Metro Weekly

Southern Poverty Law Center sued over “hate group” listing

Amazon and GuideStar also named as defendants in defamation lawsuit

SPLC headquarters – Photo: Nameofuser25, via Wikimedia.

A conservative Christian media group is suing the Southern Poverty Law Center for including the organization on its list of so-called “hate groups,” reports The Washington Times.

The Southern Poverty Law Center regularly keeps track of 917 groups that advocate on behalf of bigotry or discrimination against minority groups, including Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, anti-Muslim groups, anti-Semitic groups, and anti-LGBTQ groups.

But D. James Kennedy Ministries, an arm of Coral Ridge Ministries, isn’t happy being included alongside Neo-Nazis and white supremacists on SPLC’s “hate map,” which marks locations where the groups have their headquarters.

In its defamation lawsuit, Kennedy Ministries alleges that the SPLC “illegally trafficked in false and misleading descriptions of the services” offered by the ministry, subjecting it to “disgrace, ridicule, odium, and contempt in the estimation of the public.”

“These false and illegal characterizations have a chilling effect on the free exercise of religion and on religious free speech for all people of faith,” Frank Wright, the president and CEO of Kennedy Ministries, said in a statement.

The conservative group is also suing Amazon for utilizing the SPLC’s classification of it as a hate group to justify excluding Kennedy Ministries from the Amazon Smile charitable-giving program, and GuideStar for acknowledging the “hate group” label in its listings of various charitable nonprofits. GuideStar later retracted the label after receiving backlash from conservative interest groups.

Kennedy Ministries is essentially relying on the same logical fallacy that other conservative groups have engaged in when attacking the SPLC, by accusing the group of hating or holding animosity towards all Christian or religious groups who oppose homosexuality.

SPLC, meanwhile, claims that groups only make the “anti-gay” hate list if they promote propaganda intended to disparage and demonize LGBTQ people.

As the SPLC website says: “Generally, the SPLC’s listings of these groups is based on their propagation of known falsehoods — claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated, groundless name-calling. Viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups.”

The SPLC issued a statement responding to the lawsuit and arguing it should be dismissed.

“Coral Ridge Ministries’ lawsuit against us is meritless. We list the D. James Kennedy Ministries, through which Coral Ridge does business, as a hate group because it maligns the entire LGBT community, portraying it as perverted and a threat to the nation,” Richard Cohen, SPLC’s president, said. “The fact that Coral Ridge claims its statements about the LGBT community are biblically based doesn’t immunize it from criticism.

“We have a First Amendment right to express our opinions, just as Coral Ridge has a right to express its opinions.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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