Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Courtesy Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Courtesy Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)

In a speech Wednesday night, Attorney General Jeff Sessions criticized the Southern Poverty Law Center, known for putting defenders of marriage on its “hate list,” as an illustration of a “new hostility” against religious believers.

The event was hosted by one of the groups that SPLC lumps together with the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups, the Alliance Defending Freedom, or ADF, reported the Daily Signal.

ADF recently defended Jack Phillips before the U.S. Supreme Court, where the Colorado baker’s faith-based refusal to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple was upheld 7-2.

Sessions told ADF’s annual religious liberty conference in Washington, D.C., that “people of faith are facing a new hostility.”

“Really some of it is a bigoted ideology which is founded on animus towards people of faith,” he said. “You’ll notice that they don’t rely on the facts. They don’t make better arguments. They don’t propose higher ideals. They just call people names — like ‘hate group.’ Does that sound familiar?”

Sessions said SPLC once was a legitimate group that partnered with the FBI to identify racist groups. But now it is using the “hate” designation “as a weapon and they have wielded it against conservative organizations that refuse to accept their orthodoxy and choose instead to speak their conscience.”

“They use it to bully and intimidate groups like yours which fight for the religious freedom, the civil rights, and the constitutional rights of others,” he said.

He then directly addressed ADF: “You and I may not agree on everything — but I wanted to come back here tonight partly because I wanted to say this: You are not a hate group.”

Sessions promised that the Justice Department “will not partner with hate groups” and confirmed he has ordered a review to ensure the department doesn’t “partner with groups that unfairly defame Americans for standing up for the Constitution or their faith.”

The Daily Signal reported that before Sessions’ speech, SPLC criticized the attorney general for speaking at the ADF conference, saying that if ADF “had its way, gay people would be back in the closet for fear of going to jail.”

In a letter to the attorney general, SPLC President Richard Cohen charged it’s “inappropriate for the nation’s top law enforcement officer to lend the prestige of his office to this group.”

Why is FBI still partnering with SPLC?

WND reported the FBI’s recent admission that it has been working with SPLC has prompted a demand for more information from a Republican lawmaker, who noted SPLC puts groups such as the Family Research Council on its “hate” list because of their support for traditional marriage while ignoring left-wing groups that engage in violence, such as Antifa.

Last month, the vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., asked Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to stop the retail giant’s “sale of literature and music published by entities identified as ‘hate groups’ by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

WND also reported the Religious Freedom Coalition was dumped from the AmazonSmile charity program because SPLC labeled it a “hate group.”

When RFC questioned Amazon about the decision, a lawyer issued a statement saying the company “relies on the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Southern Poverty Law Center to determine which registered charities fall into [the category of excluded] groups.”

The use of SPLC’s list by the charity monitoring website Guidestar has prompted lawsuits.

The hate list has inspired two shooting attacks. In 2012, Floyd Corkins chose the headquarters of the Family Research Council as a target, and last year, James Hodgkinson, inspired by SPLC, opened fire on Republican lawmakers as they practiced for the annual congressional baseball game, severely wounding Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La.

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