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Michigan AG Creates New Hate-Crimes Unit to Target Religious Organizations

‘We have a right to believe that without being called a hate group…’

Michigan AG Dana Nessel Creates New Hate Crimes Unit to Target Religious Organizations
Dana Nessel / Detroit Public TV

(Claire Russel, Liberty Headlines) Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has been using the state’s Civil Rights Department as a weapon against religious institutions, according to an investigation conducted by the Thomas More Law Center.

After Nessel attempted to put St. Vincent Catholic Charities, a faith-based adoption and foster care center, out of business last year, the TMLC filed a Freedom of Information Act request to find out why Nessel had targeted the Catholic agency in the first place.

Nessel denied the request, but her office did admit that it does not have “policies in place to safeguard the constitutional rights of individuals” who are being investigated for hate-related crimes. TMLC filed a lawsuit against Nessel for her refusal to comply with its FOIA request.

It also appears Nessel is working hand-in-hand with the Southern Poverty Law Center, a radical leftist group that regularly targets religious organizations, according to TMLC.

For example, in early 2019 the SPLC released its annual “Hate Map” targeting conservative organizations that object to the LGBT agenda.

One of the groups listed was Church Militant/St. Michael’s Media, a Michigan-based media organization tied to the Catholic Church.

Just three days after the “Hate Map” was published, Nessel announced the Michigan Department of Civil Rights would investigate Church Militant, citing the SPLC’s “Hate Map.”

Nessel was called out last year by a federal judge for anti-religious maneuvering after St. Vincent Catholic Charities brought its case to court.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Robert Jonker ruled that Nessel’s case against the agency and her past rhetoric about religion “raised a strong interference of hostility toward a religious viewpoint,” and concluded that she had “targeted” the adoption agency “based on its religious belief.”

Instead of heeding Jonker’s advice to respect religious liberty, Nessel decided to listen to the SPLC and create a new hate-crimes unit to document and prosecute hate crimes in the state.

“These [extremists organizations] range in the ideological extremes from anti-Muslim, to anti-LGBT to black nationalist and white nationalists,” said the state’s Department of Civil Rights Director Agustin Arbulu. “Particularly of concern, over one half of the identified groups are located east of US-23 between Flint and Ann Arbor.”

One of the groups Arbulu said the office will investigate is Church Militant/St. Michael’s Media, which “demonizes” gay people with its “virulently anti-gay” work, according to the SPLC.

The group’s editor-in-chief, Christine Niles, rejected this label and said that all her organization does is teach the biblical understanding of traditional marriage between one man and one woman.

“We have a right to believe that without being called a hate group,” Niles told the Detroit News.

Nessel’s spokeswoman, Kelly Rossman–McKinney, admitted that the SPLC “is a good place to start when investigating these issues,” and explained that the new hate-crime unit will include at least one prosecuting attorney and one full-time investigator.

“The combination of actions by the Attorney General Nessel, the Department of Civil Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center have a chilling effect on the freedom of speech and religion not only of Church Militant, but every religious group in Michigan that stands for traditional marriage,” TMLC President Richard Thompson said in a statement.

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