Sessions to Alliance Defending Freedom: ‘You Are Not a Hate Group’

By Melanie Arter | August 9, 2018 | 10:48 PM EDT

Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Screenshot)

( – In a speech at the Alliance Defending Freedom’s Summit on Religious Liberty, Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday assured the Alliance Defending Freedom that despite the Southern Poverty Law Center’s characterization, the ADF is not a “hate group.”

“You know I’m from Alabama—the home of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that did important work in the South, vital work at a pivotal time. As you know well, the law is only words on paper until there are people brave enough to stand up for their rights,” Sessions said.

“There were hate groups in the South I grew up in. They attacked the life, liberty, and the very worth of minority citizens. You may not know this, but I helped prosecute and secure the death penalty for a klansman who murdered a black teenager in my state. The resulting wrongful death suit led to a $7 million verdict and the bankruptcy of the Klu Klux Klan in the South. That case was brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center,” he said.

“But 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 it as fact. Amazon relied solely on the SPLC designation and removed ADF from its Smile program, which allows customers to donate to charities,” the attorney general said.

SPLC used the hate group designation “as a weapon,” Sessions said, “ and they have wielded it against conservative organizations that refuse to accept their orthodoxy and choose instead to speak their conscience.”

“They use it to bully and intimidate groups like yours which fight for the religious freedom, the civil rights, and the constitutional rights of others. You and I may not agree on everything—but I wanted to come back here tonight partly because I wanted to say this: you are not a hate group,” he said.

The founding fathers believed that religious freedom was a human right, “but that consensus seems to be eroding,” Sessions said.

“We’ve seen nuns ordered to pay for contraceptives. We’ve seen U.S. senators ask judicial and executive branch nominees about their dogma—a clear reference to their religious beliefs—even though the Constitution explicitly forbids a religious test for public office,” the attorney general said.

“Here in Georgia, there was a religious liberty bill proposed in the legislature. Those moral enforcers, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, were so offended that they threatened to stop filming their movies here. The people of Georgia don’t measure up to the Weinstein standard,” he said.

“And, of course, we’ve seen the ordeal faced bravely by Jack Phillips,” the Christian baker who won his Supreme Court case after he refused to design a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. “He simply refused to yield his beliefs.”

“And perhaps most tragically, I hear that his ordeal is far from over, but that’s why ADF and other groups are right to give serious thought to and to take action on these matters. The people of this nation are still the most religious nation in the developed world,” Sessions said.

“Yet people of faith are facing a new hostility. Really, a bigoted ideology which is founded on animus towards people of faith. You’ll notice that they don’t rely on the facts. They don’t make better arguments. They don’t propose higher ideals. No, they just call people names—like ‘hate group,’” he said.

Sessions also made it clear that the DOJ will not partner with hate groups.

“Let me say this loud and clear: at the Department of Justice, we will not partner with hate groups. Not on my watch. I have ordered a review at the Department of Justice to make sure that we do not partner with any groups that discriminate. We will not partner with groups that unfairly defame Americans for standing up for the Constitution or their faith,” he said.

“Americans from a wide variety of faiths are asking themselves, how much longer until I am in Jack Phillips’ position? How much longer until the state, the media, the academy, the tech companies, or the global corporations come down on me because of my beliefs?” Sessions said.

“Fortunately, President Donald Trump has heard these concerns. Unlike some, he is not afraid of the name-calling and the fake news. He has endured relentless media attacks in order to speak up for the forgotten people of this country. He made a promise—and from day one of this administration he has delivered. He is defending religious freedom at home and abroad,” the attorney general said.

Sessions also mentioned the plight of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who is currently being held in Turkey after being falsely accused of being involved with an Islamic group blamed for staging a coup attempt against the Erdogan government in 2016.

“Just last week, the Treasury Department sanctioned Turkey’s Minister of Justice and Minister of the Interior, both of whom played leading roles in the arrest of American pastor Andrew Brunson. Turkey was kind enough to return the favor—and sanction me. Yes, I was informed that they have frozen all of my Turkish assets,” Sessions said.


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