I got an interesting e-mail from Americans United for Separation of Church and State regarding those feel-good ads we’ve seen during football games, including the Super Bowl. The message on immigration and asylum seekers being compared to Joseph and Mary during the holiday season was especially powerful. But I must say I don’t trust anything until I find out who’s funding what and for what purpose. I’m especially distrusting of religious messaging. So, this e-mail answered some questions I’ve had since I first saw the ads.
An expected 120 million people will watch the Super Bowl on Sunday – many just for the commercials. One viral ad – the $20 million “He Gets Us” campaign about Jesus – is funded by an influential donor to some of the most active and litigious Shadow Network groups working to undermine church-state separation.
The Servant Foundation, also known as The Signatry, is behind the ad blitz. Over the next three years, the Servant Foundation plans to spend “about a billion dollars” toward this public relations campaign. They’ve hired a PR firm to address, in the firm’s words, the problem of “How did the world’s greatest love story in Jesus become known as a hate group?”
Of course, they’re the cause of their own problem – not only has the Servant Foundation funded hate groups, but the PR firm, Haven, has represented them. Key Shadow Network members Focus on the Family and Alliance Defending Freedom are in their portfolio. Our last installment in this email series exposed ADF, a noted anti-LGBTQ hate group that has argued repeatedly in courts that religion, and specifically Christianity, is a license to discriminate; they have one such case pending before the Supreme Court right now.
But the Servant Foundation has more direct ties to ADF: It’s one of ADF’s biggest financial backers. A recent exposé reports that, “between 2018-20, the Servant Foundation donated more than $50 million to the Alliance Defending Freedom” and that those contributions “were among the five largest donations given out by the foundation in each of those three years.”
Other recipients of the Servant Foundation’s billion dollars in assets include:
- Nearly $8 million went to Answers in Genesis, creationist Ken Ham’s fundamentalist ministry behind the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter.
- Over $1 million was designated for the anti-LGBTQ Campus Crusade for Christ (rebranded as “Cru” since 2011).
- $374,800 went to Al Hayat Ministries, an organization that seeks to “respectfully yet fearlessly unveil the deception of Islam,” and runs an Arabic-language Christian satellite TV station with the goal of converting Muslims to Christianity.
In 2020 alone, we found donations to prominent Shadow Network members American Center for Law and Justice, First Liberty Institute, and Liberty Counsel.
Also helping to fund the Super Bowl ads are the Greens, the billionaire family behind the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., and the Hobby Lobby craft store chain that got the Supreme Court to grant corporations a religious exemption to deny workers access to birth control.
This is how the Shadow Network operates – an expensive, gimmicky ad campaign that pastes a feel-good, faith-friendly face on their behind-the-scenes efforts to redefine religious freedom and gut church-state separation. But you and I know better.
So, when you hear folks chatting about this “Jesus ad” after the Super Bowl, help us expose the Shadow Network behind the ads.
Rachel K. Laser
President and CEO
During tough times, we all look for feel-good messages, but we must ask ourselves if we are being duped by the messengers. Hell, everyone feels good when the local furniture salesman does something, but then are shocked when he ends up being a gambling-addicted, MAGA-supporting, tax-dodging, election denying a-hole. Or, when the local feel-good preacher locks the doors on hurricane victims. A billion-dollar ad campaign is equally suspect when it comes from people funding hate. It’s something to think about.
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