Senator James Lankford (R-OK) sent a letter to the president of ABC News, James Goldston, Monday expressing “serious concern” over an ABC article that labeled the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a nonprofit legal organization dedicated to protecting religious freedom, a “hate group.”
“The July article covering Attorney General Sessions’ speech, classified a religious liberty non-profit, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), as a hate group using a standard set by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC),” Lankford writes. “I found it odd that ABC would designate ADF as a hate group not based on any actual crime or action, but apparently based on their belief in religious liberty or traditional marriage.”
“Since I think I can confidently assume that ABC News is a strong supporter of the First Amendment, why would ABC News label a peaceful group as a ‘hate group’ simply because of a difference of opinion?” he asked.
“The label of ‘hate’ cannot be taken lightly,” he emphasized. “The Supreme Court has been clear that ‘the public expression of ideas may not be prohibited merely because the ideas are themselves offensive to some of their hearers.’ Street v. New York, 394 U. S. 576, 592 (1969).”
“SPLC’s definition of a “hate group” is overly broad and not based in fact or legal accuracy,” he added. “The Alliance Defending Freedom is a national and reputable law firm that works to advocate for the rights of people to peacefully and freely speak, live and work according to their faith and conscience without threat of government punishment.”
“In this country, we have the ability and freedom to disagree. However, disagreement is not the same as discrimination and it’s not the same as hate. As journalists and members of the government, we have a responsibility to distinguish between the two,” he said, warning, “labeling ADF a “hate group” feeds into a narrative that the news media frequently editorializes beyond the facts. This ultimately harms American trust in the press.”
ADF has worked on many high-profile religious liberty cases, including their recent Supreme Court win in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer.
ADF demanded a retraction from ABC calling the story “journalistic malpractice” and pointing out its position as “one of the most respected and successful Supreme Court advocates in the legal profession, having won seven cases at the high court in the last seven years.”
“Southern Poverty Law Center spends its time and money attacking veterans, nuns, Muslims who oppose terrorism, Catholics, Evangelicals, and anyone else who dares disagree with its far-left ideology,” they added.
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s website features a Hate Map that lists both ADF and the conservative Family Research Council (FRC) as “hate groups.” The “hate map” was cited by convicted domestic terrorist Floyd Lee Corkins as the way he found the FRC in his 2012 attack on the FRC in when he shot and wounded a security guard before being subdued.