Can Amy Coney Barrett explain her ties to anti-gay ‘hate group'?

The judge will likely face questions over her work for a Christian nonprofit organisation described by critics as an anti-gay hate group

Harriet Alexander
Monday 12 October 2020 20:29 BST
Donald Trump unveils Supreme Court pick Amy Coney Barrett

Amy Coney Barrett’s hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee began on Monday with the Supreme Court hopeful facing questions over her support for a “hate group”.

The 48-year-old judge is known to have ties to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an Arizona-based conservative Christian nonprofit organisation, which says it works on advocating, training, and funding on the issues of "religious freedom, sanctity of life, and marriage and family". 

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an organisation monitoring extremism, describes the ADF as a hate group.

SPLC claims that the ADF supports the recriminalization of sexual acts between consenting LGBTQ adults; has defended state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad; says LGBTQ people are more likely to engage in pedophilia; and claims that a “homosexual agenda” will destroy Christianity and society.

Its founder, Alan Sears, explained in 2012 speech to the World Congress of Families: “In the course of the now hundreds of cases the Alliance Defense Fund has now fought involving this homosexual agenda, one thing is certain: There is no room for compromise with those who would call evil ‘good.’”

Michael Farris, CEO and general counsel for the ADF, attended the judge’s September 26 Rose Garden nomination ceremony, despite the ADF issuing a statement saying he had never met Ms Barrett.

Ms Barrett was paid five times by the ADF since 2011 to speak at a training programme for Christian law school students, the Blackstone Legal Fellowship.

The courses, which Ms Barrett taught in Phoenix and Alexandria, Virginia, explain “how God can use them as judges, law professors and practicing attorneys to help keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel in America.” 

In 2017, during a confirmation hearing for her federal court position, senators questioned Ms Barrett about the work, and she said she did not initially know it was run by ADF.

“I’m invited to give a lot of talks as a law professor. I don’t know what all of ADF’s policy positions are, and it has not been my practice to investigate all of the policy positions of a group that invites me to speak,” Barrett told the then Democratic senator Al Franken, who raised the issue.

At the time, ADF was co-counsel on a Supreme Court lawsuit alongside WilmerHale, a respected law firm.

“They wouldn’t be co-counsel with ADF if it were a hate group. I assure you they wouldn’t be co-counsel with the KKK,” Ms Barrett said.

At the time, 27 LGBTQ+ groups opposed her based on past comments and her affiliation with ADF, which they called “arguably the most extreme anti-LGBT legal organization in the United States”.

The ADF takes issue with the SPLC’s depiction of them.

Jeremy Tedesco, senior vice-president of communications at ADF, said: “Once a respected civil rights organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center has destroyed its own credibility because of its blatant partisan agenda and discredited fundraising scheme.”

He called ADF “among the largest and most effective legal advocacy organizations dedicated to protecting the religious freedom and free speech rights of all Americans” and said it had had 11 supreme court victories since 2011.

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