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Trump-Appointed Judge Orders Southwest Attorneys Attend Training by Anti-LGBTQ+ Group

Trump-Appointed Judge Orders Southwest Attorneys Attend Training by Anti-LGBTQ+ Group

Southwest Airlines plane

The Alliance Defending Freedom has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Federal Judge and Donald Trump appointee Brantley Starr ordered three attorneys for Southwest Airlines to undergo “religious-liberty training” from an anti-LGBTQ+ legal advocacy group as punishment for violating his ruling in a case brought by a former flight attendant.

The Texas District Judge ordered that the Alliance Defending Freedom organization, which is called a “Christian legal army” by its founder, provide the training despite the group’s history of trying to roll back LGBTQ+ rights and strengthen religious protections.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled ADF a hate group because it 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.”

The punishment stems from a 2021 case where Southwest and Transport Union Workers were both found guilty of discrimination when they fired flight attendant Charlene Carter after she “expressed her pro-life beliefs to her union president,” according to reporting by CNN.

The judge then ordered Southwest to reinstate Carter and for both the company and the union to “inform Southwest flight attendants that, under Title VII, they may not discriminate against Southwest flight attendants for their religious practices and beliefs, including – but not limited to – those expressed on social media and those concerning abortion.”

But according to sanctions set down by Starr on Monday, Southwest failed to follow his order and instead said that “Southwest does not discriminate against our Employees for their religious practices and beliefs.”

In an unusual turn, the judge referenced both the Bible and The Lord of the Rings in his sanction order. “It’s hard to see how Southwest could have violated the notice requirement more,” Starr wrote. “Take these modified historical and movie anecdotes. After God told Adam, ‘[Y]ou must not eat from the tree [in the middle of the garden],’ imagine Adam telling God, ‘I do not eat from the tree in the middle of the garden’ – while an apple core rests at his feet. Or where Gandalf bellows, ‘You shall not pass,’ the Balrog muses, ‘I do not pass,’ while strolling past Gandalf on the Bridge of Khazad-dûm.”

According to ADF’s website they have had a hand in rolling back critical LGBTQ+ protections as well as reproductive rights. The hate group worked alongside the state of Mississippi in the supreme court case Dobbs v. Jackson Womens Health Organization where they were successful in overturning Roe v. Wade. Most recently they were involved in winning the major free-speech case 303 Creative v. Elenis which will likely have far-reaching effects on protections against discrimination for LGBTQ+ people.

Both Southwest and the union have appealed the judge's original ruling and have plans to appeal the new sanctions.

The attorneys for Southwest submitted filings prior to the judge’s order arguing that “ordering religious-liberty training would be an inappropriate remedy for the alleged civil contempt,” reports CNN.

“Although Southwest contends the Email Notice still substantially complied with the judgment, Southwest has already offered to purge this alleged contempt by providing a corrective notice replacing the ‘does not discriminate’ language with ‘may not discriminate,’” the attorneys wrote. “Put another way, there is no conduct for religious-liberty training to remedy.”

Despite ADFs history of fighting for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and even railing against trans athletes in sports, Starr said in his order that “this isn’t the first time an entity has needed religious-liberty training after it attempted to suppress speech,” and praised ADF as being among other “esteemed non-profit organizations that are dedicated to preserving free speech and religious freedom.”

He continued writing, “And some of those entities laudably provide training free of charge for those who have struggled to respect religious liberties in the manner federal law requires.”

The judge’s order requires the attorneys to complete at least eight hours of “religious-liberty training” by August 28 and says that Southwest has to “transport ADF’s representative to Dallas and be responsible for any food, accommodation, or other travel expenses for ADF’s representative.”

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