A Florida ministry suffered a loss in federal court in a case that proves wrong the adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
In a 141-page decision, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson last week dismissed a 2017 lawsuit by Coral Ridge Ministries Media against the Southern Poverty Law Center. Coral Ridge, a Christian broadcasting company also known as D. James Kennedy Ministries, claims the SPLC caused it to lose donations by labeling it as a “hate group” because of its Biblical belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. The SPLC “Hate Map” features many Christian organizations, including Alliance Defending Freedom, the American Family Association, and the Family Research Council.
It turns out words do hurt Coral Ridge’s bottom line. The online retailer Amazon will not allow it or other entities on the SPLC list to receive donations through the charity program AmazonSmile. Coral Ridge said the hate group designation is false—while it believes homosexual behavior is immoral, it does not hate LGBT individuals.
The judge ruled the term “hate group” had no generally accepted definition and could not be proved false. Without a clear definition of “hate group,” Coral Ridge cannot demonstrate that SPLC defamed it or engaged in false advertising. The judge also rejected a religious discrimination claim against Amazon and said Coral Ridge’s “hope for a remedy lies in the ‘marketplace of ideas,’ not a defamation action.” —S.W.