Eye on the Opposition: Behind an Anti-LGBT Group’s Transparent Push for More Political Power

By Megan Clayton • October 5, 2016 • 2:48 pm

Extreme anti-LGBT group Alliance Defending Freedom spends lots of time advocating for or against new laws – either pushing for discriminatory bills like those targeting transgender youth, or against basic civil rights for LGBT Americans. We’ve previously catalogued ADF’s numerous hateful anti-LGBT statements as part of our “Enemies of Equality” infographic. EyeonOpposition

Now that October has arrived it’s time once again for ADF to throw a faux tantrum about a federal law called the Johnson Amendment, which prevents churches from endorsing political candidates. This annual stunt is called “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.”

Today Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit organization working for ethical and accountable government, takes a closer look at the consequences of actually repealing this law. They write:

“What it will do…is empower millionaires and billionaires to inject more money into the political system with even less accountability. Allowing charities to engage in politics would almost certainly lead to a new flood of dark money campaign spending by groups that don’t disclose their donors.”

Framed as a way to protect pastors’ sermons, Pulpit Freedom Sunday is essentially a marketing exercise in which ADF asks pastors to “speak freely” from their pulpits about political issues. It’s a stunt because 1) ADF doesn’t actually tell pastors to break the law and endorse candidates (for fear of getting in trouble itself); and 2) In the eight years ADF has been pushing this, the IRS hasn’t prosecuted a single church or pastor for participating in the event. It’s such a transparent ad campaign that even some other extreme evangelicals don’t buy it, as noted by CREW’s Noah Bookbinder:

Even one of ADF’s allies thinks repeal of the Johnson Amendment is a solution in search of a problem. “It’s a straw man,” Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s not going to empower Christians because it’s not holding the community back.”

The real restrictions are on advocacy organizations like ADF. Should this repeal effort succeed, it would be able to leverage its nearly $50 million annual budget into becoming a political heavyweight. Realistically speaking, this is unlikely to ever happen, but hey – ADF can dream. And if they happen to get some press and build their email lists for future anti-equality efforts along the way, they’ll probably consider their annual charade a success.


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