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Christian Ministry Appeals Its Defamation Lawsuit Against Southern Poverty Law Center

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A Florida-based ministry has appealed its defamation and discrimination lawsuit against the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for its published claim labeling the ministry as a "hate group" alongside the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, and other infamous hate organizations. 

D. James Kennedy Ministries (DJKM), a Christian media ministry founded in 1974 by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy as Coral Ridge Ministries, filed a federal religious discrimination lawsuit against the SPLC  in 2017. The lawsuit says the SPLC "illegally trafficked in false and misleading descriptions of the services offered by DJKM and committed defamation against DJKM."

It also contends that the SPLC published false information that has harmed the ministry's reputation and subjected it to "disgrace, ridicule, odium, and contempt in the estimation of the public."

DJKM has been included on the SPLC's "hate map" and classified as a "hate group" for teaching the traditional, Biblical position on marriage and sexuality. As a result, the ministry has been excluded from participating in Amazon's "Smile" charity program, which DJKM argues is religious discrimination. 

In September, a judge dismissed the ministry's case saying the SPLC has a legal right to call the ministry a "hate group" stating protection to do so under the First Amendment.

However, the ministry is not giving up. It has appealed its case to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, GA.   

"A few weeks ago, Beto O'Rourke in a CNN town hall said that, as president, he would take away tax-exempt status from churches and organizations that adhere to a Biblical ethic on same-sex marriage. Punishing traditional Biblical beliefs now appears to be a mainstream position in the Democratic party. That's why we have a sense of urgency to stand up against those like the SPLC working overtime to marginalize and silence Christians," Frank Wright, Ph.D., president, and CEO of D. James Kennedy Ministries, told CBN News in a statement Tuesday. 

"I really hope people will take note of the fact that the federal judge, in this case, ruled that the Southern Poverty Law Center's 'hate' designation is unprovable and meaningless," the statement continued." Considering that some lawmakers in the House have proposed revoking the tax-exemptions of Christian ministries based on the SPLC's 'hate map,' many might be surprised to discover that the SPLC's defense against the charge of slander is that we (in the judge's words) 'cannot prove the falsity of the "hate group" designation, given that, as the court has found, the designation is not provable as false.' Still, we're not going to let them continue getting away with their mendacity without a legal battle."

As CBN News reported, since its founding in 1971, the Southern Poverty Law Center has evolved from a no-nonsense civil rights watchdog group into a national definer of hate organizations with the ability to inflict serious harm on a variety of groups.

The SPLC constantly monitors and reports on what it calls hate groups and that has grown to include not only white separatists and neo-Nazis but anyone who opposes LGBT activism. The mainstream media frequently cites the SPLC when referring to these groups, using the SPLC hate group label.

The Family Research Council (FRC) is one such organization that the SPLC has targeted as a hate group saying that it defames gays and lesbians.  

CBN News attempted to contact the Southern Poverty Law Center for comment, but as of the time of this article's publication, we had not heard back.   

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About The Author

Steve Warren is a senior multimedia producer for CBN News. Warren has worked in the news departments of television stations and cable networks across the country. In addition, he also worked as a producer-director in television production and on-air promotion. A Civil War historian, he authored the book The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory. It was the companion book to the television documentary titled Last Raid at Cabin Creek currently streaming on Amazon Prime. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Communication from the University of