut ties with him in 2014 after Ruse said that liberal academics "should all be taken out and shot." Ruse has also served as a resident anti-gay columnist for Breitbart.com, where he voiced his support for laws criminalizing homosexuality, peddled the debunked conspiracy theory that the hate crime murder of gay teen Matthew Shepard was a hoax, and used the anti-transgender slur “trannies” to mock a 15-year-old transgender girl.

    Thomas Reuters Foundation -- the charitable arm of the Thomas Reuters news wire -- spotlighted C-FAM’s extremism and hate group designation in a March 15 article detailing C-FAM’s delegate status at the U.N. commission. The article also noted fears about the rollback of LGBTQ equality under President Donald Trump, who has surrounded himself with anti-LGBTQ extremists and hate group leaders. While not mentioned by the Reuters Foundation, the largest anti-LGBTQ hate group in the U.S. -- the Alliance Defending Freedom -- has had special consultative status at the U.N. since 2010.

    From the March 15 Reuters Foundation article:

    The Center for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM) was named this week by the U.S. State Department to attend the U.N.'s Commission on the Status of Women, an annual set of high-level meetings on women's equality and empowerment.

    C-FAM has been listed as an anti-LGBT hate group by nonprofit civil rights group the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for at least five years, said Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project.

    [...]

    The move comes as decisions by President Donald Trump's new administration raise fears of a rollback of LGBT rights.

    Trump has voiced support for LGBT rights, but his administration has revoked federal guidelines that let transgender students to use bathrooms of their choice. Vice President Mike Pence has expressed staunch opposition to gay rights.

    [...]

    Beirich said the inclusion of C-FAM "is taking the State Department in a very ugly direction" and failing to address the violence and discrimination faced by LGBT people in some places.

    [...]

    Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight Action International, an LGBTI rights group, said C-FAM "regularly releases homophobic vitriol" on its website.

    "Maybe the violent mentality that got C-FAM labeled a hate group successfully panders to their base, but the U.S. government must ensure protection for the world's most vulnerable people," Stern said in a statement. [Thomas Reuters Foundation, 3/15/17

  • Reporting On Trans Rights Supreme Court Case, Major Outlets Failed To Call Alliance Defending Freedom A Hate Group

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    The anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) was quoted in four major publications’ coverage of the Supreme Court’s recent decision not to hear a monumental transgender equality case. The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN and Reuters wire services all failed to label ADF as a hate group, instead misleadingly identifying the extremist group as merely a “conservative Christian” organization and effectively erasing the context readers deserve.

    On March 6, the Supreme Court issued a one sentence order announcing it would not hear G.G v. Gloucester County School, which would have been its first major case on transgender equality. In its order, the Supreme Court vacated the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals’ previous ruling -- which stated that a transgender Virginia high school student, Gavin Grimm, had the right to access restrooms and locker rooms appropriate for his gender identity -- and asked the lower court to reevaluate the decision. This ruling was a direct result of President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of Obama-era nondiscrimination protections for transgender students last month.

    In reports on the March 6 Supreme Court order, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Reuters, and CNN’s wire service all quoted a representative of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom, according to a Media Matters search of four leading papers and three major wire services in the two days following the decision.

    The outlets all published similar variations of a statement from ADF’s communication director Kerri Kupec, who said that anti-transgender policies are needed to “protect” students’ privacy. None of the articles noted that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated ADF as an anti-LGBTQ hate group for its well-documented history of working domestically and internationally to criminalize gay sex, as well as spreading dangerous lies and misinformation that harm LGBTQ people and their families.

     A Washington Post blog also quoted an ADF representative, and while it did note that ADF opposes “allowing transgender children to use the bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity,” it similarly failed to contextualize ADF’s long track record of anti-LGBTQ extremism or hate group status. 

    ADF has an undeniably prominent role in leading the fight against transgender student equality. But the group is not merely a “conservative” an organization concerned with protecting “religious freedom” and “privacy.” It’s an extremist organization that has actively worked against protecting LGBTQ students from bullying in public schools. Identifying ADF as only a “conservative” or “conservative Christian” organization -- as the New York Times, The Washington Post, and Reuters did -- only helps ADF pretend its opposition to equality isn’t motivated by anti-LGBTQ animus.

    These dangerous oversights are just the latest in mainstream outlets’ journalistic failure to accurately label anti-LGBTQ hate groups, despite employing SPLC’s designation for other extremist ideologies. And it does a disservice to readers looking for the full story -- to properly asses ADF’s red herring plea for “privacy,” readers need to know up front that the group is disreputable and driven by hate.

    Methodology:

    Media Matters searched major publications The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, CNN Wire, and the Associated Press in Nexis for coverage between 10 AM March 6, through 10 AM March 8, 2017, using the the search terms “Alliance Defending Freedom" OR “Defending Freedom.” OR "Family Research Council" OR "American Family Association" OR "Liberty Counsel." The same search was repeated for Reuters using a site search of the Reuters website, and The Wall Street Journal in Factiva.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko. 

  • The Biggest Myth About Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups Debunked

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Anti-LGBTQ hate groups have been surprisingly successful in pushing the myth that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) bases its hate group designations on conservative or religious beliefs about sexuality and marriage. But SPLC has clearly stated multiple times that it designates organizations as “hate groups” when they engage in inflammatory, hateful name-calling, spread malicious lies and misinformation, or support the criminalization of LGBTQ people -- not because of biblical or conservative beliefs. Journalists have a responsibility to be armed with the facts and accurately cover SPLC’s recent report on extremism and designated hate groups.

    On February 15, SPLC released its annual census of hate and extremism in the United States for 2016, which includes 52 active anti-LGBTQ hate groups. Over the six years that it has tracked anti-LGBTQ extremism, SPLC has clearly and repeatedly explained that it designates anti-LGBTQ organizations as hate groups when they knowingly spread “demonizing lies about the LGBT community,” engage in “baseless, incendiary name-calling,” or actively work to criminalize LGBTQ people.

    As SPLC stated in 2010, when it first began listing anti-LGBTQ hate groups, “viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups.” But despite SPLC’s clear explanations of its criteria, mainstream media outlets have long allowed anti-LGBTQ hate groups to defend themselves with that very myth. For example, a 2016 Media Matters study found that from June 2014 through June 2016, the only instance in which The New York Times referenced SPLC’s “hate group” label when reporting on an anti-LGBTQ organization was in an article that questioned the validity of the designation and SPLC’s expertise. The article improperly characterized the designation criteria, alleging that SPLC has been “criticized for including groups that fall within the conservative mainstream, like the Family Research Council, based on their stances on gay issues.”

    For years, media coverage of LGBTQ equality has followed a "God vs. gays" narrative that pits LGBTQ people against religious -- and specifically Christian -- communities. But in recent years, a growing number -- now a majority -- of Christians believe that “homosexuality should be accepted by society.” And current public opinion polls show that a majority of Americans from all religious denominations support same-sex marriages and broad-based LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections without religious exemptions. Now more than ever, it’s bad journalism to equate mainstream Christian organizations with hate groups that actively fund and manufacture junk science to serve as “evidence” to harass and attack LGBTQ people.

    The newest anti-LGBTQ hate group on SPLC’s list is the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a media-savvy legal giant with a $48 million-plus annual budget that has actively worked to criminalize gay people. Despite this background, journalists typically identify the group merely as a “Christian legal organization.” Given ADF’s staggeringly high number of active lawsuits and its successful track record with the United States Supreme Court, it’s a hate group that will remain in the media spotlight. Journalists need to be aware of ADF’s -- and other hate group’s -- extremism and history of spreading malicious disinformation and be ready to fact-check anti-LGBTQ lies. 

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko

  • 10 Facts About The Nation's Largest Anti-LGBTQ Hate Group

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has added the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to its list of active anti-LGBTQ hate groups. Here are 10 terrifying facts about ADF everyone needs to know:

    1. SPLC Labeled ADF A Hate Group Because Of Its Extreme, Demonizing Lies About LGBT People. SPLC added ADF to its list of anti-LGBTQ hate groups because ADF’s leaders and affiliated lawyers have “regularly demonized LGBT people, falsely linking them to pedophilia, calling them ‘evil’ and a threat to children and society, and blaming them for the ‘persecution of devout Christians.’” As SPLC has repeatedly clarified, it does not list organizations as anti-LGBTQ hate groups on the basis of “opposition to same-sex marriage or the belief that the Bible describes homosexual activity as sinful.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/15/17, 2/15/17]

    2. ADF Boasts A $48 Million-Plus Annual Budget And Over 3,000 “Allied Attorneys.” In 2015, ADF had a $48 million-plus annual budget. In addition to its staff of over 30 staff lawyers, the group marshals what it calls a “powerful global network” of over 3,100 ADF-trained “allied attorneys,” many of whom are expected to provide at least 450 hours of pro bono services within three years of attending one of ADF’s training programs. ADF’s elite “Blackstone Fellows” have worked or interned in at least nine state governments. [Media Matters, 1/25/17; Alliance Defending Freedom, accessed 2/15/172/15/172/15/17; Rewire, 5/13/14]

    3. ADF Defended The Constitutionality Of Criminalizing Gay Sex In The U.S. ADF has formally supported anti-sodomy laws since 2003, when it filed an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas to defend state sodomy laws on the grounds that gay sex is unhealthy, harmful, and a public health risk, writing that “same-sex sodomy is a distinct public health problem. It clearly is.” [Media Matters, 11/19/14, 1/25/17]

    4. ADF Has Expanded Its Anti-Choice, Anti-LGBTQ Extemism Internationally. While ADF has largely run out of options for promoting the criminalization of homosexuality in America, the group has taken its anti-sodomy agenda overseas. ADF has actively worked to promote and defend anti-sodomy laws that criminalize gay sex in Jamaica, Belize and India. In 2010, the United Nations granted special consultant status to ADF, allowing the group to help shape international human rights policy and treaties. More recently, the group has become involved in the Organization of American States, where ADF’s mission has been battling “abortion and radical sexual agendas.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/15/17; Media Matters, 11/19/14]

    5. ADF Is Behind The National Push For Anti-LGBT “Religious Freedom” Laws. Since 2013, ADF has led the national push for so-called “religious freedom” laws (RFRAs) that seek to enshrine a legal right to discriminate against LGBTQ people. ADF was behind Arizona’s failed 2014 RFRA, Indiana’s controversial 2015 RFRA, and similar bills that were eventually killed in Colorado, Georgia, and Arkansas. [Media Matters, 4/16/15]

    6. ADF Is Leading The National Campaign For “Bathroom Bills” Targeting Transgender Youth. In 2014, ADF launched a national campaign to eliminate nondiscrimination protections for transgender students and instead enshrine its own legislation that would prevent transgender students from accessing facilities consistent with their gender identity. ADF has influenced discriminatory state and local school district policies across the country with so-called “bathroom bills,” like North Carolina’s infamous HB 2, that borrow language from ADF’s model legislation. [Media Matters, 11/5/15, 3/31/16]

    7. An ADF Attorney Once Called Matthew Shepard’s Murder A Hate Crime Hoax. During the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s annual national conference in 2014, ADF attorney Erik Stanley peddled the myth that Matthew Shepard's brutal anti-gay murder was fabricated in order to advance the "homosexual agenda." [Media Matters, 10/28/14

    8. ADF Believes In A “Homosexual Agenda” Dedicated To Destroying Christianity. ADF founder Alan Sears literally wrote the book on the alleged “homosexual agenda” -- his 2003 book The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today compared the gay "propaganda" movement to what "Hitler did so masterfully in Nazi Germany, to get the American public on their side." As SPLC noted, ADF “has also promoted the idea of a ‘homosexual agenda’ -- a nefarious scheme to destroy Christianity and, eventually, civilization.” [Media Matters, 4/16/15; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/15/17]  

    9. ADF Has Long Opposed Anti-Bullying Efforts In Schools And Even Launched The “Day Of Truth” To Combat The “Day Of Silence.” ADF has long opposed anti-bullying efforts in public schools that include LGBTQ students; the group even made an “yardstick” that decried any anti-bullying policy that includes “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.” In 2005, ADF launched a “Day of Truth” campaign to combat the “promotion of the homosexual agenda” in schools to counter the ongoing “Day of Silence” organized by LGBTQ advocates, in which students remain silent as a protest and to help spread awareness about the effects of anti-LGBT bullying. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/15/17]

    10. ADF Wields Significant Power In The U.S. Legal System. ADF utilizes an aggressive legal strategy and, according to a review of its press releases, has served as lead counsel in 57 court cases filed since January 2016. A review of successful petitions of the United States Supreme Court revealed that ADF is not only highly active, but also highly successful in getting its cases heard. From 2001 through 2015, ADF’s Supreme Court involvement ranked among the nation’s leading law firms, vastly surpassing almost all other legal advocacy groups. Many ADF alumni move on to serve in high-power roles in the government. Most notably, Austin Nimocks, former ADF senior counsel, now works for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose office is responsible for the multistate lawsuits challenging federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in health care and protections for transgender students. [Alliance Defending Freedom, accessed 2/15/17; University of Southern California Law School, “Finding Certainty in Cert: An Empirical Analysis of the Factors Involved in Supreme Court Certiorari Decisions From 2001-2015,” 1/14/16; Media Matters, 8/26/16]

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko.