On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Allison Jones Rushing, a former partner at the law firm Williams & Connolly LLP. and a former intern at the Christian firm Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. At 37, she became one of the youngest people ever to serve on the federal bench. Democrats demonized her, however, because the far-left smear group the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) marked ADF an “anti-LGBT hate group.” She was confirmed on a party-line vote.
After Rushing was confirmed (53-44), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) echoed previous attacks on the nominee, citing the SPLC.
“Allison Rushing is also closely affiliated with the Alliance Defending Freedom, a [SPLC] designated hate group that opposes women’s reproductive rights, marriage equality and the right of LGBT couples to adopt children,” Feinstein tweeted.
Allison Rushing is also closely affiliated with the Alliance Defending Freedom, an @SPLcenter designated hate group that opposes women’s reproductive rights, marriage equality and the right of LGBT couples to adopt children.
— Senator Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) March 5, 2019
Last October, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) asked Rushing leading questions about her relationship with the ADF, citing the SPLC “hate group” label. Harris, now a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, asked whether Rushing believed “that LGBT rights cannot be reconciled with religion.”
Speaking with PJ Media, Tim Chandler, ADF senior counsel, defended Rushing as “not only a well-qualified lawyer, but a woman of integrity, professional competence, and judicial demeanor.”
Chandler suggested that by attacking Rushing over her relationship with a Christian organization, the Democratic senators had applied a religious test for public office.
“No one should use a nominee’s faith or their affiliation with a Christian organization like ADF as grounds for rejection,” the ADF spokesman said. “That is a de facto religious test for public office, which is prohibited by Article VI of the Constitution. America has a long tradition of religious liberty. As a nation, we’ve long rejected religious tests for public office and we’ve long condemned discrimination based on one’s religion.”
As for Alliance Defending Freedom, Chandler said, “ADF is one the nation’s most respected and successful Supreme Court advocates and has won nine cases at the U.S. Supreme Court in the past seven years. ADF works to preserve fundamental freedoms of speech, religion, and conscience for people from all walks of life.”
He attacked any politician or news outlet that uncritically cites the SPLC’s “hate group” label against ADF. “It is shameful that any reporter or news organization would copy and paste propaganda from a far-left group and pass it off journalism,” Chandler told PJ Media. “The SPLC did good work years ago, but they’ve been widely discredited for decades by investigative journalists, charity watchdogs, and commentators as activist, partisan, and unreliable.” Indeed, the far-left group has even cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church — a document binding on one billion people — as expressive of “hate.”
In particular, “SPLC’s claims about ADF are false and grossly mischaracterize our work,” he argued. “In fact, 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 dollars and issued a public apology to settle a threatened defamation lawsuit by Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz, [whom the] SPLC falsely labeled an anti-Muslim extremist.”
Indeed, even ADF’s ideological opponents have slammed the SPLC label as utterly false when applied to this organization. Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the secularist group Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) wrote an impassioned letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos attacking the SPLC’s “hate group” label and urging Amazon to reinstate ADF on its Amazon Smile charity donation platform.
“Please reconsider, Mr. Bezos. In my long years of fighting for what’s Constitutionally right, I’ve come to personally know several senior ADF lawyers extremely well,” Weinstein wrote. “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. As seemingly incomprehensible as it may seem, sometimes hell actually DOES freeze over. I consider them dear friends and I assure you that I don’t use that term lightly.”
Weinstein argued that “there are surely a plethora of Christian religious extremist organizations who richly deserve to be ignominiously branded as ‘haters.’ However, as to ADF, the baby ought not be thrown out with the bath water. If I had not personally experienced their principled humanity, I would never be writing you today.”
After the $3.375 million settlement to Maajid Nawaz, about 60 organizations considered defamation lawsuits against the SPLC. D. James Kennedy Ministries has already filed one, and since then many more lawsuits have emerged. Last year, 47 nonprofit leaders wrote a letter warning editors and CEOs against citing the SPLC’s “hate group” labels, saying anyone who did so would be complicit in defamation.
PJ Media reached out to Senators Harris, Hirono, Feinstein, and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), citing Weinstein’s letter and the nonprofit leaders’ letter, and asking these Democrats to justify their use of the SPLC’s “hate group” labels against Allison Rushing and other Trump nominees. None of them returned PJ Media’s requests for comment.
Rushing prevailed despite the Democrats’ religious test applied against her, but the Senate may not always be in Republican hands. Furthermore, it is absolutely tragic that one of America’s major parties would unite in attacking a judicial nominee for her decision to intern with a well-respected law firm that has won nine Supreme Court cases in seven years. ADF is not a black mark on any judge’s record, as Mikey Weinstein freely testified.
Make no mistake, an anti-religious bias, especially in favor of progressive causes like LGBT rights, is rising in the Democratic Party. While Rushing may have won this round, it is important for Americans to remain vigilant against the kinds of attacks she wrongfully received, and to hold Democrats accountable for citing the SPLC as a credible organization.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.