The Christian-based legal group that defended the Downtown Hope Center in Anchorage against the intrusion by a drunk transgender has been labeled a hate group by a senior official of the U.S. Justice Department. And that didn’t sit well with two Republican members of the U.S. Senate.
“Alliance Defending Freedom is one of the nation’s foremost champions of religious liberty and the constitutional rights of all Americans,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal. “It’s appalling that a Department of Justice staffer would consider this mission hateful. I’m proud to stand with ADF in its fight for religious liberty. Attorney General Merrick Garland must ensure that the DOJ faithfully executes justice for all, and he should investigate this incident.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called the Justice Department official’s comment “outrageous” and slammed the agency’s credibility, The Signal reported.
“A DOJ lawyer slandering honest, law-abiding Americans as members of a ‘hate group’ simply because of their Christian faith is outrageous,” Rubio told The Daily Signal. “Attorney General Garland promised to uphold the rule of law without fear or favor. The credibility of his department continues to shatter.”
The comments that denigrated the Alliance Defending Freedom were made by Eric P. Bruskin, assistant director of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. The context of the comment was in response to a social media post by Jason Weida, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in Washington, who is now a state health official in Florida. Weida had shared he was “honored to speak with Matt Sharp at Alliance Defending Freedom about the work we’re doing in Florida to protect kids from experimental medical interventions and to defend parental rights, all thanks to the leadership of Governor DeSantis.”
Bruskin wrote in response, “Jason, this is a hate group. You’re speaking at a conference for a hate group. Are these the beliefs you hold? If so, then it’s time we end our professional association.”
Alliance Defending Freedom has taken on some of the most high profile cases in the culture wars of recent years. Wikipedia says the group “is an American conservative Christian legal advocacy group that supports restricting rights and protections for LGBTQ people; expanding Christian practices within public schools and in government and preventing access to abortion.” In fact, the group supports the rights of people to practice their religious beliefs and supports the humanity of the yet-to-be born.
Recent victories for the group include the US Supreme Court decision Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta in 2021, in which the ADF argued that non-profits should not be required to disclose the identities of their donors on California state tax returns. The court struck down the disclosure law as unconstitutional.
In 2008, in Coorod vs. the State of Alaska, an Alaska court ruled that a property tax exemption for religious schools does not violate either the state or federal constitution. Several groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, filed suit after the state’s legislature determined that “the residence of an educator in a private religious or parochial school” qualifies as “property used exclusively for religious purposes. The Superior Court for the State of Alaska in the Third Judicial Circuit at Anchorage determined that such tax exemptions are not illegally improper, as Alliance Defending Freedom had explained.
In 2019, Anchorage officials dropped a complaint filed with the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission against the faith-based women’s shelter Downtown Hope Center. The city agreed with Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys to make the court’s temporary order against the city permanent.
The complaint came from an inebriated man who the Downtown Hope Center referred to a hospital to get the care he needed for visible injuries that had come during a fight, and the faith-based group paid for his taxi ride to the hospital. The man later filed a complaint that the center didn’t let him stay at the center, where the group gives shelter to abused and homeless women.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a federal lawsuit on the center’s behalf.
“Many of the women Downtown Hope Center serves have suffered rape, physical abuse, and domestic violence. They shouldn’t be forced to sleep or disrobe in the same room as a man. Abused women need a safe place to stay, but incredibly, some Anchorage officials are trying to take that place away.” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker.
“All Americans should be free to live out their faith and serve their neighbors—especially homeless women who have suffered sexual abuse or domestic violence—without being targeted or harassed by the government,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kate Anderson at the time. “This is the right outcome. Downtown Hope Center serves everyone, but women deserve a safe place to stay overnight. No woman—particularly not an abuse survivor—should be forced to sleep or disrobe next to a man.”
In The Downtown Soup Kitchen dba Downtown Hope Center v. Municipality of Anchorage, the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska issued an order saying Anchorage’s public accommodation law doesn’t apply to the center’s women’s shelter.