The DOJ ‘Will Not Partner With Groups That Unfairly Defame Americans’ Like the SPLC
by Tyler O’Neill
On Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions denounced the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for weaponizing its “hate group” designations against conservative organizations, and pledged that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will not partner with hate groups or groups that defame Americans. He spoke in front of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian legal organization that has won 9 Supreme Court cases in the last seven years and that has been unfairly defamed as a “hate group” by the SPLC.
“I have ordered a review at the Department of Justice to make sure that we do not partner with any groups that discriminate,” the attorney general declared. “We will not partner with groups that unfairly defame Americans for standing up for the Constitution or their faith.”
He made this promise shortly after explaining the history of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “People of faith are facing a new hostility. Really, a bigoted ideology which is founded on animus towards people of faith,” Sessions declared. “You’ll notice that they don’t rely on the facts. They don’t make better arguments. They don’t propose higher ideals. No, they just call people names—like ‘hate group.'”
“Does that sound familiar?” Sessions quipped.
“You know I’m from Alabama—the home of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that did important work in the South, vital work at a pivotal time,” the attorney general explained.
He admitted that “there were hate groups in the South I grew up in. They attacked the life, liberty, and the very worth of minority citizens.”
Sessions recalled working with the SPLC to secure the death penalty for a member of the Ku Klux Klan. “You may not know this, but I helped prosecute and secure the death penalty for a klansman who murdered a black teenager in my state. The resulting wrongful death suit led to a $7 million verdict and the bankruptcy of the Klu Klux Klan in the South. That case was brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center,” he said.
“But when I spoke to ADF last year, I learned that the Southern Poverty Law Center had classified ADF as a ‘hate group.’ Many in the media simply parroted it as fact,” the attorney general added. “Amazon relied solely on the SPLC designation and removed ADF from its Smile program, which allows customers to donate to charities.”
Sessions charged that the SPLC has “used this designation as a weapon and they have wielded it against conservative organizations that refuse to accept their orthodoxy and choose instead to speak their conscience.”
He powerfully added, “They use it to bully and intimidate groups like yours which fight for the religious freedom, the civil rights, and the constitutional rights of others.”
Then the attorney general addressed ADF directly. “You and I may not agree on everything—but I wanted to come back here tonight partly because I wanted to say this: you are not a hate group,” Sessions declared.
Then he made the case. “You have a 9-0 record at the Supreme Court over the past seven years—and that includes two of the most important cases of the last term,” the attorney general said. “Two of those nine cases were 7-2, one was per curiam, and one was 9-0. In the lower courts, you’ve won hundreds of free speech cases. That’s an impressive record. These are not fringe beliefs that you’re defending.”
Rather, “You endeavor to affirm the Constitution and American values.”
Sessions set the record straight. “Let me say this loud and clear: at the Department of Justice, we will not partner with hate groups. Not on my watch,” he declared. But he also insisted that the DOJ “will not partner with groups that unfairly defame Americans for standing up for the Constitution or their faith.”