ABC News’ Pete Madden and Erin Galloway smeared Christians who believe the Bill of Rights secures religious liberty as a “hate group,” in an article this week headlined, “Jeff Sessions addresses ‘anti-LGBT hate group,’ but DOJ won’t release his remarks.” The lede of the story made it clear this was not just the work of a rogue headline writer but the failure of the reporters themselves:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered a speech to an alleged hate group at an event closed to reporters on Tuesday night, but the Department of Justice is refusing to reveal what he said.
First, a note that you can — and should — read the prepared remarks of the Attorney General here at The Federalist.
Who is this “hate group”? Alliance Defending Freedom is not a hate group at all, but a civil liberties organization that battles for religious liberty. And they’re not a fringe group either. They just weeks ago won their most recent Supreme Court victory — Trinity Lutheran v. Comer — 7-2. It was their fifth Supreme Court victory in seven years, during which time they’ve had no losses at the high court.
And the group is ranked among the top law firms in the country for its successes at the Supreme Court.
Most recently the non-profit law firm found out that the Supreme Court agreed to hear another one of their cases dealing with artistic freedom and religious liberty.
To characterize such an accomplished civil rights group as a ‘hate group’ is unacceptable and inexcusable. It boggles the mind why ABC News, in the midst of cratering credibility, would disparage Christian efforts in favor of religious liberty in such a mendacious way.
How in the world did this happen?
Well, for some reason ABC News chose to wholly adopt the Southern Poverty Law Center’s framing for the significance of the attorney general’s speech to the group. Check it out:
Here’s why reporters such as Pete Madden and Erin Galloway should be wary before slightly rewriting SPLC press releases and passing off the work as their own. SPLC previously had a reservoir of credibility based on a history of good work exposing legitimately nefarious individuals and groups. In recent years, however, that reservoir has all but dried up as SPLC has gone after reasonable groups it merely disagrees with politically but labels as hate groups. It engages in this campaign while ignoring serious problems on the left.
SPLC has the gall to list the Family Research Council as a “hate group,” for instance, even after an SPLC follower used an SPLC “hate map” to locate the Family Research Council offices in Washington, D.C., and commit an act of terrorism and attempted mass murder against the group. Thankfully, the SPLC-inspired terrorist was stopped by the security guard he shot when he arrived. Read all about that incident here.
The most recent attempted assassination by a left-wing terrorist was also a follower of SPLC. As Jeryl Bier wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “The Insidious Influence of the SPLC: Its branding of ‘hate groups’ and individuals is biased, sometimes false—and feeds polarization.”
Last week the SPLC found itself in the awkward position of disavowing the man who opened fire on Republican members of Congress during baseball practice. “We’re aware that the SPLC was among hundreds of groups that the man identified as the shooter ‘liked’ on Facebook,” SPLC president Richard Cohen said in a statement. “I want to be as clear as I can possibly be: The SPLC condemns all forms of violence.”
It’s not just Christians who SPLC targets. SPLC also faces legal action for placing British Muslim author and counter-extremism activist Maajid Nawaz on an anti-Muslim “hate list.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center has put my name on a list that calls me an ‘anti-Muslim extremist’. I am the only Muslim on the list. This list has smeared my name and possibly put me in physical danger. This is a message to those who think they can throw around damning labels like ‘Islamophobe’ ‘racist’ and ‘Nazi’ without any evidence and simply get away with it.
You can read more about Nawaz’s plight here at The Atlantic.
ABC News can certainly quote the Southern Poverty Law Center’s extreme views, but it shouldn’t build a story around the wholesale acceptance of their flawed premises. That turns journalism into anti-religious propaganda on behalf of a partisan group. Media outlets do not want to be perceived as enemies of average Americans. They should avoid giving people reason to view them as just that.