- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A conservative Christian media group has slapped the Southern Poverty Law Center with a defamation lawsuit after being listed alongside neo-Nazis and white supremacists on its “hate map.”

D. James Kennedy Ministries filed a lawsuit this week in federal court in Alabama alleging that the SPLC “illegally trafficked in false and misleading descriptions of the services” offered by the ministry, subjecting it to “disgrace, ridicule, odium, and contempt in the estimation of the public.”

“These false and illegal characterizations have a chilling effect on the free exercise of religion and on religious free speech for all people of faith,” said president and CEO Frank Wright in a Wednesday statement.

Also named in the lawsuit are Amazon and GuideStar. The ministry alleges that the online retailer has excluded it from its Amazon Smile charitable-giving program, according to AL.com.

The charity tracker GuideStar ran afoul of conservative nonprofits this year when it included and then removed the SPLC “hate group” tag from its listings.

The SPLC did not return immediately a request for comment about the lawsuit.

A 44-year-old ministry based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, DJK is described as an “anti-LGBT” organization on the SPLC “hate map,” which has been blasted for listing mainstream conservative organizations alongside racist extremist groups the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nation.

“After having given the SPLC an opportunity to retract, we have undertaken this legal action, seeking a trial by a jury of our peers, to preserve our own rights under the law and to defend the religious free speech rights of all Americans,” Mr. Wright said.

The ministry released last month a DVD critical of the SPLC called “Profits of Hate,” saying the group has morphed from a legitimate civil-rights group to “slandering and demonizing Christian and conservative organizations.”

The lawsuit comes as the latest salvo in the battle over SPLC “hate map,” which lists 917 organizations.

Another conservative group tagged as “anti-LGBT,” the Alliance Defending Freedom, called last month for a retraction after ABC News picked up the “hate group” tag, citing the SPLC.

SPLC president Richard Cohen responded by saying that the ADF “spreads demonizing lies about the LGBT community in this country and seeks to criminalize it abroad. If the ADF had its way, gay people would be back in the closet for fear of going to jail.”

Jerry Boykin, vice president of the Family Research Council and a former Army Delta Force commander, applauded the DJK ministry for “its effort to expose the truth about the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

“The SPLC is an organization that is an attack dog of the Left, they are not a neutral arbiter that is calling balls and strikes,” said Mr. Boykin in a statement. “They are on the field playing, pushing an agenda, and anyone who opposes them is slandered and slapped with a hate label.”

Founded in 1971, the SPLC is based in Montgomery, Alabama.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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