EXCLUSIVE: GWU Student Bar Association labels Christian org a 'hate group'

The GWU law school's Student Bar Association, as well as the law school dean, condemned ADF in emails.

George Washington University Federalist Society hosted an event with a featured speaker from the Christian legal defense group Alliance Defending Freedom.

Following a discussion on the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling hosted by the George Washington University Federalist Society, the Student Bar Association and law school dean sent emails condemning the invited speaker from the Alliance Defending Freedom. 

The event, “Religious Freedom or Discrimination: A Discussion of Masterpiece Cakeshop,” featured American Civil Liberties Union General Counsel Kenneth A. Klukowski and Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. 

“ADF is classified as an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center,” GWU Student Bar Association President Ali Kingston said in an email, a copy of which Campus Reform obtained. “ADF has supported the recriminalization of homosexuality in the U.S., works to develop ‘religious liberty’ legislation and case law that will allow the denial of goods and services to LGBT people, and is continuously working to overturn marriage equality and remove other protections in place for members of the LGBTQIA+ community.”

The claims made against ADF in the email appear to be copied directly from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website.

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The Southern Poverty Law Center is an American nonprofit legal advocacy organization specializing in civil rights and public interest litigation. The SPLC has been criticized in the past for labeling conservative or Christian groups as “hate groups” for ideological reasons. 

“The Student Bar Association condemns homophobic, biphobic, or transphobic hate speech that leads members of this community to feel unsafe or uncomfortable at our school,” Kingston continued. “We urge students to keep in mind which groups they choose to give a platform to and recognize their roles in fostering a sense of inclusivity and mutual respect in our community.”

GWU law school Dean Blake D. Morant sent an email similar to the Student Bar Association.

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“Following the events surrounding last week’s student-run programs on the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, I would like to take the opportunity to underscore GW Law’s longstanding commitment to fostering an environment in which civil discourse, acceptance of differences, and collaborative dialogue are welcome and celebrated,” Morant said.

“While we support the exchange of diverse viewpoints within our walls, we do not tolerate speech that leads members of our community to feel unsafe or uncomfortable,” Morant stated. “Diversity is a hallmark of our GW Law community and we strongly condemn any instances of hate speech, homophobia, and discrimination.”

Kristen Waggoner, general counsel and senior vice president of U.S. legal division and communications at ADF, reacted to the emails in a statement to Campus Reform. 

“Law schools shaping America’s lawyers of tomorrow should be committed to creating diversity of thought and opinion on campus. Preserving the space to debate differing viewpoints and ideas is critical to preparing students, especially law students, for the real world. In fact, the crux of ADF’s work is just that- defending the rights of every American, and every student, to speak and live freely under the protection of the Constitution,” Waggoner said. 

”Unfortunately, the information the Student Bar Association circulated about ADF following a peaceful campus discussion is unequivocally false and merely a copy and paste of false accusations and mischaracterizations made by the Southern Poverty Law Center,” Waggoner added.

The GW Federalist Society declined to comment. 

The Student Bar Association and the Dean’s Office did not respond to request for comment in time for publication. 

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