In the latest salvo of the culture wars pitting the LGBTQ community against Christians, an atheist group has issued a press release labeling the faith-based legal group Alliance Defending Freedom an anti-gay "hate group."
The charge comes as two secular groups – American Atheists and the Secular Coalition for Arizona – seek to 'expose' the ADF for profiting off Arizona's "In God We Trust" license plates. Since 2012, the plates have generated $1 million.
The two groups are targeting the ADF with a billboard campaign they say is designed to "raise awareness" about how Arizona is "funneling money to fund this hate group."
In reality, ADF is not a hate group. They're a group that advocates for religious freedom in the courts, and Christians are frequently the targets of LGBTQ activists in those cases.
"Public awareness about ADF's hate-inspired schemes is thankfully on the rise. However, few people realize that the license plate law funding ADF fits into a larger, dangerous Christian nationalist legislative campaign called Project Blitz," said Nick Fish, president of American Atheists.
After being urged by the Secular Coalition for Arizona to investigate the matter, state Sen. Juan Mendez (D-Tempe) is now proposing the "In God We Trust" specialty license plates be done away with.
"Hopefully in the future, we can put in place some commonsense guidelines that would bar hate groups from earning money through Arizona license plates," said Mendez, who has introduced legislation requiring ADOT to be more transparent in sharing where funds from specialty plates go.
"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," he added.
However, the ADF suggested the Arizona lawmaker and others have fallen prey to propaganda from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has labeled the ADF and a number of other mainstream Christian groups as hate groups.
"It's disappointing to see elected officials become uncritical pawns in the Southern Poverty Law Center's ugly propaganda campaigns," said Jeremy Tedesco, who serves as ADF senior counsel and vice president of US Advocacy.
"Alliance Defending Freedom advocates for the freedom of all Americans to peacefully live in accordance with their beliefs, including those with no belief," Tedesco explained. "We represent people from all walks of life and diverse backgrounds."