The U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition from the late D. James Kennedy’s television and radio ministry to revisit a case in which the evangelical Christian organization accused the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) of falsely designating it as an anti-LGBTQ hate group.
The court’s summary disposition was handed down June 27 without explanation from the majority as to why they chose to turn down Coral Ridge Ministries Media’s petition, but Justice Clarence Thomas did write a dissent.
“SPLC’s ‘hate group’ designation lumped Coral Ridge’s Christian ministry with groups like the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis,” Thomas wrote. “It placed Coral Ridge on an interactive, online ‘hate map’ and caused Coral Ridge concrete financial injury by excluding it from the AmazonSmile donation program.”
He went on to suggest that the court reconsider the “actual malice” standard that was established in the 1964 New York Times v. Sullivan case.
According to the online judicial archive Oyez, the decades-old ruling created a precedent that if a public figure is the target of a false statement, he/she must prove that the statement was made with “knowledge of or reckless disregard for its falsity.”
In his dissent, Thomas argued that Coral Ridge’s case “is one of many showing how New York Times and its progeny have allowed media organizations and interest groups ‘to cast false aspersions on public figures with near impunity.’”
Based on the current standard, he added, it was “almost impossible” for Coral Ridge to hold SPLC “to account for what it maintains is a blatant falsehood.”
Coral Ridge insists that while it adheres to the Biblical belief that homosexuality is a sin, that does not make it a hate group.
“Declaring a Christian ministry, that exists to serve its community and share the love of Jesus with the world, to be a hate group constitutes libel per se under Alabama law,” the ministry said.
Photo: Reuters/Elizabeth Frantz/Alamy