Coral Ridge broadcaster is first Christian group to take Southern Poverty Law Center ( SPLC ) to court over ‘anti-LGBT’ label.
D. James Kennedy Ministries shares sermons, devotionals, and religious liberty messages inspired by the late founder of Coral Ridge Presbyterian, a prominent Florida megachurch. In media coverage after Charlottesville, the Christian broadcaster was mapped alongside about 60 “hate groups” in the Sunshine State, using designations from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
“Enough is enough,” said Frank Wright, president of D. James Kennedy Ministries, which filed a lawsuit against the SPLC on Wednesday. The organization also sued GuideStar and AmazonSmile for their use of the SPLC list.
Conservative Christian organizations have challenged the SPLC’s “anti-LGBT” category for years, but Wright’s is the first to take legal action—spurred by the controversial watchdog group’s increasingly vocal activism during Donald Trump’s presidency. The SPLC recently received a prominent boost from Apple, which pledged a $1 million donation and will launch a new feature to allow users to donate directly from iTunes.
The civil rights advocacy organization made a name for itself in the 1970s, providing legal defense for victims of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists. (Wright and other conservative Christian leaders are quick to applaud them for this history.) However, as the SPLC expanded beyond race to other cultural issues like sexuality and immigration, it has also shifted attention toward what it calls the “radical right,” drawing allegations of bias from many conservatives and some on the left as well.
D. James Kennedy Ministries—formerly called Truth in Action—claims that the SPLC falsely labeled it as a hate group with the intention to hurt its reputation and fundraising efforts, according to a 39-page lawsuit filed in federal district court in Alabama (where the SPLC is headquartered).
The suit alleges that the ministry’s inclusion on the list of hate groups amounts to defamation—spreading false, harmful information—as well as a trademark violation, misrepresenting the ministry in order to drum up fundraising support. Wednesday’s filing made the same claims against the charity-research site GuideStar for promoting the SPLC designation, seeking an injunction against further use of the “hate group” label and damages from both organizations.