The Freedom From Religion Foundation is disappointed by the New York Times’ insensitive decision to hire David French to be its newest opinion columnist. French, who has been affiliated with the Christian nationalist Alliance Defending Freedom, has a history of using religion as a weapon against LGBTQ individuals.
The Times’ announcement praised French’s “spirit of generosity toward others and humility,” failing to mention what LGBTQ Nation called his association with “the rabidly anti-LGBTQ+ legal advocacy group.”
French’s qualifications include writing for the National Review from 2015-2019, as well as currently acting as senior editor for the Dispatch, a conservative news organization he helped to launch. He is also a contributor for the Atlantic. He earned his undergraduate degree from Lipscomb University, a private Christian college in Nashville, and a law degree from Harvard. He spent 21 years practicing law, which included litigation in Manhattan and Kentucky law firms. He has specialized in religious legal issues.
French’s association with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is most troubling. In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Institute labels ADF a hate group. While serving as ADF senior counsel, he defended a graduate student pursuing a counseling degree in Georgia, who had refused to take diversity training as suggested by Augusta State University. The school said her counseling would not be in compliance with the ACA Code of Ethics because she stated her Christian faith held that homosexuality is immoral. A district judge had ruled that she had exhibited “an inability to counsel in a professionally ethical manner.”
French’s history outside of law has made his stance equally clear, including actions such as co-authoring and signing the “Nashville Statement,” a religiously motivated document released in 2017 against gay marriage and homosexual identities. The statement affirms that “God has designed marriage to be a … lifelong union of one man and one woman … and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church.” It calls “homosexual immorality” and transgenderism “sinful,” and concludes that “Christ Jesus has come into the world to save sinners.” French attacked a bill that would classify conversion therapy as “consumer fraud” and defended former President Trump’s transgender military service ban, calling diversity training a form of “thought control.”
“We can appreciate that the Times wants to represent varied sides of the political equation on its opinion pages,” comments Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “But it is already offering Democrats, Republicans and moderates as columnists. How can any LGBTQ readers and subscribers not feel this hire is a slap in the face?”
Gaylor adds that French’s hire seems to be a disturbing trend that includes offering Rev. Tish Harrison Warren a column “to primarily spout pieties.” Gaylor recently had a letter printed in the Times objecting to a Times essay by Warren, in which she sided with the 303 Creation litigant before the Supreme Court, who asserts it’s her right as a religious Christian to discriminate against LGBTQ clients, in violation of Colorado anti-discrimination provisions.
FFRF warns that inviting an openly anti-LGBTQ activist who believes in privileging religion to join the Times’ opinion section will result in far more heat than light.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 39,000 members across the country. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.