CFPB Official Paul Watkins Says He Only Worked For Hate Group’s Training Arm

CFPB Official Paul Watkins Claims His Work for Anti-LGBT Hate Group Didn’t Include Advocacy – If You Don’t Count Training the Next Generation of Anti-Equality Advocates

Allied Progress Calls On Director Kraninger to Ensure Watkins Never Gets Power to Exempt Companies from Anti-Discrimination Laws

Washington D.C.– As Senator Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Reps. Katie Porter and Ayanna Pressley await answers from CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger about how Paul Watkins landed the job as Director of the Bureau’s Office of Innovation despite his past work for an anti-LGBT hate group, consumer watchdog group Allied Progress pointed Kraninger to the key moments from Watkins’s congressional testimony on Tuesday: 1) Watkins admitted working for two years as an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom, a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated anti-LGBT hate group, and made no apologies for it; 2) Watkins denied ADF’s well-documented history of supporting the recriminalization of homosexuality and defending state sanctioned sterilization of trans people; 3) in the same breath Watkins denied doing advocacy work for ADF, he acknowledged working for the group’s secretive legal fellowship program that trained future attorneys to defend the “sanctity” of marriage.

“It’s the classic conundrum: which came first, the anti-LGBT advocate — or the anti-LGBT advocate’s trainer?” said Jeremy Funk, spokesman for Allied Progress. “If anything, it’s worse that Mr. Watkins left the ADF’s dirty legal work to others so he could focus on cultivating the next generation of anti-equality legal advocates. He probably was able to do more damage that way. Mr. Watkins also did his credibility no favors by denying awareness of some of ADF’s more notorious efforts to undermine rights and freedom of the LGBT community. It’d be like if Watkins worked for McDonalds for two years and then claimed he never heard of Chicken McNuggets. It simply doesn’t pass the smell test.” 

Watkins’ responses came under tough questioning from Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-CA) about the findings from Allied Progress’ new reportdetailing Watkins’ past ties to Alliance Defending Freedom and how he could soon gain the authority as CFPB Office of Innovation Director to exempt businesses from compliance with anti-discrimination laws under the Bureau’s “no-action” letter initiative.

Added Funk: “Watkins’ effort to sugarcoat his work for an anti-LGBT hate group raises serious red flags about his willingness to support the CFPB’s mission to protect all consumers, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Director Kraninger must show her own dedication to that mission by ensuring Mr. Watkins is never given the power to decide whether businesses have to comply with anti-discrimination laws. If the Director is unwilling to ask for his resignation, the very least she can do is reassign him as far away from Bureau discrimination matters as possible.” 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Paul Watkins Is Facing Backlash For Working For A “Homophobic Hate Group” Where He Helped Train Attorneys To Defend The “Sanctity” Of Marriage 

Democratic Lawmakers Led By Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) Have Called On CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger To “Reconsider The Hiring Of Paul Watkins” Because Of His Work For “A Homophobic Hate Group. 

In June 2019, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), And Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) Called On CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger To “Reconsider The Hiring Of Paul Watkins As The Assistant Director Of The Innovation Office.” 

On June 25, 2019, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), And Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) Wrote A Letter To CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger Calling On Her To “Reconsider The Hiring Of Paul Watkins As The Assistant Director Of The Innovation Office, Following Reports He Worked For A Group Deemed By Some As An Anti-LGBTQ Hate Group.” “Democratic lawmakers are calling on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to reconsider the hiring of Paul Watkins as the assistant director of the innovation office, following reports he worked for a group deemed by some as an anti-LGBTQ hate group. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Reps. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Katie Porter, D-Calif., told CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger in a letter Tuesday that they are concerned about Watkins’ fitness for his job considering the discretion his position has to exempt certain companies from complying with anti-discrimination laws.” [Neil Haggerty, “Warren leads Democratic call to reconsider another CFPB hire,”American Banker, 06/25/19]

The Lawmakers Said Paul Watkins’ Past Work At Alliance Defending Freedom, “A Homophobic Hate Group,” Was “Especially Troubling” Because He Might Have Authority To “Exempt Companies From Consumer Protection And Anti-Discrimination Laws.”

In Their Letter, The Lawmakers Expressed “Serious Concerns” About Paul Watkins’ “Role At The CFPB,” Which “Gives Him Wide Discretion To Exempt Companies – Or Even Entire Industries — From Anti-Discrimination Laws,” “Given His Past Work At A Homophobic Hate Group,” Alliance Defending Freedom. “We are writing to express our serious concerns over your continued employment of PaulWatkins as the Assistant Director of the Office of lnnovation at the Consumer FinancialProtection Bureau (CFPB). According to a new report released this week, from 2012-2015, Mr. Watkins was a Senior Legal Counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom – a legal ‘advocacy and training’ organization that has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its efforts to develop ‘legislation and case law that will allow the denial of goods and services to LGBT people.’ Mr. Watkin’s role at the CFPB gives him wide discretion to exempt companies – or even entire industries — from anti-discrimination laws and given his past work at a homophobic hate group, we are deeply concerned that he will use this power to scrap crucial protections for the LGBTQ consumers. We therefore ask that you reconsider his employment and his role at the Bureau.” [Letter from Senator Elizabeth Warren et. al. to Director Kathy Kraninger, 06/25/19]

The Lawmakers Wrote That Watkins’ Past Work Was “Especially Troubling Given The Broad Authority That Office Has To Exempt Companies From Consumer Protection And Antidiscrimination Laws.” “Mr. Watkins’ role as Director of the Office of Innovation is especially troubling given the broad authority that office has to exempt companies from consumer protection and antidiscrimination laws under policies that Mr. Watkins designed. The CFPB’s Office of Innovation is responsible for overseeing the creation of policies that ‘facilitate innovation’ and review ‘outdated or unnecessary regulations’ for financial technologies (fintech).” [Letter from Senator Elizabeth Warren et. al. to Director Kathy Kraninger, 06/25/19]

Paul Watkins Claimed He “Did Not Engage In Advocacy” While Helping To Lead A “Secretive” Legal Fellowship Program That Trained Students To Defend The “Sanctity” of Marriage—Watkins Said It Was “Crucial For Us As Attorneys To Start Bringing Up The Next Generation.”

While Testifying Before Congress, Paul Watkins Claimed He “Did Not Engage In Advocacy” While Working At Alliance Defending Freedom.

Paul Watkins Claimed He “Did Not Engage In Advocacy” Or “Litigation” While Working At Alliance Defending Freedom. Rep. Katie Porter:“More than one-third of my staff in DC and in Orange County are gay. Do you have a message to them to assure them how you will champion anti-discrimination at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after your advocacy with a gay hate group?” Paul Watkins:“So I did not engage in advocacy. I did not engage in litigation. My job was as part of a component of that group that advises law students. I did not represent parties in court. I did not advocate for policies in the legislature. The information that I believe you are basing these questions on is mistaken in many respects. I am committed to upholding the Bureau’s policies, both for my internal management of my office, as well as upholding the constitutional and statutory framework as interpreted by the Bureau in my external facing activities.” [“Task Force on Financial Technology Hearing: ‘Overseeing the Fintech Revolution: Domestic and International Perspectives on Fintech Regulation,’” House Financial Services Committee via YouTube, 06/25/19 (1:37:35)]

Paul Watkins’ Role At Alliance Defending Freedom Focused On Career Development For Its “Secretive” Blackstone Legal Fellowship.

In 2013, Paul Watkins Was “Legal Counsel, Career Development, Blackstone Legal Fellowship,” For Alliance Defending Freedom. Paul Watkins signed a March 1, 2013 email as Alliance Defending Freedom’s “Legal Counsel, Career Development, Blackstone Legal Fellowship.” [Responsive Documents, “8-12-2016_BEALL_06-P_Responsive_Docs.pdf,” Page 397, State of Florida, 08/12/16]

Alliance Defending Freedom Has Used Its “Secretive” Blackstone Legal Fellowship To Train Thousands Of Students In 21 Countries.“The organization also offers the secretive Blackstone Legal Fellowship, through which Christian law students study under prominent scholars, participate in internships, and prepare for life and leadership in the legal profession. Since 2000 (the year of Blackstone’s inception), the ADF claims it has trained over 1,600 law students from 225 law schools in 21 different countries.” [“Alliance Defending Freedom,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 05/30/19]

Alliance Defending Freedom’s Blackstone Legal Fellowship Trains Students To Develop “A Distinctly Christian Worldview In Every Area Of Law.” 

Alliance Defending Freedom Stated In A Tax Filing That The Blackstone Fellowship “Inspires A Distinctly Christian Worldview In Every Area Of Law” And Is Meant To “Train A New Generation Of Lawyers Who Will Rise To Positions Of Influence.”“‘[T]he Blackstone Fellowship inspires a distinctly Christian worldview in every area of law, and particularly in the areas of public policy and religious liberty,’ states the Alliance’s public tax filing. ‘With this ongoing program, it’s [the Alliance’s] goal to train a new generation of lawyers who will rise to positions of influence and leadership as legal scholars, litigators, judges—perhaps even Supreme Court Justices—who will work to ensure that justice is carried out in America’s courtrooms.’” [Sofia Resnick and Sharona Coutts, “Not the ‘Illuminati’: How Fundamentalist Christians Are Infiltrating State and Federal Government,” Rewire.News, 05/13/14]

Paul Watkins Said He Was Drawn To Alliance Defending Freedom “Because I Think It’s Crucial For Us As Attorneys To Start Bringing Up The Next Generation.”

Paul Watkins Said He Began Working For ADF’s Blackstone Fund “Because I Think It’s Crucial For Us As Attorneys To Start Bringing Up The Next Generation.” “I took this job because I think it’s crucial for us as attorneys to start bringing up the next generation.” [“Jordan Lorence and Paul Watkins on the Hugh Hewitt Show: The Blackstone Legal Fellowship and ADF Cases,” Alliance Defending Freedom via Archive.org, 06/08/12 (1:46)]

In 2012, Paul Watkins Said He Had Been At ADF For Three Months Working For The Blackstone Fellowship, Helping Students Find “Mentors In The Fields That God Has Called Them To Succeed In.” Paul Watkins: “I’ve been at the Alliance Defense Fund for three months. I work in career development for the Blackstone Fellowship and I’m focusing on helping our law students assess what they want to do and work on their personal presentation and interviewing skills and then find them mentors in the fields that God has called them to succeed in.” [“Jordan Lorence and Paul Watkins on the Hugh Hewitt Show: The Blackstone Legal Fellowship and ADF Cases,” Alliance Defending Freedom via Archive.org, 06/08/12 (00:43)]

  • Alliance Defense Fund Changed Its Name To Alliance Defending Freedom In July 2012.[Press Release, Alliance Defending Freedom, 07/09/12]

While Paul Watkins Worked There, The Blackstone Legal Fellowship Trained Law Students To Defend “Religious Liberty, The Sanctity Of Life, And Marriage And Family.”

In 2013, The Blackstone Legal Fellowship Trained Law Students On “Sound, Reasoned Defense Of Religious Liberty, The Sanctity Of Life, And Marriage And Family.” “Our goal is to train law students who will rise to positions of influence and leadership as legal scholars, litigators, policy makers, and judges. Ideas may have consequences, but people change cultures. For that reason, the Blackstone Legal Fellowship seeks to identify and train leaders who passionately demonstrate Truth – who embrace the right things at the right time with the right attitudes. The Blackstone Legal Fellowship addresses some of the challenging cultural and legal issues facing the Christian lawyer in the new millennium.  Through a principled and analytical framework, students receive highly specialized, in-depth training, and hands-on work experience in: […] Sound, reasoned defense of religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.” [“History & Mission,” Blackstone Legal Fellowship via Archive.org, archived 06/06/13]

  • Paul Watkins Was Senior Legal Counsel For Alliance Defending Freedom From 2012 To 2015.[Paul Watkins Resume, Obtained Through FOIA (CFPB-2019-0276-F)]

Paul Watkins Had Previously Participated In Alliance Defending Freedom’s Blackstone Legal Fellowship Program When He Was A Law Student.

Paul Watkins Said He Was A Blackstone Fellow In 2004. [“Jordan Lorence and Paul Watkins on the Hugh Hewitt Show: The Blackstone Legal Fellowship and ADF Cases,” Alliance Defending Freedom via Archive.org, 06/08/12 (01:14)]

Alliance Defending Freedom Boasts That Blackstone Legal Fellows Move Into “Positions Of Powerful Influence That Will Ultimately Transform Our Nation’s Legal System.”

Alliance Defending Freedom Claims That The Blackstone Legal Fellowship Provides “The Legal Firepower For The Fight To Protect Religious Freedom” And Has Contributed To “Several Supreme Court Wins.”

ADF Claims That Blackstone Is “Providing The Legal Firepower For The Fight To Protect Religious Freedom,” Carried Out By “115 Blackstone Alumni [Who] Were Serving Full-Time For Organizations On The Front Lines Of This Fight,” Including Several Supreme Court Cases. “Providing the legal firepower for the fight to protect religious freedom. At last count, 115 Blackstone alumni were serving full-time for organizations on the front lines of this fight, contributing to key legal victories, including several Supreme Court wins!” [“Create lasting, positive change in America’s legal system … one law student at a time,” Alliance Defending Freedom, accessed 06/26/19]

Blackstone Fellows Have Provided Research For Amicus Briefs In Court Cases Against Same-Sex Marriage.

In 2015, The Chairman Of The Board Of The National Organization For Marriage Credited Blackstone Fellows With Providing Research For Amicus Briefs Filed In Anti-Gay Marriage Cases. In a journal article suggesting that Supreme Court was “cheating” by ruling “in United States v. Windsorthat section 3 of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional,” borrowing a phrase used in Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent, the author, John C. Eastman,” is described as “the founding Director of the Claremont Institute’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, which he represented as amicus curiae in several of the cases discussed in this article, and is grateful for the fine research of several Chapman law school students and Blackstone fellows in the preparation of those briefs, some of which is included in this article. He also serves as Chairman of the Board of the National Organization for Marriage.” [John Eastman, “Cheating Marriage, A Tragedy in Three Acts,” Ave Maria Law Review, accessed 06/26/19]

  • The National Organization For Marriage Is An Advocacy Organization That Opposes Same-Sex Marriage. “The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to protect marriage and the faith communities that sustain it. Founded in 2007 in response to the growing need for an organized opposition to same-sex marriage in state legislatures, NOM serves as a national resource for marriage-related initiatives at the state and local level.” [“About Us,” National Organization For Marriage, accessed 06/26/19]

Blackstone Boasted That Its Graduates “Move Steadily Into Positions Of Powerful Influence That Will Ultimately Transform Our Nation’s Legal System,” Including Some Of The Highest Political, Legal, And Academic Positions.

In 2010, Alliance Defending Freedom Claimed That Blackstone Has Helped Its Graduates “Move Steadily Into Positions Of Powerful Influence That Will Ultimately Transform Our Nation’s Legal System,” Including Congress, The Justice Department, A Governor’s Office, And Political Campaigns. TheBlackstone Legal Fellowship said of its graduates, “… 51 work for firms focused on religious liberty cases … nine serve at ADF … many others are influencing their firms and organizations to take on, for the first time, religious freedom cases … … nearly 180 have clerked for judges at some level of the courts … seven work in the U.S. Department of Justice … others work for members of Congress … one is legal adviser to a governor … a few are already campaigning for the chance to serve in public offices themselves.” [Alan Sears, “End of Summer Brings 120 New Reasons to Hope for Our Future,” Alliance Defending Freedom, 08/03/10]

  • “The investments made by so many faithful friends like you in the lives and training of these Blackstone students are ‘seeding the clouds’ of tomorrow, as these gifted, prayerful, and deeply committed young people move steadily into positions of powerful influence that will ultimately transform our nation’s legal system.”[Alan Sears, “End of Summer Brings 120 New Reasons to Hope for Our Future,” Alliance Defending Freedom, 08/03/10]

Paul Watkins Claimed He Did Not Believe That Alliance Defending Freedom “Supports The Recriminalization Of Homosexuality And Defends State Sanctioned Sterilization Of Trans People”—Which Is Why The Southern Poverty Law Center Designated It A Hate Group.

While Testifying Before Congress, Paul Watkins Said He Did Not Believe That Alliance Defending Freedom “Supports The Recriminalization Of Homosexuality And Defends State Sanctioned Sterilization Of Trans People.”

Paul Watkins Said He Did Not Believe That Alliance Defending Freedom “Supports The Recriminalization Of Homosexuality And Defends State Sanctioned Sterilization Of Trans People.” Rep. Katie Porter:“In describing the Alliance Defending Freedom the Southern Poverty Law Center said that the group, quotes [sic], supports the recriminalization of homosexuality and defends state sanctioned sterilization of trans people and Mr. Spears, the founder, co-founder, and CEO of the Alliance Defending Freedom, has described the homosexual agenda as evil and written that homosexual behavior and pedophilia are often ‘intrinsically linked.’ Do you agree with those views?” Paul Watkins:“Congresswoman, I am not, I do not even believe that the organization holds those views, they would have to speak for themselves, what you have described is clearly unconstitutional and the practices that you mentioned are clearly unconstitutional and have no place in the United States.” [“Task Force on Financial Technology Hearing: ‘Overseeing the Fintech Revolution: Domestic and International Perspectives on Fintech Regulation,’” House Financial Services Committee via YouTube, 06/25/19 (1:36:38)]

Alliance Defending Freedom Has “Supported The Recriminalization Of Homosexuality In The U.S. And Criminalization Abroad” And “Claims That A ‘Homosexual Agenda’ Will Destroy Christianity And Society.”

According To The Southern Poverty Law Center, Alliance Defending Freedom Has “Supported The Recriminalization Of Homosexuality In The U.S. And Criminalization Abroad” And “Defended State-Sanctioned Sterilization Of Trans People Abroad.” “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 homosexuality in the U.S. and criminalization abroad
  • Defended state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad
  • Linked homosexuality to pedophilia
  • Claims that a ‘homosexual agenda’ will destroy Christianity and society.”

[“Alliance Defending Freedom,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 06/26/19]

Alliance Defending Freedom Has Been Designated A Hate Group By The Southern Poverty Law Center For Its Homophobic Agenda. Alliance Defending Freedom is an “SLPC Designated Hate Group. [“Alliance Defending Freedom,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 05/30/19]

Alliance Defending Freedom Has Even Required Its Employees To Sign A “Statement Of Faith” Saying That Homosexuality Is “Sinful And Offensive To God.”

Alliance Defending Freedom “Requires Employment Applicants To Sign A ‘Statement Of Faith’ That Is Explicitly Christian And Condemns ‘Homosexual Behavior.’” “Alliance Defending Freedom would likely lose funding for its summer and post-graduate fellowships from Yale Law should the policy be implemented. It requires employment applicants to sign a ‘statement of faith’ that is explicitly Christian and condemns ‘homosexual behavior.’” [Christopher Vondracek, “Yale Law School defends new pro-LGBTQ fellowship policy,” The Washington Times, 04/15/19]

Alliance Defending Freedom’s Current “Statement Of Faith” On Its Website States That “God Designed Marriage As A Unique Conjugal Relationship Joining One Man And One Woman.” [“Statement of Faith,” Alliance Defending Freedom, accessed 06/25/19]

  • On ADF’s Website, Users Must Indicate That Their Beliefs Do Not Conflict With ADF’s Statement Of Faith Before Viewing Job Postings.“I have read, understood, and profess for myself the Alliance Defending Freedom Statement of Faith and Doctrinal Distinctives, and I hold to beliefs that are not in conflict with them.”[“Statement of Faith,” Alliance Defending Freedom, accessed 06/25/19]

An Earlier Version Of Alliance Defending Freedom’s “Statement Of Faith” Stated That “God Intends Sexual Intimacy To Only Occur Between A Man And A Woman Joined In Marriage” And That “All Forms Of Sexual Immorality Are Sinful And Offensive To God.” [“Statement of Faith,” Alliance Defending Freedom via Archive.org, archived 09/15/17]

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