Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Wisconsin AG tried to hide participation at hate group conference

There are approximately 250,000 Christian-oriented non-profit organizations in the United States. Other than the Klan, only 49 Christian organizations are listed as hate groups.”
Brad Schimel
Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel attended an Alliance Defending Freedom conference last July. ADF payed his (and his wife's) travel including airfare, hotel and most food to attend a five-day “religious freedom” summit at a luxury Southern California resort. The only reason that we know anything about this is that details surfaced in Schimel's financial disclosure report this month. In an email to department aides last June, Schimel wrote:
Since the conference is personal/political travel not in any way funded by tax payers, I do not plan to have any portion of it become public information. When I get an agenda, I do not plan to have it become an official document.
As a best-case proposition I will assume that those five days were vacation days. Schimel was to be part of a panel; The Role of AGs in Defending Religious Freedom. He consumed office time and the time of staffers to prepare for the panel.

Aside from the consumption of department resources there is am ethics issue. ADF defines religious freedom as Christian privilege to discriminate against LGBT people in employment, housing and public accommodations. Even if we set that aside, there remains the fact that Alliance Defending Freedom is deemed a hate group by a prominent national organization. The Southern Poverty Law Center does not gratuitously label organizations as hate groups. Rather, it conforms to a specific set of guidelines.

That raises the question of whether or not Mr. Schimel bothered to even find out why ADF is considered a hate group. He is free to disagree but did he at least bother to consider the SPLC's information? How about the group's inflammatory statements? The language that the SPLC quotes from ADF senior people oozes Christian supremacy and utter disdain for LGBT people.

Then there is the very real potential for ADF to have business before Schimel's office. Schimel and his wife received travel and lodging that he disclosed to be worth $4,100 (which I suspect is understated). Should a state AG agree to receive what amounts to a gratuity from an organization that seeks to influence public policy? Indeed, the very purpose of the panel was to influence the members of the panel and other state AGs.

We are taxpayers too. Based on what we know, how can LGBT people expect to be treated fairly by Brad Schimel and his subordinates?

How could the agenda for the conference not be part of the public record? The hate group has a patina of respectability because of co-opted public servants like Schimel.

In the final analysis, Mr. Schimel was wined and dined with his wife by a lobbying organization. It is unacceptable and concealing it is unacceptable. Two other lawyers from the AG's office also attended the conference with expenses paid (in whole or part) by ADF.

The agendas that Schimel tried to keep secret show that Schimel joined AGs from Nebraska, South Carolina and Texas to speak about states’ legal challenges to federal law. The panel was titled: “Reinvigorated Federalism: Innovative (and Constitutional!) State Efforts for Human Flourishing.” I think that we all know what those legal challenges as “states' rights” mean. “Human flourishing” probably means procreation which is often used as a lever to denigrate gay couples. There is no available transcript of Schimel's remarks.

What other state Attorneys General attended this conference?

USA Today contacted ADF regarding their hate group designation:
ADF spokeswoman Brianna Herlihy said her organization believes everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. She called the Southern Poverty Law Center a “discredited, violence-inciting organization that does very little other than raise money off of defaming” others who disagree with its ideology.
It is the usual bullshit. It fails to address any specific issues raised by the SPLC. ADF certainly does not treat LGBT people with anything but contempt. The idea the the SPLC is discredited or violence inciting is just the usual rhetoric that hate groups spout. There are approximately 250,000 Christian-oriented non-profit organizations in the United States. Other than the Klan, only 49 Christian organizations are listed as hate groups. That is telling.

Moreover, the SPLC doesn't seem to be wining and dining public servants in order to influence public policy.

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