When you go after elements of the “vast right-wing conspiracy,” you’re not surprised when it claims to have been unfairly targeted. That’s what happened when I wrote about the report on the “enemies of equality” for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans last month. The interactive chart in the exposé by Freedom for All Americans (FFAA) highlights Liberty Counsel. And Mat Staver, its founder and chairman, doth protest too much.
“The chart alleges that Liberty Counsel receives funds from [Alliance Defending Freedom] and then represents Kim Davis. While we represent Kim Davis, Liberty Counsel is not connected to ADF and receives no funds from ADF.” Staver said in a news release that accused me of “shoddy journalism.” Some of his supporters even demanded a correction. I take such requests seriously. And all I can say to Staver and his supporters: Be careful what you wish for.
The document pictured above is Page 58 of the 990 tax form for 2013 filed by ADF. Right there, in black and white, is documentation of a $10,000 donation to Liberty University School of Law. Now, I know what you’re thinkin’. That’s not the Liberty Counsel I have written about. But wait, there’s more.
Back in 1989, Staver and his wife started the Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit that offers services to litigants in religious-freedom cases. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists it as an anti-LGBT group. Staver then established Liberty University School of Law in 2004 and was its dean until he resigned in 2014. Remember, the $10,000 donation from ADF to the law school was given the year before. [Update, Aug. 4, at 2 p.m.: While ADF’s disclosure forms show contributions to Liberty University School of Law, Mat Staver says the law school did not receive any funds from ADF during his tenure as its dean. Also, Liberty University says Staver was neither the law school’s founding dean nor the person who established the law school.]
Among the student groups at the Staver-founded Liberty University School of Law is the Liberty Counsel Student Organization, which offers its members “the opportunity through internships and externships, to work directly with Liberty Counsel attorneys on pending litigation.” To participate, students must show “a passion for the work of Liberty Counsel and a desire to advance religious freedom, traditional marriage, and the sanctity of human life.” One of Liberty Counsel’s clients last year was Kim Davis. Staver was her attorney. He was the one who revealed that Davis met Pope Francis during his Washington visit last September.
So, what we have here is ADF giving money to a Staver-founded law school that has deep ties with and supplies interns to a Staver-founded law firm. Sure, out of an abundance of clarity, the good folks at FFAA should have placed the logo of Liberty University School of Law next to that of Liberty Counsel on its interactive chart. But, given the documentation above and from FFAA, that would be highlighting the obvious.
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