The Richmond Times Dispatch, “Hate Groups” and Journalism

by James C. Sherlock

The Hanover County School Board (HCSB) is seeking legal assistance in reviewing its transgender policy from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative legal organization that provides its services pro bono.

ADF’s key values that it goes to court to defend are religious freedom, free speech, marriage and family, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.  It has  won 80% of its court cases and played a role in 64 victories at the United States Supreme Court.

The HCSB, the target of an ACLU lawsuit, wants to know if their transgender policy is defensible in court.  ADF offered to review the policy and advise on modifications if any and a defensive strategy for free.

Seems reasonable.

But not to the Richmond Times Dispatch (RTD).

The lead on the RTD story

The Hanover County School Board agreed Tuesday night to allow a Christian conservative legal advocacy organization that some call a “hate group” to look at the board’s “equal educational opportunities” policy — the policy at the heart of the board’s contentious actions regarding transgender students that prompted a lawsuit filed against it last December. (emphasis added)

Interesting choices of words and parentheses. I don’t think I am going out on a limb calling that sentence biased narrative shaping  Which would be fine on the editorial pages. The story is on the front page of today’s print edition.

Other recent ADF Virginia cases. In another ADF Virginia case,

High school French teacher Peter Vlaming was fired from his job in West Point, Virginia for declining to refer to a female student with male pronouns even though he consistently accommodated the student by using the student’s preferred name instead of the student’s given name. Vlaming is suing the school board for violating his rights under the Virginia Constitution and Virginia law. ADF attorneys, along with allied attorney Shawn Voyles, have appealed his case to the Virginia Supreme Court.

On March 3 of this year, the Supreme Court agreed to hear it.

ADF also attorneys helped LCPS teacher Tanner Cross file a

“lawsuit against the school district. The trial court quickly reinstated Tanner so he could continue to teach while his lawsuit moved forward. After the Virginia Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s order, the Board agreed in a settlement to make the reinstatement permanent.

A Hate Group? So ADF is successful. But a hate group?

Let’s look at who calls the ADF a hate group. The story, we must assume purposely, does not share that information.

There are two organizations that the press goes to for hate group lists: the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

The ADL labels the Alliance Defending Freedom “a prominent conservative advocacy group.” Note the ADL, unlike the RTD, did not feel it important to label the organization Christian,” a leftist dog whistle.

That leaves us with the Southern Poverty Law Center. Bingo.

ADF and SPLC.  The SPLC has drifted away from pleading in court. Since 2000, SPLC has participated in two Supreme Court wins; since 2011 the ADF thirteen.

SPLC, unable to beat them in court, has labeled the ADF a hate group in a transparent effort to shrink their donations and get them banned from social media. And provide fodder for every “journalist” looking to discredit the ADF.

Both ADF and SPLC are non-profits, so we can look at their mission statements and their finances.

From the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2020 IRS Form 990:

“The SPLC is a catalyst for racial justice in the south and beyond, working in partnership with communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements, and advance the human rights of all people.”

475 employees, 161 volunteers

Total revenue: $132,918,576

Net assets and fund balances: $587,803,614

Case Cost Expenses: $3,958,271

From the Alliance Defending Freedom’s 2020 IRS Form 990:

“ADF is committed to transforming law and culture so true freedom can flourish.”

319 employees, 957 volunteers

Total revenue: $65,187,555

Net Assets and fund balances: $42,813,699

Case Cost Expenses – not separately described.

You would think with the financial advantages, SPLC would dominate, or at least break even in the courtroom. That organization may wish to review its pleadings and results for trends. And assess why ADF has six times as many volunteers.

For another view of the SPLC, readSPLC denounced as ‘thoroughly disgraced’ after labeling pro-life, family organizations as ‘hate groups’ .

“Once a respected civil rights organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center has destroyed its own credibility because of its blatant partisan agenda and discredited fundraising scheme. It has devolved into a group that attacks and spreads lies about organizations and people who do not agree with its far-left agenda.”

The RTD. Speaking of far-left agendas, back to the Richmond Times Dispatch. When did that paper’s journalistic standards disappear? And why?

The Hanover County School Board story was certainly worth writing. But it was nothing more nor less than the board, being sued, seeking the best pro bono legal counsel to make sure what they were doing is defensible in court.

The lead sentence in today’s RTD story is a disgrace. So is its failure to identify the discredited source of the “hate group” citation. For RTD editors, these days those errors appear to be considered features, not a bugs.

But, for the record, I do not consider the Richmond Times Dispatch a hate group.