News & Politics

Christian Group Suing SPLC Encourages More Lawsuits

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D. James Kennedy Ministries (DJKM), a Christian organization suing Amazon and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) over a “hate group” designation, encouraged more lawsuits, arguing that the SPLC is effectively a “quasi-government agency.” A spokesman told PJ Media that the SPLC’s apology and settlement with Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz, whom it branded an “anti-Muslim extremist,” encouraged DJKM and should be a rallying cry to other organizations slandered by the SPLC.

“It’s a startling admission by the Southern Poverty Law Center of what we’ve been accusing them of all along, which is bringing an ideological bias to bear on their designations of so-called hate,” John Rabe, a DJKM spokesman, told PJ Media. The SPLC lists and monitors what it designates as “hate groups,” lumping in mainstream conservative and Christian organizations with violent racist groups like the Ku Klux Klan.

“The SPLC has been engaged in this little rigged game of redefining hate and slandering people who don’t fit their ideological viewpoint for some time now. So it’s gratifying that the SPLC is finally having to pay a price for it,” Rabe added.

In 2016, the SPLC published its “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists,” listing Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz, a practicing Muslim, as one such extremist. The left-wing group listed various and changing reasons for including him, even at one point mentioning that he had gone to a strip club for his bachelor party. On Monday, the SPLC apologized and paid $3.375 million to settle a lawsuit Nawaz had filed.

“That admission is telling and it’s significant,” Rabe told PJ Media. “We would expect that that admission would be taken into consideration in our case and in other cases against him.”

On Tuesday, Liberty Counsel (a group suing the charity navigation website GuideStar for adopting the SPLC “hate group” list) told PJ Media that no fewer than 60 different organizations were considering legal action against the SPLC for its “hate group” designations. Rabe encouraged this trend.

When asked point-blank if he would encourage other organizations to sue the SPLC, he spoke for DJKM, saying, “We certainly would. Any time the SPLC has to be called to account for their behavior is a positive time for conservatives and Christians.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center gained its reputation by taking the KKK to court, and to its credit the group does mark and monitor both white and black racist groups. In recent decades, however, the organization has taken to marking non-violent organizations with which it disagrees as “hate groups.” Last year, 47 nonprofit leaders denounced the SPLC’s “hate list” in an open letter to the media. The SPLC has admitted that its “hate group” list is based on “opinion.”

“We decided to take action nearly a year ago because we saw that this behavior was not only false and slanderous but actually dangerous,” Rabe told PJ Media. “This hate map led directly to a terrorist attack on a Christian ministry, the Family Research Council.”

He referenced the 2012 terrorist attack against the Family Research Council (FRC) in Washington, D.C. A terrorist broke into FRC with a semi-automatic pistol, aiming to kill everyone in the building. In later FBI testimony, he admitted to targeting FRC because it was on the SPLC’s “hate map,” and that he intended to shoot up other organizations once he finished there.

This terror attack should loom large in any litigation, the DJKM spokesman argued. He also rebutted the argument — made by Reason‘s Robby Soave — that suits against the SPLC are a threat to free speech.

“Some might look at this as a free speech issue and that the SPLC is free to say what they want, but the fact is that they have supplied government and law enforcement with their information,” Rabe countered. Given the 2012 attack and SPLC’s work with the government, “it’s no longer a free speech issue, there’s a substantive issue with these false and slanderous claims that the SPLC makes.”

“Slander and malice are never protected,” and such factors loom large in litigation. Rabe argued that DJKM and other organizations suing the SPLC should win partially because the left-wing group has a documented malice against these groups.

Mark Potok, a spokesman for the SPLC, declared in 2007 that “our aim in life is to destroy these groups, completely destroy them.” In 2008, he reiterated the point, saying, “You are able to destroy these groups sometimes by the things you publish. It’s not so much that they will bring down the police or the federal agents on their head, it’s that you can sometimes so mortally embarrass these groups that they will be destroyed.”

The left-wing smear group had already listed DJKM — then known as “Coral Ridge Presbyterian” or “Coral Ridge Ministries” — among “hate groups” as early as 2005 (although the 2005 list did not explicitly call Coral Ridge a “hate group”).

SPLC attacks conservative Christian groups as “anti-LGBT hate groups” because they support marriage as between one man and one woman.

“Yes, we do take a biblical stand on marriage and gender and sexuality, but all of that is for the purpose of human flourishing,” Rabe explained. “It’s held out in love because people will have the best lives when they follow God’s rules. We’re all broken, we’re all sinful, and Christ offers forgiveness and healing to everyone.”

So why the “hate” label? “The SPLC plays this little game where they put you alongside violent hate groups and skinheads and neo-Nazis, clearly to imply that you are as violent and dangerous as they are simply because you disagree.”

Rabe noted that, in attacking the Christian pro-family group the Ruth Institute, the SPLC actually quoted from the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, a belief document binding on all Catholics. He quipped that the “hate” labeling attacked “this little offshoot hate sect, the Roman Catholic Church.”

The SPLC has “discovered that they can silence people who believe a Christian view on these things by designating them as ‘hate.'” The DJKM spokesman referenced Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian legal organization that has won 8 Supreme Court cases in the past seven years. “This group is arguing before the Supreme Court bar, winning their cases, but the SPLC is calling them a hate group.”

“Sometimes it seems like a willful reductionist misunderstanding in order to portray Christians and conservatives in black hats,” he added. (See “The Handmaid’s Tale.”)

DJKM is also suing Amazon, and Rabe addressed the difficult situation where Silicon Valley companies effectively control discourse on the Internet. “All these Silicon Valley tech companies have a left-wing bias,” he explained.

While it is “fine” for companies like Google to “fly their flag proudly,” the DJKM spokesman argued that “when you are controlling the flow of information everyone gets and bringing your ideological bias into how you do that — then it becomes a problem for everyone.”

Rabe issued a call to action beyond the “about 60 organizations” that are considering a lawsuit against the SPLC.

“I do think it’s important for Christians to take a stand on this issue,” he said. “Some people will demure saying this is just politics and we shouldn’t concern ourselves with it. But what groups like the SPLC are doing is actively ensuring that christian speech and including the christian gospel are restricted and not able to go out to the audience.”

Rather than hate, the DJKM spokesman insisted, “We are proclaiming that message of love and grace and transformation.”