New Reporting Exposes Anti-LGBTQ Hate Group Suing This Pennsylvania School District
Research ››› ››› 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.
Anti-LGBTQ Hate Group ADF Is Suing The Boyertown School District As Part Of National Attack On Transgender Student Equality
ADF Is Suing the Boyertown School District For Alleged “Privacy” Violation. On March 21, ADF announced that it is suing the Boyertown Area School District on behalf of an unnamed student. The suit claims that the district “intentionally” violated the student’s “right to bodily privacy” because of the district’s transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination policy, which provided a transgender boy equal access to the boy’s locker room and restrooms. The district contested several of the suit’s claims in a statement published on its website and said that it only learned of the lawsuit after ADF attorneys held a press conference. The statement also noted that the district’s transgender-inclusive policy was guided initially by Obama-era federal guidance (which the Trump administration recently rescinded) and now by a federal court ruling in Pennsylvania guaranteeing equal access to gendered facilities for transgender students. [Alliance Defending Freedom, 3/21/17; Boyertown Area School District, 3/22/17]
The Southern Poverty Law Center Has Designated ADF As A Hate Group For Its Extreme, Demonizing Lies About LGBTQ People. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) added ADF to its list of anti-LGBTQ hate groups. SPLC lists anti-LGBTQ hate groups when they “disseminate disparaging propaganda and falsehoods” about LGBTQ people. 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.’” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/15/17, 2/15/17]
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. Over the past three years, ADF has continued to email school districts, show up at school board meetings, and file lawsuits to oppose basic protections for transgender students. [Media Matters, 11/5/15, 3/31/16, 4/4/17]
Local Papers Are Beginning To Expose ADF’s “Hate Group” Status And National Prominence Fighting LGBTQ Equality
Reading Eagle Reporter: “I Don’t Think Privacy Is The Issue Here,” ADF Is A “Hate Group” That Has “Spent 20 Years Demonizing Gay People.” In a March 31 column, Reading Eagle education reporter David Mekeel highlighted how “important” it is to be “clear about motivations” when examining why an “international group” like ADF would want to get involved in a local lawsuit. Mekeel detailed ADF’s hate group status and belief in a “‘homosexual agenda’” intent on “destroying the moral fabric” of the U.S. He also pointed out the group’s international work to criminalize being gay, and noted ADF’s domestic fight against marriage equality, push for anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” laws, support for bathroom bills, and work against overturning “anti-sodomy” laws. Given the context of ADF’s anti-LGBTQ extremism, Mekeel concluded that it’s “pretty hard to believe” that ADF is only focused on “privacy.”
I don't think privacy is the issue here.
At least not for the Alliance Defending Freedom.
So why would an international group like Alliance Defending Freedom want to get involved in a privacy lawsuit here in Berks County? Well, let's take a look at who, exactly, they are.
Alliance Defending Freedom was founded about 20 years ago. In the time since, they've kept busy.
They've been fighting against marriage equality efforts, pushing for "religious freedom" laws that would legalize LGBTQ discrimination, supporting anti-LGBTQ "bathroom bills" and arguing against overturning "anti-sodomy" bills.
The group's leaders have publicly called homosexuals "evil" and said they believe there is a "homosexual agenda" aimed at destroying the moral fabric of the United States.
The group also has an international presence, and has backed efforts in several countries to make or keep homosexuality a crime.
Oh, and just last year they were named an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
And I think it's important to be clear about motivations.
Alliance Defending Freedom has spent 20 years demonizing gay people. Unless they've completely shifted their focus from everything they have ever done, Alliance Defending Freedom's insistence it's supporting a privacy issue is pretty hard to believe. [Reading Eagle, 3/31/17]
Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Board: ADF Is Listed As A “Hate Group” And Has “Fought To Retain” Laws “Criminalizing Gay Sex.” The Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board lauded the Boyertown school district for “not flinching” at ADF’s anti-transgender lawsuit. In its editorial, the board exposed ADF’s anti-LGBTQ animus, noting that SPLC has listed ADF as a hate group and that the group has fought to retain laws criminalizing gay sex. The board also highlighted ADF’s national role leading the fight against transgender student equality, pointing out that ADF has lobbied states to pass anti-transgender “bathroom bills” and has threatened to sue “more than a dozen school districts” for transgender-inclusive policies. From the April 10 editorial:
The Boyertown suit was filed in March by the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of an anonymous boy who said he felt sexually harassed by having to share a locker room with the transgender student. The Boyertown school board responded that it was committed to treating all students "with the same degree of respect, dignity, and sensitivity."
Unfortunately, disputes concerning transgender students have been amplified by forces waging fierce proxy battles. That includes the Arizona-based ADF, which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as a hate group. The ADF has sued or threatened to sue more than a dozen school districts. It also fought to retain Texas laws criminalizing gay sex.
The ADF has been lobbying state legislators to pass so-called bathroom bills, which require students to use restrooms based on their gender at birth. Bills have been introduced in about 20 states. But North Carolina recently rewrote its bathroom law after businesses boycotted the state and the NCAA decided not to hold its basketball championship there. [Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/10/17]
Philadelphia Magazine Identified ADF As An Anti-LGBTQ “Hate Group.” In its report on the lawsuit against the Boyertown school district, Philadelphia magazine noted that the SPLC has identified ADF as a “hate group.” From the March 22 report:
A student has sued a Pennsylvania school district over a bathroom policy that allows transgender students to use the facility of their choice.
The lawsuit, which was filed by attorneys with conservative groups Alliance Defending Freedom (defined as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center) and Independence Law Center, claims that the Boyertown School District’s bathroom policy constitutes sexual harassment and violates personal privacy, according to various news outlets. [Philadelphia magazine, 3/22/17]
Philadelphia Inquirer Report: ADF “Recently Added” TO SPLC’s “List Of Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups.” A Philadelphia Enquirer report on ADF’s lawsuit noted the group’s national role curtailing LGBTQ equality through legal action and highlighted SPLC’s hate group designation. From the March 21 report:
The Alliance Defending Freedom, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., has filed other lawsuits that it says protect religious liberty, including issues of abortion rights and gay marriage. The group, whose website says it was founded in 1994 by 30 Christian leaders to defend religious liberty before it was "too late," was recently added to the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of anti-LGBTQ hate groups. Its leaders and affiliated lawyers, the center said, 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.' " [Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/21/17]
Media Outlets Often Failed To Hold ADF Accountable For Its Extremism
Mainstream Outlets Frequently Fail To Expose ADF’s Extremism. Since SPLC designated it as a hate group this past February, major print outlets have failed to label ADF as an anti-LGBTQ hate group or contextualize its extremism when featuring ADF’s commentary on protections for transgender students. Before ADF was labeled as a hate group, other media outlets like NPR allowed ADF representatives to comment on LGBTQ equality without highlighting the group’s extremist history. [Media Matters, 2/23/17, 3/8/17, 5/13/16, 4/12/16]