Jeff Sessions Gave A Private Speech To An Alleged Hate Group

by Morgan Brinlee
Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The Department of Justice is reportedly refusing to reveal what Attorney General Jeff Sessions told an alleged hate group in a speech delivered Tuesday during a closed-to-the-press summit on religious liberty. Sessions reportedly spoke before members of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a group the Southern Poverty Law Center has deemed an "anti-LGBT hate group."

According to NBC News, Sessions' public schedule noted he would speak Tuesday at the Summit on Religious Liberty hosted by the Alliance Defending Freedom at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, California. The Department of Justice and the Alliance Defending Freedom have since refused to provide a transcript of Sessions' remarks.

Both Democrats and human rights groups have criticized Sessions' decision to speak at an event put on by the Christian right legal advocacy group and questioned his ability to serve all Americans.

"You can judge a person by the company they keep and tonight, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is choosing to spend his time speaking in front of one of the country's leading anti-LGBTQ hate groups," Democratic National Committee Spokesman Joel Kasnetz said in a statement to NBC News. "Sessions' appearance at this event, as the top law enforcement official in the country, brings into question whether the attorney general intends to protect all Americans."

The Human Rights Campaign called Sessions' appearance at the Alliance Defending Freedom summit "outrageous." In a statement to CNN, Human Rights Campaign Government Affairs Director David Stacy noted, "The attorney general has every right to speak to a group like Alliance Defending Freedom." Stacy said the group was mainly concerned that Sessions' remarks were being "kept hidden from the public" despite the fact "he has been tasked by the president with issuing religious discrimination policies that ADF has long promoted."

The Southern Poverty Law Center has characterized the Alliance Defending Freedom as "a legal advocacy and training group that specializes in supporting the recriminalization of homosexuality abroad, ending same-sex marriage, and generally making life as difficult as possible for LGBT communities in the U.S. and internationally."

However, the Alliance Defending Freedom has pushed back on the Southern Poverty Law Center's attempt to deem it a hate group. "We at ADF condemn all such manifestations of true hate," the group said in a blog post titled "Hate-group labelers are the ones spreading hate." The group called the Southern Poverty Law Center's move to label them a hate group a "lie."

Currently, the Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who, citing religious reasons, refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. He was charged with violating the state's nondiscrimination protections in 2012, and the Supreme Court agreed to review the case last month. It remains unclear if Sessions' appearance at the Alliance Defending Freedom signals his support for Phillips' case.