Michigan's first openly gay attorney general this month announced she's using her position to stifle Catholic and other religious groups. Dana Nessel, elected as Michigan's 54th attorney general in November, has halted all state funding for adoption and foster care agencies that refuse services to gay couples based on religious conscience grounds.
Nessel and her "wife" Alanna Maguire are themselves raising twin boys.
Nessel also announced she was establishing a "Hate Crimes Unit" (HCU) within the criminal division of the Michigan attorney general's office. The HCU will launch investigations and initiate prosecutions against groups or individuals that are motivated by "a bias against a particular group."
Nessel has indicated she'll focus on so-called hate groups listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a leftist group increasingly discredited as primarily interested in smearing pro-life, pro-family organizations, including Church Militant, recently added to its "Hate List."
Church Militant asked the Michigan attorney general's office whether this organization is under investigation.
"We don't disclose who we are and are not investigating," a spokesman answered. "However, it's important to note law enforcement agencies only investigate criminal acts."
Nessel has made clear, however, that a crime could include an overall message of "hate" and not necessarily individual criminal acts.
Recent scrutiny of SPLC has resulted in the abrupt resignations of founders Morris Dees and Richard Cohen.
Both the establishment of the HCU and the cessation of state funding for adoption and foster-care organizations that don't align with the homosexual agenda indicate that Michigan's chief law-enforcement officer is stridently anti-Catholic and, further, possesses no qualms about violating a 2015 Michigan law that specifically permits agencies the right to refuse on religious grounds such services to the LBGTQ community.
On March 22, Nessel's office announced it had negotiated a settlement between the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and two lesbian couples who had enlisted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to represent them as plaintiffs. According to the Detroit Free Press:
The terms of the settlement require that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services agrees to maintain nondiscriminatory provisions in its foster care and adoption agency contracts. It also calls for the department to enforce the nondiscrimination provisions by terminating contracts with agencies that either discriminate against same-sex couples or LGBTQ individuals who would otherwise qualify to become foster or adoptive parents or that refer them to other agencies.
The Free Press notes:
After the settlement was announced Friday, the Michigan Catholic Conference, the Lansing-based advocacy agency that serves as the official voice of the Catholic Church in Michigan, tweeted, "The settlement announced today by the Attorney General in the Dumont/Lyon case does nothing to protect the thousands of children in foster care looking for loving homes. As such, it is highly unlikely this is the last chapter of the story."
Lori Windham, an attorney with Becket, a Washington D.C.-based law firm that works on religious freedom cases, said the settlement violates Michigan law that protects religious adoption agencies.
"The Michigan AG and the ACLU are trying to stop the state from working with faith-based adoption agencies," she said in a statement. "The result of that will be tragic. Thousands of children will be kept from finding the loving homes they deserve."
State legislators registered their respective disapproval of Nessel's actions. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) responded:
Dana Nessel has shown us that she cares little for the Constitution and even less for the vulnerable population of children in need of forever homes. ... Nessel's actions make it clear that she sought the office of attorney general to further her own personal political agenda.
And Rep. James Lower (R-Cedar Lake) said, "This proves our point that the attorney general is unwilling to defend the laws in this state."
"[T]he situation puts these agencies in a tough situation because they have been able to refer couples to another agency that is willing to work with same-sex couples," he added. "But now, they'll have to choose to either not to help the kids or violate their religious beliefs."
Lower was referring to Michigan's 59 private adoption and foster care agencies. Although 20 are affiliated with a religious organization, Health and Human Services claims it doesn't know what number of these provide adoption and foster-care placements with LGBTQ individuals and couples.
Nessel also announced earlier this month that she has formed a Michigan Hate Crimes Unit, a press release claiming it will operate "within the Criminal Division of the Department of Attorney General that is charged with investigating and prosecuting hate crimes." According to Detroit News writer Nolan Finley, the unit poses risks to civil rights in Michigan.
"Nessel says she'll start her surveillance with the 31 Michigan organizations that appear on the Southern Poverty Legal [sic] Center's list of hate groups," he wrote.
The SPLC has prompted intense scrutiny and negative press for, among other issues enumerated below, listing Christian groups like Church Militant as a "hate group": "One of the Michigan organizations on the SPLC list, Church Militant/St. Michael's Media in Ferndale, is there because it advocates strict Catholic teachings on marriage and is outspoken in its opposition to abortion."
Spots on the list are earned not necessarily through hateful actions, but for expression of opinions on social issues that don't adhere to left-wing ideology.
Groups have been singled out as hateful by the SPLC for opposing gay marriage, abortion and immigration.
The SPLC is extremely reckless in its selection of groups to include on the hit list.
The SPLC has garnered headlines this month after the announcement that its co-founder Morris Dees had been fired, presumably for behavior linked to well-documented instances of sexual harassment. Co-founder Richard Cohen stepped down this past Friday.
Dees' ousting prompted the hiring of Tina Tchen, Michelle Obama's former chief-of-staff, to investigate charges of racial and sexual discrimination and harassment at SPLC. Tchen also attracted media attention for allegedly attempting to interfere with the Chicago Police Department's investigation of the Jussie Smollet hate crime hoax in January.
In a recent New Yorker piece, a former SPLC employee explained the group's modus operandi:
We were working with a group of dedicated and talented people, fighting all kinds of good fights, making life miserable for the bad guys. And yet, all the time, dark shadows hung over everything: the racial and gender disparities, the whispers about sexual harassment, the abuses that stemmed from the top-down management, and the guilt you couldn’t help feeling about the legions of donors who believed that their money was being used, faithfully and well, to do the Lord's work in the heart of Dixie. We were part of the con, and we knew it.