Liberty Counsel Sues GuideStar for Defaming Christian Nonprofits as 'Hate Groups'

On Wednesday, the Christian nonprofit Liberty Counsel filed a defamation lawsuit against the charity rating website GuideStar, after the website adopted a list of "hate groups" published by the terror-linked Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). That very "hate" list directly inspired an act of domestic terror in 2012, and James Hodgkinson, the man who shot Steve Scalise earlier this month, "liked" the SPLC on Facebook after the SPLC repeatedly attacked Scalise.

"GuideStar and its political ally, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), are intent on destroying pro-family organizations. The ‘hate group’ label is false and dangerous,” Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said in a statement. “GuideStar’s CEO, Jacob Harold, is using GuideStar as a weapon to defame, harm, and promote his liberal agenda by using the SPLC to falsely label good nonprofit organizations as ‘hate groups.’"

"GuideStar has lost all credibility," Staver declared, adding that the website "will now have to answer for its reckless, defamatory, and harmful political labeling."

In 2012, that "hate" labeling inspired a terrorist attack in Washington, D.C. Floyd Lee Corkins II broke into the Family Research Council (FRC), armed with a semi-automatic pistol and Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwiches. Corkins testified that he intended to kill everyone in the building and place chicken sandwiches near them. The unarmed security guard Leo Johnson wrestled him to the ground, saving lives and sustaining a gunshot in the process.

In February 2013, Corkins pled guilty to committing an act of terrorism and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. During an FBI interrogation, the shooter said he targeted FRC because it was listed as an "anti-gay group" on the SPLC website.

In early June, Guidestar adopted the SPLC's "hate" list, designating 46 nonprofits, including Liberty Counsel and the FRC, "hate groups," placing an SPLC logo and allegedly defaming rhetoric on the web page for each group. “This organization was flagged as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center,” read the notice on Liberty Counsel’s page. Other groups attacked included Alliance Defending Freedom and the American Family Association.

In response, 41 nonprofit organizations sent a letter to GuideStar, protesting the "hate group" label and mischaracterization. On Monday, the website temporarily removed the label from the pages, but it also released a statement that GuideStar would continue to provide SPLC "hate" information on request, and that it would consider other ways to push the information to the public.