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Senator Al Franken Labels Pro-Life Group as "Hate Group"

Sep 13, 2017 by Isabella Cox

Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) labeled the pro-life Alliance Defending Freedom as a hate group during a confirmation hearing for Amy Coney Barrett, a Notre Dame law professor nominated by President Trump for a federal judgeship position. 

Franken also alleged that Barrett “wasn’t truthful” in explaining her association with the Christian legal aid organization, and said Barrett had been “irresponsible” and displayed “bad judgment” in accepting an opportunity to teach as part of a fellowship program offered by the 24-year-old organization without “vetting” ADF first.

Sen. Franken referred to talking points of the Southern Poverty Law Center. SPLC is a left-wing organization whose expressed purpose is to battle discrimination, yet has attacked Alliance Defending Freedom and other conservative organizations.

President and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom Michael Farris called the senator’s accusations “deeply regrettable” in a recent press release:

“...Sen. Franken i­­­­­­s misinformed about our work...” Farris said, adding:

“There is a real danger of conflating genuine hate groups, like the Ku Klux Klan, with mainstream religious beliefs that are shared by millions of Americans and people from all walks of life across the world.”

Legal briefs from ADF have been before high court in many cases, including one Barrett cited in response to Franken at the hearing.

“It has a brief at the Supreme Court right now with WilmerHale, one of the most reputable and esteemed law firms in the country,” Barrett stated, “and [WilmerHale] wouldn’t be co-counsel with ADF if it were a hate group.”

Barrett, a Catholic, taught constitutional law for ADF’s summertime Blackstone Legal Fellowship, which she testified she had learned of from respected colleagues.

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“The Blackstone Legal Fellowship draws top law students from across the country from all walks of life and prepares them for careers marked by integrity, excellence, and leadership,” she said. “It is one of the best things we do.”

“I gather that the SPLC’s designation of ADF as a hate group is controversial,” said Barrett after highlighting the organization’s reputation before the Supreme Court. “I didn’t learn about that until more recently. But, again, that was not my experience with the Blackstone program.”

Several scholars and researchers came to the public defense of ADF:

“...Franken faulted Barrett for failing to ‘vet’ ADF even as he failed to vet SPLC’s attack on ADF,” said Ed Whelan, president of the Washington-based Ethics and Public Policy Center, in the National Review.

Interrogation of Barrett continued in the hearing when Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) asked Barrett if she considers herself “an orthodox Catholic,” and stated that “the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern.”

“What’s particularly worrisome about the comments made by Sen. Franken and Sen. Feinstein is they’re reflective of this large cultural push to marginalize and oppress people who hold traditional religious beliefs about marriage and other points central to their faith,” ADF spokeswoman Kerri Kupec.

Kupec added, “In a truly free and diverse society, tolerance should be a two-way street. As a nation that prides itself on diversity and freedom, we should be moving forward on a common path of civility, and not labeling those who disagree with us with shameful terms and rhetoric that only shut down the conversation.”

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