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Christian ministry sues watchdog group over hate label

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A Florida-based evangelical ministry has filed a religious discrimination lawsuit seeking an unspecified amount of money from a liberal watchdog group that called it a hate group because of its stance against LGBT rights.

The federal lawsuit was filed this week by D. James Kennedy Ministries of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., against the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center.
The law center tracks extremist organizations, and it publicly names organizations it considers hate groups. The list includes the Christian organization, also known as Coral Ridge Ministries Media Inc., for its stance against LGBT rights.

The designation has led to the ministry being considered a hate group by a company that rates nonprofits, GuideStar USA Inc., and by Amazon.com Inc., according to the lawsuit. Amazon.com excluded the ministry from a donation program because of the label, according to the suit.

The lawsuit cites the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and contends the ministry is a victim of discrimination because it follows Christian teachings. In addition to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the suit names GuideStar and Amazon.com as defendants.

Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen called the lawsuit “meritless” and said the organization isn’t immune to criticism just because it claims to base its anti-LGBT positions on the Bible.

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

Neither Amazon nor Guidestar responded immediately Friday to questions sent by email.

In a statement, the head of D. James Kennedy Ministries said the Southern Poverty Law Center “illegally trafficked in false and misleading descriptions” that hurt its reputation and subject it to “disgrace, ridicule, odium and contempt” by the public.

“Those who knowingly label Christian ministries as ‘hate’ groups, solely for subscribing to the historic Christian faith, are either woefully uninformed or willfully deceitful,” said ministry CEO Frank Wright.

The lawsuit includes scripture references that are commonly cited as barring homosexuality and said they show the ministry’s position on LGBT issues is “inextricably intertwined and connected” to its theology.

In June, another Florida-based, Christian-affiliated organization, Liberty Counsel Inc., filed a federal lawsuit against GuideStar after it flagged 46 nonprofits — including Liberty Counsel and D. James Kennedy Ministries — for being called hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

GuideStar removed the labels based on what it said were threats directed at its staff.
On its website, D. James Kennedy Ministries offers donors who give at least $50 an “expose” booklet about the Southern Poverty Law Center and two DVDs about the supposed persecution of Christians.

The late D. James Kennedy, who founded the group, was senior minister of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale.

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Jay Reeves

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  • Gee. Someone is so smart that they want to sue a bunch of lawyers. And Kennedy’s positions, which absolutely nothing to do with their so-called faith, are for the most part quite demonstrable.
    In 1895, the Marquess of Queensbury called Oscar Wilde a sodomite. Against the advice of his friends, Wilde sued the Marquess for libel. He lost, which opened him up to criminal charges, and resulted in the destruction of his career and his health. He died two years after his release from prison.
    The irony will be truly delicious. And st. Oscar will be laughing his head off.

  • The SPLC used to be a reasonable civil rights organization. But for whatever reason, they themselves finally gave in to hatred & bigotry.

    The new hatred & bigotry is clearly targeted against politically-, legally-, or media- active, traditional-marriage Christians. Almost had a mass shooting at FRC in Washington DC, because of it.

    (The black security guard took a bullet but did his job, otherwise the gay shooter would have succeeded.)

    Anyway, there’s generally nothing wrong with anti-bigotry watchdogs — unless they develop rabies.

  • Many people consider the anti-LGBT stance of some Conservative Christians hateful. Calling it out isn’t hatred – it’s an opinion shared by many. Get used to it as acceptance is growing – even with younger Evangelicals.

  • Things are what they are. The younger generation of evangelicals (more accurately, the younger generation of ALL major Christian categories in this nation) are currently under siege — a very big prize in a very tough war. Hope we Christians don’t lose that war.

    Meanwhile, SPLC has gone from fighting haters to becoming a hater. They evolved from opposing discrimination to promoting discrimination.

    Therefore, win or lose, ir’s very refreshing to finally see some Christians attempting to hold the SPLC legally accountable for its messed-up mess.

  • Yes, I agree and support religious freedom because it’s free speech. But it has consequences.

  • Labelling a group as a hate group isn’t hate. It is based on their anti-LGBT position and actions. It’s an opinion. The group is free to challenge it in court.

    Some may consider conservative Christianity as a hate group. Accept Jesus as your savior and follow his laws or you will burn forever in a fiery hell. Sounds pretty hateful to me. Of course, that’s an opinion. Feel free to sue me.

  • The SPLC irrationally hates on Christians for opposing gay marriage, gay-self-identity, and other quicksand. But when SPLC’s gig of hatred & bigotry gets all crazy, we have a right to fight back in court. Wake them haters up a little.

    Of course, lawsuits aside, a person honestly should accept Jesus by faith as their Savior from sin, and by faith serve Him as their Lord, or one’s own sins WILL one day drag one’s soul straight down, to “burn forever in a fiery hell.”

    (And don’t forget the very hungry worms that never die, and the eternal fire that nothing can extinguish, and the supernatural “outer darkness” — never seen on Earth while a person is alive — it’s just that horrible. But God ain’t the one trying to stick you Down There. God’s the one trying to rescue you before you stick YOUR OWN fanny Down There. Consult Jesus Christ for further details.)

  • I hope D. James Kennedy Ministries wins their lawsuit there, brother Jay Reeves – but only because of what Vocativ says about the ever so untrustworthy Southern Poverty Law Center. For according to James King, “What’s In A Name? The Problem With The ‘Hate Group” Label: Critics say landing on the SPLC’s ‘hate’ lists is too easy – and that undermines the work it does”, Vocatif, March 2, 2016:

    “Critics say, the SPLC’s ‘hate group’ label is shifting from a serious condemnation reserved for the very worst to a more broadly applied political tool – and how that shift has the potential to undermine the good work the group does. … The SPLC’s ‘extremist files’ and hate group list initially were intended for proud bigots and openly racist organizations with traditions of violence like the Klan and Aryan Nation. It now includes attorneys and religious leaders, as well as advocacy groups and religious institutions, many of which, critics say, have ignorant views about various social issues, but don’t fit the mold of the traditional ‘hate group.’ ‘[The SPLC has] no defined standard for what makes something a “hate group,”‘ said Ira Mehlman, the media director for the Federation For American Immigration Reform … ‘There is no list of boxes you have to check to get on the list,’ Mehlman added. ‘There is no defined criteria. If they don’t like you, they throw you on the list. People don’t take it seriously anymore.’ The SPLC’s ‘hate’ label has carried tremendous clout over the years and is frequently referenced by politicians and journalists looking to discredit an individual or organization – a hate label from the SPLC was once a daunting scarlet letter for racists and hate-mongers. The FBI’s page on hate crimes lists the SPLC as a partner alongside other established groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the Human Rights Campaign – and its annual ‘Intelligence Reports,’ tracking the growth in hate groups, are widely reported on, including by Vocativ. … Others have noted that once you’re on the list, it can be next-to-impossible to get off it – even as views shift. … The SPLC has also been criticized for inflating statistics about hate groups in the U.S. … In 2013, the news website ForeignPolicy.com analyzed the organizations listed as ‘hate groups’ in the SPLC’s annual report and found that many of the ‘groups’ were actually chapters of larger organizations – for example, the ‘American Nazi Party is listed six times, and the Council of Conservative Citizens is listed 37 times. … ‘The SPLC is a business like any other. They’re in the hate business. The more hate there is, the more business there is – it helps them raise money,’ said FAIR’s Ira Mehlman. ‘What they’ve become is basically an attack dog to be unleashed on ideologies they don’t agree with.'”

  • Floyd, I have no idea what this ministry has or has not done to support the label. They are hugely offended to be lumped in with white supremacists and Neo Nazis though.

    However, SPLC asserts that it categorizes organizations as hate groups based on “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” It said groups included for their anti-LGBT stands are not listed on the basis of opposition to same-sex marriage or the belief that the Bible describes homosexual activity as sinful. Anti-LGBT hate groups engage in crude name-calling and disseminate disparaging propaganda and falsehoods about this population,such as the claim that gay men molest children at vastly higher rates than straight men.” However, I will note that Fort Lauderdale’s Commissioner commented that he believes the ministry is attempting to de-rail the designation by making it about religious freedom and that this was not the issue in the designation of the ministry that he also supports.

    This is an instance where I hope the ministry has stayed simply within the lines of biblical interpretation as to a definition of marriage without adding commentary, innuendos and false information about the LGBT community that would cause it to lose the lawsuit.

  • The history of the courts in such matters suggests that this lawsuit will not gain much traction. But as always there is an odd twist by one of the participants in this brouhaha; GuideStar “removed the labels based on what it said were threats directed at its staff.” While I hold no brief with such threats, I marvel at the flexibility rather than courage of the rating agency. It would appear their convictions are quite malleable.

  • So a hate group does not want to be called a hate group. That’s just too bad, but the real reason they are P.O.ed is that it cost them money. Yes MONEY the very item so desired by these so called “Christian” cults.

  • Rather than just denounce the SPLC as bigots, why don’t you define bigotry and give us a few clear examples of what makes the SPLC bigoted.

  • Oops. That could exceed some people’s education and learning abilities. Just using the word “bigot” in a complete sentence without tripping over it can be a challenge for actual “bigots.”

  • Of course it’s different. Right. Anyone who disagrees with the dominionist tendencies of fundelibangical Christianity is a bigot and a hater. It says so right there in the Constitution.

  • BTW! I asked you to define it and give some examples, and you, how shall we put it delicately, couldn’t be bothered.

  • Indifference allows want-a-be tyrants such as 45 gain power.

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

    Martin Niemöller

  • In short, you have nothing to defend your position with…
    probably because you haven’t done your homework.

  • The idea that certain ideas are immune from criticism by the public is neither religious freedom nor freedom of speech.

  • You claim God says its OK to treat certain people as less than human. Since God says so (according to you), you are not a bigot. Even though you support treating people as less than human and look to religion to excuse it. Riiiiiight,

  • It sounds like you are against freedom of speech here. Expecting certain ideas to be so far above criticism that one cannot face the consequences of them in a straightforward manner.

  • ” Ira Mehlman, the media director for the Federation For American Immigration Reform”
    FAIR, A group which promotes prejudice and racism in our immigration laws/system. A group notorious for outright lying in order to demonized immigrants, legal or otherwise. Whose founding member John Tanton is an out and out white supremacist.

    Might as well be getting David Duke’s take on what it means to be designated a hate group by the SPLC

  • “Christians holding biblical anthropological views”

    And what specifically are such views? Its too bad you can’t be so up front and honest about the POV you are trying to defend here.

  • You clearly have no idea what the first amendment entails. Developing a bad reputation affecting commerce is not something under the purview of the first amendment.

    The SPLC is no more affecting commerce in a way which can be considered a first amendment issue than a Yelp review, critic column or any other advocacy group.

    The objection here from the ministry is simply being thin skinned about being called bigots. They are not trying to refute such claims through their own efforts. Only silence the people making them through clearly retaliatory litigation.

    It seems that you are under the mistaken impression that objecting to being called a bigot is in fact a denial of the label or some sign that it is somehow inappropriate. You have already mentioned previously in fairly dishonest coded language that you support bigotry. But obviously you don’t feel too well about it being pointed out in a clear fashion.

  • I will make it simple.

    Being called a bigot, like what the SPLC is doing, isn’t an attack of first amendment rights. Especially if it is true.

    You aren’t showing in any way that the SPLC’s claims are false or that the resultant loss in business due to its negative connotations are undeserved.

  • It is hardly a slander to be called a group which is promoting bigotry. Especially when it is warranted by actions which do just that.

    Whatever economic harm is not caused simply by the label, but by the fact that the label appears to be justified and is socially and financially unacceptable to many. They are not claiming defamation (slander/libel) that the claims made by SPLC are somehow untrue and designed to deliberately harm. They are claiming that as a religious group they are somehow exempt from such criticism.

    The first amendment means nobody is immune from public criticism. In this case the Church is seeking to do just that. To undermine the very nature of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

    Calling my views bigoted is simply lashing out. It is most untrue. I am not the one promoting the idea that certain people need to be treated less humanely and with fewer civil liberties than others. That is the view of the ministry in question. Calling out such beliefs is the very opposite of bigotry. [that is how you address the label of “bigot”, you show why it isn’t true]

    “certain Christians with disfavored religious views”

    Lets be perfectly honest here, since you won’t be. Such “disfavored religious views” are that certain classes of people should not be treated as human beings. That their existence should be denied, avoided and attacked. It is disfavored because it is bigotry. Wrapping such beliefs in religious trappings does not change such facts.

    You are not denying they are a hate group. Defined as a group which promotes bigotry and attacks on the civil liberties of others. You are just annoyed that the label is used and it comes with certain consequences.

  • LOL! Don’t accuse others of lying until you can be more honest about your own views. Something not couched in false euphemisms and phony generalizations.

    The following video is a great illustration as to how seriously to take your post. (Totally safe for work. Really.)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_y00kb_jVc

  • So the comments of the staff of group devoted to purely bigoted ends and discrimination under the color of law means little to you. An organization which is a darling of white supremacists, moaning about SPLC. That doesn’t sound the least bit on the untrustworthy side to you on this subject.

    Ira Mehlman’s word isn’t worth a pile of horsecrap when it comes to evaluating who is and isn’t a hate group.

    http://www.rightwingwatch.org/people/ira-mehlman/

    https://news.vice.com/story/fair-trump-white-house-federation-for-american-immigration-reform

    http://imagine2050.newcomm.org/2011/04/08/anti-immigrant-group-humiliated-when-protesters-respond-to-biggest-event-of-the-year/

    “FAIR founder John Tanton has a long history of supporting and working closely with well-known white nationalist leaders and organizations across the nation.

    In a 1993 letter to Garret Hardin, a committed eugenicist who promoted pseudo-scientific ideas of racial purity, Tanton wrote: “I’ve come to the point of view that for European American Society and culture to persist requires a European American majority, and a clear one at that.”

    In 1997 Tanton received 1.2 million from the Pioneer Fund to financially support FAIR. The Pioneer Fund was founded to promote the genes of white European Americans and funds groups that promote “race betterment” intelligence and genetics.”

  • Biblical anthropology? You know anthropology is a science and an area of study. The bible is not a basis to support that. These are clever words. You seem to insist people that question the Kennedy group are haters for doing so. But their motivation seems to be preventing hate, not fostering it.

    Here is one problem I am seeing go both ways. If SPLC says someone is a hate group, they signal others to condemn them. If a church says the Bible says a group is sinful or depraved and should be stoned, they signal others to act accordingly. Isn’t the issue here not that the SPLC or Kennedy did anything to a group, it’s that the people that listen to both groups over react.

    Yes your motivation to condemning homosexuals may be some kind of hate-free action in your mind, it just seems to resemble hate-based actions so very well. It also seems to foster hate based reactions against homosexuals. I hear you making the same argument about SPLC – since their pronouncement is fueling hate based reactions against Christians, they too must be hate based.

    So maybe you need to understand this very real fact. I am a homosexual and I find your theology the basis that has been used to attack me and kill my friends. (Yes man, there are dead people in this occasion. ) When I hear your rhetoric, I arm my self against very real attack and gird for war. Don’t be stupid and think you aren’t on the front of that war.

    Your people smiled and laughed when we were dying from AIDS and said it was God’s judgement and turned away. Do you expect people to forget that and not call that hate? Fancy church boys like you spew this crap and then wonder why you end up at the receiving end of a hostile reply. Fine you don’t like us. Fine. But please churchboy, don’t act like you’re being persecuted. You own all the cops, all the government, from president to dog catcher. That’s not persecution. you’re having a tantrum over your violated privilege.

  • Economic terrorism? OK wait, you are arguing that the Kennedy people and Christians in general have a right to these people’s money? It’s all about the income? FINALLY a Christian brave enough to admit this is a business and they gotta bring in the bucks – Gods and faith be damned. It’s about the money.

    I agree – stop barring your economic freedoms – but please bitch, pay taxes on your gains. Yachts and houses and pretty clothing and women? And no taxes? That’s the true racketeering here. Well done churchboy. Well done.

  • Seriously churchboy? Anyone that questions you is a bigot? Well, you been warned. You pushed people, they push back. Cry all you want but you bought this one. I know, I know it’s sooooooo unfair. Here’s a hanky. Don’t get stains on your polyester.

    So to the rest of humanity watching. He’s agreed he owns many of the troubles he’s complaining about. He agrees that hate speech breeds hate. And maybe he missed I agreed that the SPLC might be fostering anti-christian hate. one salvo in the christian war against homosexuals.

    Thank you for your time Abhoram, this was fun.

  • Funny, I’m not the one suggesting people spreading hate are ok. Economic terrorism? That is a little over the top even for you churchboy.

  • Churchboy,

    When you address me as “Bigot,” I will become equally aggressive. You have this impression that you have the right to degrade others and somehow they won’t fight back. Such an unfortunate Karma for a christian.

  • Perhaps you are right churchboy. Hard to take this stance mid-war. Your side has been relentless in attacking us with no provocation for decades. Care to even admit that?

  • I see by the comments below many think it’s good to bull and threaten those that disagree with a proven deadly and destructive behavior. But the fact is our disagreement with the LGBT has caused no terrorism against them but the fact is two separate shooting terrorism attacks against Conservatives can be traced directly back to the SPLC bu their supporters. And you silly liberals call us haters eh.

  • So the SPLC you support is responsible for two shooting terrorist attacks and you think that just because Conservatives disagree with a known deadly and destructive behavior this kind of terrorism is justified

  • Where do you get the insane idea a Constitutional protection has consequences? Why do what Christians believe have consequences and the terrorists you support don’t?

  • So knowing the SPLC is directly responsible for two separate shooting terrorist attacks against Conservatives because of their lack of a moral compass mean anything to you?

  • You’re better off blocking Spuddie because he can say anything he wants including foul language and eventually you’ll get banned. I do believe he’s attached to this site in some way. And yes he is the head troll.

  • Sorry – can’t buy the moral compass lacking. But I am hoping Mr. Perkins’s unfortunate loss of home will perhaps provided him with second thoughts as to the assertions he makes. (And improve the research provided). The other shooting you will have to blame Bernie? Trump? Occupy Wall Street? Seeing as he died, we really have no idea what made him so angry. but choosing to live in his vehicle for the 3 months prior suggests he may have also had some mental health issues.

  • There is already proof that apparently you can deal with that the SPLC is responsible for two terrorist attacks against Conservatives and yes there are those other terrorists you mentioned like OWS that were responsible for rapes and murder. BTW it was liberals that rioted and assaulted people at Trump rally’s and yes there is direct proof of that too. You denial of these facts only make you look all the more foolish and brainwashed and unable to think for yourself. And why do those like you attempt to justify terrorism against others that disagree with your way of thinking?

  • Are you speaking out against the Black supremacist violence being perpetrated against White people, particularly White farmers in South Africa?

    A major controversy erupted at the end of February following a motion adopted in parliament, tabled by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and modified by the ANC, which started the process of potentially amending the constitution to allow for the expropriation of (white-owned) land without compensation, and its subsequent redistribution (to black people.) http://www.newsweek.com/thousands-sign-petition-asking-trump-allow-white-people-south-africa-migrate-826126

    Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has asked his department to look into a special refugee intake of white South African farmers subject to violence, murder and persecution in their homeland. White farmers also face new moves to forcibly redistribute land without compensation under the auspices of addressing apartheid-era inequities in land ownership. https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/peter-dutton-wants-a-refugee-intake-of-white-south-african-farmers-20180315-p4z4gr.html

    The Boer Project can proudly present the documentary that tells the story of the Boer population in South Africa. https://youtu.be/VEDU0xIILKA

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