Two Supreme Court Justices want SCOTUS to review defamation law through Christian ministry case

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by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News) – Two US Supreme Court have stated that a defamation lawsuit by D. James Kennedy Ministries (DJKM) against the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) offers the Court an opportunity to review its controversial landmark defamation ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan (1964), Fox News reports. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch are calling for the Supreme Court to hear the case specifically in order to revisit the high standard of “actual malice” that was set in 1964, and which they say has rendered it excessively difficult for plaintiffs to prove libel.

Launched in 2017, the case against the SPLC was brought after the law center branded DJKM a “hate group” for its faith-based positions on LGBT issues: in labeling DJKM in this manner, the center was effectively categorizing this ministry, and other similar ministries, on a par with truly hateful groups like the KKK, Fox News reports. Amazon is a co-defendant in the case as it uses the SPLC “hate group” list to determine eligibility for its Amazon Smile charity program, Fox News said.

The lower courts have dismissed the case, however, ruling that DJKM has not met the “actual malice” standard for defamation that the Supreme Court set in New York Times v. Sullivan.

Explaining his opposition to the actual-malice standard in a dissent, Justice Thomas said the standard has no foundation in the Constitution and makes it inherently difficult for public figures who have been harmed by lies to prove libel was indeed committed. “Public figures cannot establish libel without proving by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant acted with ‘actual malice’—that is with knowledge that the published material was ‘false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false’… Instead of continuing to insulate those who perpetrate lies from traditional remedies like libel suits, we should give them only the protection the First Amendment requires,” Thomas said.

David Gibbs III, counsel for DJKM, confirmed to Fox News on Friday that the ministry will appeal to the Supreme Court after the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit dismissed the case.

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