A partner of the leftist Southern Poverty Law Center, which has been linked to domestic terrorism through a gay’s attack on the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., is complaining that a court case over its “false” and “defamatory” comments about Liberty Counsel is intended as censorship.
Liberty Counsel, a religious and civil rights legal team, has sued GuideStar, which posts reports of charities online, under the Lanham Act, which prohibits false and misleading characterizations of a group’s goods or services.
GuideStar had created a web page that reported on Liberty Counsel, promoted its premium products there, and then, for a time, included the SPLC advisory that Liberty Counsel was a “hate” group.
The SPLC has stated that it posts “hate” labels regarding groups because it wants to stop their messages and put them out of business.
A lower court dismissed the case but it now is pending before the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
At issue are the “hate” labels that the SPLC applies to any organization that does not submit to its LGBT and abortion agendas. GuideStar then restated those criticisms on its website, and Liberty Counsel says that it was injured by that action.
Now GuideStar has alleged to the appeals court that the dismissal of the court case should be affirmed because it is an attempt to stifle its rebroadcast of those statements.
“Such an attempt to claim victim status on the part of GuideStar is utterly comical given that it has partnered with the SPLC which admits its mission is to ‘completely destroy’ Liberty Counsel. Thus, it is Liberty Counsel that is fighting GuideStar and the SPLC’s efforts to silence speech,” Liberty Counsel told the court.
While organizations “certainly” have First Amendment speech rights, “the Lanham Act prohibits falsely and misleadingly defaming an organization while attempting to gain an economic advantage. GuideStar admittedly solicited advertisements for its paid subscription services on the same profile page in which it falsely and misleadingly claims Liberty Counsel is a ‘hate group.’ Therefore, GuideStar admitted that it was seeking to influence the financial decisions of its customers and is thus subject to the limitations of the Lanham Act,” the legal team said.
“GuideStar also admitted that it did no independent research on how the SPLC arrives at its false and defamatory designations, and that it was aware of the political bias of the SPLC and the significant criticisms of the false and defamatory ‘hate group’ label. Despite all such admissions, GuideStar now attempts to escape the limitations of the Lanham Act by claiming that it had no economic interest in partnering with the SPLC and republishing the false and defamatory ‘hate group’ label,” the legal team explained.
“GuideStar’s attempt to claim victim status in a case challenging GuideStar and the SPLC’s shared mission to ‘completely destroy’ organizations like Liberty Counsel is utterly absurd,” said Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel founder. “Liberty Counsel’s lawsuit is intended to protect its own good name, reputation, and mission, and Liberty Counsel will not permit such false and misleading attacks to go unchallenged.”
WND reported earlier this year that the court fight is the latest in the dispute between several Christian and conservative groups that were labeled as “hate” groups on the GuideStar site, which used the SPLC’s rankings.
“Guidestar’s representation of fact concerning Liberty Counsel as a ‘hate group’ is false, misleading, and deceitful to Liberty Counsel’s potential donors, and has the tendency to deceive all consumers of Guidestar’s commercially available website, including Liberty Counsel donors and potential donors,” the court was told then.
“The damage caused by GuideStar’s false, misleading, and deceitful designation of Liberty Counsel as a ‘hate group’ is also permanently etched in the history of GuideStar. GuideStar’s false, misleading, and deceitful designation of Liberty Counsel as a ‘hate group’ is now spread throughout the media and the worldwide web.”
It continues: “Liberty Counsel has suffered, is suffering, and will continue to suffer damage to its reputation, good name, and standing with its donors and potential donors in the community of nonprofit organizations. Liberty Counsel has suffered actual damages in its ability to receive donations from donors and potential donors.”
In 2017, GuideStar began including a red-banner headline along with SPLC’s logo on 46 non-profit profiles, including Liberty Counsel, stating that Liberty Counsel had been designated a “hate group” by SPLC.
In its original complaint, Liberty Counsel pointed out that SPLC hate designations already have been linked to two attempted mass murders: the 2012 attack on the Washington office of Family Research Council and the shooting last summer at a baseball practice for Republican lawmakers that severely injured Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La.
As WND reported, a related lawsuit regarding the hate labels was filed against SPLC by D. James Kennedy Ministries, founded by the late Presbyterian minister. Citing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the suit charges religious discrimination by “trafficking in false or misleading descriptions of the services offered under the ministry’s trademarked name” along with defamation and libel.