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Evangelical Ministry sues Ultra Liberal Southern Poverty, Appeals to SCOTUS

Evangelical Ministry sues Ultra Liberal Southern Poverty, Appeals to SCOTUS

An Evangelical ministry group based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida is asking the Supreme Court for help after its defamation lawsuit against the Southern Poverty Law Center was tossed out by a lower court. 

The lawsuit was filed in 2017 after the SPLC dubbed James Kennedy Ministries a “hate group” based on its stance against homosexuality and LGBTQ 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,” said then-SPLC President Karen Baynes-Dunning. 

Shortly after the designation, the Christian ministry and its home church started to received threats and were forced to spend a considerable amount of money on security. Citing the SPLC’s designation, Amazon refused to include James Kennedy Ministries in a list of nonprofit organizations to which online shoppers can donate. 

In a ruling issued in September 2019, US District Judge Myron Thompson upheld the SPLC’s First Amendment right to make claims against James Kennedy Ministries but made no comment on the validity of the “hate group” designation. His ruling cites a 1964 case during which the Supreme Court decided that any public official suing for defamation must prove “actual malice” for the case to proceed. 

In its appeal to the Supreme Court, James Kennedy Ministries asks the court to ignore or toss out this standard. 

“We think the importance of this case rests on the fact that the Southern Poverty Law Center’s approach of creating their own definition of what constitutes a ‘hate group’ is in itself, a denial of due process,” argues ministry President Frank Wright. “The malice standard is literally unprovable. You can’t look into the soul of someone and say that you’ve seen that they did this act with malice.”

Republican-leaning Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas have also questioned the “actual malice” ruling.

“In a system of laws like ours, there ought to be a remedy for those who rampantly, willfully, deliberately try to destroy those with whom they disagree,” continues Wright. “That’s a public statement made by the president of the SPLC, [who] said, ‘We’d like to destroy every group listed on our hate map.’”

Sources:

Southern Poverty Law Center has First Amendment right to call Christian ministry hate group, judge says 

Evangelical ministry asks Supreme Court to hear defamation case against Southern Poverty Law Center 

Number of neo-Nazi and black nationalist hate groups grew in 2017, SPLC says 

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3 Comments

  1. Ken wyatt

    The Bible does teach us that homosexuality is a sin. And preachers should be allowed to say that. If some people doesn’t believe that, so what? I have friends who I disagree with on some issues but I will always defend their right to say what they think. The southern poverty law people are leftist bullies and political hacks

  2. Rat Wrangler

    When our Founding Fathers wrote the 1st Amendment, they intended that the People be free to practice religion as they wished, and the government would not interfere or try to create a State Church. In the 20th century, the Supreme Court made several rulings that there must a total separation of Church and State, so Federal money and oversight could not be used in many religious settings. Based on a very loose definition of hate crime, it seems that any religion that disagrees with another could be accused of hatred, so any denigration of another denomination would be a hate crime. Any atheist speaking out against God, or any god, could be charge with hatred. Any follower of any god, speaking out against any atheist, commits a hate crime. Perhaps the best way to deal with this is to end the whole concept of “hate crimes”, since motivation in such is impossible to prove, but make slander and libel criminal, rather than civil offenses. That way, if someone says anything untrue that demeans a person, church, or institution, the police and court systems would handle it. No civil suits would be necessary, or even permitted. A threat of jail time would definitely curtail the common practice of slanted news stories and politicians lying about their opponents.

    • Maria

      Impressive your analysis Rat Wrangler, especially the last paragraph.

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