As noted in previous posts, the Trump/Pence Department of Justice under the very racist and very homophobic Jeff Sessions (my experiences with Sessions date all the way back to the late 1970's/early 1980s) is pushing a so-called task force to protect "religious liberty," a euphemism used to mask the agenda of the far right Christians to exempt themselves from non-discrimination laws and public accommodation laws. A piece in Rewire News (formerly Religion Dispatches)
At the summit, DOJ attorneys assured attendees they are protecting the religious rights of everyone in the United States, all while conservative Christian politicians and advocates voiced a need for stepped-up federal protections beyond those they already enjoy. It was also a forum for Sessions to announce the next phase of Trump’s May 2017 executive order: a task force that will likely implement those very protections and, in doing so, safeguard conservative Christians’ ability to discriminate against vulnerable groups.
With the highest incidence of religious based discrimination and hate crimes being against Muslims, the summit acted as if this reality did not exist and made it clear that if one is Hindu, gay, or of some non-Christian faith, one would be treated as if invisible by the task force. A driving force behind this special rights for Christofascists agenda is Alliance Defending Freedom, a certified anti-gay hate group that for years has disseminated malicious falsehoods against the LGBT community both in America and abroad and, which if it could, would criminalize homosexuality. A piece in The Advocate looks at the sinister specter behind the DOJ's agenda. Here are highlights:
One hate group that compares LGBTQ people to pedophiles is laying the groundwork to usher in a new age in this country where civil rights laws are rendered moot. And unless we stand in their way, they are going to win.
NO GAYS ALLOWED was plastered onto a storefront in Tennessee after the United States Supreme Court ruled that the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop would have his case reheard by Colorado officials over his refusal to make cakes for same-sex weddings. The court did not rule that businesses can ban LGBTQ people. But, the reaction in Tennessee to this ruling gave us a glimpse into the future we are headed toward. It is a future where LGBTQ people are refused services at stores, turned away from jobs, and denied care at hospitals. Things that, all too often happen today but may soon be court sanctioned and brought to you by America’s most successful anti-LGBTQ hate group: the Alliance Defending Freedom.
ADF’s version of religious freedom is not the idea that one may believe or worship as one pleases. For them, it means a cakeshop owner can turn away a gay couple, as Phillips did, that a doctor can decline to treat someone if they deem someone morally offensive, and even a teacher can refuse to call a transgender student by their name.
ADF’s been designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate-group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. They’ve advocated for the criminalization of LGBTQ people in the United States and abroad.
It’s founder, Alan Sears, while president of ADF, published a book that falsely claimed being gay was “intrinsically linked” to pedophilia. Sears’s book was on ADF’s legal fellows reading list as recently as 2015.
The group also appears to have close ties to the Trump administration, and their clients frequently speak at government events about ADF-style religious freedom. In January, Sara Hellwege, an ADF client, praised ADF as she spoke at the Department of Health and Human Services’ announcement that it would attempt to allow doctors’ morality to determine which patients will be treated. On July 30, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the creation of a so-called Religious Liberty Task Force, he mentioned Jack Phillips three times in his speech before Phillips spoke at the event. Former ADF staffers now working for Sessions are believed to have helped in the creation of this task force.
It seems even more likely that ADF will rack up anti-LGBTQ victories with the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. If Trump’s pick, Brett Kavanaugh, replaces Kennedy, he will be the fifth hard-right justice on the court.
The group has become so emboldened from their legal victories that on July 17, ADF declared it will charge forward with a “proactive defense of freedom” and challenge the constitutionality of non-discrimination laws as soon as they are signed into law.
We know what ADF is doing, their playbook is simply: Push lots of small cases, make ties with federal leaders, and claim they don’t support discrimination — it’s just a minor byproduct of religious freedom. Where we fail is that instead of taking on ADF directly, the LGBTQ movement tackles each case, government edict, and ADF victory separately, never tying it all together to ADF’s overall strategy, sometimes not even mentioning ADF’s involvement at all.
Without this bigger picture the simple truth gets lost: a hate-group is trying to find any argument it can to justify discrimination against LGBTQ people. Period.