Liberty Counsel, founded by far right Christian lawyer Mathew (‘Mat’) Staver, inset above, this week launched a lawsuit against on-line charity directory GuideStar, which designated it as a ‘hate group’.
GuideStar provides information on over 1.8 million IRS-registered non-profit organisations. When it put a red banner above Liberty Counsel’s listing, saying “this organization was flagged as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center”, the Counsel wailed that label was damaging to its reputation and would affect its financial state because donors may be less likely to give it money, which it needs to to “advance life, liberty and the family“. Between 2013 and 2015 it received almost $9.5-million from donors.
It also alleges that its staff has received death threats since the designation was published and it has had to pay to install security systems.
The lawsuit states:
GuideStar’s slanderous, defamatory, false, and misleading statement of fact portraying Liberty Counsel as a ‘hate group’ targets Liberty Counsel for scorn in the community of nonprofit organizations and is purposefully directed at countless numbers of potential donors with the intent to persuade them to sever ties with Liberty Counsel, cease providing donations to Liberty Counsel, to persuade interested donors not to give to Liberty Counsel, to cause companies that provide matching employee contributions to block further contributions to Liberty Counsel, and to assist GuideStar’s political partner, the SPLC, in achieving its mission of ‘completely destroying’ Liberty Counsel.
On Wednesday SPLC President Richard Cohen hit back, saying in a statement:
We stand ready to support our designation of Liberty Counsel as a hate group. Liberty Counsel is a group that has consistently called LGBT people ‘immoral, unnatural and self-destructive.’ It has a track record of attempting to criminalize homosexual conduct and to legalize discrimination against the LGBT community.
There is nothing ‘pro-family’ about dehumanizing LGBT people. This lawsuit and other recent attacks against GuideStar are simply attempts to distract the public from Liberty Counsel’s hateful agenda.
GuideStar says it sought information on hate groups from the Southern Poverty Law Center after some customers voiced concerns that they could be donating to potential hatemongers.
Jacob Harold, president and CEO of GuideStar, said in a blog post that a hate group is defined as:
An organization that denigrates a group of people based on their identity.
The Southern Poverty Law Center was chosen as the source of information on hate groups because it has:
The most comprehensive information on hate groups that [GuideStar] could find.
GuideStar announced this week that it would remove the hate-group designation, but Liberty Counsel’s complaint alleges the removal is only temporary; that Guidestar will make hate group information available to any user on request and:
Thus will continue to disseminate the false, misleading, and deceitful designation of Liberty Counsel as a ‘hate group’.
Liberty Counsel seeks a permanent injunction enjoining GuideStar from labeling non-profits as hate groups.
It also seeks an unspecified amount of damages for claims of interference with business expectancy and defamation, and is represented by in-house attorneys led by Daniel Schmid.
Guidestar did not respond to a phone call seeking comment on the lawsuit.
Liberty Council was one of 46 organisations, including the ghastly Family Research Council, that got Guidestar’s “red flag” treatment.
William G “Jerry” Boykin, above, a retired Army general who is Executive Vice President of the FRC said he is hopeful that Liberty Counsel’s lawsuit will send a clear message.
I applaud Mat Staver and Liberty Counsel for what they’re doing and we have a great deal of confidence in Mat.