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SPLC refutes Sessions’ comments about hate group designations

The SPLC today forcefully responded to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent attack over its hate group labeling.

In his opening remarks at the Department of Justice’s Religious Liberty Summit on July 30, Sessions said, “We have gotten to the point … where one group can actively target religious groups by labeling them a ‘hate group’ on the basis of their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

SPLC President Richard Cohen said in a letter to the attorney general that it was clear he was attacking the SPLC in his remarks and outlined the fallacy behind his reasoning.

“In a manner analogous to how the Department of Justice defines hate crimes, we identify hate groups as those that vilify others because of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability – prejudices that strike at the heart of our democratic values and fracture society along its most fragile fault lines,” Cohen wrote.

“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 pointed to groups such as the Family Research Council and the Alliance Defending Freedom – groups that regularly use their public platforms to demonize the LGBT community. Both, for example, “promote the myth that there is a link between homosexuality and pedophilia.”

“Linking the LGBT community to pedophilia as the FRC and the ADF have done is not an expression of a religious belief,” the letter says. “It is simply a dangerous and ugly falsehood. As you know, FBI hate crime data show that the LGBT community is the minority group most likely targeted for violent hate crimes.”

Sessions, who last week announced the formation of a “Religious Liberty Task Force,” is aligning himself with groups that would allow discrimination against the LGBT community on the basis of religious beliefs. Tomorrow, he’s scheduled to deliver a speech to the “ADF Summit on Religious Liberty.”

“The Alliance Defending Freedom spreads demonizing lies about the LGBT community in this country and seeks to criminalize it abroad,” Cohen said. “If the ADF had its way, gay people would be back in the closet for fear of going to jail. It’s inappropriate for the nation’s top law enforcement officer to lend the prestige of his office to this group. 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.”

Read the letter.