The Southern Poverty Law Center has been hit with a lawsuit from the ministry of late Pastor D. James Kennedy (formerly called Truth in Action) after it was named to the SPLC’s list of “Active Anti-LGBT Hate Groups.” (Kennedy himself died in 2007.)
The ministry says in the lawsuit that being put on the SPLC’s list hurt them financially because Amazon (also a defendant) refused to allow them to fundraise via AmazonSmile precisely because they’re considered a “hate group.” GuideStar (also a defendant) temporarily labeled SPLC hate groups as such on their website, and the ministry says that also hurt fundraising.
The ministry insists there’s nothing hateful about them. Which is as convincing as Donald Trump saying he’s not a racist.
The basis for SPLC’s declaration that the Ministry is a hate group is that the Ministry espouses and supports Biblical morals and principles concerning human sexuality. It was on these Biblical principles that this Nation was founded and built.
Based on GuideStar’s and SPLC’s statements, they have conspired to publish written information in interstate commerce that subjects the Ministry to disgrace, ridicule, odium, and contempt, by declaring the Ministry a hate group. Under Alabama law, this conduct constitutes defamation, specifically libel per se.
The SPLC knows that its publication of its claims that the Ministry is a Hate Group both in the Hate Map and in the SPLC Transmissions are false and that these publications defame the Ministry. The SPLC intended the Hate Map and SPLC Transmissions to be statements of fact, not statements Of opinion.
You don’t have to be a lawyer to recognize that’s a very weak attempt at showing defamation. If the SPLC was going after all ministries that espoused “Biblical morals and principles concerning human sexuality,” then damn near every evangelical church would be on the list. They’re not. The SPLC isn’t going after groups that merely have faith-based objections to homosexuality or LGBTQ rights.
They’re going after groups that go above and beyond that. Here’s how the SPLC explains why the groups on their list are called out.
Many of [the Religious Right’s] leaders have engaged in the crudest type of name-calling, describing LGBT people as “perverts” with “filthy habits” who seek to snatch the children of straight parents and “convert” them to gay sex. They have disseminated disparaging “facts” about gays that are simply untrue — assertions that are remarkably reminiscent of the way white intellectuals and scientists once wrote about the “bestial” black man and his supposedly threatening sexuality.
And if you’re wondering why Kennedy’s ministry is on there, here’s an example of what SPLC says on its site:
Gay people deserve death. And gay people are pedophiles. That’s bigotry that goes beyond the Bible. It’s hard to see how the SPLC is purposely trying to defame the ministry when the reason they’re on the hate group list is because of their own anti-gay propaganda.
Over the years, Kennedy emphasized anti-gay rhetoric, particularly in his TV ministry. He recommended as “essential” the virulent work of R.J. Rushdoony… who believed practicing gays should be executed. In an especially nasty 1989 edition of a [Coral Ridge Ministries] newsletter, Kennedy ran photographs of children along with the tagline, “Sex With Children? Homosexuals Say Yes!”
The ministry, by the way, also created a documentary against the SPLC called Profit$ of Hate: The Southern Poverty Law Center.
This lawsuit was filed the same week George and Amal Clooney donated a million dollars to the SPLC to help them counter violent extremism.
The SPLC should win this case rather easily since there’s really no basis for this lawsuit. Christian groups on the list can whine all they want, but even if the SPLC didn’t exist, people would see them as hateful because of their own words. They actively spread lies about gay people. They claim homosexuality is some sort of disorder that can be cured, that it’s a perversion akin to pedophilia and bestiality, that there’s a Gay Agenda trying to convert children. None of that is true, and none of that has anything to do with Jesus.
That said, the SPLC doesn’t get everything right. Muslim activist Maajid Nawaz announced in June that he also planned to sue the SPLC over his inclusion on their list of “anti-Muslim extremists.” Ex-Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali was also on that list, though she has not said whether she’ll join Nawaz’s lawsuit. I’ve written extensively about why neither of them should have been on it and I would encourage everyone to withhold donations to the SPLC until they remove their names and apologize.
(Incidentally, Nawaz has been fundraising for his defamation case ever since June 23, but he has not yet filed any official lawsuit against the SPLC. I’ve asked his organization, Quilliam, when he plans to file the lawsuit and how much has been raised so far. As of this writing, they have not responded.)
Hirsi Ali even has an essay in today’s New York Times urging donors to “find more trustworthy and deserving partners to work with than the S.P.L.C.” because of their treatment of her and Nawaz.
… Mr. Nawaz is a secular Muslim, whereas I am not a believer any longer. Yet we both agreed the path to a successful reformation of Islam lies in more debate, more scrutiny and more critical thinking. It is exactly these activities that our opponents, now including the S.P.L.C., describe as extremism.
Unwittingly or not, the S.P.L.C. is abetting Islamic extremists by branding critical thinkers like Mr. Nawaz and me “extremists.”
The point is: SPLC has made some enormous mistakes. But it’s not with the groups on their anti-gay hate list. Those organizations are genuinely full of Christian bigots — and we routinely post their hateful words on this site. Again, even if the SPLC had no list, we could all point to the Christians’ statements as examples of how religion poisons their thinking.
So here’s hoping the SPLC prevails against Kennedy’s ministry.
And then loses if and when Nawaz ever takes action.
(Image via Shutterstock)