On Tuesday, Media Matters teamed up with the shadowy Citizens for Transparency to smear Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian law firm that has won 9 Supreme Court cases in 7 years, and to publish the names of more than 300 attorneys connected to it. This report will provide ammunition for Democrats in their witch hunts against President Donald Trump’s nominees.
Media Matters published the list of 305 attorneys on Tuesday, smearing ADF as “anti-LGBTQ,” echoing the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) designation of ADF as a “hate group.”
“Extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) regularly touts its network of over 3,300 allied attorneys, who apparently agree with the organization’s anti-LGBTQ statement of faith and provide pro bono legal support on behalf of the group, but only a fraction of those allies are easily identifiable online,” the Media Matters report begins. “ADF is one of the largest and most powerful anti-LGBTQ groups in the nation…”
Caleb Cade, a communications associate at the left-leaning consultant group Smoot Tewes Group (STG) Consulting, blasted out a press release slamming ADF and putting a target on the backs of the 305 attorneys. In the email, Cade identified himself as a spokesman for No Gays Allowed, a project of the shadowy Citizens for Transparency, for which he is also a spokesman.
“ADF is an extreme, biased legal organization has taken dozens of extreme anti-LGBTQ positions, including: supporting Russia’s so-called ‘gay propaganda’ law, defending the discredited and dangerous practice of conversion therapy, advocating against adoption and foster care by LGBTQ people, and supporting policies that ban trans people from using facilities that align with their gender identity,” Cade wrote.
“This list of names slightly pulls back the curtain on a deeply opaque, biased organization that has defended the legal oppression of LGBTQ people in this country for decades,” Cade added, this time attributing the statement to himself as a spokesman for No Gays Allowed. “ADF has tentacles stretching to the far corners of our government, legal institutions, and most respected law firms. Their allied attorneys have a single mission in these positions: advocate for and defend laws that will harm LGBTQ Americans.”
While neither Media Matters nor Caleb Cade used the phrase “hate group,” their allegations that ADF is “extreme,” “anti-LGBTQ,” and aims to “harm LGBTQ Americans” echo the SPLC’s crusade against ADF and other mainstream conservative and Christian organizations. The SPLC has lumped groups like ADF on the same list as the Ku Klux Klan, and its “hate group” designations actually inspired a 2012 terrorist attack in Washington, D.C.
No Gays Allowed is the same project that sponsored an anti-ADF billboard in New York City’s Times Square last November, suggesting that ADF’s ultimate goal is to make it illegal to identify as LGBT. No Gays Allowed has cited the SPLC’s “hate group” label and other attacks against ADF in the past.
Alliance Defending Freedom responded with its own billboards in December. One billboard, “I am ADF,” showed photos of the law firm’s clients, including Indians fighting for religious freedom, a black mother concerned for her daughter’s privacy, a Hispanic pastor running a women’s shelter, and many more.
As for claims of anti-LGBT activism, ADF defends religious freedom, which often involves the ability to opt out of serving same-sex weddings or the protection of women’s spaces from voyeurs posing as transgender. The law firm protects the rights of counselors to help patients achieve their own goals, even if that involves rejecting unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria. Branding this kind of counseling freedom “conversion therapy” is just another attempt to smear ADF.
In a statement to PJ Media on Tuesday, Jeremy Tedesco, ADF senior counsel and vice president of U.S. Advocacy, slammed the Media Matters article.
“Though it is unfortunate, it is no surprise to see a baseless smear campaign from a Soros-funded, extremely partisan advocacy group like Media Matters,” the ADF spokesman told PJ Media. “The unfounded claims made in the article are based on the word of a paid political activist who represents a group whose sole mission is to sow division through dishonest attacks like this one.”
Tedesco lamented that Media Matters and Citizens for Transparency launched this attack “on one of the nation’s most successful alliance-building legal advocacy organizations in the country. More than 3,300 ADF Allied Attorneys across the country volunteer their time to support the sanctity of life, religious liberty, and free speech. In partnership with Alliance Defending Freedom, these allies sacrificially do work that protects the freedoms of speech, religion, and conscience of all Americans.”
The ADF spokesman also quoted Nadine Strossen, former president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) — a liberal law firm often at odds with ADF.
“Our ideological opponents have dissented from similar attacks on us,” he said. He then quoted Strossen: “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.”
“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,'” Strossen argued.
The testimony of liberal lawyers like Strossen is increasingly important. In the past two years, Democrat-aligned senators have launched witch hunts against President Trump’s judicial and administration nominees, demonizing traditional religious positions and even charities like the Knights of Columbus.
Former Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) joined a host of other senators in attacking Judge Amy Coney Barrett for her relationship with ADF, citing the SPLC label and comparing the law firm to Cambodian dictator Pol Pot. In October 2018, a host of Democrat senators seized on Trump nominee Allison Rushing’s connections with ADF, citing the SPLC’s smear label.
In light of these and other attacks on Alliance Defending Freedom, Media Matters’s list of 305 attorneys is despicable. While the list does not reveal contact information or home addresses for the attorneys, the attack aims to “unmask” allegedly hateful people.
While the list itself is merely a Google Sheet with names and links to ADF, Media Matters and Caleb Cade drew attention to allied attorneys serving “across all three branches of the federal government and within state governments,” as well as attorneys serving in “influential private law firms — as if ADF were not a large, established, mainstream organization but rather a “hate group” intent on “infiltrating” society.
It is deeply ironic that Caleb Cade, presenting himself as a spokesman for No Gays Allowed, which is a project of Citizens for Transparency, would attack ADF as a “deeply opaque” organization. Citizens for Transparency has no website, no tax filings, no record of any previous work, and no identifiable leadership. It seems to be a launching pad for No Gays Allowed, a project entirely dedicated to attacking ADF. Its sole spokesperson is a liberal political consultant.
Americans should see through this disgusting attack, but it seems tragically likely that ambitious liberals like Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) will only latch on to yet another baseless smear against ADF.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.