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Christian Ministry Sues Southern Poverty Law Center Over ‘Hate Group’ Label

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A Christian ministry in Florida is suing the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) over the SPLC’s designation of the ministry as a “hate group.”

The Fort Lauderdale-based D. James Kennedy Ministries filed its suit Aug. 23 in an Alabama federal court, alleging the SPLC “trafficked in false and misleading descriptions” of the ministry, reports WORLD Magazine, The suit also names other entities alleged to have spread the libel.

According to WORLD:

Christian ministries that affirm the biblical view of marriage and human sexuality have earned the SPLC’s “hate group” designation, a designation repeated by many media outlets without question. Groups like D. James Kennedy Ministries, Alliance Defending Freedom, and the Family Research Council have demanded retractions and apologies to no avail. It would have cost the SPLC and three other entities named in the lawsuit nothing to apologize. But with no apology forthcoming and the ministry’s reputation sullied, D. James Kennedy Ministries now seeks restitution.

However, Brad Dacus, president of the Christian legal group Pacific Justice Institute, is not optimistic about the suit. Dacus, whose organization is also on the hate group list, told WORLD that it’s hard to prove libel and that the SPLC’s “well-paid attorneys make sure what they say will hold up in a court of law.” A jury would likely consider the hate group designation a matter of opinion, Dacus said.

The lawsuit also names online charity clearinghouse GuideStar and Amazon’s charitable giving arm called AmazonSmile. Earlier this year, Guidestar added the hate group label to its description of D. James Kennedy Ministries. AmazonSmile uses GuideStar in determining which groups to support and as a result of the label, refused to allow the ministry to register with its program.

D. James Kennedy Ministries has produced a DVD about the SPLC called Profits of Hate. A description of the DVD on the ministry’s website says of the Montgomery, Alabama-based SPLC:

When it was first founded, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) was a legitimate organization devoted to opposing actual hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. Even today, the SPLC describes itself as an organization “dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society.” However, in reality, the SPLC has turned instead to slandering and demonizing Christian and conservative organizations, labelling them “hate groups.” These groups are placed in the same category as the KKK on the SLPC’s “hate map” for merely upholding traditional standards of marriage and sexual morality.

The ministry is named for the late D. James Kennedy, a well-known evangelical pastor who founded Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale in 1960. In the 1970s, the church became affiliated with the conservative Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), then a new denomination whose congregations had broken away from liberal mainline Presbyterian churches. Kennedy was a prolific author and also hosted a radio program and TV program that were broadcast nationally. He died in 2007.

In recent years, the PCA has experienced internal division between conservatives and a growing number of progressives over race, the role of women in the church and how to respond to cultural pressure to overturn biblical teachings on marriage and sexuality. There also has been a push to turn away from promotion of conservative politics, which some say has no place in the church.

However, D. James Kennedy Ministries, with its tagline “Standing for Truth and Defending Your Freedom,” has retained an interest in conservative politics along with its primary focus on promoting Kennedy’s teachings on the Bible. Its website recently published an essay called “Unholy Collusion: The American Left and Radical Islam.”

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