A district court in Alabama has tossed out a lawsuit from a Christian ministry that didn’t like how the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled it a “hate group.” The judge said, correctly, that SPLC’s designation was protected by the First Amendment.
The lawsuit was filed in 2017 by D. James Kennedy Ministries (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 said 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 said that also hurt fundraising.
The ministry insisted there was nothing hateful about them… Which was about 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 was always 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 wasn’t going after groups that merely had faith-based objections to homosexuality or LGBTQ rights.
They were going after groups that went above and beyond that. Here’s how the SPLC explained why the groups on their list were 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 said on its site:
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!”
Gay people deserve death. Gay people are pedophiles. That’s bigotry that goes beyond the Bible. It’s hard to imagine how the SPLC would purposely try to defame the ministry when the reason they’re on the hate group list is because of their own anti-gay propaganda.
The ministry, by the way, also created a documentary against the SPLC called Profit$ of Hate: The Southern Poverty Law Center.
The fact is, even if the SPLC didn’t exist, people would see these groups 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.
So while the SPLC isn’t perfect, they’re fairly on-point when it comes to their anti-gay hate list. Those organizations are genuinely full of Christian bigots — and we routinely post their hateful words on this site. No wonder the SPLC celebrated the ruling:
In a statement on Friday, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s interim president, Karen Baynes-Dunning said the ruling is a victory for her organization and others exercising their First Amendment rights.
“Any organization we list as a hate group is free to disagree with us about our designation, but this ruling underscores that the designation is constitutionally protected speech and not defamatory. This judgment shows that the First Amendment protects peoples’ opinions and allows them to speak freely without their opinion being stifled,” Baynes-Dunning said.
Remember: The ruling this week doesn’t say the Christian ministry is a hate group. It just says the SPLC can call it one. It has the right to do that.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Portions of this article were published earlier)