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MLive article fails to investigate a Christian health care organization and their legal team, which does not want to provide service to the LGBTQ community

November 30, 2022

On Monday, MLive posted a news story about a Christian health care facility that filed  a lawsuit against the state of Michigan in September this year. The MLive article from Monday provides a response from Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

The organization that filed the lawsuit is Christian Healthcare Centers, which has facilities in Grand Rapids and Newaygo. According to the MLive story, the legal team representing Christian Healthcare Centers is arguing:

“Under the guise of stopping discrimination, the law discriminates against religious organizations, requiring them to forfeit their religious character and hire people who do not share their faith.”

The MLive article continues by stating:

The health care provider also claims Michigan law violates its “religious convictions” by potentially forcing the nonprofit to “prescribe cross-sex hormones” and refer to patients by their “stated gender identity, rather than their biological sex.”

This argument, which is a standard strategy for for conservative and far right religious organizations, hides behind their interpretation of Christianity, in order to avoid having to serve members of the public that are living lives they believe are ideologically opposed to the organization’s values. 

Now the particulars of the case were reported accurately in the MLive article. However, the MLive story does a disservice to their readers in terms of how they present the legal team representing Christian Healthcare Centers. 

Here is how MLive presented Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal group representing the Christian Health Centers, in their November 28th article: 

Alliance Defending Freedom has been deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its anti-LGBTQ beliefs. It responded by calling the law center a “radical leftist organization.”

This is a very problematic way to present information about Alliance Defending Freedom. First, there is no verification or further explanation for why the Southern Poverty Law Center has deemed them as a hate group other than “its anti-LGBTQ beliefs.” Here is what the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) writes about Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF):

Founded by some 30 leaders of the Christian Right, the Alliance Defending Freedom is a legal advocacy and training group that has supported the recriminalization of sexual acts between consenting LGBTQ adults in the U.S. and criminalization abroad; has defended state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad; has contended that LGBTQ people are more likely to engage in pedophilia; and claims that a “homosexual agenda” will destroy Christianity and society. ADF also works to develop “religious liberty” legislation and case law that will allow the denial of goods and services to LGBTQ people on the basis of religion. Since the election of President Trump, ADF has become one of the most influential groups informing the administration’s attack on LGBTQ rights.

The SPLC also lists some concrete examples of why the ADF has a hate group designation:

In addition to the SPLC information, the Center for Media & Democracy has a significant amount of information on Alliance Defending Freedom. GRIID has also posted several articles about groups in West Michigan that have utilized Alliance Defending Freedom in recent years, specifically to defend far right religious ideology. In 2019, we wrote about how Catholic Charities of West Michigan had ADF work on a case to oppose adoption by LGBTQ couples.

The second major problem with the flippant way that MLive presented what the ADF legal firm was with fact that they let ADF refer to the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “radical leftist organization.” The SPLC is hardly a radical organization, since it is impossible for a group to be a non-profit and be radical, at least the way I understand what radical means. It is standard for groups on the far right to refer to groups that oppose them as radical, since such a label is meant to be dismissive and marginalize. 

One last problematic aspect of the MLive article is that they don’t explore further the ideological framework of Christian Healthcare Centers. At first glance, there isn’t a great deal of alarming content on the  Christian Healthcare Centers website, especially since it primarily about health care related information and services. However, if one looks at who sits on the board of directors, you can get some perspective on why the health care provider is being represented by Alliance Defending Freedom. A few of their board members are part of the group Samaritan Ministries International. Samaritan Ministries International is also a healthcare entity, which is member-driven. In order to be a member, one must agree to their statement of faith and their membership agreement. The membership agreement limits the type of Christian Churches they find acceptable and they also only believe in heteronormative sex and marriage.

Then there is a board member who is with another Grand Rapids-based group, The Grand Awakening.  My read on the Grand Awakening organization is that it is Dominionist, meaning they want Christianity to be the law of the land here in the US. In addition, the leader of The Grand Awakening, Randy Hekman, has written a book that condemns abortion and his blog also condemn abortion on a regular basis. GRIID wrote about a Grand Awakening event that was held in Grand Rapids in 2018, called Cityfest. Cityfest was a Conservative Christian event that was also bankrolled by the DeVos family. 

The only daily print newspaper/online news source MLive has once again failed to provide readers with a more critical and investigative understanding on an issue that should be receiving lots of attention from local news sources. LGBTQ rights and safety are under attack in West Michigan and across the US, primarily because of far right Christian groups and the Republican Party. LGBTQ lives are literally at risk, so all news agencies need to step up and report on how they are at risk and which groups are fueling the anti-LGBTQ climate we are currently living in. 

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