Arizona Based Religious Liberty Group Demands Apology From ABC News

Arizona based Alliance Defending Freedom is demanding an apology from ABC News for its “abandonment of objectivity in repeating false accusations against ADF made by the ultra-partisan Southern Poverty Law Center.” ABC News referred to ADF as an “alleged hate group” in an article about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ speech to the organization.

For years the Southern Poverty Law Center provided reliable information about the Klu Klux Klan and other hate groups. That changed when the organization became blatantly partisan. Just this June, André Chung for Politico Magazine asked: Has a Civil Rights Stalwart Lost Its Way?

“In October, the SPLC faced explosive blowback when it included British Muslim activist Maajid Nawaz on a list of “anti-Muslim extremists.” The targeting of Nawaz—a former Islamist turned anti-extremism campaigner who is considered a human rights leader by many in the mainstream—even sparked critical coverage in the Atlantic, creating the unusual spectacle of a publication founded by abolitionists going after a group founded to fight the KKK,” wrote Chung.

“In December, after the SPLC urged Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer not to attend a dinner hosted by anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney, Dermer used his speech at the dinner to condemn the SPLC as “defamers and blacklisters,” continued Chung’s report.

Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel and Director of Communications Kerri Kupec issued a statement on Thursday:

“ABC News has committed journalistic malpractice. For ABC News to essentially cut and paste false charges against Alliance Defending Freedom by a radically left-wing, violence-inciting organization like Southern Poverty Law Center is a discredit to ABC News and to the profession. Americans’ trust in media is cratering, and the blatant bias and lack of professionalism that ABC attempted to pass off as news can only serve to confirm and intensify that distrust.

“Alliance Defending Freedom is 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. Meanwhile, ADF works every day to preserve and affirm free speech and the free exercise of religion for people from all walks of life and all backgrounds because we believe freedom is for everyone.

“For the sake of its own integrity, ABC News should issue an apology to Alliance Defending Freedom and retract the defamatory story it published Wednesday.”

Catholic League president Bill Donohue also released a statement:

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) does some of the best legal work in the United States defending religious liberty. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke at one of its meetings on July 11, and some in the media treated it as if he spoke before the Klan.

ABC News released a story headlined, “Jeff Sessions Addresses ‘Anti-LGBT Hate Group,’ but DOJ Won’t Release His Remarks.” It referred to ADF as “an alleged hate group,” citing as its source the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a left-wing activist group.

NBC News was worse. It not only repeated the accusation made by SPLC, it sought a comment from the Democratic National Committee. It was not disappointed: it branded ADF a “hate group.” NBC also asked a prominent gay outfit, the Human Rights Campaign, for a statement, and it repeated the smear that ADF is a “hate group.” Not to be outdone, NBC attacked ADF co-founder, Dr. James Dobson, as anti-gay.

CNN won first prize. It began its news story referring to ADF as “a self-described Christian religious freedom advocacy group known for its anti-gay stance.” [Question: Would not CNN object if it were called “a self-described media outlet known for its anti-conservative stance”?] It then offered a quote by someone from the National Center for Lesbian Rights that was priceless. She accused ADF of being “so extreme that it does not concede even that gay or transgender people should be permitted to exist as such.”

NBC, ABC, and CNN treat SPLC as if it were some kind of gospel source of information. Yet no serious observer would give credence to an organization that lumps ADF, and the Family Research Council (FRC), with the Westboro Baptist Church. ADF and FRC are prominent and well respected organizations that defend traditional moral values and religious liberty. Westboro Baptist Church is a bona-fide hate group: it unambiguously hates Catholics and gays.

Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, is a decent and courageous defender of Christianity. He is not a hateful man. NBC owes him an apology.

CNN should fire Laura Jarrett, the reporter who quoted an activist for contending that ADF believes gays have no right to exist. She should be fired not for smearing ADF, but for incompetence.

On July 10, a Pew survey was published on the public’s perception of major institutions. The media fared the worst: most Democrats say the media have a negative impact “on the way things are going in the country,” and only ten percent of Republicans think it has a positive effect.

It is biased stories such as the Sessions-ADF one that give rise to public mistrust of the media. This is beyond “fake news”—it is a mean-spirited and ideologically driven assault on Christian activist organizations.

Sessions addressed ADF members at the Summit on Religious Liberty at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, in Dana Point, California.

According to ADF, the event brought “together prominent legal advocates, scholars, cultural commentators, business executives and church leaders to examine the current state of religious freedom” and “develop legal and cultural strategies to allow freedom to flourish in the United States and around the world.”

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