Earlier this month, the Associated Press published an article about Liberty Counsel, best known to the public as the Christian group representing Kim Davis. The article mentioned that Liberty Counsel is a “hate group,” since that’s the designation given to them by the Southern Poverty Law Center, but pointing out that distinction has sent attorney Mat Staver over the edge. He’s claiming that the AP has put his group’s members in harm’s way:
In a blistering letter, signed by Liberty Counsel president Mathew Staver and delivered on Monday to Brian Barrett, AP’s Assistant General Counsel, the group charges an October 4 story is “defamatory and presents Liberty Counsel and me in a false light. The words and the way the article is written as a whole present a clear and unmistakable message to a reasonable person — Mat Staver and Liberty Counsel are liars and haters, and the organization is a ‘hate group.’ These assertions are very damaging and place lives in danger.”
None of this is the AP’s fault.
It’s absolutely true, as the article noted, that Liberty Counsel lied (intentionally or not) about a Kim Davis rally that they said took place in Peru.
It’s also true that Liberty Counsel threatened to sue a library that gave kids certificates for reading Harry Potter books because — I’m not making this up — they were endorsing the religion of “witchcraft.”
Still, Staver doesn’t think he runs a “hate” group:
“It is irresponsible and reckless to call someone a hate group because you disagree with them,” [Staver] said.
That’s what he keeps claiming and that’s where he gets it wrong. Liberty Counsel isn’t a hate group because they oppose LGBT rights. If that’s all it took, damn near every evangelical church in the country would be in the same boat. They’re not.
Liberty Counsel is a hate group because they constantly, purposely say horrible things about LGBT people.
Right Wing Watch’s Brian Tashman has a long list of examples, focusing only on things Staver himself has said:
Charged that including gays in the Boy Scouts would turn the organization into “a playground for pedophiles.
Said a lesson on LGBT History Month amounts to the “sexual assault on our children” and emphasizes “sex and murder.”
That list goes on for a while. These aren’t just differences of opinions. These are lies that drive policy decisions, not to mention a lot of kids to suicide. Liberty Counsel doesn’t care what the facts are or what the research says. They’re sticking to their bigotry no matter what.
That’s why they’re a hate group.
And Staver doesn’t just want the AP to change parts of its article. It’s too late for that. He wants the whole thing removed from the Internet. (Ha!)
Liberty Counsel is not asking AP for a “minor edit here and there…” Staver writes, “At a minimum, AP should permanently remove the link and the cache.”
(Just in case the article comes down, here’s a permanent link to the AP’s piece.)
The AP hasn’t responded to Staver’s letter.
In the meantime, though, they’re doing all they can to wash off the “hate” designation:
“Logically, a ‘hate group’ should be defined as one whose members (1) actually say that they hate a particular group of people; and/or (2) engage in or condone violence or other illegal activity toward such a group,” legal experts at Liberty Counsel point out. “The SPLC, however, uses much broader criteria for defining ‘hate groups,’ and criteria which can vary depending on which of 14 categories of ‘hate groups’ you are looking at — ranging from ‘Neo-Nazi’ to ‘Black Separatist’ to ‘Radical Traditional Catholicism.’ These criteria are entirely subjective and largely ideological.”
That’s a very broad definition, isn’t it? You can only be a hate group if you say you hate people.
So when a high school bully verbally abuses a kid, then says “I was only teasing,” I guess we should just let him off the hook and stop calling him the “B” word? Bullshit.
And physical violence isn’t the only form of hate, either.
Here’s the real difference:
When Liberty Counsel wants to criticize LGBT people, they create and spread malicious lies about them.
When progressive groups want to criticize Liberty Counsel, they just quote Mat Staver verbatim.
You don’t need to make things up when all you have to do is hold up a mirror.
Maybe Staver should chat with his conservative colleagues. They seem to think being called a “hate group” is a badge of honor.
Staver’s not going to win this argument. Every time he whines about being treated like a hateful person, all we have to do is point to any number of hateful things he’s said.
It’s like Pat Robertson trying to say he’s a rational guy. The videotape says otherwise.
(Screenshot via YouTube)