The controversial group, branded as anti-Muslim by the SPLC, claims its inclusion on a “hate crimes” list is no reason for Michigan to target its offices.
The American Freedom Law Center is filing a civil rights lawsuit accusing Michigan of roundabout discrimination.
The Detroit News reports that the Ann Arbor-based group is going after Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and state Department of Civil Rights Director Agustin Arbulu. According to the lawsuit, Nessel and Arbulu are waging an unjust crusade against the law center.
Michigan, says the complaint, is unfairly targeting the law center due to its inclusion on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of local hate groups.
That list, writes the Detroit News¸ labels the American Freedom Law Center as anti-Muslim.
The lawsuit argues that policies recently implemented by Nessel and Arbulu legitimize the “radical, leftist” Southern Poverty Law Center and its attempts to “marginalize” political opposition.
The complaint stems from Nessel’s announcement last week that Michigan would increase its documentation and prosecution of hate crimes. In a joint announcement, Arbulu specifically cited the SPCL’s list as a cause for concern, saying there are at least 31 “hate groups” in the state.
“These groups range in the ideological extremes from anti-Muslim, to anti-LGBT to black nationalist and white nationalists,” Arbulu said. “Particularly of concern, over one half of the identified groups are located east of US-23, between Flint and Ann Arbor.”
Other groups were similarly taken aback by their inclusion on the list.
Church Militant & St. Michael’s Media editor-in-chief Christine Niles disapproved of the Catholic organization’s classification as an anti-LGBT group, saying they simply believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
“We have a right to believe that without being called a hate group,” Niles told the Detroit News in February.
The Detroit News says that Nessel’s office declined to comment on the specifics of the American Freedom Law Center lawsuit, claiming they hadn’t yet been served.
While details on how the anti-hate initiative could impact the American Freedom Law Center remain scarce, the lawsuit suggests it’s illegal for the state to lend its resources to a “partisan” endeavor.
“When the Michigan attorney general and the director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights join and officially endorse this partisan attack by lending government resources and thus becoming the government enforcement agency for SPLC’s radical agenda, the protections of the United States Constitution are triggered,” the complaint says, arguing that Nessel and Arbulu are “conspiring” to promote the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “leftist” agenda.
In its lawsuit and online, the law center maintains that it is a “lawful, conservative, public interest law firm that defends conservative Christians and Jews.”
The group has participated in legal proceedings against mosque constructions in the Metro Detroit city of Sterling Heights and supported President Donald Trump’s travel ban against nationals of several Muslim-majority countries.