An atheist group in Arizona is up in arms that there is a vanity license plate available that says “In God We Trust” and that part of the proceeds goes to support the legal ministry of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), one of the premier religious liberty law firms in the country. ADF paid for the creation of the plate as part of a license plate program that allows non-profits to share in the proceeds of sales of the plates.

Because generally no one cares when atheists are offended by the national motto, the atheists have upped their game by enlisting an Arizona legislator to carry their water for them to get the offensive license plate removed, even if the entire vanity plate program must be ended. The technique they used is what I call “slander by proxy” in that they simply pointed out that another anti-Christian group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, has designated ADF as a “hate group.”

The Arizona legislator, Sen. Juan Mendez, dutifully began calling ADF a “hate group” that “works to strip residents of our state of their human rights and human dignity.”

Whoa. Hyperbole much?

This type of name-calling doesn’t really slow down the good work of ADF, and for their part, they just keep pointing out that the SPLC is a partisan progressive hit operation, rather than the civil rights watchdog it started out as decades ago.

Kristen Waggoner, Senior Vice President of ADF, in a press release, notes the SPLC’s recent problems with defaming conservatives:

“In fact, SPLC has been sued multiple times for unjustly spreading falsehoods about various groups in order to shut down those with whom they disagree. They even recently paid $3.375 million and issued a public apology to settle a threatened defamation lawsuit by Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz, whom SPLC falsely labelled an anti-Muslim extremist.”

It’s laughable that a group like ADF, which is one of, if not the most successful group of Supreme Court advocates of recent years, would even end up on anyone’s “hate group” list. Of course, everyone understands that the “hate group” falsehood is merely a desperate attempt to bring down an organization which successfully defends the values of the people that some on the Left attempt to marginalize, i.e., Bible-believing Christians. With big Supreme Court wins for religious freedom and free speech involving Christian bakers, pregnancy resource centers, faith-based businesses and others, ADF is not very popular among progressives who don’t like to see their most freedom-curtailing legislative measures undermined by the antiseptic application of the Constitution.

And the most head-scratching part is watching the main stream media, who actually know the recent history of the SPLC’s attacks on Christians and other groups, dutifully repeat the slander by proxy every time ADF’s name comes up, by noting that the SPLC “…named the ADF a hate group in 2016…”

Because if you’re just reporting what someone else said, it’s not really you saying it, so you can survive a “fact check,” right? If there were a penalty flag for weaponized journalism, I would certainly throw it each time I read another news story that repeats the SPLC’s calumny of ADF.

Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that we are blessed when others revile us and persecute us and utter all kinds of evil against us falsely on account of our faith in Christ. (Matthew 5:11). And the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s encouragement to Christians, which builds on Jesus’ famous sermon, seems to apply particularly to the good folks at ADF: “Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.”

It seems that ADF, by any measure, carries well the mantle of “fools for Christ” for the benefit of each of us who depend on their advocacy to continue living in a country where we can preach the Gospel and live and exercise our faith free of government interference.

(Full disclosure: Focus on the Family was one of the Christian groups behind ADF’s formation.)