Donald Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions came to the defense of the ultra right-wing conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom in a speech on religion Wednesday evening, taking direct aim at the Southern Poverty Law Center for labeling the radical conservative organization a “hate group.”
“When I spoke to ADF last year, I learned that the Southern Poverty Law Center had classified ADF as a ‘hate group. They have used this designation as a weapon and they have wielded it against conservative organizations that refuse to accept their orthodoxy.You and I may not agree on everything — but I wanted to come back here tonight partially because I wanted to say this: You are not a hate group.”
Alliance Defending Freedom is the hate group behind the lawsuit brought by a Colorado baker who refused to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple and recently prevailed at the Supreme Court. Sessions came under fire last year for speaking to the group behind closed doors, but Wednesday’s speech was streamed live on the group’s Facebook page.
In a statement on its website, Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen defended the ADF’s designation: “Just as sincerely held religious beliefs would not be a defense to a hate crime prosecution, vilifying others in the name of religion should not immunize a group from being designated as a hate group, in our view,” Cohen said. “And it’s ironic to suggest that the rights of ADF sympathizers are under attack when the ADF is doing everything in its power to deny the equal protection of the laws to the LGBT community.”