Repeating something over and over again doesn’t make it true. But the Secular Coalition for Arizona didn’t seem to get the memo.
Instead, it decided to become the latest group parroting the Southern Poverty Law Center’s talking points on Alliance Defending Freedom – labelling us as a “hate group” and trying to use that designation to silence our point of view.
What set them off? An Arizona state license plate that simply says, “In God We Trust.”
No, I’m not kidding.
The State of Arizona offers the opportunity for organizations to create license plates that express their viewpoints and then offer those specialty license plates for purchase through the DMV. A portion of those private funds used to purchase the plate goes to the organization that designed the plate as a donation, and the rest goes to the state.
Through this program, Alliance Defending Freedom created a license plate that affirms the First Amendment and reads “In God We Trust.” This license plate is listed among more than 60 other plate designs offered for purchase.
No one is required to purchase a specialty license plate, and no tax dollars go to the organizations that have created the specialty plates.
Arizona has every right to offer this opportunity, just as the Secular Coalition for Arizona has every right to create its own license plate featuring its own viewpoint, if it so chooses. And ADF would fully support its right to do so.
But that is not what the Secular Coalition for Arizona chose to do.
Rather than respectfully offer an opposing viewpoint, the Secular Coalition for Arizona launched a misinformation campaign targeting ADF and demanding an end to its participation in the program.
In response, two different bills have been proposed in the Arizona State Senate. The first would change the disclosure requirements of the program – which the state has every right to do. It’s the second bill that should concern us all. SB 1463 demands the immediate repeal of the “In God We Trust” license plate to stop ADF from receiving money from the purchases of that plate.
But if the government can bar certain organizations from participating in this program because some special interests don’t approve of the viewpoint, where does it stop?
What if a pacifist is offended by this veterans license plate?
Can Arizona State University fans get the University of Arizona plate banned?
That’s a slippery slope. And it’s not something that any of us should accept – even if you disagree with ADF.
This bill makes it clear that the Secular Coalition for Arizona would rather use the government to shut down and silence the speech it disagrees with – rather than add to the conversation with its own viewpoint. But that’s not how free speech works.
All of this sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
That’s because this is exactly what the SPLC does time and time again. It targets and seeks to destroy any groups or individuals it disagrees with by labeling them “haters.”
Just one problem. The SPLC has been widely and resoundingly discredited by investigative journalists, charity networking organizations, and commentators as activist, partisan, and unreliable. It’s been sued many times for spreading falsehoods about various groups – most often religious and right-leaning groups. The SPLC even recently paid $3.375 million and issued a public apology to settle a threatened defamation lawsuit by Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz, whom SPLC falsely labelled an anti-Muslim extremist.
ADF, on the other hand, is one of the nation’s most successful and respected advocates at the U.S. Supreme Court – winning nine cases at the high court since 2011. And in 2018, Empirical SCOTUS ranked ADF first among “the top performing firms” litigating First Amendment cases in its Supreme Court All-Stars 2013-2017 list.
Does that sound like a hate group to you?
But, hey, you can decide that for yourself. Unless groups like the SPLC and the Secular Coalition for Arizona get their way. Then, they’ll just decide for you.