ACLU adopts Southern Poverty Law Center’s ‘hate group’ label to fight school’s ‘resistance’ to LGBTQ policy

The culture wars are escalating in Virginia.

To cite just one example, the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has adopted the tactics and terminology of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to label the Christian nonprofit legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) a “hate group.” Apparently, the ACLU hopes that doing so will intimidate the Hanover County School Board into ending its resistance to the group’s transgender policies.

The problem began last week when the Virginia chapter of the ACLU (ACLU-VA) brought a lawsuit against the Hanover County School Board in which the group claims that the school board violated state laws by not enforcing new laws intended to permit transgender students to use locker rooms and bathrooms that line up with their preferred gender identities.

In response, the Hanover County School Board voted to bring in the ADF to perform an independent review of their transgender policies, Fox News reported. The ADF has agreed to do so at no cost to the school district.

Alliance Defending Freedom has fought and won a number of cases around the country, including winning 13 cases at the Supreme Court since 2011, to say nothing of the 64 other Supreme Court wins the group participated in over the past quarter-century, Fox News noted. Among others, the ADF has fought for the rights of Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, and Muslims, and it has achieved over 400 free-speech victories on various college campuses.

Predictably, the success of ADF has infuriated many liberal groups and led to obligatory “hate group” designations.

In a news release, ACLU-VA laid out its case against the ADF: “The absurdity of this action is beyond belief. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is an extremist conservative religious organization, labeled as an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center since 2016. ADF was classified as a hate group because it supports the idea that being LGBTQ+ should be a crime in the U.S. and internationally.”

ACLU-VA has teamed up with a veritable rogue’s gallery of activist groups—including Equality Virginia, the Hanover County NAACP, Side by Side Virginia, and He She Ze and We—to file a FOIA request to obtain a record of communications between the ADF, the Hanover County School District, and the Hanover County School Board.

Nothing daunted, the ADF is determined to complete its review. In an interview with Fox News Digital, Ryan Bangert, ADF’s senior counsel and vice president for strategy, explained the group’s position: “The Hanover School Board is committed to carrying out the critical task of providing excellence in education for their students while advancing a culture that respects the dignity and needs of all students and staff. ADF looks forward to serving the board by providing legal advice that accomplishes these goals.”

It’s important to note that the SPLC’s designation of the ADF as a “hate group” has not gone uncriticized. Even the former president of the ACLU, Nadine Strossen, has rejected the designation.

“As the former President of the American Civil Liberties Union,” she has written, “I have been on the opposite side from Alliance Defending Freedom on many important issues, including issues of LGBT rights…Yet the ACLU and ADF also share important common ground on the crucial issue of free speech, and we have collaborated in defending this treasured liberty.”

She continued: “An organization whose overall work I admire and support, the Southern Poverty Law Center, has labeled ADF a ‘hate group.’ I respectfully dissent from this label…I consider ADF to be a valuable ally on important issues of common concern, and a worthy adversary (not an ‘enemy’) on important issues of disagreement; what I do not consider it to be, considering the full scope of its work, is a ‘hate group.'”


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