Amy Coney Barrett’s former classmates and even sorority sisters signed a letter to the president of her alma mater, Rhodes College, resorting to some far-left smear tactics to oppose President Donald Trump’s nomination of Barrett to the Supreme Court. Among other things, the alumni’s letter savages ACB for speaking at an event sponsored by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), citing the far-left scandal-plagued smear factory the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) accusation that ADF is a “hate group” worthy of inclusion on a list with the Ku Klux Klan.
The letter’s signatories say many of them were “contemporaries of, friends of, and even sorority sisters of Amy Coney Barrett” and that, “despite the respect that many of us hold for her intellect, and even the friendship that many of us held or continue to hold with her, we are firmly and passionately opposed to her nomination.”
In fact, the alumni declare themselves “firmly and passionately opposed to Rhodes administrators’ attempts to embrace Amy Coney Barrett as an alumna of our beloved alma mater. We oppose this embrace because we believe both her record and the process that has produced her nomination are diametrically opposed to the values of truth, loyalty, and service that we learned at Rhodes.”
Under the heading of “truth,” the alumni accuse Barrett of having “obfuscated” her position and record on “issues related to Rhodes’ LGBTQ and female alumni.” ACB’s former classmates note that the nominee pledged to uphold Supreme Court precedent — such as Roe v. Wade (1973) — during her confirmation hearings for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, but in a 2013 Texas Law Review article, she said: “a justice’s duty is to the Constitution” and therefore it would be legitimate to strike down a precedent in conflict with the Constitution.
The signatories condemn Barrett for belonging to “the Notre Dame chapter of the anti-choice group University Faculty for Life” and argue that the Federalist Society would only approve a nominee who “is willing to overturn or seriously curtail Roe v. Wade.”
Naturally, the alumni do not admit the fact that Roe v. Wade rests on extremely dubious reasoning, twisting the Fourteenth Amendment to include a right to abortion even though America was tightening abortion restrictions while Congress passed that amendment.
Citing SPLC smears to hit ACB
Yet the alumni’s most despicable attack involved the SPLC and ADF. The signatories condemn Barrett for having “obfuscated about her association with an anti-LGBTQ organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center — an Alabama-based nonprofit that studies hate groups more intensely than any organization in the United States (with the possible exception of the FBI) — has labeled a hate group.”
The signatories also accused ADF of having “openly advocated for laws in foreign countries that would criminalize homosexuality and even defended European laws that forced the sterilization of transgender people. In the United States, ADF has also repeatedly advocated in U.S. and state courts and legislatures against the rights of LGBTQ people and has falsely and repeatedly linked LGBTQ people to pedophilia.”
The alumni claimed that “when confronted with the fact that ADF was a hate group, [Barrett] claimed she was unaware of its positions and said, ‘I never witnessed any discriminatory conduct in any way.’ She then challenged the very idea that ADF is, in fact, a hate group. ‘ADF, if it were truly a hate group, it wouldn’t be co-counsel right now’ on a Supreme Court brief with a top-flight Washington law firm, she said. She added, ‘I gather that the Southern Poverty Law Center’s designation of ADF as a hate group is controversial.'”
Indeed, the SPLC’s smears are extremely controversial, especially the smears against ADF. In fact, two prominent liberal leaders who admire the SPLC have stood up for ADF, condemning the smear.
Nadine Strossen, former president of the ACLU, wrote, “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.” She warned that “such a condemnatory blanket classification … suppresses conversations we need to have and voices that should be heard.”
Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, also condemned the accusation. “In my long years of fighting for what’s Constitutionally right, I’ve come to personally know several senior ADF lawyers extremely well. Their religiously-based legal positions, I and MRFF TOTALLY reject. However, their integrity, compassion, character, empathy, honor, and concern for their fellow humans I will steadfastly affirm. I have seen it and I have lived it,” he wrote. Rather than a “hate group,” he said he considers ADF “dear friends.”
ADF has repeatedly debunked the SPLC’s smears. Last year, Jeremy Tedesco, ADF’s Sr. Counsel and VP of U.S. Advocacy, unequivocally denied the idea that criminalizing LGBT identities and behaviors. He also explained that ADF does not support forced sterilization — the SPLC merely bases that accusation on “a deliberate distortion of our legal brief supporting the rights of individual countries in the European Union to set their own laws, rather than having them imposed by international courts.”
ADF’s founder and former president, Alan Sears, debunked the claim that ADF links homosexuality to pedophilia. He recalled the late 1990s and early 2000s, when LGBT activists pushed not only for same-sex marriage but for the annihilation of any laws against sexual relations between adults and teens. During this time, the ACLU defended the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA). ADF exposed this activist alliance, but the group did not “come within a hundred yards” of linking homosexuality and pedophilia.
The SPLC’s scandals
The Rhodes College alumni should not have cited the SPLC as an authority on “hate.” As I explain in my book Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the SPLC began as a noble civil rights organization — getting the first blacks elected in Alabama since the end of Reconstruction — but it transformed into an attack dog against the Ku Klux Klan (also a noble goal) and eventually into a smear group accusing mainstream conservatives and Christians of being “hate groups” on par with the KKK.
Last year, a racial discrimination and sexual harassment scandal cleaned out the organization’s leadership. While the SPLC promised an internal investigation into its workplace culture, it has yet to release the results more than a year later. Amid this massive scandal, former employees came forward confessing they were part of the “con,” exaggerating hate to bilk donors. Like the racial discrimination and sexual harassment scandals, claims of the SPLC lying to squeeze its donors date back decades.
Even worse, an attempted terrorist stormed the Family Research Council (FRC) in Washington, D.C., aiming to kill everyone in the building and place a Chick-fil-A sandwich by his victim’s heads. The shooter pled guilty to committing an act of terrorism and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. During an FBI interrogation, he said he targeted the FRC because of the SPLC “hate map.”
The SPLC faces many defamation lawsuits over its “hate group” accusations from conservative groups, including the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), D. James Kennedy Ministries, the American Freedom Law Center, and Proud Boys Founder Gavin McInnes.
The SPLC also faces defamation lawsuits from individuals the group has targeted. In 2018, Baltimore lawyer Glen Allen sued the SPLC for getting him fired due to his former ties with a white nationalist group. Last year, a former heroin addict who tried to start an organization helping men with opioid addictions sued the SPLC after the far-left group helped get his organization shut down.
In one notorious case, the SPLC smeared a Muslim reformer, Maajid Nawaz, as an “anti-Islamic extremist.” Nawaz sued and the SPLC settled, paying $3.375 million
Is this really the organization the Rhodes College alumni want to hold up as an arbiter of “truth” that Barrett cannot question?
Pressuring Rhodes to condemn Barrett
The alumni also cite ACB’s rulings on various issues, claiming that she “has demonstrated a judicial philosophy and record that fails to serve and protect the vulnerable in our society, including immigrants, those in the criminal justice system, and individuals reliant on the Affordable Health Care Act (the ‘ACA’) for health insurance. Rather, Judge Barrett has shown a propensity to protect corporate interests over those of private individuals.”
Ironically, after faulting Barrett for supposedly abandoning those “in the criminal justice system,” the alumni condemn her for upholding the gun rights of convicted non-violent felons.
The alumni urge the Senate to reject ACB, and they also demand that Rhodes distance itself from one of its most accomplished graduates.
“More importantly to us as proud Rhodes alumni, we implore you to make very clear that: (1) Rhodes opposes intolerance, discrimination, and bigotry of all kinds; and (2) that Rhodes stands with its LGBTQ, female, minority, and other marginalized students and graduates who fear that their rights may be endangered by the lifetime appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the highest court in the land,” the alumni conclude.
Colleges frequently boast about their most accomplished alumni. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Barrett would become one of Rhodes College’s most distinguished graduates, but even one of ACB’s fellow sorority sisters is now demanding that the college distance itself from Barrett, citing baseless smears from a scandal-plagued organization. The alumni cited “loyalty” as one of Rhodes College’s values. Yet this letter seems a clear betrayal of their fellow classmate, sister, and friend.
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Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.