On Tuesday, D. James Kennedy Ministries (DJKM) filed a lawsuit against the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the charity navigation organization GuideStar, and Amazon for defamation, religious discrimination, and trafficking in falsehood. The SPLC listed DJKM as a "hate group," while GuideStar also categorized it in those terms, and Amazon kept the ministry off of its charity donation program, Amazon Smile.
"We embarked today on a journey to right a terrible wrong," Dr. Frank Wright, president and CEO at DJKM, said in a statement Tuesday. "Those who knowingly label Christian ministries as 'hate' groups, solely for subscribing to the historic Christian faith, are either woefully uninformed or willfully deceitful. In the case of the Southern Poverty Law Center, our lawsuit alleges the latter."
The SPLC has labeled DJKM an "anti-LGBT hate group" for its opposition to same-sex marriage and transgenderism. "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," Wright declared.
"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," the DJKM president concluded.
The lawsuit laid out charges against the SPLC, GuideStar, and Amazon. "SPLC acted knowingly, intentionally, and with actual malice in publishing the Hate Map that included the Ministry and in publishing the SPLC Transmissions to GuideStar that included the ministry," the suit alleged. "SPLC's conduct in making these publications was beyond the reckless disregard for the truth standard required by Alabama law for punitive damages."
The suit claimed that "the Ministry suffered special damages in its exclusion from the AmazonSmile program as a result of SPLC's publication of the Hate Map and the SPLC Transmissions."
Specifically, DJKM brought the suit under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for religious discrimination, under the Lanham Act for trafficking in false or misleading descriptions of the services offered under the ministry's trademarked name, and for defamation under Alabama common law arising from "the publication and distribution of information that libels the Ministry's reputation and subjects the Ministry to disgrace, ridicule, odium, and contempt in the estimation of the public."
The lawsuit explained why the "hate" labeling was so malicious. DJKM's vision statement runs as follows: "The corporation seeks to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the supremacy of His Lordship, and a biblically informed view of the world, using all available media, so that Jesus Christ would be known throughout all of the Earth and that everywhere He might be trusted, loved, and served."
"Nowhere in the purpose or action of the Ministry is there HATE or any room for HATE," the lawsuit explained. Even so, it was denied participation in the AmazonSmile program on the grounds of SPLC's libel.