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Ariz. Atheists Take Up SPLC's 'Ugly Propaganda Campaign' Against Christian Law Firm

An atheist lawmaker and atheist organizations have teamed up to use the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) smear against a Christian law firm to ban "In God We Trust" license plates in Arizona. In comments to Patheos, the atheists slammed Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) as a "hate group." ADF shot back in responses to PJ Media.

"It’s disappointing to see elected officials become uncritical pawns in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s ugly propaganda campaigns," Jeremy Tedesco, ADF's senior counsel and vice president of U.S. advocacy, told PJ Media. "The SPLC did good work years ago, but they’ve been widely discredited for decades by investigative journalistscharity watchdogs, and commentators as activistpartisan, and unreliable."

Tedesco noted that "SPLC has been sued multiple times for unjustly spreading falsities about groups in order to shut down those with whom they disagree. They even recently paid $3.375 million and issued a public apology to settle a threatened defamation lawsuit by Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz, who SPLC falsely labeled an anti-Muslim extremist."

Despite the many problems with the SPLC's campaign against organizations they falsely brand "hate groups," atheists and others in Arizona took up the far-Left smear group's attacks against ADF. They are pushing legislation to ban "In God We Trust" license plates, which Arizona drivers can purchase. A portion of the money for the plates goes to ADF. Since 2008, more than $1 million has gone to the nonprofit law firm.

"Hopefully in the future we can put in place some common sense guidelines that would bar hate groups from earning money through Arizona license plates," state Sen. Juan Mendez (D-Tempe) told Patheos.

Mendez argued that "state dollars should not be funding an organization that works to strip residents of our state of their human rights and human dignity. It’s appalling that we’ve already sent over a million dollars to this extremist hate group."

Mendez has sponsored two pieces of legislation regarding the "In God We Trust" license plates. S.B. 1462 would create a public list of groups that benefit from specialty plates. S.B. 1463 would ban the "In God We Trust" plate, along with others.

The first bill would merely make the process more transparent. "People who chose the 'In God We Trust' plate never know that they're sending money to ADF," Tory Roberg, director of government affairs at the Secular Coalition for Arizona, told Patheos. "It's not on the ServiceArizona website, it's not in the statute establishing the plate, it's nowhere."

Nick Fish, president of American Atheists, proved far more hostile. "ADF's record as an anti-LGBTQ, anti-religious equality hate group isn't up for debate," Fish declared. "Arizona taxpayers are unwittingly funding attacks on the rights of their neighbors and loved ones under the false pretense of protecting religious liberty."