Why Idaho AG shouldn’t hire a Christian nationalist law firm

A statue of President Lincoln in front of the Idaho state capitol building

In a case of “he doth protest too much,” Idaho’s attorney general is doubling down on his outrageous decision to hire the Christian nationalist Alliance Defending Freedom to defend the state from a Biden administration court challenge against Idaho’s abortion ban.

The Biden administration charges that the state’s ruthless abortion prohibition violates federal law by endangering the right of pregnant women to receive life-saving care. That case is now at the U.S. Supreme Court, and Attorney General Raúl Labrador cites ADF’s track record before the court in justifying his hiring the group, claiming that “Idaho citizens deserve the best defense.”

The only problem, which Labrador failed to acknowledge, is that ADF is an ideologically based extremist group, designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its support of criminalizing consensual sex between LGBTQ adults, sterilizing transgender people, and for lying about homosexuality in order to advance its Christian nationalist agenda. Under the guise of “religious liberty,” ADF fights to help Christian businesses discriminate against LGBTQ customers and is actively involved in undermining the constitutional principle of separation between state and church.

It’s no surprise that such a group is also vehemently opposed to women’s reproductive autonomy — insisting on imposing the religious fantasy that a nonviable fetus has equal or greater rights than a pregnant person.

As Idaho’s attorney general, Labrador is duty bound to serve the people of Idaho — including his female constituency — and to defend the state and federal constitutions. ADF does not share these obligations, and will readily sacrifice them to advance its own interests. Whereas the attorney general’s office should strive to uphold a reputation of integrity, ADF is untethered to reality when it comes to its own statements.

For example, ADF recently claimed that “roughly one in 25 women who take [abortion-inducing] drugs will end up in the emergency room.” This is terribly misleading, as the reality is that medication abortions are safe, with a likelihood of major complications at less than 0.5 percent. ADF is relying on an FDA warning label, which in turn seems to be a reference to a retracted study that was also cited in last year’s notorious mifepristone case (authored by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, himself a former attorney at a right-wing Christian law firm similar to ADF). ADF plainly doesn’t care whether this statistic is accurate. It is ideologically committed to fighting against abortion medication no matter how safe it is, and knows its anti-abortion donors won’t care that they’re being misled.

But the same is not true for actions by state attorneys general. ADF’s “alternative facts” spin factory will only serve its own interests, but will drag down the reputation of the Idaho attorney general’s office along the way. Labrador may be right that ADF is well connected to the Christian nationalist wing of the U.S. Supreme Court, but now he must also confront the fact that by partnering with a discredited hate group, he has saddled his office’s credibility to such an entity. He may learn in time that sacrificing credibility is far easier than getting it back.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with 40,000 members across the country, including members in Idaho. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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